Thursday, March 04, 2010


NAPA SMITH BREWING are upstart entrants hailing from Northern California’s wine country, a total family brewery (The Smiths!) who employ a longtime veteran named Don Barkley as their head brewmaster. They’re starting to catch on with the hoi polloi here in the Bay Area, and I remember reading a review of their BONFIRE IMPERIAL STOUT on a blog (Brewed For Thought, probably?) that made me rush out and buy one. It’s still in the fridge, awaiting the proper imperial stout star alignment. My only other experience with them was tasting their IPA on draft a few months back, and I scored that one a 7/10, which you best believe is better than yr average beer.

Draft is also how I encountered NAPA SMITH AMBER a few weeks ago as well, this time at the SF Ferry Plaza Building’s burger restaurant Taylor’s Refresher (which has its roots in the Napa Valley, and which sells this beer in their St. Helena location as well – I know ‘cause I saw it there). This is a really classic and slightly left-of-center amber ale. No, it’s not an imperial. It’s a tingling, somewhat bitter red ale, quite sweet as times and full of robust, mouth-filling malts that add a lot of character. It tasted absolutely like I want one of these to taste, “very 1990s”. Back in the 90s, the amber beer was my go-to style; I didn’t know about Belgian beer yet. Every microbrewery (that’s what we called them, kids!) has one, along with a wheat beer, a pale ale and a pilsner. This harkens back to that time, and adds that curveball hoppiness and bitterness that’s more a hallmark of the past decade. Nice. 7.5/10.

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