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A beer tour through wine country, Part 1: A visit to Russian River

December 31, 2012 By: Nate Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Travelin'

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.

Russian River!

Russian River’s brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa, Calif.

So many choices!

Currently on tap a Russian River: A lot.

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.

Where the magic happens!

What’s living in these barrels is the key to Russian River’s unique Belgian-style beers.

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

Also needed is more than one trip

With so many beers on tap it is difficult to try them all, so thoughtful planning is needed.

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.

Sour! Yum!

In all their sour glory: Consecration, Supplication, Temptation, and Brux.

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.

Who wouldn't want this place as their local...

Who wouldn’t want this place as their local?

The pub is decorated with lots of old signs and breweriana. One of the best examples is the original sign from New Albion Brewery, the first craft brewery in America.

Lots of history here!

The brewpub now houses the original sign from New Albion Brewery

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!


The carnage. We did our best to taste everything on the menu. I think we did a pretty good job.

Next in this series: More beer in wine country as we move on to Bear Republic.


There’s always a line for Russian River beer at GABF, even before the doors open

October 15, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Events

Great American Beer Festival logoLines are a common sight at the Great American Beer Festival.

Just to get in you have to wait in a line that can snake for a mile around the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

Once inside, there are popular breweries that always have a line of thirsty attendees, from The Lost Abbey to Cigar City Brewing to Dogfish Head.

But nothing compared to the Russian River Brewing Co. booth. Before the session opened on Friday, before the public was even allowed in, there was a nice, long line of beer industry folks waiting for their 1-ounce pour of Russian River beer.

People just had to have their Pliny!

What’s your favorite beer from Russian River?

FuzzyBrew’s Favorites from the Winter Warmer

January 18, 2011 By: mike Category: Breweries, Events, Memphis, Opinion

Winter Warmer taster

We tried a lot of beers at the Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer this past weekend, so picking our favorites was a tough assignment. Here’s what we came up with:

Mike’s Picks

1. Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing Company — I’ve heard so much about Russian River’s Pliny the Elder that I almost thought the skies would open up and angels would start singing when I took my first sip of this Double IPA. Well, all that did happen. It was amazing. Best beer of the day.

2. Festive Ale, SweetWater Brewing Company — Part of SweetWater’s “Catch ‘N Release” series, this strong ale has a hint of cinnamon and a load of malts that are perfect for sipping on a cold day.

3. Never Summer Ale, Boulder Brewing Company — Dark caramel malts, combined with lots of hops and a “top-secret brewmaster’s spice,” make this is a winter seasonal that you can’t put down.

4. Blind Pig, Russian River Brewing Company — With all the winter seasonals in the building, it was nice to try a really good IPA. The Blind Pig delivered a blast of citrus and floral aroma in a light, well-balanced brew.

5. Mogul Madness Ale, Rogue Ales — This winter ale tastes stronger than its 6.6% ABV and is my new favorite from the popular Newport, Oregon, craft brewery.

Grant’s Picks

1. Peach Lambic, Lindemans — I asked the lady serving us which of the frutiy lambics I should sample; this peach was recommended and did not disappoint. Aaaand it was served over ice cream. This may become a dessert staple in this house.

2. Pliny the ElderRussian River Brewing Company — This is a no-brainer. It was my second beer of the day (at the festival, that is) and would have been my first had I not lined myself up behind the wrong group of drunkards. I hope my recent homebrewed clone comes close.

3. Trappist Tripel Ale, Westmalle — Strong and tasty and super drinkable. Also totally palette-cleansing.

4. Gaelic Ale, Highland — Malty and somewhat hoppy. Very smooth and a nice reprieve from some of the overpowering brews I sampled. A great session beer.

5. Welcome Winter Ale, Samuel Smith — I love Sam Smith and passed this table over at first because I’m pretty familiar with their beers. But I’m glad the unfamiliar label drew me in. I’m not winter’s biggest fan, but I could surely cope better with more of this beer on hand.

Jeff’s Picks

1.  Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier — I’ve been reading the book, Smoked Beers, and just finished the part where they visit this brewery.  It absolutely lived up to its billing.  An insanely dense, smokey, bacon-like aroma blends perfectly into this Marzen-style beer.  I must have gone back to this beer 15 times at the festival.  A Rauchbier just jumped to the top of my to-brew list.

2.  Blind Pig, Russian River Brewing Company — This was the first time I’ve had this beer and I thought it was an incredible IPA.  If they told me I could walk around the festival and drink this beer only for the rest of the night, I would have done it.

3.  Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing Company — The last time I had this was in Portland, Oregon, a few years ago, and it was as bad-ass as I remember it then.  A classic Double IPA.

4.  Moo Hoo Stout, Terrapin Beer Co. –Another first-time beer.  I was really impressed by the smooth, chocolate flavor and aroma of this beer.  I will seek this one out on future travels.

5.  Mogul Madness Ale, Rogue — This beer stands out for the sheer fact that after two hours of drinking, it was able to elicit quite a reaction from my overloaded taste buds.  Citrusy hops and a wallop of malts combined for a complex ale that really hit me.  I was thinking this was a barleywine when I first tasted it.

What were your favorite beers from the Winter Warmer? Leave a comment below.