Beer, Beer Everywhere and Lots of Hops to Drink
by Powell Coffey
If you’re like me, you like beer. Vikings made it, Egyptians made it, even the ancient Sumerians made it. Ancient cultures like the Sumerians believed beer to be a life giving elixir. I find it hard to disagree. Beer nourishes the body and soul, and there is a certain artistry to brewing a great beer. Humboldt and Mendocino counties boast a large number of micro-brews, and a beer connoisseur that visits or lives on the north coast may be faced with a dilemma when staring at the wall of six packs at Hutchin’s/Nagan’s Grocery. Which one to buy?
The easiest way to answer this query would be to just start buying beer. However, in this economy, the smart consumer would welcome any information that may save them some time and money. To obtain this information, I employed a strict rotation of the finest local micro-brews for a number of years. These are my results, organized by brewery:
The Great White Beer has become a staple of the North Coast. It is popular as far south as Mexico and has made a debut on the East Coast as well. Great White, as the name suggests, definitely has a bite as you first dive in. Then, the flavor subsides into the pallet, leaving a feeling of crisp refreshment. This beer’s subtle taste lends itself to many meals, as the light flavor allows for more dynamic culinary pairing. Great White is light bodied as well, and as a result it doesn’t leave the drinker feeling sluggish and full. This beer is great for sunny days spent outside, weather your hiking, surfing, or playing a game of disk golf.
Downtown Brown is the most commonly available dark beer of the Lost Coast Brewery, and will undoubtedly be in the refrigerated wall of whatever North Coast store you happen to find yourself in. Its flavor is more defined than Great White. Creamy, smoked caramel and hints of almonds stand out predominately when tasting this beer. While it does maintain a delicate flavor, Downtown Brown is heavier than many beers. Because of this, I would suggest the consumer sit while enjoying this beer. Perhaps down to a meal of red meat, fish, or pasta.
Alley Cat Ale is my favorite of the beers produced by Lost Coast Brewery. It is an amber ale with a medium body and thickness. The flavor of Alley Cat is similar to Downtown Brown, with hints of toffee and nuts, but with an added bite at the end. This crispness allows for a full-bodied taste combined with a refreshing quench. It goes down great with chicken and rice.
Steelhead Extra Pale Ale is the way to go with this one. It is simultaneously light and fluffy as well as full and filling. Kind of like a perfectly baked biscuit. Initially there is a strong hops flavor hinted with light lemon, and it is that citrus flavor that remains in the mouth after the beer is gone. I think it tastes good with everything. Even pancakes. Extra Pale Ale is a bit heavier and stronger than Great White, but is still a great summer beer, permitting that one does not over-indulge.
Steelhead Double IPA is a notorious contributor to over-indulgence. It is 8.6 % alcohol by volume, a full three percent above Steelhead’s Extra Pale Ale. This is super beer. Drink with caution. The fact that it is delicious only makes it easier to give in to the siren call as you finish your second pint. Three might be too many. And for goodness sakes, eat something with it. If you don’t, you’ll probably end up buying a full taco platter at the taco truck behind Toby’s.
Mendocino Brewing Company:
Red Tail Ale is a classic American amber ale. It has a strong hop flavor in the body with a bitter aftertaste, as well as the medium thickness expected from amber ales. However, Red Tail Ale is made in the traditional European way, utilizing methods other American breweries do not. The result is a unique after taste that starts bitter and then dries up, leaving the pallet in a way similar to a dry red wine. A great beer to get every once in a while, Red Tail is delicious with poultry, duck, and venison.
Eye of the Hawk is another super beer, ranked at 8% alcohol by volume. This has inspired patrons to bequeath nicknames upon the beer such as, “Eye of the Can’t Walk” and “DUI of the Hawk”. Designated drivers and/or cab fare are good ideas when imbibing this beer. It is Amber in color with pristine white foam. The taste is bold and fresh, and the liquid is perfectly carbonated. This makes the “Eye” one of my personal favorites. Eye of the Hawk is great with light salty foods, like french fries or fried fish.
Being based in Bend, OR, I know that Deschutes isn’t technically local to the California north coast. However, I think their Obsidian Stout is the best dark beer out there, so it’s worth mentioning. I’m not one for dark beers outside of Guinness, but I have found that Obsidian is a great dark beer. With flavors of chocolate, coffee and lots of hops, this beer is a reason to get up in the morning. It comes out of the glass strong and has an equally strong and lingering aftertaste. Obsidian Stout is complemented nicely by lighter fare like salads and appetizers.
I have employed these eight beers in regular rotation and have been consistently satisfied. The American poet William Cowper once wrote, “Variety is the spice of life”. I would tend to agree. When in an area that offers a grand selection of premium beer, one should exploit that opportunity and not get bogged down with only one “brand”. Feel free to expand or contract the list I have put together, as these are merely suggestions. Explore your taste buds. Cheers.
Photos Courtesy of Lost Coast Brewery.
Photos Courtesy of Mad River Brewery.