Why we're here...

Beer culture is coming of age. At any store, restaurant, bar, or friend's house you can now find at least a few good brews. In fact, there seem to be so many new beers, breweries and bars it's difficult to separate the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

If you're going spend $10 on one beer, what should you buy? If you're going to drive 2 hours to check out a brewery, what's worth your time? If you're going to plan a Friday night, what has a good selection and friendly atmosphere? We're here to help you answer these questions.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Anderson Valley Brewing Company

My visit to Anderson Valley Brewing Company's taproom in Boonville, CA was thoroughly enjoyable. Sadly it wasn't the peerless beer Nirvana I was expecting/remembering. Don't get me wrong, AVBC is still a great brew, it just finally has worthy competition.


I ordered the beer sampler (pictured) to get a good overview of what AVBC is producing these days. Samplers were 5 oz., not the usual 4. The majority of it was the tried and true varieties you already know, with a few of the seasonal and limited "Bahl Hornin" styles (good drinking in the local speak, Boontling). Bahl Hornin brews are available only by tap, and only at select vendors. A few tasting notes:

-Paleeko Creek Pale Ale: Delicious, light, but with full flavor. One of their lighter offerings. Try it.

-Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout: One of the smoothest stouts around. Not my favorite style of beer, but this is a nice brew. It might even work for sessioning it is so drinkable. Try it.

-Boont ESB: A very nice bitter, with a complex finish. Anywhere else this is amazing, here it was overshadowed. Skip it when here. (Try it anywhere else)

-Boont Amber: A classic. Perfect balance between malt and hops. One of America's greatest beers. What can I say. Must have it.

-Summer Solstice: Cerveza De Crema: One of the more interesting beers I have ever had. It comes on light (as a Mexican lager might) but then finishes with a sweet creamy note (like a cream ale). It might confuse your taste buds and there is definitely the possibility of hating it. For the adventurous: Must have it. For the traditionalists: Skip it.

-Brother David's Double (Abbey Style Ale): A very rich, high alcohol (9%) brew. Delicious flavors and very well balanced as you would expect. Has a smoother aftertaste than many similar Belgians, which may make you drink it rather fast. That makes it pricey and dangerous. For normal drinkers: Try it. For Belgian fanatics: Must have it.

"Bahl Hornin" Series.

-Boontlinger Weiss: A very nice Weiss. Having lived in Bavaria for a number of years, I am a pretty sharp critic of domestic wheat beers. No, there should NEVER be a lemon or orange slice present. Many breweries make a mess out of wheat beers. AVBC got it generally right. The brew is crisp, rich and not too fruity. Sadly I feel this beer was almost too restrained and could have included a more complex flavor package. Regardless, one of the better domestic wheat beers I have had. Must have it.

-Imperial Boont: So, take the great Boont Amber and double down on the hops and malt. The result is a powerful, rich but surprisingly smooth beer. For those who like intensely flavored high alcohol beer: Must have it. For those who prefer it lighter: Try it (it's good).

-Wee Geech Pale Ale: A light body with complex hops and flavors. The taste leaves your mouth confused with suggestions of citrus and other natural flavors, but still happy. This is a great beer in moderation, but does not replace Paleeko Creek. Must have it.

-Saison: I am relatively new to Saison's but they are a new favorite. Their complexity knows no bounds, and they always go down smooth. AVBC's Saison definitely hearkened back to its roots as a peasant "farmhouse" beer. It had a rich exture, and a smooth finish. As with the Weiss, I would fault AVBC for not showing greater ambition on this one. While I found this beer eminently drinkable, and drink it I did, it did not have the complexity I come to expect from its Belgian counterparts. Still, Try it.


An excellent experience if you are anywhere in the neighborhood. Still one of America's best breweries but the competition is much tighter than before. To our benefit.




Good: relaxed rural setting, tricked out taproom (pictured), a disc golf course, a horned bear (below) and nice outside seating make it a great atmosphere.

Bad: no food offerings for hungry travelers (other than shelled peanuts), no specialty brews in bottles for sale, mediocre gift shop and no growlers (a temporary problem, we are told).

Ah, screw it, beer is food, isn't that what the Germans tell us?

My wife and I visited AVBC on July 22nd as part of a visit to the spectacular (and under appreciated) Mendocino Coast. I had been to AVBC nearly a dozen years earlier when the taproom was located inside a local Boonville restaurant. It has now moved onto the breweries grounds at the junction of Highways 128 and 253. That is both a good and bad thing.

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