Sunday, April 11, 2010

Beer vacation

Yesterday Kirsti and I got back from a trip up to Humboldt County. We got to see the redwoods and some really beautiful scenery, and of course we also visited some brewpubs. That seems to be a pretty consistent part of any of our trips - figuring out which breweries/brewpubs are in the area. It seems like the further north you get from here, the more breweries you'll find. (One of these days I'll have to make it out to Portland, Oregon.) On this trip, we went to Eel River, Six Rivers, and Lost Coast. Here's what I thought:

Eel River - We stopped off at this place in Fortuna while on our way to our hotel in Eureka. I got the sausage and sauerkraut plate, and that was pretty tasty. Kirsti got a bowl of some kind of cheesy, potato-bacon, etcetera soup that was really good. (I got a small cup of it for myself as well.) As for the beer, I started off with their Triple Exhultation. This was a really strong beer, and I determined that maybe it wasn't a good way to start. It was really hoppy and sweet with an almost caramel-like aftertaste to it. It was also about 9% alcohol. I suppose it would have been fine if that was to be my only beer, but I also got their amber lager, and honestly it tasted a little off. I'm well-versed enough in beer though to know that it was probably due to the fact that I started with such a strong ale. I should have done things the other way around.

Six Rivers - I was really eager to try this place, as they happened to have a chili ale. I've been toying with the idea of making one myself, and I wanted to give this one a try before I made my final decision. (I had emailed the brewmaster a week before to get some valuable advice on how to make one.) After trying theirs, I've decided to go for it. I've had other chili beers before. One was a habenero pilsner, which was good but only in small doses. The other was something I bought at Bevmo a while back. With that one, I liked the taste of the chili, but the beer itself was kind of Corona-esque (in other words, crappy).

The chili ale at Six Rivers was as good as I imagine something like that can be. It was basically their wheat beer with some chili in it. It added a nice flavor without being too extreme, and it perfectly complimented my grilled halibut tacos.

For desert, I had their Oreo Cookie cheesecake that I washed down with their stout. I used to not be such a big fan of stouts, but I think that I'm starting to come around.

Lost Coast - Unlike the other two places, I've had some of Lost Coast's beer before. To be specific, I had their Downtown Brown, which is a mighty tasty brown ale. At the brewpub, I tried their Raspberry Brown. I find myself still conflicted about fruit beers. For the most part, I think that they're not very good and somewhat reminiscent of cough syrup. This one was a bit different though as it was a fruit flavor in a dark ale rather than the usual pairing with a wheat beer. Basically, it was good enough for me to finish without any problems, but I don't think that I'd try it again. I still think that perhaps the best pairing of fruit and beer would be Pyamid's Apricot Wheat.

As for the food, I had their turkey burger which was really flavorful and juicy. On the side, I got a really nice Caesar salad. After downing the raspberry brown, I had their stout. It was pretty darned good as well.

Overall, I'm starting to notice that almost all craft breweries have the usual suspects which consist of a pale ale, a wheat beer, an IPA, a stout and/or porter, a blonde ale and/or pilsner, and then they'll have something unique that you don't find very often. The biggest exception seems to be Gordon Biersch, which specializes in lagers. Also, Pyramid, while offering a lot of the usual suspects, specializes in wheat beers. I have this feeling that there's some new angle out there that somebody's going to jump on one of these days, and it should be interesting when it happens.

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