Like Lloyd Bridges quipped in 1980’s Airplane!, “I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue,” and I picked the wrong week to quit drinking beer.
I quote the line because I was mulling a rollback in my consumption of ice cold beer as a coping mechanism for the heat now that the “heat dome” has subsided. Then I looked at this week’s editorial calendar. This is how I found myself sipping beer at 11:30am, Friday morning. Call it journalistic integrity. Or high-functioning alcoholism (which some might argue is one and the same). I mean, why drink coffee when your “morning brew” can have an ABV of 7.5%?
So, I’ll indulge another week before taking a semi-permanent vacation from what is rapidly proving to be “Beer Country,” thanks to the Cambrian explosion of quality brews in the tri-county area. When you live in Marin, Sonoma or Napa counties, with its growing bevy of excellent craft brew offers, it begs the question, “Is it ever a good idea to quit drinking beer?” The answer (barring doctor’s orders) is a resounding “No!”
What follows is a highly subjective, unscientific, completely arbitrary, in fact, admittedly random assessment of brews I selected to represent my personal and necessarily narrow experience with each county’s offerings. Let’s just call it my “creative process,” born of limited resources of time, personnel, money and liver.
“How dare you not feature my favorite beer?” you protest. To which I respond, “When’s the last time you took me out for a beer? You assumed that accredited members of the media get free beer. Sometimes, not this time, but enjoy this free article in this free newspaper, freeloader,” I crisply retort. Speaking of crisp…
The Honest Work Fresh Hop IPA will put our local Gravenstein apples to shame with its crisp, bright flavors and aromatic bouquet with just the right hint of forest florals. Made by Crooked Goat Brewing—a Bohemian Best of the North Bay 2021 winner—the beer is a wet hop IPA that’s brewed with 100% fresh Chinook hops from Alexander Valley Hops. Last May, Crooked Goat opened its new Petaluma-based tap room, a fine, modern and airy complement to its sibling in The Barlow in Sebastopol.
I don’t know how the goat is “crooked” (or why, for that matter, it’s wearing an eyepatch), but I do know that it reminds me of the Satanic “Black Phillip” in the film The Witch, starring doe-eyed Anya Taylor-Joy, who (spoiler alert) stands on his hind legs and beseeches the actress with “What do you want?” She apparently wanted to levitate nude in cultic revel with other witches. Me too, which I’m sure I could accomplish with enough Honest Work.
Hearkening back to the Capra hircus family, check out the Mountain Goat IPA. It’s a West Coast style IPA due to its use of Mosaic and Citra hops, which tend to be more pine-y, with refreshing bitter notes. Earthy elements also emerge on the palate, underscoring a complex and robust flavor profile that goes down easily. The Ibex IPA also has Citra hops, but pivots to Simcoe and Amarillo, resulting in an understated and smooth IPA experience.
Very soon, an Acme Burger will be opening up adjacent to Crooked Goat’s Petaluma premises, making for a perfect beer and burger partnership.
Here’s your German lesson for the day: “hefe” means yeast and “weizen” means wheat. Though the language snaps together like Legos, the resulting “hefeweizen” is way greater than the sum of its parts. It’s an unfiltered, honey-colored brew, often with effervescent esters, bearing fruit notes like banana and spices like clove. Often associated with Bavaria, hefeweizens have long been making inroads in the States, with many local producers heeding their call with regional variations.
One such brew is Marin Brewing Company’s Marin Hefe Weiss, which is back in production and available in 22 ounce bottles from Moylan’s Brewing Company in Novato. (Though it recently shuttered its Larkspur location, Marin Brewing continues its signature brews at its Novato-based sibling company.)
Marin Brewing Company promises, via its Facebook page, that the Marin Hefe Weiss “classic unfiltered American-style wheat beer is a perfect treat to take with you to anything you have going on this weekend.” I believe them.
Santa Rosa-based Old Possum Brewing Co.’s owner and brewer, Sandro Tamburin, is a man who knows how to be in the right place at the right time. Not only are his brews now topping shelves in markets throughout the area (I found him in the epic beer aisle of the Petaluma Market), he knows how to make the most of a chance encounter with the media (see photo evidence on page 14).
Old Possum’s Garibaldi IPA (featuring a handsome image of California’s orange-hued state fish) is a juicy and hazy West Coast-style IPA that one will either take to like a fish to water or at least drink like a fish. Both are wins in my book. Keeping with the West Coast spirit, Petaluma Market also stocks Tamburin’s High Octane, an IPA with the fabled Idaho 7 hops, which is redolent of tropical fruits from ruby grapefruit to papaya.
“We do a lot of Comet Hops and a little bit of Citra,” says Tamburin. “As a brewery, we’re focused on dry fermentations, so the beer will be dry— it will be bitter [thanks to] the expression of the Idaho 7, which is a beautiful hop, and we love it.”
Meanwhile, Napa, long known for its fruit bomb cabernet sauignons and blistering price points, has an antidote for the Wine Country blues with its legendary Stone Brewing Hazy IPA. Don’t let the psychedelic can art fool you—coming in with a relatively low (for local craft brews) 6.7% ABV, the easy drinking IPA rolls back on the bitter and lets its El Dorado and Azacca hops frontline their buoyant fruit and citrus notes with tropical notes of pineapple and mango, courtesy of the Sabro hops.
As always, I encourage readers to never imbibe and drive, but I’ll happily ride shotgun with you, bellied-up at the brew pub bar. Email [email protected].