Beer 511

Exploring Craft Beer and Homebrew in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

Category: Breweries Page 1 of 9

Haw River Farmhouse Ales

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

http://hawriverales.com

What to expect in this year’s Pliny the Younger release

Every year Russian River Brewing stages what is arguably one of the most anticipated events in the Beer Geek Calendar: the release of one of world’s most famous beers, Pliny the Younger.

It probably hardly needs mention by now, but Pliny the Younger is a triple IPA -the world’s first, in fact- which means that it has more of everything that goes into an IPA. It clocks in at a bit over 10% abv, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 90-100 IBU. It is released only once per year, for a two-week period. It is served on tap at Russian River Brewing, only for in-house consumption, and only until each day’s allotment runs out. Only a very small amount goes out in kegs to select accounts.

This year Pliny the Younger will be released on February 1st and be served until the 14th.

In years past, people have been known to wait in line for up to twelve hours in order to get into the pub, and sometimes the day’s allotment ran out before the line cleared. However, with the opening of the new brewery in Windsor, Russian River is hoping that things will be different from now on.

First of all, there is the obvious advantage of having the beer released simultaneously at two different locations: the original brewpub on 4th Street, in downtown Santa Rosa, and the Windsor brewpub.

Then, there is the increase in output. Not only is the Windsor brewhouse’s capacity triple that of the 4th Street brewhouse, but Russian River’s brew staff pulled out all the stops and ran four back-to-back brews of Pliny the Younger, in a marathon, 24-hour brew session! This year’s batch of Pliny the Younger is 300 barrels.

The dregs of Pliny the Younger left behind in the open-top fermenter after transfer to the finishing tanks (January 4th, 2019).

With that amount, Russian River will be able to provide, not only full allotments to both pubs, but also larger allotments than have been available in the past. The hope is that thus they will be able to lessen wait times for guests and not have anyone go away disappointed.

This year will also provide other contrasts with those of years past. For one thing, no one yet knows what the effect will be on the yeast and the beer of the much larger batch size. Nor, does anyone really know what, if any, difference being fermented in open-top fermenters instead of closed-top fermenters will make. Russian River employees that I spoke to last week were intrigued and excited to find out

While no one knows precisely what to expect this year in terms of lines and wait times, the staff’s recommendation is to skip downtown, and head for the larger pub in Windsor. Not only should its greater capacity help move people through faster, but its 2 acres of free parking will save you from the worry of feeding the meter and having to move the car every two hours.

Another thing to note: This year, Russian River will be serving Pliny the Younger to guests on the guided tour at Windsor between Feb. 1st and Feb. 14th. Booking a tour will not get one into the pub any faster, but it is a way to get to get a taste of Pliny the Younger without standing in line. Weekend bookings are pretty full, but as of now there are still plenty of spaces on weekdays, specially in the second week. Go to Russian River’s webpage to book.

A visit to Russian River Brewing’s new Windsor campus

Wrapping up my Winter Break vacation and taking advantage of a sunny day in between bouts of rain, I hopped in the car and made the 1+ hour drive north check out Russian River Brewing’s new digs in Windsor.

Maybe “digs” doesn’t quite convey the feel of it. The place is huge.  Sitting on a 10-acre site, the building alone covers 85,000 square feet.

Even though it is an industrial plant -which includes not only the brewhouse, but also kegging, canning and bottling lines- it is, to an amazing degree, centered on the visitor experience.

First of all, unlike downtown, the Windsor site offers 2 acres of free parking, including electric vehicle charging stations.

Guests have a choice of four different areas.  Most immediate to the parking lot is a  lounge from which visitors can relax and from where to start on their tours. Next to it there is a large gift- and bottle-shop. There is also a tasting room offering 5-oz pours of a selection of RR’s brews and walk-up growler fills.

The heart of the guest area, however, is the 195-seat pub. It is itself divided into two main areas -one with pub-style seating, with tall bar chairs and tables, and one with more of a dining room arrangement. There is also a lounge area surrounding a round fireplace.  The whole thing is open, airy, and well-lit, with plenty of natural light.  In the back, there is a glassed-in bay that will one day house a pilot nanobrewery in full view of pub patrons.   It is all very comfortable and well-done, but I think regulars would miss the intimacy of the 4th Street pub.

The tap list is still somewhat abbreviated compared to what what can be had at the old 4th Street pub, but the bulk of what’s offered is what has been actually brewed on the premises. (Tip: Don’t bother asking about the “Procrastination”. I’m sure you can guess why.)

Russian River offers two types of tours. One, is the free self-guided tour, which ventures down a long hall from the guest lounge and allows one to view the production process from brewing to bottling.

The second option is the $15, 1-hour guided tour. This one allows one to get more intimately acquainted with the brewing process, from being able to look into the lab, stroll amongst the kettles, peer down into the open fermenters, and more. Three beer tastings and a souvenir goblet are included.

The the addition of the 75-bbl German-built brewhouse, Russian River has quadrupled its total brewing capacity, up from the 25-bbl system at the Santa Rosa pub.  They have also installed a several open-top fermenters, and a number of 75-bbl and 300-bbl closed fermenters.

In addition, the guided tour takes one beyond the areas visible on the self-guided tour, into the barrel house and to what is quickly coming to be regarded as the sanctum sanctorum of the Windsor brewery.

Beyond the already-fabled wood door (an Ebay find, it turns out), lies a room paneled in unfinished, soft pine wood. In it, rests the koelschip (or coolship), an open vessel in which hot wort (unfermented beer) is allowed to cool naturally, exposed to the ambient air and to the wild microflora allowed in through the open windows.

The hope is that in the long run that flora will colonize the wood in the steamy room, allowing Russian River to develop a unique “house flora” much like Belgium’s old lambic breweries have done.

Of course, we’ll have to wait another year or so to see what flavours the koelschip contributes to the beers that are now being passed through it on the way to the barrels.

Blue Oak Brewing Co. (San Carlos, CA)

I found Blue Oak Brewing more or less by happenstance.  Liz and I were at the south end of the SF Peninsula, and having finished an errand, we decided to treat me to a beer before making the long trip back home.  We turned to the AHA‘s Brew Guru app and it led us to Blue Oak.

Blue Oak Brewing is the brainchild of Alex Porter, who is the owner, brewer, and (when we were there) bartender.  He opened the brewery almost two years ago. Most of that time, I surmise, it was sharing space with the cidery nextdoor, but in September, Porter expanded into a larger adjacent space and made it into the current taproom.

The space is set up on an open floor plan, appointed with tables and barrels to sit at, in addition to the bar, with a trio of fermenters tucked into one corner.

As for the beers, Porter’s got a good mix of IPAs, Belgians, kettle sours, and fruited beers on tap.  When I was there this weekend there were twelve beers on tap. Not bad for what seems to be essentially a one-man operation on a 7-bbl brewhouse.

I opted for a flight of Cordilleras Kriek, Brother Joshua, Junipero Citra, and Ginny and the Giant Peach.

The Cordilleras Kriek (5% abv, 2 IBU) had a nice sourness with plenty of cherry flavor. It was little sweet in the mouth, but finished surprisingly dry at the back end. It was my favorite by far. I would’ve taken home a crowler of it, but it’s only served by the glass.

Junipero Citra (5.6%, 25 IBU) is a saison brewed with juniper berries and coriander, and dry-hopped with Citra hops. It tasted piney and citrusy, and was quite effervescent. I did take home a crowler of this one!

Brother Joshua (7%, 18 IBU) is a nice, dry, Belgian dubbel. Quite enjoyable.

The only one of the set, that was a bit of a disappointment was Ginny and the Giant Peach. It is 6% abv kettle sour fermented with white peaches. It was nicely sour, but the peach flavor was not very strong and it was also somehow hollow, like it dried out too much. There was a nice funkiness to it, though.

It just goes to show that, although San Francisco and the East Bay tend to get a lot of the buzz, there are other corners of the Bay Area brewing scene that are well worth exploring .

 

 

Blue Oak Brewing Co.
815 Cherry Lane
San Carlos, CA 94070

www.blueoakbrewing.com

Gilman Brewing (Berkeley, CA)

Over the weekend I stopped in at Gilman Brewing, on Gilman St, in Berkeley.

The space is fairly cozy. One is greeted by the taproom immediately upon entering, in a small, low-ceiling foyer, leading onto a passage backed by a long standing bar pushed up against the backside of the fermenters.  However, above there is a two-level deck overlooking the brewhouse, with a selection of tables and bar stools.

Off to one side there is a game room, with corn-hole, and -I think- a fussball table.

It was my first time there, and the staff were very helpful in steering me toward good beer selection

s for my flight.  I tried  (clockwise from top center, in the picture above) La Ferme Noire (dark saison with brett, 7.7% abv), Old Rusty (Belgian golden strong, 8%), Pineapple Jardin (Belgian golden sour, 5.8%), Cheval de Fer (limited-release dry-hopped Belgian saison, abv not specified), and Fuzzy Dice (hazy IPA, 7%).

I liked all the beers, but I was kind of rushed and didn’t take notes, so I can’t remember details of all of them.  Fuzzy Dice was good, I do remember that.  So were Cheval de Fer and Old Rusty, but, for me that day, the real standouts were the two sours.

Le Jardin is a kettle sour, which means that it was soured with lactobacillus before the wort was boiled.  It is dry, and mildly tart, not puckeringly sour, which makes it a good “gateway” into the world of sour beers.  That it was then fermented with Belgian yeast strains adds pleasant complexity to the flavor -some citrus, stonefruit, ….  It is no wonder that I liked it, as I am partial to both, sours and Belgian-styled beers.

Pineapple Jardin is Le Jardin with the addition of a half-ton of fresh pineapple per batch. So, take what I said above about Le Jardin and picture that with the sweetness and tartness of pineapple, with loads of pineapple flavor on top of that, and you’d be getting the picture.

 

 

Gilman Brewing Co.
912 Gilman St.
Berkeley, CA

gilmanbrew.com

 

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