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Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Anderson Valley Brewing Co. in Boonville, CA
Our last stop on the way to the San Francisco airport was at Anderson Valley Brewing. They are nestled in the rolling hills and mountains of Mendocino County. It was sort of a knee-jerk reaction to stop here. Obviously, its reputation far preceded it, but we just weren't sure if we were up for one more stop. After North Coast Brewing and a drive down the coast and through the mountainous terrain, we really had our sites set on the trip back east. But, something pulled us to the left off of CA-128. Oh, who am I kidding? It was my selfish need to go just a 1/4 mile off the main road to find out what AVBC is all about. The scenery down through the hills, the wineries, and beautiful surroundings (plus, the rave reviews from Jeff over at Craft Beer Radio) sealed the deal. It had to be special, right? Absolutely! Just when I thought I had seen some downright spectacular locations for a brewery/brewpub, along comes AVBC. These pictures don't even do it real justice. If you have ever been to a winery and experienced the tranquility of its vineyards and tasting house, you have a sense of what it is like at AVBC. Perhaps this makes some sense, because they are located in the same lush setting as and just down the road from Roederer, Yorkville, Navarro, and Goldeneye. When you first pull into the parking lot at AVBC, there's a lot more going on here than you might first have imagined. To the right is the main brewing operations. To the far left is a disc golf course. Further beyond the parking lot straight ahead is open field with majestic mountains serving as a scenic backdrop. To the left is the tasting and merchandise house with an attached beer garden. Hops grow across trellises over the outdoor beer garden. Sheesh, fresh beer, disc golf, laid back attitude, fresh beer, horse-drawn carriage rides, brewery tour, beer garden...what more do you need to while away a beautiful afternoon?! Maybe more fresh beer? Well, unfortunately we only had approximately an hour to while away. So, it was off to a variety of AVBC's sampler size brews. Most I had been familiar with already. Though, there's always something to be said for tasting the suds fresh from the source. Pouring on this Sunday afternoon for our pleasure included the Brother David's Double and Brother David's Triple (abbey-style, both brewed in partnership with David Keane of San Francisco's venerable Toronado). The deep and rich flavors of fruit and malt make these both very good beers. So good, in fact, that there's a couple of bottles gracing my shelf at home. The Boont Amber, Hop Ottin IPA, and Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout also made their way onto my sampler platter...each a very nice and well done interpretation of their style. Then, there was the Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema. This was the only beer of their's that I had not previously tried. Many reviews have raved about this beer and it has been available here and there across the east coast during this year. Perhaps it was psychological that I had not yet tried it...you know, crema, makes me think cream and I'm just not a big fan of cream ales, creamy nitro stouts, and the like...Cerveza makes me think Corona...ah, the head games that simple marketing can play. Unfair, for sure, but in any case here I was at AVBC finally ready to give it a try. And, whoa, why did I wait so long? This was one pleasant brew with nice taste and body to it. While it did have a bit of softness to the mouthfeel, it wasn't the creamy texture that I originally feared going into it. The medium color and body may not make it a lawnmower beer, perhaps more of a cooler summer evening beer after dinner or early fall after raking leaves kind of beer. The soft fruited flavors came through nicely making certain that this will be a beer that I stock up on next summer. Oh, what the heck, maybe I can find a sixpack to still enjoy this fall. I can't believe that I made it all the way through this little review without mentioning Boontling, a strange and fascinating dialect (of what, I haven't a clue!) still spoken around the brewery and the town of Boonville. So fascinating, in fact, that I bought a pocket handbook that defines some of this curious speak.