Russian River Salvation Dark Ale This is the new batch, bottled on 4-18-2012. This is said to be a Belgian styled dark ale and while it does have the balance of a Belgian dark, I did not pick up on the more typical yeast character that I get from most Belgians, but perhaps I am not that experienced yet to understand the nuances. Killer brew none the less. Similar to the Societe Dark Ale that I recently discussed but more chiseled and less creamy. Loads of brown spice, some wild exotic fruit that I have seen others describe as banana, tough call for me but it added some nice complexity. Slight caramel, some chocolate and espresso. Malty. Great balance. My kind of dark ale! 4.3/5
Brasserie Dieu Ciel! Rosée d'Hibiscus This is a bit of a weird beer but I loved it. Comes off as a light brown ale with brown spice and hibiscus. I love hibiscus tea and this delivered that tart flowery citrus character that I have grown to love in the tea. What surprises me with this is that I read it was a wheat beer, which I didn't exactly pick up at the time but in retrospect, probably should have guessed. While it is fairly rich with decent weight, there was some weight lacking in the finish that I attributed to the hibiscus being so dominant. It was probably the wheat character that I had misread. Anyhow, I loved the balance on this and thought it to be a great summer sipper. Very quenching with interesting things going on.
2009 Hair of the Dog Fred From the Wood Barley Wine Probably the best barley wine I have had to date. Not always a big fan because the sweetness levels can be cloying. Medium dark brown. Moderate to mild head. This is pretty darned sweet but so pleasing in it's flavor profile that I just found myself liking it more and more as I continued to sip. Tons of brown sugar and caramel, hints of orange zest, brown spice, vanilla, slight bourbon barrel oak, a good dose of tobacco leaf with other complex herbal notes. Mildly carbonated. Very smooth and easy to drink yet very complex! Can't really capture everything that is going on and it was only a 12oz bottle, which I split with Maureen. She liked it too. 4.4/5
Russian River Damnation Batch 23 This is an ale aged with oak chips. This is the third offering of the 23 from RR, thus Batch 69. Have had this in bottle and on tap. Bottles are not ready yet, still showing too much aggressive carbon dioxide. The tap might be my favorite 23 ever. Really nice, rich, toasty vanilla oak on top of citrusy lemon zest, herbs and brown spice. Thicker than the regular Damnation. I loved the tap, the bottle was a bit edgy almost like it was still fermenting a bit. I would let them sit a year if you can. 4.2/5
Bruery / Elysian / Stone La Citrueille Celeste de Citracado Ale brewed with pumpkin, yams, toasted fenugreek, lemon verbena and birch bark. Liked this a fair amount, not super hoppy, lots of malty rich flavors without being over the top. Very balanced, roasted, toasty, caramel, yeasty, woody but all in balance. 5% alcohol. 3.7/5
O’Brien’s Pub is kind of a classic, old school, pub. Seems like it is usually full of thirsty guys. My wife always comments that there are over 90% men there. There are places that have a fancier decor, no doubt but NOBODY pours better brew on a regular basis than these guys do. Their tasting events are legendary. You can sign up for their email list at their website. I read every one! A couple of my favorite events this past year have been the Russian River “Tion” tasting and the Alesmith Stout tasting. For the Russian River "Tion" tasting, they feature all 17 of the RR brews whose name end with “tion”. For example, Damnation, Supplication, etc. Most of these are sours. I’ve attended this even for about 3 years now and it took two times before I became addicted to this style. Now I am seeking them out everywhere I go. One other thing they had at one of these events was a cask version of their Porter. That was totally awesome. Imperial styled, this was the best Porter I have ever tasted. Wish I could get it more often! The other event that was awesome was the Alesmith Kopi Luwak Speedway Stout release tasting. This is a coffee bean Stout made from some of the most expensive coffee beans on the planet. Wild stuff, look up Kopi Luwak in Google, if you don’t know about it. Anyhow, along with this, they had some older cask versions of the Speedway Stout there too. As a special treat, I pulled out a bottle of some aged Speedway that had about 3 years on it. I think it was the beer of the night, which is saying something! Anyhow, O’Brien’s rocks for having the best beer. Oh, and they have some decent food. Gastropub style. They make a darned good hamburger with stilton blue and bacon. They do specials all the time and keep a board menu out front, as you walk in. If you are hungry, don’t forget to check it out. They are located in kind of a strange place. Right in the middle of the Oriental section of Kearny Mesa on Convoy Street.