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Sonoma - Napa Valley Beer Tour

My wife and I headed up for a “wine” weekend in NORCAL this past weekend.
Because she is super awesome I was able to make a couple of pit stops at 4 pretty terrific breweries.

First stop was Napa Smith Brewing.  Located a couple miles south of Napa, this regional brewery produces some really good beer including their Organic IPA, Lost Dog Red Ale, Bonfire Imperial Porter, and Grateful Dog Barleywine.

Since I had tried all of the ones listed above, I opted for a barrel aged Imperial IPA called Hopageddon, a barrel aged version of Grateful Dog, and a wet hopped IPA. 

The Imperial IPA was a bit sweet for the style with very little hop character, the Barleywine was devine with a perfect big body and a slightly sweet and spicy finish.

The wet hopped IPA was fantastic.  A nice mouthfeel, slightly cloudy appearance, and a balanced taste with the right amount of hops in the aftertaste.

On day two we visited a few wineries and then stopped at Silverado Brewing in St. Helena.  I try to stop at this local microbrewery every time I am in the Napa Valley. 

I tried their St. Euphorius Belgian Dubbel which had a bit too much spice and not enough dark fruit flavors, but really enjoyed their Imperial IPA.  It was a nice example of the style with a big hop character balanced by a ton of malt.  It was so good I wanted to stay for another, but alas we were off to sample more wine.

Day three was beer day with a stop at Bear Republic in Healdsburg and Russian River in Santa Rosa.

At BR, I was hoping for their DIPA Racer X but it wasn’t on draft.  They did have 2 single hopped beers one with Sonnet hops and the other with Mt. Rainier.  Both were great, but I opted for the Mt. Rainier version because it was a bit more balanced and a perfect beer to start  the day.

I also tried their Heritage Wee Heavy which was a really great example of the style but decided I wanted to have a nice hoppy ale instead.  I took a bottle of Racer X back to the Hotel to enjoy with the Oscars, and it was fantastic.  A really solid DIPA with a big malt backbone and the right amount of hops!

Last stop is the Northern California Beer Mecca of Russian River.  Don’t tell anyone but Sunday there is Happy Hour ALL DAY with pints of beer costing $3.75.
Actually everyone already knows because when we got there at 2 pm it was slammed, I mean packed, I mean wall to wall people. 
So after waiting for some spots to open up at the bar I was able to sample a few of their excellent brews.

Mortification (Belgian Quad) - Big bold quad with the perfect balance of dark fruit sweetness, a big mouthfeel, and an 11.2% ABV.  It was delicious.

Blind Pig (IPA) - I have never been a big fan of this beer, but it was amazing on this day.  Maybe that’s the difference between fresh beer on tap, and the bottles I have tried before.  It had a big hoppy finish and really was delicious.

Temptation (Sour Blonde)- I don’t like sours no matter how much I try and that was true for this one as well.  It was a Belgian Blonde ale aged in Chardonnay barrels.  I like Chardonnay so I thought maybe it would work for me, but it did not.

Pliny the Elder (Imperial IPA) - I was hoping that they would have Pliny the Younger but it had been gone for a couple of weeks.  This beer however was amazing and made me forget about missing out on the younger.  It was the best beer of the trip and a perfect example of the style.  The accolades for this beer are well deserved.

I love Californian beer.  Both Northern, Southern, and Central Coast brewers are making some of the best beers in the world. So watch out Oregon, they are going to take over as the best brewing region in the country (if not the world) and may steal your title of BeerVana.

Cheers.

Whole Foods (El Segundo) Craftbeer Festival - 1/29/12

Whole Foods had another great Craftbeer festival this past weekend and of course the Beer Missionary wouldn’t miss it.

A special thanks to Jose for working to get some great craftbeers, and their reps, in the the store for the third installment of the Whole Foods festival.

My hat goes out to all of the brewers who actually brought keg beer to the event.  It’s so much nicer to have beers on tap versus the bottles we can buy in the store. So, thanks to Firestone - Walker, Smog City, Bootleggers, and El Segundo for bringing out some fresh and tasty beers.

