Sunday, August 31, 2008

Russian River Love, Part II

This is a bit of an aside, but I want to mention how glad I am that the DNC is out of town. That's not a political statement in any way. It's just that over the past week, I was too tired when I got home several times to even have a beer, regardless write about it. I'm barely recovered now. And it's time to drink again.

So, I want to get back to explaining a little bit about Russian River for anyone who may not have been able to enjoy it yet. (And if that's you, go get some as soon as you're done reading this.) The Santa Rosa, Calif. brewery is the brainchild of Vinnie Cilurzo, and it's been available only in California and at major brew festivals for about a decade-and-a-half. But Vinnie and his wife Natalie just opened a newer, larger brewery location recently, and hence, they have more motivation to up those sales across the country.

As with most great small breweries, the three beers that you will be able to get here in Colorado are not Russian River's absolute best. The difference between Russian River and most breweries who first cross a timeline, however, is that these beers are still really @#$&in' good. Pliny the Elder is a bold double IPA with a flower-burst smell and a surprisingly smooth flow to it. Damnation, which puts Belgian yeast into a smooth golden ale, is full of ester but not overbearing or overly alcoholic (assuming that you, like me, don't consider 7 percent overly alcoholic). And the Blind Pig IPA may be the mildest offering of the bunch - just remember, I called the IPA the mildest offering of the bunch - and is more drinkable than most IPAs.

What you won't be getting yet - but what you should be running to get at the Great American Beer Festival in October - is Supplication, which, in my opinion, is the best beer in America. A shockingly tart up-front punch (I swear this could jerk someone out of a coma) is followed by the backtaste of a strong brown ale. The most common reaction I hear - including from some pretty astute beer aficionados at my table at the recent tasting dinner - is that this doesn't taste like beer. I don't fully disagree. But this sour brown ale - aged in pinot noir barrels with sour cherries - is more complex and eye-opening that anything else that calls itself beer.

Russian's other jewels, still stuck in California, include: Happy Hops, a surprisingly bitter blonde ale brewed with hops; Salvation, a dark, bitter Belgian that challenges you to define it by its style; and Temptation, a golden ale aged 12 to 18 months in French oak chardonnay barrels that is slightly sour but more approachable than the Supplication.

That's all I have to say. Now go get some. And if you're not 100 percent satisfied, call me and I'll come over and finish the bottles for you.

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