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When one operates a small craft brewery the vicissitudes of barrel-aging beers means that one cannot foresee with any great anticipation when a such a beer will be released. It will be ready when it is ready, as they say.
Well, yesterday was the release of this year’s batch of Nightshade by Epidemic Ales. I was reminded of why I so much look forward to when this beer comes out.
Nightshade is a 10.3% abv vanilla stout. It is released on tap at the brewery in Concord, CA, and in 22-oz. bottles, about once a year, after spending, if I recall correctly, up to six months or so in Bourbon barrels.
It is a gorgeous beer; intensely dark, with deep mahogany tones, and a moderate head. It doesn’t have any harsh coffee notes or overt bitterness. Instead it is rich and smooth, with notable sweetness, and plenty of vanilla -some undoubtedly contributed by the oak.
With its high alcohol content, Nighshade does pack a punch despite not having any alcoholic or Bourboney “heat”. So, while it goes down easily at any time of day, a 22-ouncer of Nightshade is particularly nice shared as part of a dessert course; specially at this time of year.
While Alvarado Street Brewery’s brewers were guest on a broadcast on The Brewing Network at the in-venue studio, a number of taps were dedicated to Alvarado Street’s beers.
It was there that I came across Alvarado Street’s Daiquiri Island.
Now, let it be said upfront, Daiquiri Island is not for everyone.
It is a 5.5% abv kettle-soured ale, made with the addition of lime, lactose, and several thousand pounds of bananas.
It is creamy, like a milkshake IPA. It is sweet, t is tart, it tastes like banana, and it is certainly unique. It is a beer that requires one to put aside pretty much any preconceived notion of what a beer is and is not like.
If you’re a hophead, you’ll likely not quite get it. But, if on the other hand, like myself, you enjoy Runts® candy or Laffy-Taffy®, or if you’re a fan of banana daiquiris you’ll probably really like this beer.
I can’t imagine that it could ever be a regular offering, so if you’re curious, the time to try it would be now.
On Monday, Oct 7th, Fort Point Beer Company will open the doors to its brand new beer hall at 742 Valencia St., in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Fort Point Beer Co. was founded five years ago by Tyler and Justin Catalana, who had previously operated the Mill Valley Beer Works. Today it is San Francisco’s largest independent brewer.
However, despite its beers being found in bars and retailers throughout the city and beyond, and having a toehold in the Ferry Building market hall, Fort Point remained a production brewery and not open to the public. The company was thus wanting of a space in which to show off its beers the way it wanted, while having the opportunity to interact directly with the public. Enter: Fort Point Valencia.
As founder Justin Catalana explained at a media preview soft opening event on Friday evening, opening a place such as Fort Point Valencia had been kind of a dream for them, and that they’ve striven to make it a space which invites customers to feel free to move about the hall, meeting people and enjoying its different areas.
A lot of care and thought went into designing Fort Point Valencia. It certainly does not have the semi-industrial look that is somewhat typical of brewery taprooms these days. While keeping the open ceiling and exposed beam timbers, they’ve eschewed the all-too-common black paint in favor of a pleasant tan or off-white base with vibrant accent walls.
Near the entry is a sort of front room, painted blue, which houses a low, sit-down bar with its own line of beer taps. The main space is populated with round tables of varying sizes with bar-height chairs. There follows a cozier space at the back with tables for two and booths for groups, with red accents and dimmer, more intimate lighting. The anchor for it all is the 40-ft standing bar.
The bar has recesses which accommodate the taps and leaves the bar top uncluttered, freeing customers and servers to interact without having to duck around a forest of towers and tap handles.
According to head of brewing, Mike Schnebeck, all of Fort Point’s regular lineup of beers will be available full-time, along with seasonal offerings and a few guest beers from other craft breweries. Beers from the Black Sands brewpub, which Fort Point purchased last year, will also be available, as well as experimental brews and one-offs which will be served exclusively at Valencia. (A selection of wines and cider is also available.)
As for food, of course one cannot aim to be a proper beer hall without some food on offer. In this regard, the menu at Fort Point Valencia does not disappoint. It is certainly a cut above typical pub grub fare.
Chef Eric Ehler -who was pulled in from Black Sands- explained that he drew on his Korean heritage and on having grown up in Illinois (I’m pretty sure he said Illinois; maybe it was Indiana?) to create the range of flavors and dishes -from the cheeseburger to the dungeness crab rangoon, to the #00 on Rye open-faced egg salad and corned beef tongue sandwich. One of my favorites was the”pork chop bun” (think schnitzel sandwich) which, by the way, pairs really well with Westphalia red ale.
There are also plenty of genuinely tasty vegetarian options, from a crudités plate, to a luxed-up artichoke, to a lovely “hand salad” of endive, quinoa, pickled cauliflower, and black garlic.
As of now, the menu doesn’t have anything very sweet on it, but if you’re in the mood for a dessert, I’d recommend ordering the “party bread”, which is a really tasty sweet-and-savory fry bread (it was a crowd favorite at the event on Friday).
Fort Point Valencia
742 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA
Just the other day, as I was conducting a online search entirely unrelated to beer, I happened on a couple of images depicting the 2nd International Brewer’s Congress held in Chicago in 1911.
Following up on them I discovered that they came from the American Brewers’ Review, a trade journal published between 1887 and 1939 under the editorship, first, of Robert Wahl and Max Henius, and later of Arnold Spencer Wahl.
Besides being the founder of the American Brewers’ Review, Robert Wahl, it turns out, was a chemist who dedicated his life to establishing standards and procedures for the brewing industry. He was born in 1858 in Wisconsin, to Christian Wahl and Karolina Schappacher, both German immigrants – he from Bavaria and she from Baden.
Eventually settling in Chicago, he confounded, along with Henius, what would be known as the Scientific Station for Brewing of Chicago and as the Institute of Fermentology, before finally becoming the Wahl-Henius Institute. The institute was later expanded with a brewing academy, which operated until the whole thing was shut down with the advent of Prohibition.
As for the American Brewers’ Review, it was the official publication of the United States Brewers’ Association, and official organ of the brewers’ associations of Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburg and St. Louis. It had started life as Der Braumeister but by July 1896 it had adopted its English name. The journal, however, continued to be published concurrently in English and German, although the German edition appears to have been dropped once the US entered World War I.
The American Brewers’ Review offers a fantastic glimpse of the world of brewing and malting in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is chock full of ads and articles announcing the newest advances in bottling, labeling, packaging, and brewing technology, the newest malts, as well as the latest on the operation and status of breweries throughout the country, from descriptions of “steam” breweries in San Francisco to the fact that the Kunz and Blase brewery in Manitowoc had installed a “time-saving” electric machine for brushing its horses.
It is also interesting to come across many familiar names – Stroh, Pabst, Heileman, Anheuser-Busch- back when they were just another brewery and not the behemoths we know today.
Follow the links below to read the American Brewers’ Review, scanned by Google from bound originals at the New York Public Library, and housed on the servers of the Hathi Trust: