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.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Russian River Brewing Company

Russian River Brewing Company is located in downtown Santa Rosa, CA right off of Highway 101. Downtown Santa Rosa is actually pretty nice, with lots of locally owned shops and restaurants.

Off the bat - this is a Must Have It. Just the fact that Russian River puts out two of the top rated beers on Beer Advocate, should be reason enough. However, the creative innovations of Master Brewer Vinnie Cilurzo are the best reason. Cilurzo is credited with creating the Imperial or Double IPA (DIPA) style which is showcased in Pliny the Elder. A style that actually was incorporated into the 2008 Beer Judge Certification Program Guidelines. This is pretty big, since many new styles just fall under "specialty beer".

Cilurzo started with the Blind Pig brewery in San Diego, where the DIPA was first concocted. He and his wife then bought out a brewery once ran by the Korbel Champagne folks. Russian River moved to their current Santa Rosa location in 2004. Cilurzo is famous for his treatment and innovation with hops. Pliny the Younger, which is available only once a year for a few weeks in February/March.

The only drawback, which shouldn't stop you from going, is the space. The brewpub is narrow, so it gets a cramped feeling pretty easily. Outside seating is limited and part of the sidewalk out front. I really like Bear Republic's space. However, the interior is very warm and welcoming with down-to-earth wood interior. The kitchen puts out good brewpub fair - our group had the various "bites" which are definitely worth trying.
At the brewery we tried:

Pliny the Elder
Really good on tap at the brewery. Its amber in color, with a fluffy, white head and very nice lacings. The aroma is big with tropical fruit hops, pine, a bit of mint and a nice sweetness. The taste is amazing, a beautiful balance of hops bitterness and a sweet, malty cornucopia of fruits: pineapple, grapefruit, pears and citrus. It's smooth from start to finish with a medium body and a slight warming from the alcohol (8%). As the bottle states, Pliny is meant to be drank as soon as possible as IPAs do not age well. This is a Must Have It.

OVL Stout
OVL is a dry Irish Stout (ie Guinness) with 4.8% ABV. It's served with nitrogen instead of CO2. It's a dark traditional stout color with a nice tan head and good lacings. The aroma is subtle with roasted malts and chocolate and hints of nuts. The taste is sweet malts upfront, followed by slight earthy hops and roasted bitterness. Smooth all the way through with a dry, subtle coffee and roasted finish. Medium bodied and great nitrogenation. OVL is a Try It, its a well made, but not unique stout. With so many unique brews on tap, this one can wait - its year round.

Consecration is an American Wild Ale aged in Cabernet casks with an ABV of 10%. This one in a line of wine barrel aged Ales brewed by Russian River. The color is a clear, dark reddish brown with an off-white head that quickly dissipates. The aroma is sweet with hints of dark fruit, currant, spice and the red wine that its been aged in. The flavor packs a punch with a strong mix of sweet and sour fruits (like a red wine), some spice, hints of citrus hops but not bitterness. Its a medium body, crisp with big alcohol that leaves your mouth a bit dry. I'm not a fan of the wine-aged beers, but it was an interesting adventure. This is a well-made, thought out beer and you should Try It.

Blind Pig IPA
Blind Pig led the way to Pliny, and the flavor profile and overall experience of Blind Pig follows that. Blind Pig, named after Cilruzo's first brewery in San Diego has the same citrus, pine and floral notes of Pliny, same appearance, smoothness and finish. It's just done in an IPA with just 6% ABV. This is a great IPA which is almost a history lesson - the IPA that led to the DIPA and Pliny. This is a Must Have It.

1 comment:

  1. We went to the Russian River Brew for my birthday. I ordered the beer sampler. It was terrible. The server only knew what 3 of the beers she was serving me were. She said to ignore the bottle cap lables that they were not correct. Worst part, the beer was so gross. Only a few were worth drinking. Get it together RRB so we can support our local brewery.