Thursday, January 30, 2014

Russian River Brewing: February is Pliny the Younger

February is the month for Russian River Brewing, Pliny the Younger. This will be it's tenth annual year since the first release of triple IPA at the pub in Santa Rosa, California.
Vinnie Cilurzo is owner/brewer at Russian River said in an email that this years Pliny the Younger will be relatively the same as last years. He states that as the brewery has matured they have been able to "select more aromatic and flavorful hops" for Pliny the Younger. The ABV should come in between 10.25% & 10.50%, but Vinnie likes it when it's a the former range which allows" the hop character to come through a little better".
Pliny the Younger is Pliny the Elder’s big brother. It's a triple IPA, with a load of hops that has obvious hop character in the aroma and in the flavor of the beer.
Pliny the Younger at the Falling Rock Taphouse.
I have gone to many release parties of Pliny the Younger over the years and found that to me, sometimes it taste different depending on the tap house. I recently found that most tap houses use a blend of CO2 and Nitrogen to their tapping systems as a way to alleviate waste from foaming beer. So I thought maybe that was the difference I tasted in the beer. I asked Vinnie Cilurzo about that and he said there shouldn't be any difference in taste between the two systems if Pliny the Younger is tapped soon after being distributed. I think he's mistaken but you can be the judge at the next release.
Pliny the Younger will be available at the Russian River tap house on February 7 and will run it's course for two weeks or less. So if you live in California, head to Santa Rosa for this yearly event. I thought it was humorous that on the Russian River brewing webpage on Pliny the Younger, there are rules of etiquette for these two weeks of the beer.
Russian River Brewing taphouse is located in the downtown area of Santa Rosa where there are many businesses so first rule:
1)No drinking alcohol while in line.
2)No smoking anything within 20 feet of business entrances or where people are standing in line.
3)Don’t block entrances or driveways of other businesses.
4)No cuts in line! Make sure all your party is there at the same time.
What’s cool though is that Colorado gets the most Pliny the Younger. It will be distributed to San Jose, Sacramento, Stone Brewing will pick there allocation at the brewery, Oregon, Colorado, and Philadelphia, in February but dates are TBD. I’m not sure how many kegs are shipped Oregon, it used to be Portland only.

Colorado will probably receive Pliny the Younger a week or so after the release. A good idea is to check your favorite local taphouse on their website or facebook page to see if they are tapping Pliny the Younger this year. In Denver check Falling Rock Taphouse, Hops and Pie, and Freshcraft. In Boulder, Backcountry Pizza and Taphouse, The Kitchen, and West End Tavern.

For more information about Pliny the Younger Craze:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Avery Brewing Co: Brewery of the Year, 2013!

I pondered a question as the new year descended on us, "What brewery do I consider to be the best in 2013?"  It took me awhile to think of the criteria for the best brewery and as I thought about it Avery Brewing kept popping up.

The first time we went to the brewery there wasn't a taproom but a kegerator with 3 taps. I remember Ellie's Brown, Hog Heaven but I can't remember the third. We even got a peek at the new label for the Kaiser Oktoberfest Ale. It took a quite a few years before they decided that a taproom was need and even then, they only served free tasters.  Avery Brewing's taproom has come along way!
The Avery Brewing tap house has over 20 beers with rotating seasonals. You can find their flagship beers on tap year around and some of their big ones like Hog Heaven, The Beast, etc. What makes the tap house stand out are the beers you can only get there, none are bottled. They have a house sour ale, Eremitas, that every year it's improved on, right now it's in it sixth incarnation. There are two session beers, 4point 2 is an IPA and 4 point 4 is a milk stout. I know that session beers are usually lower in alcohol but this is Avery Brewing we're talking about. Right now there is a wonderful beer on tap, the Mayan Goddess. It’s the Czar Imperial Stout with spices, two kinds of vanilla beans, and three types of chilies. There’s a rich flavor of the Czar with spices and the backend heat of the chilies.
Another point in Avery's favor is that they have two Cicerones in the tap room, Phil Vaughn who is the tap room General Manager and Matt Lambuth who is the assistant tap room manager. The Cicerone certification program is for people in the beer industry to prove through an exam that they have expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers. It says a lot about Avery Brewing that they encourage their employees to further their knowledge about beer.
At the Avery Brewery there has been many events during the year that we’ve gone to and some we hadn’t but there is always something going on at the taproom.
Here’s a small list of events that we’ve attended in 2013:
January- I went to a beer and chocolate tasting event that was held in the barrel-aging room. We ate chocolate morsels with beer that either complimented or contrasted flavors with the desserts. It was hosted by Jeff Mendel and Sarah Amorese.  She is the owner and chocolatier at Piece, Love and Chocolate in Boulder, and Jeff  is founder of the defunct Tabernash Brewing now is a partner, Director and Ambassador for Left Hand Brewing. He also teaches beer appreciation through Boulder Valley School District’s Lifelong Learning program.  
Jeff mendel and Sarah Amorese.

