Aug 28, 2012

Guedo's Cantina Grille!!

OK, I know this is a beer blog, and 95% of the content is directly related to beer. Every now and then however, I like to delve into something else, be it bourbon, ghost town hunting, or now, restaurants!

Now, this blog isn't always serious, so I don't think writing a serious restaurant review would be fitting for this blog, but rather a place that is fun, comfortable, but still good. Well, I know of just the place!

I love Mexican food, probably my favorite "ethnic" food, (with maybe the exception of Caribbean food), I especially love food from the coast of Mexico, around baja. So, Guedo's Cantina Grille in Chandler Arizona is one of my favorites places to go for just that sort of fix!

Guedo's has been a valley institution since it opened in 1985. Now, I know to my friends and family back in New England, a business that opened in 1985 isn't really that rare, but here in Arizona, almost 30 years in business is an eternity! Chandlers population today is around 235,000, when Guedo's opened its doors in downtown Chandler, the population was just over 60,000! Guedo's has seen its share of change, and growth in Chandler. However you get the impression when first walking in, that this place hasn't really changes much at all since it opened. Now, this isn't a place to go if you are the type to "white glove" every restaurant you go into. Its not dirty, or dumpy, but the building is old, and somewhat ill maintained, decor is, well, shall we say, authentic, and organic in nature, but fun. It is however, comfortable, friendly, and relaxing.  The building may not win any awards, but the food on the other hand, is outstanding! The menu is what you would expect from a "taco" shop. Full of wonderful quisadilla's, tostada's, burritos, tortas, and of coarse tacos. Typical sides of rice, beans, green chili or jalapenos are also available. All pretty basic, but all (what I have had anyway) very good.

Mmmm, fish tacos!
I must say, if you go here, you would be remiss if you did not get the fish tacos! I am always on the look out for a good fish taco, they are among my favorite things. Now, what I think a good fish taco is, is a very authentic, stripped down affair. A "real" fish taco should be on two corn tortillas, with shredded red cabbage, fish, and a little mayo (or some other sauce) and a wedge of lime. Nothing too fancy, and that is exactly what Guedo's delivers! A GREAT fish taco, and for only $3.50 a piece, a pretty good deal as well!

The "beach" patio!
Now, you can sit inside, where it is a little cramped, hot and noisy, but if you want a more fun, comfortable dining experience, go sit out by the "cantina" bar area, or on the beach! Yes, a beach!, Ok, so there is no water, just Chandler Blvd, but there is sand, and tables, Corona flags and everything you want while dining on the beach! Its so much fun! The bar is awesome, and has the look of something that has just been growing and evolving since its opened. Its as close as you can get to sitting at a beach bar in Cabo as you can get while still being land locked in Chandler!

The bar is awesome!
Not good
OK, since this is a beer blog, I'll mention the beer. Let me say this, as much as I love Mexican food, their beer, is, to say the least, not good. However, I talk a lot about "drinking in context", meaning for example, a margarita, no matter how well made, will always taste better siting on a beach in the Key's, then it will sitting at an Applebee's in Oklahoma. Likewise, a Mexican beer, goes GREAT when sitting at a beach bar (even if its a fake beach) and eating fish tacos. I had a Negro Modelo while I waited for my food. A serviceable, decent beer from south or the boarder. With my meal, I tried a Victoria, something I had never heard of. From the same brewery that those standard Mexican beers Negro Modelo, Pacifico and the ubiquitous Corona, called Grupo Modelo, from Mexico City come from. Victoria was, to say the least, disappointing. After the first sip, I was wishing I ordered the aforementioned Corona, or a Landshark (both great beach beers!). Listed as a Vienna Lager, this tasted to me like a sort of Mexican version of Budweiser. Not awful, just very underwhelming. Luckily, my dad was there to help me finish it. Lesson learned.

So, if you are looking for a dining experience that is off the beaten path, and isn't washed in boring cooperate decor, check this place out, and if you get a chance, chat with Guedo himself. He is always there, and seems to love chatting with customers. This is the kind of place every town needs, and everyone should go to. It's real, its fun, and most importantly, it is really good! So check out Guedo's, it will make you forget where you are, if even just for a while.

Just note, Guedo's is closed Sunday and Monday.

Guedo's is located at

71 E Chandler Blvd, Chandler, Arizona 85225

Phone # 480-899-7841


Aug 25, 2012

No Surprise, Craft Beer is Growing!

The other day, I was looking at the number of breweries and beer bars that either have opened, or are about to open here in Arizona, and I was slightly amazed. I am always hearing or reading about the growing popularity of craft beer in America, but until you actually see the evidence of it first hand, I guess it doesn't really hit you.

