Spring Check-In

March 31st, 2012

Beer
It’s been seven months since I’ve written anything here, but it feels like a lifetime ago. Everything has been in a state of constant flux – actually, flux might be the wrong word. I want to imply more forward momentum. More like an ambling river which doesn’t feel that fast, but every time I look behind me, I’m amazed as how much ground I’ve covered. My life at a desk job fielding tech support tickets feels very far removed at this point, only visible if I squint at the horizon. Now felt like a good time to check in, take stock, and provide an update. Writing here has always served as both a creative outlet as well as a place to organize and arrange my thoughts – writing them down and being forced to put some sort of coherent order to my ideas helps crystalize my own perspective.

So here goes.

Sodacraft_SY-18

SodaCraft: In a whirlwind eight months, SodaCraft gained life and has already been passed on to new caretakers. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to launch it as an immediate outlet to help make ends meet financially. The brewery was starting to become much more real (more on that later) but wasn’t quite ready for a full time commitment, and was quite far off from proving anything resembling a paycheck. In reality, launching two businesses simultaneously is a terrible idea (file under: obvious in retrospect.) But SodaCraft’s arc was outstanding.

It gave me great perspective to just how hard the work in the food world really is, as well as the realities of creating a food item and selling it to the public. I loved working at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, adore their community of vendors, farms, customers and staff. But as quickly as SodaCraft got off the ground, it became clear that there weren’t enough hours in the day to support SodaCraft on my own, much less do my part at Almanac. So as Almanac grew by leaps and bounds, I started looking for an exit from SodaCraft. After several false starts, I found one with HapaSF. William Pilz and soda-slinging parter Rita Williams were a perfect fit to take over SodaCraft: passionate about food, already armed with the right experience, and equipped to take on its challenges. The transition was easier than expected. They grasped the the basics immediately, and have already taken over running the stand and selling sodas with new flavors they’ve added to the menu. (And in a nice bit of coincidence, the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market seems to be running a Friedman-exchange program. The week I wrapped up SodaCraft there was Elianna’s first week at her new dream job: CUESA’s Market Chef. Stop by and see her coordinating the cooking demos any Saturday.) I loved SodaCraft and all that it taught me, but it was clear to me quickly that it my real passion wasn’t in soda; it was in beer.

DSC_2764

A quick aside: none of SodaCraft’s story would have happened without the help of Linecook415 aka Richie Nakano and the entire HapaRamen crew. Through Richie and his Ramen stand I got my first glimpse of the real possibilities of “jumping off the cliff” and going full time into the food world. After a first trial run offering my sodas out of his ramen stand at a Saturday market, my wife Elianna’s concern about quitting my day just was resolved. Afterwards she said that not only should i quit my desk job – based on what she saw, I had to. So it was through Richie’s generosity I gained my first real kitchen experience, and learned in trial by fire the realities of launching a business. My debt to Richie is huge: he offered me a way forward with SodaCraft, logistically and financially, and I couldn’t have done it without him. His passion for cooking, food, supporting the culinary community and doing things the “right” was knows no bounds. Compromise for the things that he really cares about (food safety, efficient use of resources, sourcing ethically, honesty, cleanliness, loyalty and music, but if you share the kitchen with him you already knew that) doesn’t come easily to him, and he’s never shied away from pointing this out. In collaboration with his rockstar team in the kitchen of Suzanna and Svet, they’ve creating a singular vision for what San Francisco Ramen can (read: should) be. With the impending opening of his own restaurant Hapa coming this year, I fully expect Richie to be the next big thing in the San Francisco food world. For proof, make a point of his upcoming Ramen-Free Hapa Preview Pop Ups coming soon at Wing Wings.

DSC_3335

Finally I get to the real point: Almanac. From inside, it’s hard for me to really appreciate what Damian and I have accomplished to get our little brewery off the ground. From our perspective, there is always the next project, next release, next ABC form that needs to be finished. But stepping back for just a moment, and the distance we’ve covered is staggering. If you had told me this is where I’d be only three years ago, I’d have called you at best an optimist, and at worst a liar. The impending release of our fourth beer – A Biere de Mars with Fennel from Heirloom Organic Gardens – marks a full year’s worth of seasonal releases. With each release we’ve stepped up our ambitions, creating amazing relationships with local restaurants and chefs all around San Francisco and the greater bay area. Two years ago Almanac was just a list of ideas for what a brewery could be. A year before that, Damian and I were just meeting at a local homebrew club meeting, and I was admiring professional-looking label he had made for a bottle of Abby-style ale he brought to share.