I enjoyed trying a few new beers.  Smog City (currently brewing at Tustin Brewing) version of a Saison called LA Saision, Bootlegger Galaxian Barleywine & Dr. Tongue a hoppy Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Ovilla Quadruple & Northern Hemisphere a Wet Hopped Ale, and Sam Adams Trippel which is currently only available in Boston.

My favorites for the day were as follows:

Firestone - Walker Double Jack.  This is the beer that turned me into a hop head, and I could drink it all day.  Well all day until I have to lie down.  A great balanced DIPA with big hops and malt.

Bootleggers - Knuckle Sandwich and Galaxian.The first is very similar to the Double Jack so of course I love it, and the second was a nice smooth Barleywine leaning more towards sweet that spicy which I prefer.

Sam Adams Trippel and Ovilia Quadruple.The Sam Adams brew was very smooth with green apple sweetness that reminded me of Triple Karmaliet and the Quad was a perfect example of the style with a big malty base and subtle dark fruit sweetness.

All of the brews poured were enjoyable although I’d like some of them to bring interesting or hard to find beers to the festival.  It makes it much more fun for us beer geeks.

Cheers.

11-20-2011

Another great beer date!
I was able to track down a couple of beers to add to my cellar. 


Yesterday I picked up the Stone Vertical (11-11-11) to go with the ‘06 - ‘10 bottles already on hand.  Although I am not a big Stone fan and this could be a bit of a gimmick, I am hooked and will be sampling 2006 - 2012 Verticals a little over a year from now.

My big prize of the weekend was finding a bottle of Firestone Walker’s XV.  This is their Anniversary release that is a blend of a bunch of barrel aged beers.  I won’t enjoy this one until the middle of this decade, but I am very excited to have tracked down a bottle.
For those of you living in the South-Bay, Total Wine and More had a few bottles left this morning but they won’t last the day!

I noticed it’s been a long time since I blogged, so I’ll try to do better.  If you want the short and sweet version, follow me on Facebook at the Beer Missionary.

Whole Foods Craftbeer Festival - September 18

Two weekends and two beer festivals.  Life is rough.

This was the 2nd time Whole Foods (El Segundo) has had a beer festival.  The first was in January of this year (Scroll down to see blog).

Having just been to a Brewfest with over 40 breweries, this one with 17 seemed small and the selection was limited.  A lot of what was being poured was out of bottles and basically out of their store’s inventory.
There were a couple of brewers there pouring from a keg, and a couple who brought some growlers.

So here are the highlights:

Best beer of the day was Ballast Point’s Dorado. This DIPA was amazing, full of malt and citrus hops.  Matt (the rep) said that they are just getting back into production on it and hope to have it in bottles soon.  He brought it in a growler straight from the Brewery.   This was definitely the highlight of the festival although their Sculpin IPA, which had been bottled the day before, was also very very good!

El Segundo Brewery was there serving from kegs and their IPA was solid.  It has a nice medium body and a smoother finish than I expected with a hint of citrus hop.  They are still relatively new but are making some excellent beer.

Bootleggers was there serving their Rustic Rye and Palomino Pale ale.  But Martin had a secret stash of growlers in his cooler a red ale which was smooth, easy to drink, with a hint of sweetness, and a barrel aged Black Phoenix Stout which was incredible.  Chocolate, coffee, and bourbon flavors made this a treat.

We also splurged and bought a couple of really remarkable beers that weren’t being poured for the festival  Life and Limb 2 a collaboration between Dog Fish Head and Sierra Nevada was an delicious dark ale coming in at 10.2% ABV.  It was really complex with fruit, chocolate, and bourbon/scotch flavors with a big body and lightly carbonated.

The 2nd was the Bear Republic Mach 10 (DIPA).  Well worth the $ with the increased levels of hop balanced by an increased level of malt.  It was delicious and just a notch below the Ballast Point offering.

For $15 this was a really good time and my beer club enjoyed the afternoon celebrating one of our members birthdays. 

Thanks Whole Foods, keep up the good work and keep getting those great beers into the Tapas bar.

Cheers.

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