March- The 11th Strong Ale Fest was held at the brewery where you taste over 75 beers that are over 8% ABV. The fee was $50 for 15 tickets and a commemorative glass. All proceeds went to Brit Antrim who was injured in an industrial accident and sustained a spinal cord injury which left him paraplegic.

Adam Avery and Larry Smith at the Strong Ale Fest.

May- Volunt Plus Erat Release Party. It’s a sour/wild ale with Cabernet Franc must and barrel-aged for 14 months. It is a very strong wild ale at 10.4% ABV.
Release party for Ross’s Melange Sour Ale. It was brewed with Chardonnay must and barrel-aged in white wine barrels. It is a high alcohol sour ale at 11.4%ABV. At these release parties they will have a great lineup of beers to celebrate the occasion such as the Tweak and the Moloch. A six-pack was $60 but it’s worth because you might not find it at any liquor store after the fact.
Ross Meinert and his mother (sorry I don't know her name)

I attended a seminar at the brewery, “Gestalt Theory: Blending a Barrel-aged Sour Beer. This seminar was given by Andy Parker, Master Blender of the barrel-aged beers. It was very informative and Andy is quite the spokesman, he was very humorous.

Momi Hiwa Release Party. It is a Baltic Porter that was aged in rum barrels for 6 months. A six-pack was $60 and this beer will age very well in my cellar. Many special beers on tap for this event.
July- Uncle Jacob’s Stout Release Party. This stout was aged in bourbon barrels for 6 months and at 16.5% ABV, it will cellar well for a few years. A six-pack was $72.
August- 20th Anniversary Barbecue at the brewery. This year was rather more expensive than the previous ones but it was a show stopper. The entry fee was $40 and it was all you can eat with 6 beer tickets but the beers this year were fantastic. There was bottles of the Thirteen Anniversary Ale which was my favorite and it was good but oxidized, naturally.
Adam Avery in the dunking booth.

The barrel-aging room at the 20th Anniversary BBQ.

September- Rumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale release party. This pumpkin ale is huge at 18.53%ABV, it was brewed with 600 lbs. of fresh pumpkins then barrel-aged in fresh rum barrels for 6 months. This was another fun times at the brewery with special tappings of beer for the party. We bought a six-pack for $72 and we shared one bottle with friends, it was quite hot, if you know what I mean, definitely needs aging.
December- Sisterhood of the Hop
Craft & Crafts: Handmade Beers & Handmade Gifts.
Sisterhood of the Hop is a co-ed beer club hosted by Avery which started as a organized monthly event to educate women about beer. It is now open to all genders but it is a fun way to learn about beer.
This holiday event had over 10 booths selling soaps, beer accessories, woven scarves & mittens, food stuff, and much more. This was the third year that Avery Brewing hosted a craft fair.
Tent in back of the brewery.

Barrel-aging room.

What I really find cool about Avery Brewing is that their main events of the year Strong Ale Fest, Sour Ale Fest, Anniversary Party, and the IPA Fest all proceeds go to charity. You don’t hear about it unless you buy the tickets for one of these festivals where it is stated right there who the fest will help.
But of course, it's also about the beer that Avery brews with consistency that makes them a stand out in the craft beer industry. They also just broken ground for their new facility that is slated for completion in 2015.
So this is why I vote for Avery Brewing to be the Brewery of the Year!

*The release parties are a must attend attitude because some of these beers were brewed in small batches and may not make it to the local liquor stores.
*When I refer to “we”, it is my husband Larry and myself. “We” also refers to friends we meet up with at the events.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Avery Brewing taproom: Eremita VI

Eremita VI is a light blonde sour ale aged in neutral oak white wine barrels and infused with key limes. Sweet tart front with the key limes in the backend. I like this a lot and at 6.5% ABV, it's quite lovely.

Avery Brewing Taproom

Saturdays are for going out, so we're at Avery Brewing tap room. On the left is the Coconut Brown Ale, very rich with hints of coconut, unusual for an American brown. On the right, Mayan Goddess, a Russian Imperial Stout ( the Czar) with 4 kinds of chilies, two kinds of vanilla beans, cinnamon, and cocoa nibs. It is rich with chocolate and some chili flavors but slight backend heat. At 10.3%ABV, it doesn't taste big.