Damian makes an ideal partner and a great friend, and without him Almanac couldn’t exist. Our complimentary skill sets combine to make it what it is – I brought a vision for how to integrate in the ethos of the local food community. His own taste and ideas helped refine that to a razor sharp point. He brought the design and business acumen I sorely lacked, and I’ve relished my role as sounding board and editor. I’m always beyond excited to see what new design he has in the hopper to release next. We act as editors and sounding boards for each other’s areas of expertise, and both of contributions to the whole are better for it. The goals we set for Almanac when we started ranged from minor and personal to grand and sweeping. Now even the loftiest of those goals doesn’t seem so out of reach – in fact, they almost seem like they’re around the corner.

DSC_5142

So what’s next? As we come up on a second summer release, we’re excited and ready to capitalize on the base foundation we’ve laid. We have some big things in the hopper – including our first year round beers that grow out of the same “Farm to Bottle” ethos that have been such an important guiding light so far. These new beers will come in a whole new line of packaging, in a new size, at a new price point and wrapped in a new packaging design. We’ve got high hopes for these beers, and early test batches have been very promising. Our collection of barrels aging away now, with a phenomenal collection of local fruit aging inside them, along with wild Belgian bugs (the good kind). Soon some of these barrels will be ready for blending and to be released into the wild, and a full picture of the direction we want to take Almanac will exist in the glass – not just in our imaginations and business plans.

So here I am now: just past the precipice of the old, not quite fully formed in the new. But it’s the most exciting professional time I’ve ever had in my life, and wanted to share it with you.

DSC_3861

On Hiatus

August 31st, 2011

Beer & Nosh is on Hiatus. It’s sad, but also it’s in many ways served it’s purpose since I’ve gone full time with projects rooted in all the things the Beer & Nosh advocated.  You can keep up with me at these homepages, both of which have active blogs and are choc a block full of the usual photos, typos and ramblings. Or, you can follow me on twitter to see what’s going on. Cheers!! – Jesse

 

SodaCraft – The Stand!

June 22nd, 2011

tent

I’m very excited to announce that starting this Thursday (June 23rd) SodaCraft has it’s own stand on Thursdays at the Ferry Market Farmer’s Market.  From 10-2 we’ll be jerking sodas and enjoying our new spacious environs, right next to Hapa Ramen.  In fact, you can still order our sodas from Richie and Co.

To celebrate, we’re going big with THREE flavors!  On Tap:

Stone Fruit Sucker Punch – Made with White Peaches, White Nectarines and Red Plums. It tastes like summer. (Richie’s Favorite)

Bada-Bing Cherry Vanilla Bean – Made with Bing Cherries and Madagascar Vanilla Beans.  The soda you wish your deli served. (Sky’s Favorite)

Xtra Dry Ginger Ale – As always, made with a pound per gallon of Fresh Juiced Ginger and Eureka Lemons.  Ginger lovers only. (Eli’s Favorite)

 

SodaCraft Float

 

AND get your float on with scoops of McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil Ice Cream by our friends at Humphry Slocombe.  (my favorite!) We like it in the Ginger Ale – ginger and olive, who knew?! – but if you ask nicely, we’ll drop it into any of our sodas.

 

Off a Cliff

June 3rd, 2011

DSC_4252

Today is my last day at my “real job”.  As of tomorrow, no more regular paychecks, no more desk, no more safety and security.

Starting today, I’m turning to food and beverage related pursuits full time.

How did I get here?

This blog was originally started as a creative outlet, an escape from the drudgery of a day-to-day IT job.  I naively assumed that this little side project would be a fun distraction, and an appropriate place to post some photographs.  I liked to write, and even from time to time felt like I had something to say.

Fast forward to today: Beer & Nosh has expanded to more I ever imagined.  It’s become a (semi) respected part of the local food community.  I’m still amazed when people who aren’t my mom (Hi Mom!) tell me how much they like it, read it, and follow up on ideas and suggestions I make.  Without getting to soft and squishy about it, I’m very proud of the impact this blog has had.

It’s also reached beyond the computer screen and into the real world: I’ve sold out every beer dinner I’ve ever planned, and am constantly hounded for when the next one will be (specifically,  Notoberfest.  I’m working on it.)

Which brings me to today, and my newfound status as “self employed”.

So what will I be doing?  SodaCraft and Almanac Beer.  These are what will be my “real” job now.  I’ll be brewing beers and sodas and then taking the city of San Francisco by storm with my fermented treats.

