Wine Country is Beer Country!!!

From my grape-picking days!

Indeed it is! It is my greatest pleasure today to present to you some of the finest breweries in the country located in the beating hearts of California Wine Country (there is more than one). Give it up for the breweries making their mark and staking their claim in this grape-centric domain!!


Firestone Walker Parabola: Well, I’ve been trying fruitlessly to have this beer for quite awhile, but it has eluded me time and time again. Alas, my moment has arrived! I watch it being poured into my glass, like a vampire might look at a young maiden’s neck. In other words, I am licking my lips.

On the nose, intense dark chocolate (think a dense, flourless chocolate cake), espresso and coffee bean, charred wood, and rain water. All of the aromas are a liquid flavor flow on the palate. Dense and intense are proper terms. While there is a slight bitterness, there is a definite lingering in the finish. Almost too long. I would have liked to have seen more black malt bitterness to cleanse the palate (so to speak) at the end.

Firestone Walker has become quite the heavy hitter in the craft beer world. Winning awards at World Beer Cup and GABF like gangbusters (including the IMPRESSIVE Best Mid-Size Brewery at WBC and 6 awards at GABF!), these guys are seriously talented brewers. Began in 1996 by Adam Firestone and David Walker, the first days were apparently full of trials…I love the line in their history, “Ok, so initial attempts weren’t even as good as shampoo.” I love humility.

Despite a rocky start, Firestone Walker has grown by leaps and bounds and is one of the top 50 largest Craft breweries in the United States. (P.S. You will see me capitalize Craft alot. I think it deserves it. Don’t you?) As of 2009, they are brewing over 60,000 barrels a year! Wowza! If you haven’t already, check out their other famous brews, DBA (Double Barrel Ale) and Union Jack IPA.


The one and only Dr. Bill with Russian River's Sanctification.

Russian River Sanctification, 6.47% ABV: FIIIIIINALLLY! That is the one word song I belted out at Dr. Bill’s Rare Beer Tasting at Falling Rock Tavern. I swear. Just ask the people standing around me. And my dictaphone.

Lots o’ hay, band-aid (hello Brett!), grass, barnyard, and stable. Whispers (I borrowed that from beer friend, Andy Coppock) of light citrus and herb. On the palate, a surprisingly gentle and subdued sour. It dies off a bit in the finish, which is disappointing, considering how long I’ve waited to try this beer, and I want it to LAST! But alas, the clamor to try this beer is…lets say, borderline manic, so my time with Sanctification comes to quick end.

With its restraint and refinement, I would love to be able to sit and have some time with this beer. It’s like a fine wine. You don’t just gulp it down like a Bud. It’s there to be enjoyed. Truly enjoyed and appreciated. I have a feeling if I drank this outside of an onslaught of other beers (including massive Imperial Stouts), I might find even more to this beer. Just a thought.

There could not be a more appropriate brewery to include in this review than Russian River, considering their background in wine. STAY TUNED for a full Brewery Feature on one of my unequivocally absolute, hands-down favorite producers of beer on the planet. I heart Russian River is an understatement.


Stack 'em high!

21st Amendment Back in Black 6.8% ABV: Can’t tell you how much I have heard about this brewery! So I am excited to try their lineup of beers. Today’s review(more will follow) is my personal favorite, their Black IPA. Yes, I love metal and AC/DC, but that is just icing on my yummy beer cake. Or in this case, wasabi on my nigiri. (Is it just me, or does that sound a little dirty?)

Wow. What an interesting nose! Soy sauce. I feel like I’m in a sushi restaurant. Dark, caramelized aromas with a nice hop kick, including some piney resin from Simcoe. Thought-provoking combination of aromas and flavors. The jury is still out for me on Black IPA’s, but I am liking this one.

Incredible graphics. Forward thinkers. Experimental minds. 21st Amendment is the brewery of the future. Much like the 21st Amendment of the Constitution repealed Prohibition and ushered in a new life for the country.

The brewery began in 2000 by Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan. Nico, an actor/homebrewer and writer for Celebrator Beer News and Shaun, a photographer and paralegal, joined forces to create 21st Amendment. In 10 years, it has become known in San Francisco and the west for delicious, innovative beers AND mouthwatering food. After tasting a few of their beers, I am ready for the grub. I feel a beer country trip coming on!!

What is one of the best IPA’s EVER made? I’ll give you a hint. It’s my next beer. The one and only…


Ready for the Saints game with my Racer 5.

Bear Republic Racer 5, 7.5% ABV: This, my friends, is the definition of American IPA. Winning Gold at GABF in 2009, this beer is everything you look for in a hoppy pint of beer love.

So vibrant! Tons of pine resin, citrus juice and peel, pepper, spice, and just the right dose of hop funk. It’s like Goldilocks and her perfect bed. Jussst right. Fantastic punch of bitterness on the palate. Finish lingers in the jaw. You hopheads KNOW what I am talking about. Truly a classic in the ever-expanding IPA universe.

As Bear Republic says about this beer, “There is a trophy in every glass.” Here, Here. If you haven’t had this beer, RUN don’t walk to your nearest brewpub or beer shop and GET THIS BEER. Seriously.

Straight in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country, Bear Republic is located in the wine geek town of Healdsburg. Having visited there back in my 24-7 wine days, it’s an incredible town with amazing food. I can only imagine how well Bear Republic’s beers pair with some of the mouthwatering cuisine there!

Born in 1996, Bear Republic is a family business, began by homebrewer Richard Norgrove and wife Sandy. Winning the prestigious Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year in 2006, Richard Norgrove has become a name in the Craft beer world synonymous with quality and downright deliciousness. Some of their other famous beers include Big Black Bear Stout and Hop Rod Rye. Amongst an incredible-looking arsenal, this sour freak reallllly wants to try their Sour Crazy Ivan. Trip to Sonoma?


Anchor Steam, 4.9% ABV: Ahh. I am standing in a field. Smells like wildflowers and honey. Like the honey from those folks at the OB Farmer’s Market that I love so dearly. Mild, smooth and balanced. A true classic, I have had this beer more times than I could ever count. Went wonderfully with the oysters that we so lovingly grilled on a fine San Diego afternoon. I don’t think I’ve EVER met a person that hasn’t liked or loved Anchor Steam at some point in their lives….

Classified as a “California Common/Steam Beer”. The term “Steam” was trademarked by Anchor. Began in, are you ready?, 1896! it is the oldest Craft brewery in the nation. It was Craft before there was such a term. Earthquakes consuming the brewery, fires, and Prohibition all threatened to end Anchor.

Oh my. The yumminess....

But it rallied on by the skin of its teeth, and in 1965, the now-renowned Fritz Maytag saved it from bankruptcy. There is so much more to tell, and there are 7 Chapters to their illustrious history, which I shall turn over to you now. CLICK HERE to continue the fascinating saga.

Fast forward to today, and I look to Anchor as one of those classic breweries I will always appreciate and enjoy. Liberty Ale, Anchor Porter, and Old Foghorn are beers I would happily drink any day of the week. I especially relish the Anchor Christmas series and its wonderful ability to age. Combined with their yearly variation of recipe, there is always something new and exciting to anticipate. In fact look for this year’s offering in my annual 12 Beers of Christmas in December!!

Until next time,

Trade that wine glass for a beer goblet, take in every luscious sip, and raise a glass to Craft beer.



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