I’ve been taking my time getting the details filed on the annual PACIFIC COAST BREWING HOLIDAY BEER TASTING – my sincere apologies. There’s a lot of ground to cover. This event took place on Saturday 12/13 at the brewpub in downtown Oakland, CA. It was my second time participating, with a year skipped (2007) due to my concern that I would not be able to hold my stomach this time after my Boonville boondoggle earlier in the year. Well, a year’s rest worked this time – even though just about every holiday ale they threw at us in ’08 was in the upper stratosphere alcohol-wise. When they announced that just about everything was going to be over 9% ABV, there was an audible groan from the crowd, covering up what I thought might be more than a few quiet cheers. Lushes, all of you. Seek some help.
This young man above this text is enjoying a SCHMALTZ BREWING JEWBILIATION 12. It was one of his favorites of the day, and just missed being my “top dog”. It was a pretty great lineup of dark ales from around the globe, most of which fit the “winter warmer” or Xmas theme. Pacific Coast has been doing this for 20 years now, and the altacockers at the table next to us had come every single year. In fact, the crowd itself was far longer in the tooth that I’d have expected – the medium age was probably around 50 or so – which come to think of it is pretty cool. These guys (and they were almost all guys) have a good decade on me - and are slamming down 15 samples of high-octane beer in a single sitting, without starting fistfights or making derogatory 60s-era comments about the barmaidens. The four hours we spent here just roared right by, to be honest. Wait, it’s time to go home already? Can’t I have just one more?
Here’s what we drank. We were all encouraged to keep score, so you’ll see my converted-to-the-HBJ-scale scores after the beers themselves:
1. ANCHOR “OUR SPECIAL ALE 2008” – 7/10
2. SIERRA NEVADA HARVEST CHICO ESTATE WET HOP ALE – 7/10 (my notes say “oily, hoppy, resin-y”. Then I stopped taking notes and started enjoying life instead)
3. PACIFIC COAST 20th ANNIVERSARY ALE – 6/10
4. PACIFIC COAST HOLIDAY XX – 4/10
5. GREEN FLASH GRAND CRU – 8.5/10 (I am loving Green Flash beers right about now)
6. GOUDEN CAROLUS NOEL – 8.5/10
7. PIZZA PORT BELGIAN QUADRUPEL – 5.5/10 (this beer is pictured to your right – the very glass I consumed! Disappointing, though, considering this brewer’s mighty feats elsewhere)
8. ST. BERNARDUS CHRISTMAS ALE – 9.5/10 (Our winner! Outstanding beer, even better than last year’s version)
9. STONE ANNIVERSARY BITTER CHOCOLATE OATMEAL STOUT – 7.5/10
10. FIRESTONE WALKER VELVET MERKIN – 9/10 (The most-anticipated beer of the day, because no one knew what it was and because Firestone makes some killer high-ABV ales. This was one of the best, I just can’t remember why)
11. HARVIESTON OLD DUBH SPECIAL 30 RESERVE – 6/10
12. HAIR OF THE DOG DOGGIE CLAWS – 6/10
13. SCHMALTZ JEWBILATION 12 – 9/10
14. NORTH COAST OLD STOCK 2007 – 8.5/10 (Excellent beer – the 2004 version was our winner at the 2006 Pacific Coast holiday beer tasting)
15. SAMICHLAUS HELLES BARLEYWINE – 8.5/10 (Really dug this 14% alcohol beer! Or maybe it was that 14% alcohol that was doing the talking)
Pacific Coast Brewing did a great job laying out food and making sure its customers were happy and satisfied, and even came back with a “bonus pour” of whichever beer was your favorite. Everyone got one, so I proclaimed the ST. BERNARDUS CHRISTMAS ALE my 2008 champion, then “walked” back to the BART train for the muddled ride home. Woke up feeling like a hero the next morning, and thus decided I’d do this again next year. Prost! And hey, happy new year, folks!