We rung in 2009 on a quiet note this year. Unlike last year, we actually managed to stay up until midnight... We bought some delicious treats at Whole Foods and drank Sierra Nevada's original Harvest Ale and Rogue's Chocolate Stout. John had also picked up a bottle of Achel, but we didn't get to it.
I've been interested in trying the Harvest ale for a while. When we went to Toronado in San Francisco, I had a pint of the Estate Harvest and it was delicious - a nice fresh spicy hop-forward ale at 69 IBUs, with a good malt balance. It's hopped only with hops that the brewery grew on premises (hence, Estate). The original Harvest was similar, though it didn't seem as spicy as the Estate harvest from what I remember. Now I just have the Southern Hemisphere Harvest to try.
While chowing down on our treats and enjoying our beer, we listened to a few episodes from the Brewing Network. While their webcasts are geared toward homebrewers, even the non-homebrewer who knows a bit about the brewing process would appreciate the shows.
The Sunday Session is a general show about homebrewing & craft beer with quite a bit of humor and often features guests, including head brewers from well-known breweries such as Stone, Rogue, BJ's, Gordon Biersch, New Glarus, Dogfish Head, and others. These guys get a little wacky, though, and sometimes it takes a while to wade through banter to get to the meat of the show. It's pretty humorous, though, and if you have some time to dedicate to listening, it's worth checking out.
We spent most of our time listening to the Jamil Show, which is still funny but spends a larger portion of the show talking about the brewing process, tips, brewing to style, and other process-related information. Even if you're not a brewer, if you know a little about the process this is an interesting show. They dedicated each show to a BJCP judging style, going over characteristics of the style and how to achieve them in the brewing process. They dispel myths of the styles, discuss common features and recommended ingredients, and explain how certain characteristics of the styles are achieved.
These shows are worth listening to, for anyone interested in homebrewing or the brewing process. They're also on Facebook and send announcements every so often. Check them out!