We have returned from a long awaited vacation where enjoyed copious amounts of wine, food and of course craft beer. On my second visit to Napa, CA, having missed out on Russian River Brewing and Bear Republic on the first trip, I made it a point to visit both. This post will follow a different format than our typical reviews, as there was a lot going on and note taking took a backseat to enjoying the fine people we were traveling with.
We first made our way to Russian River Brewing Company located in Santa Rosa, CA mainly for Pliny the Elder, but also any other craft beer creations this fine microbrewery has created. Snooch and I started with Pliny the Elder, a double IPA, weighing in at 8% ABV, while one of our guests decided on the sampler, two and a half ounce pours of everything on tap that day. Pliny the Elder lived up to its prized and proud history of being an excellent IPA. I thought it was extremely smooth and crisp, with the right amount of hops and bitterness that did not overpower your palette. Extremely quaffable and had it not been for my eagerness to try different craft beers (or perhaps it was we found that Whole Foods near our house carried it) I would have enjoyed a second.
The second craft beer we sampled was the Damnation Batch 23, an Oak Aged Tripel weighing in at a heft y 10.5% ABV. This beer poured a nice golden color and had a very interesting smell, much like a Belgian style Tripel, with citrus and sweet at the forefront and a hint of the oak from the barrel aging process. The taste was on the dry side sort of like a white wine, with a hint of sweetness, oak, citrus and a bit of the alcohol on the backend. Surprisingly the alcohol is hidden well, at 10.5% you would think it would hit you in the face but it was well done. Snooch and I both thought this was a complex beer and very solid, giving Pliny the Elder a run for its money. Josh was able to make his way through his sampler, noting that Pliny the Elder and the pair of Damnation brews were probably his favorite. A couple he didn’t not care for were the Pinot Barrel Aged Supplication and the Temptation, a Barrel Aged Blonde, both of which were pretty awful, far closer to wine than a beer drinker would care for. Having sampled them myself I would agree, and I believe the rest of the table did as well.
After hitting a couple wine tasting rooms in Healdsburg, CA, Snooch and I decided to break apart from the group and head to Bear Republic Brewing Company. Having tried their Racer 5 IPA and being extremely impressed I couldn’t wait to see what else they had to offer. Perusing the tap menu when we entered and were greeted by bartender Ryan, who was a pushing us to try a limited supply craft beer, the 2002 Sammy’s Strong Ale. We were both hesitant at first, feeling like this off center dude was trying to sell us some of the swill that couldn’t pass the test. Boys were we wrong. Ryan poured our 22 ounces of golden goodness into a small pitcher to breathe and gave us two goblets. This beer was awesome to put it in one word, extremely smooth, with just the right amount of sweetness from the malts, and a little bit of bitterness and citrus to offset. We were thoroughly impressed. We followed this up with a couple of Black IPAs which were good, but did not come close to matching the experience we had with the Sammy’s Strong.
That is all for now, I will throw together a couple other individual beer reviews we sampled while on the trip, but this is a quick recap of the two major microbreweries we sampled while in wine country. Check out some pics and please share your thoughts below.