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

Category: California Beers Page 1 of 3

Rabbit Hole Saison

Today I am sharing my impressions of Rabbit Hole French-Style Saison from Alaro Brewing in downtown Sacramento (California).

Rabbit Hole is an amber-colored beer, almost copper in hue. It has a malty aroma, with some floral and citrus – tangerine, maybe kumquat. It is not as carbonated as I might’ve expected from a saison but it does present a moderate head that subsides within a couple of minutes.

In the mouth it presents an effervescent crispness on the palate and citrus notes similar to those present in the aroma. It is moderately bitter, but not as bitter as a pale ale or, certainly, an IPA. It is more akin in hoppiness to a pilsner. I tasted notes of stonefruit, most reminiscent of apricot. Or perhaps a very ripe loquat.

It finishes with a lingering bitterness that is pleasant and not overpowering.

Very pleasant overall and a good recommendation by the server at the brewpub!

Anchor 2020 Holiday Ale

The holiday season is upon us and to add to the seasonal cheer, we have the arrival of Winter seasonal beers. For forty-six years Anchor has upheld that tradition with its Our Special Ale.

Their 2020 edition of Our Special Ale (sample bottles provided by Anchor Brewing) is a very dark, almost black, ale with a ruby translucence when held up to the light. It presents a moderate head, that subsides quickly to a ring around the edges of the glass. When swirled in the glass there is ample but short-lived lacing. I didn’t notice any “legs” or “tears”- the clear streams that alcoholic beverages sometimes leave on the sides of the glass.

It presents sweet notes in the nose: molasses, caramel, cloves, light cinnamon.  Overall, the aroma reminds me of gingerbread or spice cake.  I didn’t notice any hop aroma.

Sweetness is the most immediately noticeable flavor component.  It is not a particularly hoppy beer, but there is definitely a bitter backbone to support all that malty sweetness.   Some dark chocolate and coffee character, and graham cracker, too.  A few spice notes in there as well: cinnamon, black pepper, orange peel.  A little vanilla.

It has 7% alcohol by volume, but doesn’t come off as strong or alcoholey. And, despite the notable malt sweetness, it is a medium-bodied drink, with a dry finish, and a slightly bitter aftertaste, ending with a lingering dark roast coffee note.

It is smooth and easy to drink, and I think it would prove approachable even to those who say that they don’t usually like dark beers.

An aside on the packaging: You may have observed that rather than the usual single tree, this year’s label features three trees. According to the brewery’s literature, this is only the second time that multiple trees are shown on the label. In this case, the image represents The Three Graces, an iconic trio in Yosemite National Park’s Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. They are meant to evoke “togetherness and hope in a year when so much time has been spent apart”.

O Light Organic Light Beer

Today we are sharing our impressions of O Light Organic Light Beer. O Light Organic Light Beer is a 4.5% abv American light lager manufactured by O Light Organic in San Jose (CA).

As befits a light lager, it is a blonde beer, golden -tending toward straw- in color.  It raises a nice head upon pouring, which subsides quickly, to leave a ring of medium bubbles around the glass and a thin layer of tiny bubbles across the surface.

It has a light, slightly sweet aroma, with light caramel and honey notes. Hop aroma is low, almost obscured by the sweetness.

The flavor is quite nice. It has a pleasant toastyness, with a biscuity, almost graham-like flavor and hints of honey. Hop bitterness is light, with notes of pine and grapefruit.  It has a light, smooth, mouthfeel with medium carbonation and slightly dry finish.

O Light Organic Light Beer’s calling card, and the reason some may be drawn to it, is that it is a USDA and CCOF-certified organic non-GMO product. That’s great, but I think equally important is that it is a quite pleasant beer; refreshing and easy to drink.

Local GABF Winners

On Oct. 16th-17th, the Brewers Association celebrated the 39th edition of the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), the largest and most important beer event in the US.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s event was held entirely online. However, although there was no pro-am component this year, the commercial beers competition was indeed held, and brewers across the country held their breath as they watched the online feed of the awards ceremony, and waited to learn if they’d earned one of the coveted medals.

Below are the medals won by breweries “local” to me -meaning in a wide circle drawn around the San Francisco Bay Area, roughly from Chico in the north to Fresno in the south, and east to the state line.

Congrats to them all! The full list of winners can be viewed HERE.

Finishing Beer Week with PTY

After sampling some lovely offerings from breweries around the area, I finished out my SF Beer Week experience by making the pilgrimage to Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa from some of the celebrated Pliny the Younger.

First brewed in 2005, Pliny the Younger triple IPA has been released for two weeks only each year, in the month of February. People come for it from around the country, and further afield, and lines often snake around the block.

This year two developments conspired to make me decide to bite the bullet and make the trip for the first time: one, the opening last year of the larger production brewery and pub in Windsor, has reduced waiting times overall (even though they could still be ridiculously long!); and, secondly, that for the first time ever, Russian River had decided to bottle Pliny the Younger and each patron was entitled to purchase up to two bottles per visit.

The prospect of having one to take home, to extend the experience, and -more importantly- one to send to my daughter and son-in-law, beer lovers both, tipped the scales. So, off I went, to downtown Santa Rosa on Sunday evening of Presidents Day weekend.

The line was, to my relief, not too long. I got in line at 5:25 pm, and an hour and a half later, I was close enough to reach out and touch Russian River’s building. It took another hour and half to get in the door, though. More than I had hopped for, but three hours is generally regarded as a tolerable wait, indeed as a relatively short one–and besides, after a while one has put in enough minutes that one feels committed to seeing it through!

I had my first taste of Pliny the Younger last year, at an event at The Hop Grenade in Concord (CA), but to have it, fresh from the tap, where it was born, was something else.

Pliny the Younger is not just a triple IPA. It is the first triple IPA. Pliny the Younger is the standard by which the style was defined. Despite the insane amounts of malt that must go into it, it finishes dry, and is so drinkable. It is easily, the most drinkable triple IPA I’ve had.

Among a growing field of impressive triple IPAs -Heretic’s Evil 3, Danville Brewing’s Tres Diablos, Epidemic’s Cataclysm, to name just a few local regional examples- Pliny the Younger continues to stand out.

So, was standing in that line worth it? Yes, definitely. It was.

Would I do it again? I thought not, but yesterday, when I popped open my remaining bottle, my resolve on that kind of quavered …

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