Bay Area Breweries Win World Beer Cup Awards

The craft beer world converged on San Diego for the annual Craft Brewers Conference and bi-annual presentation of the World Beer Cup Awards. The awards were doled out on Saturday night and a few of your Bay Area breweries brought home some hardware. Congratulations to all the winners!

Rye Beer

GOLD: Ruthless Rye IPA , Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA
SILVER: 3 Flowers IPA, Marin Brewing Co., Larkspur, CA
BRONZE: Jopen Jacobus RPA, Jopenkerk Bierbrouwerji, Haarlem, Netherlands

Other Strong Beer

GOLD: Star Brew, Marin Brewing Co., Larkspur, CA
SILVER: Imperial Cream Ale, Nexus Brewery, Albuquerque, NM
BRONZE: Double Pilsner, Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO

Indigenous Beer

GOLD: Got Beer, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery – Tacoma, Huntington Beach, CA
SILVER: Hqt, 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, CA
BRONZE: Oyster Stout, Upright Brewing Co., Portland, OR

American-Style Sour Ale

GOLD: Ching, Ching, Bend Brewing Co., Bend, OR
SILVER: Mattina Rossa, Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME
BRONZE: Supplication, Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, CA

Classic English-Style Pale Ale

GOLD: Annadel Pale Ale, Third Street Aleworks, Santa Rosa, CA
SILVER: Summit Extra Pale Ale, Summit Brewing Co., St. Paul, MN
BRONZE: Caldera Ashland Amber, Caldera Brewing Co., Ashland, OR

American-Style Amber Lager

GOLD: Winter Skal, Capital Brewery Co., Middleton, WI
SILVER: Colorado Native, AC Golden Brewing Co., Golden, CO
BRONZE: Cali Common, Lucky Hand Beer, Novato, CA

Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout

GOLD: Blarney Sisters Dry Irish Stout, Third Street Aleworks, Santa Rosa, CA
SILVER: Ring of Dingle, Sun King Brewing Co., Indianapolis, IN
BRONZE: Dry Stout, Breakside Brewery, Portland, OR

American-Style Amber/Red Ale

GOLD: Big Cottonwood, Utah Brewers Co-op, Salt Lake City, UT
SILVER: Swan Lake Beer Amber Swan Ale, Hyokoyashikinomori Brewery Tenchokaku Co., Agano, Japan
BRONZE: Mavericks Amber Ale, Half Moon Bay Brewing Co., Princeton-by-the-Sea, CA

American-Style Black Ale

GOLD: Black Racer, Bear Republic Brewing Co., Cloverdale, CA
SILVER: Tarantulas 2.0, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA
BRONZE: Raven, Thornbridge, Bakewell, United Kingdom

Beer Review: High Water Brewing’s Anniversary Doppelsticke

Photo © Dave McAvoy

High Water Brewing recently celebrated its first birthday. In honor of the occasion, brewer Steve Altimari created the Anniversary Doppelsticke (pronounced “Dopple-shtick-uh”). It’s a beer style that some knowledgeable beer fans may not be familiar with.

Here’s a little background about the style. A good starting point is the German Altbier, which is brown ale. A close cousin of the Altbier is the Sticke Alt, which is a stronger and darker seasonal version that is quite rare. The Doppelsticke is an Imperial version of the Sticke Alt.

High Water’s Anniversary Doppelsticke is a rich, dark copper-brown brew that when poured produces a finger of frothy off-white head. The head slowly fades and leaves behind some spotty lacing clinging to the sides of the glass. If you give the beer a good sniff, sweet toasted caramel malts and brown sugar notes fill the nose, with some noble hops and biscuit playing strong supporting roles. There is also just a touch of sweet dark fruits. I was really impressed with how full the aroma was without being too sharp and strong.

When sipped the beer hits the tongue in a very similar manner to how it struck the nose. There’s a wonderful balance of sweet lightly toasted caramel malts with some brown sugar sweetness and some citrus and noble hops coming through. Through the middle the complexity builds a bit with some biscuit and a touch of hop bitterness. The finish is a mix of toasted biscuit and toffee malts and a hint of dark fruit sweetness. The beer is medium bodied, with moderate carbonation and is extremely smooth with a dry and slightly sweet finish.

I have high expectations when new High Water brews are released and this particular beer was even more surprising in quality and uniqueness. The balance of flavors are fantastic and the beer has an incredible (and almost dangerous) smoothness at 7.5% ABV. I definitely recommend seeking this one out and giving it a shot, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the style.

Eel River Brewing, It’s Organic, Got a Problem?

Photos © Brian Stechschulte

Drive four hours north of San Francisco on the Redwood Highway and you’ll arrive in Humboldt County. It’s a beautiful region of California full of old growth trees, weed gardens and hippies that make Berkeley look like Orange County. Look a little harder and you’ll find a few of the most underrated breweries in the state.

One of those is Eel River Brewing in Fortuna, CA, the first certified organic brewery in the United States. They put a big emphasis on sustainability in addition to making great beer. Spent grain feeds brewery owned cattle, which gets served as organic beef in their tap room, and their production facility in Scotia runs on 100% bio-mass renewable energy. So imagine my surprise when I meet co-owner Ted Vivatson, a 6’4” dude dressed in camouflage pants that looks like he’s about to go wrestle bears, instead of a earth hugging hippie in tie dye.

In my experience I’ve never met anyone like Ted in the brewing world.  He doesn’t mince words or dance around a topic. I wish I had recorded our entire conversation. He could fill a book with awesome craft beer industry quotes, so I’m putting it lightly when I say my tour was exciting and eye opening.

Why organic? You might think Ted has a bleeding heart or believes in the greater good, but he said “I brew organic because it just makes sense.” He sees a world loaded with antibiotics, pesticides and pollution and that makes you wonder, “Why hurt your body with all that crap?” It’s a sentiment that drove him to raise his own cattle. I’ve heard this reasoning a hundred times in the Bay Area, but for some reason when it’s coming from a guy that looks like GI Joe, you tend to see it in a different light.

After our conversation we took a spin around the original brewery and the taproom in Fortuna, which feels a bit like a hunting lodge. Historic photos and artifacts from bygone logging days adorn the walls and ceiling. Outside their beer garden is the size of two basketball courts. It’s filled with picnic tables, horseshoe tossing pits and old cement slabs that one supported the logging facility that used to be there.

During my visit on Sunday morning the place was packed. Nearby hotels bring in new customers and the RV park down the street provides a steady stream of customers even on slow days. In addition to the beer, a full menu makes it a popular place. I tried the burger and it was delicious (probably because it was made from hippie grass-fed meat).

I didn’t get a chance to check out the production facility in Scotia (located inside an old redwood mill), which was a bummer, but time was dear and maybe that will be something I can check out next time?  If you’re ever headed though the Eureka area of Humboldt, stop by Eel River Brewing for some great organic beer and food. Heck, they’re flanked by two hotels, so if need be, you could safely crawl back to your room.