I’ve just received news of this worthy event to benefit the public libraries in Sonoma County:
The Sonoma County Public Library Foundation invites you to a fundraiser for our library system. Get a chance to experience the Santa Rosa Central Library at night with a beer in hand. The new Director of the Sonoma County Library, Ann Hammond, will give her vision of the future of the library system. We will share exciting projects the Foundation is funding and innovative new ideas from Library staff, including an electric piano, blender bike, and more! Come play the piano; ride the bike; enjoy drinks from Lagunitas, Bear Republic, Russian River, and Golden State Cider; nibble some delicious appetizers from A La Heart Catering, and enjoy your local public library. We’ll see you there!
On my recent visit to Durham, North Carolina, Fullsteam Brewery was one of my obligatory stops.
The brewery is located in a slightly decayed area near downtown Durham, that likely due to the availability of empty real estate, has found new life as a hub of the local food and drink scene. It’s hard not to suspect that the presence of Fullsteam and of a well-liked BBQ joint nextdoor has had a big hand in that.
Fullsteam’s public area is divided into three spaces: a front area, as soon as one walks in off the street through the barn door; a larger area with more seating and a small stage; and the space where the bar itself is located. All three are comfortable, friendly spaces, accented with quirky post-industrial touches such as a wall of dials, library card catalog cabinets, and other odds and ends. Behind a glass wall at the back, one can view the brewery proper, with its assortment of fermenters and the brewhouse with which Fullsteam pumps put 8,000 bbl a year.
I first encountered Fullsteam Brewery on a visit to Durham, NC, in 2016. I sat down at the bar, and as I had limited time, I told the server I had time for only one or two, and asked him to serve me the beer he thought I should not walk out without having tried. He started to go into the usual “Well, what do you like drink?” exchange, but stopped himself and served me a bottle of First Frost Foraged Persimmon Ale. Thus began my love for Fullsteam.
Every Fall, Fullsteam’s network of foragers fans out and gathers ripe persimmons, which the brewery then processes and freezes. That fruit is then used to produce the following year’s First Frost, a complex, fruit-forward 13% abv ale fermented with Canadian and Belgian Abbey yeasts, Crystal and Magnum hops, and Belgian candy sugar. It is, frankly, one of my absolute favorite beers.
The rest of the brewery’s lineup are no slouches, either. Featuring ingredients such as North Carolina barley and sorghum, local berries, paw paws, hickory shells, and chocolate and coffee from local purveyors, those brews reflect Fullsteam’s mission to create beers that evoke and celebrate the farms and produce of the South.
Extra Extra Double Brut India Pale Ale was one of the beers that I brought back from North Carolina.
It is not made in North Carolina -or maybe it is? Stillwater Artisanal is an itinerant brewing operation. In a variant of the contract-brewing model, Stillwater -headquartered in Baltimore- rents out unutilized brewing and fermentation space from bricks-and-mortar breweries. Stillwater’s brewers then travel to those locations in order to brew, whether it be in the United States or even other countries.
Extra Extra is a pretty beer. It is a beautiful yellow, golden color, with straw notes. It is hazy but not opaque, and not thick or “juicy”-looking. Upon pouring it produces a finger or two of white head, composed of myriads of small bubbles.
In the nose, I got a pleasantly fruital aroma, with notes of white grape, guava and mango. The fruital character continues in the flavour. I addition to more notes of white grape, I got Meyer lemon zest and conifer. It is moderately bitter for an IPA, specially a double IPA.
Though it is not as dry nor as effervescent as other examples -perhaps from being a double- it is still pretty light despite having 8% abv. Very drinkable indeed.
On my recent trip to North Carolina we made it a point to venture out to the town of Saxapahaw, on the shores of the Haw River, to visit a brewery I had long been desirous to know: Haw River Farmhouse Ales.
Haw River Farmhouse Ales is located in a corner of the century-old building of the historic Saxapahaw Spinning Mill. The building is shared with a music venue, a coffee shop, an artisanal butcher (try the braunschweiger!), and the Saxapahaw General Store, which serves as a general store cum souvenir shop cum restaurant cum meeting place for motorcyclists, bicyclists, and other visitors who venture down the country lanes to Saxapahaw.
Haw River Farmhouse Ales is tucked into a 3000 sq ft space on the lower level at the west end of the building. There you’ll find the taproom, and visible through a set of windows behind the bar, the 10-barrel capacity brewhouse.
The Haw River brewery is not a big one, but they do a lot with what they’ve got. The brewery displays a sense of place by tucking its outside seating between the remains of thick concrete walls and by incorporating elements in the taproom that give a nod to the building’s industrial past.
That aesthetic extends to the beers, which often feature local ingredients – North Carolina-grown grains, berries, and muscadine grapes, locally-roasted coffee, and even Carolina Reaper chiles!
That combination produces some really nice beers. One, I have mentioned previously: the 2018 Saxy Machismo quadrupel with ancho chiles and habaneros.
On this visit I tasted several others, of course. My two favorites were JavaQue and Hiverna,
JavaQue is a velvety smooth 7.1% abv cream stout, infused with Peruvian coffee, smoked malt, and bacon from the butchery next door.
Hiverna is an 8.2% abv Winter Harvest Saison brewed with winter squash and sweet potato, and finished with Sichuan peppercorns, coriander, and cinnamon. It was a good, solid, saison which finished really nicely, with those spices not overpowering anything else but lingering after each swallow
Haw River Farmhouse Ales is well worth checking out should you find yourself in the Durham or Chapel Hill area.
Haw River Farmhouse Ales 1713 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Rd, Saxapahaw, NC
Last week we headed out to Durham, North Carolina, to visit our daughter. Besides visiting and seeing the sights, I, of course, I checked out the local beer scene. I got to know some spots new to me, and took the opportunity to return to some of my favorites in the area.
Naturally, I also came home with a load of North Carolina brews in my suitcase.
So, over the next few weeks, one should expect to see posting on my trip and reviews of some, perhaps, most of those beers.