Monday, April 09, 2007


I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 18 years, but I'd never made the 80-minute drive north into the heart of Santa Rosa, CA for any reason whatsoever before, that is until the sweet siren song of the world-beating brewery RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING starting chirping, & I made elaborate plans to get up there and do battle with their best. Russian River have a much-deserved reputation of world renown on the beermaking front, creating beers that are so involved, complex and amazingly delicious you’d think they were made by master homebrewers or old-world monks. Their DAMNATION Belgian-style golden ale and REJECTION black beer are the ones that get me frothing, among others; different beer fiends will instead fly the flag for SALVATION or TEMPTATION.

Last Monday night me & my trusty beer snob sidekick CM got rolling right after work, and 80 minutes later, there it was, a beckoning beacon of taste and refinement right in the middle of a faux downtown mini-mall. Given that I was the designated drinker/driver, I only had three small-ish ones (alcohol content cut immensely by a massive pizza), but man, did this place live up to all the hype. Actually it's sort of jarring to have some of the world's finest, high-end, meticulously-crafted beer on tap at such a yahoo, wood-paneled, sports-n-pizza bar, but it was NCAA basketball finals night, so many of Santa Rosa's finest were there to see the big game, and rather than getting lit with MGDs and Coronas, these fine folks were sipping fine Beligan-style ales by the chalice-full, and keeping their wits about them to boot. I reckoned that I could hang out here with my beer doggie "bros" in a heartbeat for a baseball game, and perhaps someday I will. On to the beer!

RUSSIAN RIVER PERDITION – After arguing to a near-fistfight for 20 minutes about whether it made more sense to go “dark to light” or “light to dark” first, or “low-alc to high-alc” or vica versa, we agreed to throw caution to the wind & order whatever. I went with PERDITION, a Biere De Garde, which I know has been in bottles in the past but which I’ve never seen. It was delicious. Really intense banana/clove smell to it, with fairly high carbonation and a sweet but also fairly astringent taste to it at times. Not super-high on the alcohol – 6.10%. Definitely Belgian inspired, and served in the appropriate Belgian glassware. Excellent. 8/10.

RUSSIAN RIVER COMPUNCTION – The crazy thing about the Russian River brewpub is that these incredible Belgian-style beers are only $3 a glass (!!), and a full growler of these things will only set you back $17. Incredible. That said, this one was a special limited release offering, and thusly ran $6.50 for a 15-oz. glass. Who cares! Another winner. This is a sour but not sickeningly-so “wild ale”, with the dominant fruit being pluots. Do you know what a pluot is? It’s a hybrid fruit, part plum & part apricot, so it’s got quite a zing to it. This beer does as well, and I bet it was totally steeped in these things. At first I blanched from the taste, but all it took was a little courage and by glass’s end I was really impressed. Russian River are just master craftspersons & you can taste the care and discipline they put into their beer with every sip. 7.5/10.

RUSSIAN RIVER O.V.L. STOUT – The beer of the night was the most simple – a super-basic, creamy, low-alcohol stout, which these guys of course hit out of the park. There is no one – no one – who could argue with this beer. Roasted malts and perhaps that smoked/burnt barley taste as well, but essentially just a creamy, dense, near-perfect stout. Wow. 9/10.

Best beer-themed road trip I’ve taken since last year’s BOONVILLE BEER FEST – which by the way, is in just over 3 weeks if you’re counting......


Steve said...

I think this entry officially cemented my plans of a NorCal beer tour specifically for the Russian River. I had started swaying to Portland but how can I pass up RR, Bear Republic, Moylan's, Marin, Lagunitas.

Rick said...

Steve - if you're on a road trip, try to find a way to hit SF for an afternoon/evening too for a Toronado experience. RR, Bear Republic, Moylan's and Blue Frog is a regular trip for me and some friends - we start at Blue, then hit Bear Republic, then RR finally finishing with a Hopsickle at Moylan's.

Jay - You're making me thirsty man.