Then I saw this little piece on Beer Street Journal. According to the Brewers Association, the number of breweries nationwide if growing, rapidly. According to them;

The number of breweries operating in the US is now at 2142, up from 2126 from just June! Up 16 more in less then 2 months!

The number of breweries planned in the US is currently at 1303! Up from 1252 from just June! That is 51 more in less then 2 months!

So who knows, at this time next year, the number of breweries in the States should be well over 3000!!! That is good news for everyone!!!

Cheers my friends!
The Beer Czar

Aug 21, 2012

Powdered Beer????

I was surfing through Facebook the other day, when a post from one of my favorite shows "Drinking Made Easy" (if you haven't seen this show, its on Mark Cubans's "AXS" Channel, it stars Zane Lamprey travailing to different cities to explore the local drinking culture. Its a bit "frat boy-ish" but still has a lot of interesting info, and is pretty funny, check it out if you get a chance) had a post that caught my attention. The article is titled "On the Go Powdered Beer" My first thought was "no way, this can't be what it sounds like!" Well, to my horror, it was.

A company called "Pat's Backcountry Beverages" has developed this abomination, that when you mix the "beer" powder, with water, and a portable carbonation system, creates a drink "comparable to a micro brew with all the taste, alcohol, carbonation, and aroma we love." Really???

Called "Hybrid Brewing Technology" or HBT, the company also produces powdered wine, and soda drinks. They don't say or explain much about the technology used to produce this, not that I would understand it anyway, but it is still an interesting product none the less.

This will most certainly be marketed to hikers, and bikers, and hipsters more interested in looking cool, and having all the stuff the rest of us less enlightened folks don't have. This to me however is a lot like tofu bacon. If you want bacon, eat bacon, if you want to be a vegetarian, then give up wanting to eat bacon. Same thing is at play here, if you want a beer while hiking, or biking, or reading "The Odyssey" in public for people to see how intellectual you are, get a can, or a sippy cup for god's sake, but please don't bastardize a wonderful beverage like this! Then again, this is to be expected, with the emergence of "beers" like Michelob Ultra, Bud Select 55, or Miller 64, the populous seems to getting further and further away from what beer is suppose to be, and developing an almost entirely different product, a sort of "beer flavored beverage". Opening the door for beer geeks and snobs, and providing plenty of cannon fodder for them to bitch and complain about while drinking "real" beer! Its part of the fun after all.

Regardless, I would be interested in trying this, and the technology fascinates me none the less. The company is looking for further investors to take this product nation wide, so, if you have some extra scratch, and are looking to invest in beer, this may be your chance!

Aug 7, 2012

Stone Smoked Porter(s)

Very early on, in the days when I was just starting to discover craft beer, I use to tend to drift towards brown ales. As my palette sort of developed, I discovered porters. Everything wonderful about a brown ale, cranked up a few notches. Early on it was Anchor Porter that was always in my fridge. Still a beer that holds fond memories for me to this day. In those days, craft beer wasn’t as readily available like it is getting to me now, and I was always on the lookout for new and exciting beers. One afternoon, while on a date with the woman that would become my wife some years later, at the now defunked “Rockfish” restaurant by the Chandler Mall, I took noticed of a beer on their tap list “Stone Smoked Porter”. At the time, the only thing I knew about Stone was they had awesome labels on their bottles. Since I loved (still do) porters, I decided to order one, as did my future wife. From the first sniff, and sip that soon followed, this beer shot to the top of my all time favorites list, will it still holds a rather comfortable place among some amazing and gigantic beers.

My KBS!!
This beer is just a classically good beer. You don’t hear a lot of people getting excited about it like they would a Dark Lord, or KBS, Kate the Great or something, but you never hear anyone say they don’t like it. This is an easy drinking, smooth beer that will give you hints of chocolate, and some coffee, with a nice, level smoky finish. It’s a solid, drinkable, enjoyable beer that you must try if you haven’t.

Now, the only thing that gets me more excited than a smoked porter, is a vanilla porter. Now, a smoked vanilla porter, well, that would just be heaven in a glass wouldn’t it! Yes it would, and now you can try it, thanks to Stone. They have taken their second oldest beer they’ve been brewing (since 1996) and breathed a breath of; I won’t say new life, but “different” life? If that makes sense. For a limited time only, Stone is releasing their Smoked Porter in a Vanilla version, and Chipotle pepper version.

While on a recent trip to San Diego, I was lucky enough to find a few bottles of each of them. Let me tell you about them…..

