Friday, August 16, 2013

Anderson Valley Brewing (Boonville, CA)

AV Taproom

Gloria and I drove through Boonville twice on this trip, criss-crossing Mendocino county, including the Mountain View Road to the coast that was so small and winding that we stopped abruptly at one point thinking that we were driving on a bike path. Clearly remote and not hit by accident, Anderson Valley Brewing is very pretty drive with good beer at the end (or middle) of it.

With time before the tour, we headed to the bar to order a sampler tray, ingeniously individualized by checking choices on a provided sheet that our bartender delivered to our table nearby. At least we choose to sit at a table because the steel saddle bar stools looked uncomfortable for my "fuller" figure.

Order samples by ticking off choices
I started with standards I've had in Minnesota.  Hop Ottin' IPA is well brewed but average and the Brother David's Tripel is a more than solid brew, matching my expectations. Similar to Lagunitas, only the basics get out of the valley to Minnesota. Dipping into the barrel aged offerings, all were of a new level that I don't associate with AVBC   The best of the three was Gaitlan Damnosus, a sour bourbon barrel aged barleywine: dirty white head over a brown ale with copper highlights; light cherry, dark malt, raisin, fig, and dark cherry to build a Flemish sour brown nose; clean and bright for a sour while still being complex. Beautifully integrated barrel aged beer that warms exceedingly well when we ordered a draft after the tour.

Not wanting to push through our samples, the bartenders offered to keep our extras in the fridge until we returned. For me, the highlight of the tour was the beautiful view past the copper kettles towards the taproom. An unusual addition to the tour was seeing the beer catalog of samples brewed over the last thirty days in case of a quality control issue. Our tour guide was bubbly, informative and entertaining, though she didn't speak any Boontling (the local folk language native to the valley). My wife and I speculated that it might be a part of the tour, but our guide was new; however, she thought she might have to learn some for the future.

Based on tour information, we sampled a few more beers. First, I tried the Poleeko Pale Ale and Belk's ESB, each using the hopback. Both were very aromatic, as expected, but the pale ale seemed unbalanced while the ESB was exceptional for a style I don't admire. My wife tried the Fall Hornin' Pumpkin Ale, which she says is the best pumpkin beer to date; I disagreed but found it interesting in that it tastes like the fresh local pumpkins used rather than the all-spice route of most.

View of taproom from brewhouse.  
The most unusual beer was the El Steinbeer, a Mexican style dark lager with 20% blue corn. Similar to Negro Modelo, especially the nose, but the blue corn comes through lightly in the background to give it a very unique taste. In the right circumstance, I would happily drink this lager.

30 Day beer brewed catalog
While finishing our samples, we walked around looking for a suitable souvenir, preferably with the horned bear icon. We settled on a new glass that looks like a beer can with its top cut off, which fits nicely in my collection. As we were about to leave, Dave and Meredith that we met at Lagunitas walked in, so we sat to chat again. I took the opportunity to add one last draft of the Hwy 128 Session Pale Ale: dark amber ale with an off white head; floral nose with a dark, muted malt underneath; caramel and solid hop bite to compliment the nose. Very nice and a fun finish our day at AVBC with new friends.

It's a beautifully scenic and hilly drive from any direction to Boonville. We drove through without staying over night in both directions, but a a longer visit with stops at wineries can easily be added to this beer run. A remoteness that explains the formation of their own language in the Boonville area also informs the beer. While true of all breweries to a degree, Anderson Valley Brewing is truly born of the area and it continues to feed their creativity today.

No comments:

Post a Comment