Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Russian River Brewing (Santa Rosa, CA)

Russian River Brewing tucked away in a small mall. 

After spending a very hot afternoon at Lagunitas, we headed to the hotel to cool off.  As the heat lingered into a Saturday night, we drove to Russian River but couldn't find a spot to park in the busy downtown area, so back to the hotel for a cab. By the time we got to Russian River Brewing, it was busting at the seams and an hour wait. Luckily, a couple of seats opened at the bar just after we managed to buy our first beers from the end of the bar (on advice from Dave that we met at Lagunitas on how to negotiate the chaos).

So, the obvious to start—the beer is amazing. Because we took a cab, I bypassed the cool sampler tray for $15 for everything on tap and dove right in with a glass of Pliny the Elder and my wife did Consecration. On my pre-trip research, I found this great 12 minute documentary on Pliny beers, Younger and Elder, the engine of Russian River's success. No write up of these wonderful beers because we were hawking for a seat to avoid the one hour wait for a table. After unceremoniously pushing my way past a couple with my size to two open bar seats, we ordered some beer bites (pizza bread with mozzarella cheese and garlic), which came quickly.

Just before the appetizer arrived, we ordered Cheese Louise for dinner, a cheese pizza with mozzerella, parmesan, cheddar and marinara. We decided poorly because the Beer Bites were so large (and similar) that we took much of the pizza home. The food was fine but the meat market atmosphere made the stop uncomfortable. When one of us went to the bathroom, the youngsters immediately filled the space, clamoring for a beer. On my restroom trip to the back bar, there was at least one family and a few beer geek types, but they were overwhelmed by the young crowd.  Maybe just a Saturday night, but Dave and Meredith had said pretty much the same on their trip a night or two before.
Cheese Louise w/ Row 2 Hill 56 and Sanctification
Just prior to dinner, we had received our next excellent RR drafts. Mine was Row 2 Hill 56, a 100% Simcoe Pale Ale: stark white head over an amber ale with gold highlights; bright and clean Simcoe in the nose with light, fresh breadiness; tongue follows the nose exactly. Row 2, Hill 56 is a great pale ale in spite of being the weakest beer of the night. My wife ordered Santification, a 100% Brett fermented ale: yellow with hints of gold and a thin film from an off white head; delicate Brett and underlying bready malt; clean and rich sourness on tongue. Simply an amazing beer that was nearly matched by last beer of the night, Supplication, a brown sour barrel aged Pinot Noir barrel: little head and no lace; cloying amber to brown ale; sour and wine in nose; wine, thin malt, hint of dark fruit, slightly hot alcohol and bracingly sour on the tongue. Can't beat the beer here.

Like Lagunitas earlier in the day, I again found myself dislocated from my expectation. In short, the beer is not the brewery or brewpub. While the food was fine at Russian River, I wouldn't return there just for a meal. The beers are Russian River were everything I hoped and expected to find and we even left with bottles of Pliny the Elder, Sanctification and Damnation. The local heat wave strained our drinking resources and personal patience, which may have impacted our visit as well. However, I didn't leave thinking I'd love to live around the corner. If going back again, I would definitely make Russian River an afternoon or weekday trip to avoid the crowds so that I could quietly focus on the beer.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, so now I'm only a teeny bit less jealous. That being said, I'd still love to visit RR some time. I love their sour beers and of course love the hoppiness of Blind Pig, Elder & Younger.