Friday, August 24, 2007


Every time I get to drink an on-tap beer from RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING, and better still, when I get to visit the brewery/restaurant itself, as I did last weekend, I figuratively get down & kiss the ground & give hosannas that I live where I live. The latest information I have is that as of mid-2007, only three markets receive the supreme pleasure of tasting this brewery’s wares: Northern California, San Diego and Philadelphia. That’s it. Everyone else has to travel to one of those three markets or trade for bottles. Certainly, I feel shunned in Northern California by other world-class brewers – champions like FOUNDER’S, THREE FLOYDS, DOGFISH HEAD, even ALESMITH. But I think there’s reason to believe that Russian River is America’s finest brewery, and that’s not just regional pride talkin’. I got up to Santa Rosa again last weekend. Here’s what transpired.

As I mentioned last time, there’s a sort of cognitive dissonance that comes from seeing the brewery’s clientele drinking the finest Belgian-style ales in the US like they were ice-cold cans of Coors Light. Packs of college boys, families with small children, giggling tables full of young girls, and the elderly were seen in attendance last Saturday, all gulping down glasses of SANTIFICATION and so forth. What a great sight! I decided to go for the only two on the menu that I’d never tried before:

BRAVO – One can’t even find any mention of this beer at their web site, but from what I’m able to gather, it’s an IPA made with 100% Bravo hops. Bravo is a newish hop varietal grown in Washington state; we last experienced it when we tried 21st AMENDMENT’S BRAVO VICTOR ALPHA IPA last month. Funny enough, Russian River’s was listed in with their “-Tion” Belgian beer products, and was served in some fine Belgian stemware, as opposed to a pint glass. From a taste standpoint, this totally makes sense. BRAVO is a like a “funky IPA”, almost like if you mashed up a yeast-heavy Belgian Tripel with an American IPA. For all I know, that’s what they did. I really dug it – the bready, yeasty taste was predominant, and certainly a heaping helping of hops were poured into the mix as well. Quite bitter – and therefore an excellent single-serving beer. 8/10.

AUD BLONDE – My notes say “Smooth, thin and easy”. This is a straw-colored, quite light blonde ale. Typical for a Russian River beer, it’s not entirely straightforward – there were some real spicy notes lingering in the background, and probably more hoppiness than your typical thirst-quenching blonde. Keep in mind that I was actively searching for these tastes, almost as if I’d known they’d be there, even in what would typically be a brewery’s most accessible flavor. Brew doggies and college football players ready to quaff a pitcher after practice will have no problem with this one – nor do I. 7.5/10.

PLINY THE ELDER – OK yeah, I’ve had this one before. I’d been wondering lately if I’d given the much-ballyhooed PLINY THE ELDER double IPA short shrift on the two occasions I’d had it in 2006. After another pint, I don’t believe that I am. It is a very good, exceptionally strong double IPA. It is not the messiah returned to earth. Very tangy, a bit grassy, and more juicy than most. Perhaps a little too heavily hopped. I like HOPSICKLE better, but then you already knew that, didn’t you. I’ll stick with my original 7/10.

I may have to bed down & eat nothing but crackers and white rice for the next week to calm my taste buds, as a week from today, Friday 8/31, I’ll be attending a RUSSIAN RIVER vs. AVERY BREWING showdown beer dinner that’ll probably be my undoing. You want more information? Here’s some.


Rick Sellers said...

Bummer - I was there on Saturday too, at the bar with my wife. I watched as the last bottle of Toronado 20 was sold - good thing I had mine already. There is no doubt in my mind that RR is among the top three breweries in the US today... and I don't even know who might be better.

Regarding Pliny the Elder - it isn't over the top or in your face, but for me it defines exactly what a Double IPA should be. May not be the most stand-outish beer on the market, but it is remarkably clean and simply flawless.

Have you tried Hopsickle lately? It just isn't the same. Still very good, but not the same.

Someday I'll meet you at a great bar in a great town, till then I'm happy to read about your beer adventures.

Beer Retard said...

Damn...if the menu wasn't so meat-heavy and if it wasn't fricking $85, I would consider going since I'll be in SF next Friday and Saturday. If you're interested, maybe we can meet for a pint somewhere and I can get all nostalgic with you about how you introduced me to the Lazy Cowgirls and Didjits back in the day.

I'm planning on hitting the usual spots: Toronado & City Beer. Been back to Wunder again lately? I was thinking of giving them a shot too since I've been to Magnolia and 21st Amendment a lot in the past. On Sunday, I get to make my first holy pilgrimage up to RRBC. Can't wait.

Darren said...

I am there with you, RR's beers are so (for lack of a better word) inspirational. I stopped by the Toronado's party the other week, and had the anniversary ale. What can I say, "a flavor adventure," an epic story played out on my taste buds. Sour-to-Cherry/Fruit-to-Oak-to-Bitterness. Wow, great stuff.
Also, do to your write up of Lanesplitters (I get over the Berkeley way now and again), stopped in this week. They had "Little White Lie," a Belgian Wit from RR on tap. A bit pricey at 5.25 or something a glass, but once again superbly executed. Tart and refreshing, yet with a big creamy mouth feel. Awesome, took all I had not to gulp it down in three.
Thanks again Jay, I enjoy your blog very much.

Steve said...

I definitely dug that Bravo as well when I had it a couple weeks ago. A very flavorful type of hop. Oh and I swear I couldn't get enough of the Beer Bites when I was there. That might be the perfect pub munchie.