Friday, September 17, 2010

GABF, Day One: Six Rivers Needs Some Love

Lines were long on the first day of the Great American Beer Festival at such classic beer-geek gathering spots as the booths for New Glarus, Russian River and Lost Abbey. And they've started to stretch out at a couple of well-deserved new entrants into American brewing's upper echelon, such as Cascade Brewing and Cigar City Brewing.

But in a sight that becomes more baffling each year, there were no more than two or three people lined up at any given time to drink the haul of Six Rivers Brewery of McKinleyville, Calif. And that's a shame because it means a lot of people are missing out on one of the undiscovered gems of the country.

The seven-barrel brewery that now distributes only in California and Oregon first grabbed my attention a few years ago with its Chile Pepper Spicy Ale, in which it uses jalapeno, habanero, Serrano and Anaheim peppers to create an eye-openingly spicy but still very drinkable beverage. That beer is still around, and it's as good as ever.

But last night, the brewery laid out a trio of beers as good as any at the show (at least among the 65 I was able to taste), showing off its depth and abilities to create masterfully across styles.

The star of the quartet, and maybe of the entire festival, was Smokey Joe's Spicy Porter, which is the liquid equivalent of a mesquite grill wrapped in a starless night with pepper flakes to light up your tongue. Finding out that a local farmer grills the Indian peppers used in the beer made it only that much more appealing.

Its Sour Grapes was just sharp enough to be the perfect blend of a wine-barrel-aged sipper and acidic tongue biter. And its Raspberry Lambic-style ale was a smoother and tarter improvement on the classic Belgian style.

There's a lot to do and see with some 450 breweries in the same room. But taking the time to stop by this one brewery - something that not a ton of people appeared to do on Thursday - will greatly enhance your experience there.

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After reading this, I went to check out Six Rivers. I agree that they had a great selection. The strawberry wheat was my favorite, and the sour grapes was also great. While not a huge fan of the chile beers, their spicy porter was definitely delicious.

I ended up meeting you in the cheese line, and didn't put it together that you were the source of the scoop on Six Rivers. Thanks! (And the cheese was definitely worth it).
James -

That's great. The festival can be a small world, but I'm glad I could help steer you to a place you liked.

Incidentally, I gave up on the cheese line after they posted all the medal-winning beers and I wanted to just get out and try as many as I could. Good to hear it was tasty, though.

- Ed
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