First up: SodaCraft

The reception to SodaCraft has been nothing short of phenomenal. I suspected there was a market for sodas made in the style of local, seasonal ingredient driven San Francisco cuisine, and so far my sales have supported this theory.  Starting in June, I’ll be brewing these kegs full time, and selling directly to the public.  Where will you find me?  Thanks to the unbelievable support from Hapa Ramen, I’ll be jerking (yes, that’s the real term) sodas at Ferry Building Farmers Markets on Tuesdays and Thursday (and the occasional Saturday), inside the Hapa Ramen stand. Look for a rotating selection of seasonal flavors, as well as more floats featuring Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream.   We’ll be growing fast, and are already laying plans for addition markets and food cart meet ups to host us. Keep an eye on the SodaCraft blog and twitter feed to see where we’ll be popping up next.

 

DSC_1893

DSC_2253

 

Oh, and then these’s my other project: Almanac Beer. Damian and I have been hard at work building our brewery from scratch, and are very happy to report that our beer is in the bottle, and nearly ready for it’s public release.  In fact we can even put a date on it.  June 30th.  We’re extremely proud of what we’ve made and hope you’ll love it as much as we do.  It’s dry, with a fruity aroma and a sturdy malt and oak structure to hold it all together. Head on over to the Almanac Beer Blog to see us blending the final beer together and putting it in bottles.  We’ve got some great events up our sleeves, and are busting at the seams with excitement.

Lastly, there this blog, the one you’re reading right now.  For better or worse, things are going to change around here.  Now that we are licensed, I have to observe a set of rather strict (and yet at the same time amorphous) legal guidelines regarding what I can and cannot say publicly. I’d love to use this blog as a billboard to tell you exactly where to get our beer, but I’m afraid I can’t.  A slew of post-prohibiton laws designed to protect consumers and business from the alcohol production side of things means that Beer & Nosh will be changing.  To what exactly, remains to be seen, but a lot of what I’ve done here in the past, especially involving restaurants, is going to have to be evolve on a new tighter leash. (Not speaking my mind has never been my strong suit, so we’ll see how this works out.)

This isn’t goodbye to Beer & Nosh, so much as it’s a new chapter and evolution.  Of course you’ll have no shortage of places to hear from me moving forward.  I’ll be writing on the Almanac Beer Blog, The SodaCraft Blog, and maintaining a presence on twitter under my handle @beerandnosh.

So to you, loyal Beer & Nosh reader – I owe a huge debt of gratitude. This is the place where I evolved my voice, my vision and lasting friendships and relationships I’m building my new ventures on.  You’ve suffered through my typos and convoluted grammar over the last 3 years, through 290 posts and left 1,172 comments.  You’ve left feedback and questions, engaged in debate with me, and come out to dinners where my heady ideas about beer and food come together into an actual meal.  Without the community that’s grown around this blog I’d never be able to take the jump off this cliff I’m doing now, and land safely as the bottom.  So thank you, family and friends, for all of your support on this journey so far, and I hope to you soon for a soda or beer.

– Jesse

PS – Please, please buy my sodas and beer.  The wife doesn’t want to be homeless.

Float On

May 25th, 2011

SodaCraft is coming back to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market this Saturday the 28th.  We’ll be hiding out inside Hapa Ramen stand, pouring our new favorite flavor: Smoked Strawberry Vanilla Bean.  Made with an unreasonable amount of freshly juiced local organic strawberries, a touch of smoked malt and madagascar bourbon vanilla beans, it savory-sweet, complex, and totally unexpected. (Kinda like your mom)

We’re also getting our float on with the help of local ice cream alchemists Humphry Slocombe. They’re spinning up a special batch of Strawberry-Bourbon Ice Cream for floats, just for us.  It’s kinda like secret breakfast, only fruitier. Add a scoop to either the smoked strawberry or our classic ginger ale (made with a pound per gallon of fresh juiced ginger and eureka lemons) to show the rest of the farmer’s market that you aren’t screwing around.

See you on Saturday!

PS – don’t forget you can follow where SodaCraft is jerking sodas at sodacraftsf.com and on twitter @sodacraft.  I’ll be posting an off menu soda special on twitter for the weekend.  Follow to play along.

Strawberry Season

May 11th, 2011

strawberries-620

It’s beginning to look a lot like summer around here, and the first strawberries of the season are popping up at farmer’s markets.  To celebrate, SodaCraft is teaming up withMission Gastroclub at this upcoming Saturday the 14th New Taste Marketplace with a big ‘ol pile of strawberry collaboration.  (This is also the first time we’ll be serving at the New Taste Market under the SodaCraft banner!)

This week we’re brewing up a special batch of Smoked Strawberry Vanilla Soda for the market, and pairing with a special offering from  Chef Neil of Gastroclub: Smoked pork shoulder with savory strawberry risotto. Yum.

