During a recent trip to Sonoma County, Calif., I was able to squeeze in some brewery visits amongst the wine tasting. Yes, it’s OK to enjoy both wine and beer, one just has to keep his priorities in order…
We were staying in Santa Rosa, so the very first item of business upon arrival was a stop at Russian River Brewing Company, one of my absolute favorite craft brewers.
I should say up front that I will not be going on and on about Pliny the Elder. This is not because I don’t think it is a great beer — I do. And we drank a lot of it on this trip. No, the reason is that I had come to Russian River seeking barrel-aged sour beer, and Russian River makes some of the best in the world.
So I started out with their Belgian-style sampler which included (below, left to right): Redemption, Little White Lie, Damnation, Erudition, Perdition, Benediction, Salvation, Temptation, Brux, Supplication, and Consecration
The sour beers in the sampler (below) were: Brux, a collaboration between Russian River and Sierra Nevada; Temptation, a blonde ale aged in old Chardonnay barrels; Supplication, a brown ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries; and Consecration, a dark ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with currants.
The collaboration beer, Brux had a very soft sour note and a rich mouthfeel. It was more funky than sour. The remaining three were much more intensely sour, with the acidity increasing as the beers got darker. These were extremely complex beers, and were a tough sell for those in the crowd not already fans of the sour (read: everyone but me… Ah, well, more to myself!). Owner/brewer Vinnie Cilurzo’s background from a wine-making family really shows through in these beers.
Even though Russian River is one of the more famous craft breweries in American and a mecca for beer nerds everywhere, it just feels like a neighborhood brew pub, with great pizza and live music.
After working our way through a couple of pizzas, the sampler (and a few other selections), it was time to call it a day. But don’t worry we were back a few days later to work our way through the hoppy side of the menu, listen to some live music and even drank a few Pliny’s…well more than a few!
Next in this series: More beer in wine country as we move on to Bear Republic.