I’ll start with the Chipotle pepper version, since I enjoyed this one the least, which, however, is in no way insinuating that I didn’t enjoy this beer at all, quite the opposite in fact. At first sniff, you may not notice the peppers, it’s not obvious. There is more of a grassy, garden freshness to the aroma. Also malty, and smoky. This smells like a nice beer to drink on a chilly evening. The taste is almost classic porter at first. Smoky, chocolaty and malty, with a slight hint of peppers. I was almost disappointed, until I swallowed the mouthful, and waited. My mouth started to feel like I just eat a slightly spicy salsa. The peppers heat, while quite mild, doesn’t really make itself known till the finish, which is quite nice! Very enjoyable!

Now, I said before, Vanilla porters get me a little excited, so I was VERY excited to try this one! I was not disappointed at all! If you like vanilla, you will like this beer. It is on the verge of having almost too much vanilla; I’ve read some complain about it. For me however, I loved it, there was a lot of vanilla, the most I have ever tasted in a beer in fact. It’s a smooth, smoky, chocolaty vanilla flavor, throughout the whole glass! I enjoyed every sip of this beer, and still have one more bottle in the fridge, not sure when I’ll open it, but it’s going to be soon, not sure how long I can let it sit!

So, if you get a chance, and you like peppers, or vanilla, and beer, look for these beers. If you find them, buy them, and enjoy them. I owe a lot of my love and interest in craft beer to that Stone Smoked Porter I had, all those years ago, and I am glad to see a new interest and excitement around this beer, some 15+ years after it was first released.

A very impressive trio

Bottoms up my friends

The Beer Czar.

Below is some info on both beers, taken from Stone Brewing's Blog site.

Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers.

Stats: 5.9% abv, 53 IBUs

Availability: Limited 12oz bottles. One-time release, beginning June 18th
Distribution: AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, MA, NC, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TX, VA, VT, WA
Malt bill: Pale Malt, Crystal 75, Chocolate Malt, Peat-Smoked Malt
Hops bill: Columbus & Mt. Hood

Suggested Pairings...

Appetizers: Stuffed mushrooms, bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers, quesadillas

Entrées: Manhattan clam chowder, French onion soup, baby back ribs, blackened fish, mole negro
Cheeses: Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Cheddar, Ossau-Iraty, Mahón
Desserts: Tiramisu, apple pie, coffee cake, flourless chocolate cake, cinnamon rolls
Cigars: Ashton Classic, Montecristo, CAO Brazilia

Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Beans

Stats: 5.9% abv, 53 IBUs

Availability: Limited 12oz bottles. One-time release, beginning June 18th
Distribution: AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, MA, NC, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TX, VA, VT, WA
Malt bill: Pale Malt, Crystal 75, Chocolate Malt, Peat-Smoked Malt
Hops bill: Columbus & Mt. Hood

Suggested Pairings...

Appetizers: Coconut shrimp, candied nuts

Entrées: Butternut squash soup, New England clam chowder, pumpkin ravioli, seared scallops
Cheeses: Aged Gouda, Mimolette, Beehive Cheese Co.‘s “Barely Buzzed”
Desserts: Maple-glazed donuts, chocolate chip cookies, cream puffs
Cigars: Paradigm 262, Gurkha Evil, Alonso Menendez. Almost any cigar with a Brazilian wrapper will impart nice chocolate notes perfect for this beer

Aug 2, 2012

Beer Label Art

I came across this site the other day, and I thought it was worth sharing.

One of my favorite labels, a decent beer, with one of my favorite artists, Winslow Homer!
One of my favorite aspects of the beer culture is "label art". Its as unique and varied as the beer itself, and you can normally pick out which brewer brewed the beer just by looking at the design on the label. There are just a ton of great beer labels out there, and this site brings them all together in one convenient site. Search by state, or brewer name. You can spend a lot of time here. It even has breweries that have since left us. Check it out!               

                                                                 (click the link below)

This got me thinking. What are some of your favorite labels?

Do you prefer the cartoon, Roy Lichtenstien-esque labels (Ska Brewing, or Coney Island Lagers for example) 

The more serious, elegant ones (I really like Allagash, limited release labels),

Simple, but elegant

or the ones that seem to cross all the lines (Flying Dog has some GREAT label art, done by artist Ralph Steadman)

Label art by Ralph Steadmen

Let me know which ones you like. What are your favorites, the funniest, prettiest. Also, have you ever bought a beer simply because of the label? I will confess to doing this, just once. The beer was New Belgians "Blue Paddle Pilsner". Not a bad beer, but I just loved the label!
I can't wait to hear from you!
Bottoms up my friends!
The Beer Czar