Want more strawberry action?  No problem.  Make it a float with a scoop of Humphry Slocombe Strawberry Margarita Sorbet made with fresh strawberries, lime juice & Sauza Tequila.  You can also have us drop a scoop in our other soda offering this week: Blood Orange Gingerale.

It’s going to be a good time – see you at Saturday’s market!

Essential Details:

New Taste Marketplace
Saturday, May 14th, 12-5pm
500 De Haro St @ Mariposa

 

Dux

May 10th, 2011

The Summit – home to great coffee, rotating art installations and an impressive number of laptop users, has launched a new dining series: Dux. It’s a new, special sort of dinner, perfectly separating itself off from the typing masses.  Chef Eddie Lau prepares a multi course meal for just the eight seats alongside the bar.  As he plates and personally delivers each plate, he explains the genesis of the dish, trying to create a more interactive, exploratory experience for the those who take this culinary trip with him.  It’s a great match for the collaborative space and creative work that gets done at the Summit every day, and lets the chef stretch his culinary wingspan a bit more.  It’s heady and intellectual but still accessible, and affordable to boot (dinners run $60 a head.)

 

Journal

 

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at his inaugural Duck themed menu this past weekend.  Here’s a photo journal of the meal.  But since discovering the process that lead to what is on your plate is such a key part of the experience, I’m going to hold back on commentary and critiques (it’s not like I’m unbiased anyway.)  Instead, I encourage you to take the plunge and join Eddie for dinner on an upcoming Sunday night, and find out what’s going on in that head of his, and the story behind each dish. If you’re the process driven creative type, this is the meal you’ll want to try. To find out more about the menu, you’ll just have to reserve a seat at the bar.

Read the rest of this entry »

More SodaCrafting

May 5th, 2011

Ready for more SodaCraft action?  We’re everywhere this weekend, bringing out fresh juice-based sodas to the people.

First up: We’ll be at the SF Chefs Unite Dinner pouring a special brewed Orange Gingerale. Check out the full menu and reserve your seats here.  It’s going to be a good time.

Then, SodaCraft is taking it to the streets! We’ll be jerking our fresh sodas with Pal’s Take Away this Sunday as a part of Sunday Streets.  Stop on by the corner of 24th and Hampshire between 11am and 4pm to find our sodas and Pal’s fine sandwiches.

On Tap: Our Ginger Ale, made with fresh squeezed ginger juice and eureka lemons, and the quickly becoming a seasonal favorite Orange Fennel, made with fresh navel orange juice and local fennel from Heirloom Organics farm.  All of our sodas are sweetened with organic cane sugar, and naturally carbonated via fermentation.

See you Sunday!

SodaCraft @ Wise Sons Deli

April 28th, 2011

SodaCraft is popping up again this weekend, but with a Jew-y twist.  We’ll be joining up with Wise Sons Deli at the weekly food cart get together at Off The Grid McCoppin Hub this Saturday morning, doing our part to revive the true Jewish deli that San Francisco deserves. Evan and Leo will be making the rounds with their usual “so good, you should call your mother and tell her you love her” pastrami sandwiches on housemade double baked rye, and Jewish summer camp stoner-friendly (you know who you are) chocolate babka french toast.

SodaCraft is getting into the spirit of things by tackling some Jewish deli soda standards.  We’ll be serving our ‘Nilla Bean Cream Soda, infused with real madagascar vanilla beans, and Toasted Celery Soda.  I’m betting the celery seed will be outstanding with their new item:  housemade smoked whitefish. Both sodas are lightly sweetened with organic evaporated cane sugar, and naturally carbonated using baker’s yeast for effervesce and texture.

Essential Details:
Jackie’s Vinoteca and Cafe, 105 Valencia (at McCoppin), adjacent to Off the Grid: McCoppin Hub. Saturday., 9 a.m-2 p.m.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wooly Pig Cafe

April 25th, 2011

Wooly Pig Cafe

As my wife will tell you, I have a slightly obsessive streak in me.  Often it works to my benefit, such as when I’m nurturing a beer or soda recipe, constantly tinkering with it, redoing it, trying to get it just right.   Or the time I went on my lamb burger kick, constantly returning to the grill to make it just a little bit better. Other times it can be less productive – such as when I want the highest possible score in a video game.  It extends to restaurants too: I’ll find an exciting new place, and return repeatedly, trying everything on the menu and quickly achieving regular status.  It’s particularly true for lunch, where a strict time limit and limited choices out in the Inner Sunset where I maintain a day job mean that a new offering gets a lot of attention from me and my belly.

Pepper on Asian Tuna

And the new offering I’m at twice a week right now: Wooly Pig Cafe.  On a quiet street in between Golden Gate Park and UCSF, there are some great sandwiches being made.

Read the rest of this entry »