Thursday, February 17, 2011

San Francisco - Russian River

I'll admit when we first decided we were visiting San Francisco, my first question was probably, "Can we visit Russian River?"  I've been enjoying their beer for quite a while now and being able to get nearly everything they make all in one place was just too great an opportunity to pass up.  Jo and I visited San Francisco a couple years ago and I wish we had went then too.  It's located about an hour up 101 in Santa Rosa.

As you enter the brewpub, however, there isn't much to see.  It's a cavernous, one room bar with some tables directly on your left, a long bar just past that also on the left, and then some more tables on the right.  Various signs and stuff on the wall and some bottles for sale behind the bar.
You can see their growlers on the top of the shelf which are pretty unique (although I think the growlers Capone's uses are similar.)  Since it was the annual release of Pliny the Younger (their triple IPA which I'll talk about in a bit) the bar was pretty packed, but we were lucky enough to walk up and get two seats right at the bar.
As you can see there were a ton of beers available.  The left side of the board has the more normal stuff, IPAs, pales, etc and the right has all of their -tion beers that are currently available.  While there was a lot to choose from the first one I had to try was Pliny the Younger.  This is a triple IPA that they only brew once a year and beer fanatics lose their marbles over.  It actually shows up in Philly, but if the bar advertises it at all then the keg is usually finished in 20 minutes and the bar is massively mobbed.  This was a much better way to enjoy it.
On the first day they released it, the line in the morning was apparently over four hours long just to get into the bar.  The tables filled up immediately after opening and people weren't leaving so no one new was able to cycle in for hours.  By the time we got there, the next Thursday, the line was luckily non-existent.  I will say Younger was freaking delicious.  Definitely the best triple IPA I've ever had.  It starts with a huge pine nose.  Very hoppy up front but not terribly bitter in the back.  Some sweetness comes through as I drank but at 10.25% there was never any alcohol presence that I found.  I won't say it was balanced, but I wasn't drowning in hops like with the Hopsickle at Moylans.  Really worth the trip.

After that, I got a flight (well, self-made sampler) of their sours.
From left to right, we have: Sanctification, Supplication, Consecration, Temptation, and Compunction.  All were delicious although some stood out more than others.

I felt the Sanctification and Temptation were pretty similar.  They both had a tart nose and were followed by tart flavors but weren't particularly dry.  The temptation may have had a bit more oak flavors but all in all they were both mostly just tart.  I have bottles of both now so I'm looking forward to doing a side by side some time in the near future to better see the differences.

Even though the compunction was also a lighter sour, it had a bit more flavor.  It had a similar aroma to the above two, but there was a bit of plumcot (pluoot?  Plum and apricot hybrid basically) sweetness that brought the flavors to another level.  My sister in law Andy ordered a glass of this one and enjoyed it.

Next was Consecration a beer I've talked about a few times already.  (Here and here.)  I like this one quite a bit and it's by far the most sour and pungent.  Sour and mild apple juice notes with vanilla and some slight caramel.  I get a lot more sour with the currants it is aged with boosting those flavors rather than giving off their own.

Finally was the Supplication.  As I said in the Russian River Rumble, this is my favorite of the available sours and it didn't change after having all five of these.  It has an inviting sour cherry nose and the flavors are a nice balance of fruit and sour.  Unlike the currants in Consecration, the cherries have a noticeable and delicious presence that I really enjoy.  Jo liked this one the most as well and is now asking how much cases cost so that's a huge endorsement.

After the sours, I got a different set of samples plus another Younger.
The Younger was still super tasty (and, being sort of drunk, even tastier since the hops weren't so overpowering.)  This sampler was Perdition, Rejection, and Mortification.

Honestly not quite as impressed with this set although they were still quite tasty.  It's hard to compete with five different sours I'll admit.  The Perdition, a Biere de Garde, smelled spicy and sort of farmhousey.  Lots of wheat up front with some sweetness following to mellow out those flavors.  Not bad for a wheat beer.  Rejection, a Belgian dark ale, was decent enough that we got a growler of it later.  Smelled roasty with a bit of bread.  Tasted similar to a porter but with a Belgian twist.  The Mortification, a Quadrupel, was a slight let down (although I was distracted when tasting it so that probably didn't help).  Sort of syrupy and burning without the lovely fig, plum and other fruit notes that Belgian quads usually have.

During the two hours I was there a lot of people came and went.  By the time my wife dragged me out, they weren't even letting people into the bar anymore.  Never seen a brewpub that needed a velvet rope, but there's a first time for everything.  I didn't want to go, but didn't have a choice as she probably would have left me there.  I did spend an hour of the two chatting randomly with people.  Got to meet some really nice guys, two of whom worked at a nearby winery, and another who is a bartender at Bear Republic.  They probably thought I was crazy (or just drunk) when I wrote their names down right in from of them but I always forget so it's just easier.

Once back home, I cracked open the growler of Pliny the Elder we got.
Last time I had it, I said there was a decent amount of sweetness in the back that balanced the hops.  However, the bottle at that point was probably a month and a half old so the hops were definitely faded compared to the growler.  This time, I got all hops with very little sweetness.  Younger had just a bit more oomph that made it tastier, but Elder is really good.  I love how while it's super hoppy it isn't super bitter which makes it much easier to drink.  Very tasty stuff.
We also got a growler of the Rejection and it was actually quite a bit better in a full glass.  The flavors have a chance to grow on you and really come into their own.  Definitely made me think of a Belgian porter with the clove sweetness blending well with the roast.

If you couldn't tell from the mile long post, I absolutely loved Russian River.  While the brewpub itself isn't anything to write home about, the beers are so outstanding that it just doesn't matter.  Being able to get five different sours all at once, getting to try Pliny the Younger, and getting Pliny the Elder as a growler fill were all awesome.  I easily could have gotten there when it opened and stayed until close.  Easily.  I would probably be falling off my stool by the end, but I doubt I would care by that point.  If you call yourself a fan of beer in any way and you are in the San Francisco area, you have to visit this place.  You will be doing yourself a beer disservice if you don't and I'm not sure we can be friends.  Up next, Lagunitas!

No comments:

Post a Comment