Monday, April 30, 2007


An obvious key benefit of being located where I am in San Francisco is being just over an hour away from one of the world’s great brewers, RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING from Santa Rosa, CA. They have an absolute feverish beer cult growing here in the Bay Area and around the country now, so when a chance arises to drink some of their more rare elixirs, it’s a good idea to jump at the chance. Last Wednesday night they came down with a bunch o’ kegs; in addition to Toronado’s regular lineup that includes their BLIND PIG IPA, PLINY THE ELDER and DAMNATION, Russian River brought down the following:

Redemption- Blonde Ale; Perdition- Biere de Sonoma; Salvation- Dark Strong Ale; Temptation- Blonde Ale Aged in Used Chardonnay Barrels for 15 Months with Brettanomyces and Micro-Organisms; Supplication- Brown Ale Aged in Used Pinot Noir Barrels for 15 Months with Sour Cherries, Brettanomyces, & Micro-Organisms; Depuration- Barrel Aged Ale with Grapes; Compunction- Barrel Aged with Plumcots; Deification- Pale Ale Finished with Brettanomyces; Sanctification- 100% Brettanomyces Fermented Ale; Erudition- 2 Year Old Saison with Brettanomyces, Vintage 2005; Beatification – Batch 002, 100% spontaneously fermented Sonamic (Sonoma + Lambic = Sonambic); Collaboration - Blend of Avery Salvation and Russian River Salvation; plus a handful of limited-edition aged bottles that I didn’t try. Man, is beer tasting starting to seem more like record collecting every day.....

Each beer was served in a 4-oz glass for $2, or a 6 ½-oz. glass for $3.50. I did the math wrong when I first fought my way to the bar, and ordered these tiny, tiny samples of ERUDITION and DEPURATION. I won’t pretend to tell you what they were like or how they “scored”, only that my few ginger sips were unique and delicious. So I got my game face on and elbowed my way back into position – I reckon that every beer geek worth his weight in IBUs was in the room for this one. This time I came back with larger glasses of both BEATIFICATION and COLLABORATION, NOT LITIGATION. Beatification was excellent – a “wild ale” that had a funky, slightly sour taste that was neither off-putting nor astringent – just smooth and rocking with flavors of lemon, vinegar and tang. In our small group, this was the hit of the night. I gave it an 8/10.

Collaboration I’ve had twice before, and the reason I went for this team-up with AVERY BREWING again was simply because I’m sure it’s going to run dry soon, and I wanted to get one last taste in before it’s gone for good. I second the 8.5/10 I gave this a few months ago – a standout beverage. Finally, I went back for another ERUDITION – why not? You, the people, need to know my score so that you might better regulate your personal beer intake. This is a 2005 Saison-style spring beer, made in the open-vat Belgian tradition, and it’s quite good – light, medium carbonation, maybe even a tiny bit tangy and sour itself (that must be the “Brettanomyces” – man, I promised myself I’d never actually type that word, out of resistance to its pomposity alone). I went with 7/10 on this one. It’s rare to find even a simply “good” beer from this brewer; they are absolutely blazing new trails in American brewing and are at the height of their game right about now. Rumor is they are expanding a bit, as well, to keep up with surging demand, but will be doing everything under their power to keep the small-batch, farmhouse nature of the brewery intact. Here’s hoping.

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