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Rare brew buffs sip suds in Anaheim with "Dr. Bill" Sysak


They were pouring 750 of the rarest and most high falutin’ designer beers in the world Saturday at Bravo Restaurant and Night Club in Anaheim, and certified cicerone William “Dr. Bill” Sysak had something to say about the finer points of each of them.

Sysak, a Falstaffian character with a beard and easy smile, was the man of the hour at the private, invitation-only event sponsored by a group called Woodshop 5.0 and attended by more than 250 fussy connoisseurs, aficionados and fans of finely crafted beers from as far away as Denmark. Throughout the 9-hour event, he was urged to savor the scents and flavors of an array of lagers, ales and stouts, including some vintage styles more than 30 years old.

When Sysak commented on a particular beer’s foam, color, aroma, taste or bitterness, guests within earshot took notes on clipboards and laptop computers.

Sysak, the beverage supervisor at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido, had this to say about a style called J & J Rose from Belgium, which sells for $150 a bottle: “Lemon, sharp, acidic at the front palate, ice-tea at the mid-palate and a champagne finish.”

Then there was the potent, zesty dark brew made with coffee beans passed through the digestive systems of rare Indonesian Civet cats. Sysak swirled a sample of that beer in a snifter, eyeballed the viscosity and sediment, took a sip, smiled and said to no one in particular, “Think wine, rich coffee, 80% dark chocolate, bourbon and vanilla.”

Page Reilly, 23, who markets beer for a San Francisco brewery, said, “What Dr. Bill says, goes. If I think a particular beer is bad or good, I like to share some with Dr. Bill to confirm my suspicions.”

Sysak, 47, figures he’s tried more than 30,000 beers over the past 30 years -- not counting the roughly 200 beers he planned to taste at Saturday’s event, which was scheduled to run from noon to 9 p.m.

Extending a glass of a Denmark beer called Olfabrikken Dekadence 2005 over the crowd gathered around Sysak, John Stern, a 28-year-old graduate student at UC San Diego, said, “Hey Dr. Bill, want some?”

“Ahhh,” Sysak said after swirling a mouthful. “Hint of oxidation, rum and winter fruit notes.”

At 3 p.m., after three hours of continual beer tasting, Sysak smiled and said, “I’m holding up pretty well.”

-- Louis Sahagun

Photo: Certified beer guide William “Dr. Bill” Sysak sampling several styles of designer brew during at the 5th Annual Woodshop Tasting at Bravo Restaurant & Night Club in Anaheim. Photo credit: Louis Sahagun / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (13)

I don't drink or smoke pot, but shouldn't we be glorifying marijuana instead of alcohol? Alcohol is a dangerous drug that makes people crazy and violent. Marijuana makes the same trouble makers calm and docile.

It should be very obvious that these people are a different style of beer drinker than you hear about in the news or on tv. They're aficionado's, fans of the beer, they geek out over beer! I was at this event and there were no arguments, fights, or disagreements about anything! Most people had little booklets out with their pens writing down the reviews of the beer their trying. I don't see how you can start an argument for the use of pot off of an article written about Dr. Bill and true fans of beer.

PS: Pot should be legalized.

Everyone has different reactions to everyting. Also, addicts to anyting are dangerous. No substance is 100% safe, nothing 100% certain. You say calm and docile, I say slow, stupid and unresponsive. Very dangerous as well. Make your vague points and pleas to your senator.

@Paralegal -
Overconsumption of many things (food, alcohol, drugs, etc) isn't good for us, and the vast majority of us in the craft-beer world drink based on flavour, to socialise & have a fun, non-crazy, non-violent time.

Hate the anti-social behaviour & help those with a drink problem, leave the rest of us to peaceful enjoy well-made craft beers.


GTF, are you serious? This is article about a gathering of beer afficianados tasting samples of rare and often one-off well crafted beers, not some raging alcoholics guzzling fifths of Rose and 40s of OE. Of course cannabis is safer than alcohol, I don't think you would find too many people who disagree with that, but this is neither the time nor place for that arguement.

There was zero violence at the event, and zero problems. Don't be a scared little sheeple. People are able to make judgements on how much drink is too much. You know what also makes people violent and do stupid things? Sporting events. See, you can say that about anything. The crowd at this event were elites in the industry and we handle ourselves differently than most. Go hide under your covers.

This type of beer event is just silly. A bunch of beer geeks ticking away notes off 1/2 ounce samples. Go to your local brewpub and knock back some beer with your buddies over some burgers like real beer lovers do.

When your internal organs finally shut-down, can I have your job??

I don't think that any event can be understood by looking at the opinion of a single person. There is a lot of diversity in the craft beer community and there's no such thing as any one person's opinion being the final arbiter of what is or isn't good. This is a pretty sloppy piece of reporting.

We need a "craft beer" convention in so cal.

I think the bottom line is that craft-beer aficionados are more like potheads than drunks....and that is a good thing.....

Perhaps you could pair a nice citrusy IPA with a hit of some lemon haze to accentuate the citric notes...sure sounds good to me.

There are going to be dumbasses who drink too much and those who smoke too much but I think that marijuana aficionados and craft-beer drinkers are a similar breed. More like cigar smokers or wine drinkers than your conventional drunk or stoner.

"I don't think that any event can be understood by looking at the opinion of a single person."

The focus of this article was on some blowhard uber-beer geek who everyone in the area who attended this event obviously bows to like a lemming. California is wine country, so it is no surprise this would happen.

Yay beer!


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