June 2008

Gadd's Sixpack

By: David Gadd

Word up: Summer is imminent. Grab the boogie board, the sunblock and a sixer of one of these fruit-bomb brews and head for the nearest beach . . . now!

Pyramid Apricot Ale
If you have a thing for apricots, this brew’s for you. It’s got an intense apricot nose and abounds with apricot flavors and buttery movie-theater popcorn tones that nearly overwhelm its ale aspect. On the verge of being something other than beer, but definitely unique.
SLO Brewing Blueberry Ale
The nose immediately summons up a short stack of blueberry pancakes on a lazy Sunday morning. On the palate, the fruit is less forward, laying in tasty harmonic licks over the malt tones and the crisp finish. My summary: very summery.

Marin Brewing Stinson Beach Peach
Marin weather report: Slightly hazy and cloudy with a high chance of bright, intense peach flavors. In spite of the rich, opulent nose, the crisp, refreshing texture keeps it from becoming cloying on the way down. Peachy through and through.

Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat Beer
One of the crispest and most refreshing fruit-flavored beers I’ve sampled (more than sampled, actually, since it comes in a generous 22 oz. bottle). It’s light-bodied, but the tangy citrus flavors can knock down heat and humidity faster than a clean right from Carlos Quintana. Just excellent.

Wells Banana Bread Beer
 An offbeat brew from Bedford, England, made with Crystal hops and real bananas. It smells and tastes surprisingly like fresh-baked banana bread, just without the sugar overload. Tangy, hopsy finish. Live dangerously: Try it with a rum depth charge.

Spire Mountain Draft Pear Cider
Beautiful fruit-essence nose with clean, complex Chardonnay-like flavors and a slight effervescence. Delicate, balanced and utterly delicious, with a subtle yet entirely seductive finish. Very classy stuff from Fish Brewing in Olympia, WA.

Tavern on the Scene

Sebastopol, California, is the gateway to Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley wine region, but now beer lovers as well as enophiles have a reason to make Sebastopol a destination: Hopmonk Tavern.

In April, Dean Biersch opened this new venture in downtown Sebastopol. Biersch is best known as the co-founder (with brewmaster Dan Gordon) of Gordon Biersch Brewing Company and its associated brewery restaurants. Launched nearly 20 years ago, both the Gordon Biersch beer brand and the Gordon Biersch restaurants proved enormously successful and grew into large-scale operations, now separately owned.

Hopmonk Tavern is going to be a much more personal project for Biersch. He plans to be on-hand in Sebastopol, personally overseeing all aspects of the tavern’s management, development and future growth. The tavern will offer a constantly evolving lineup of craft beers from Europe and smaller regional producers in the U.S, including more than 75 bottled beers, 16 drafts (each served in its own signature glassware) and two cask-conditioned ales. Wines and spirits are also available.

Food is an important component of the Hopmonk concept. Chef Lynn McCarthy’s gastropub menu celebrates both traditional and innovative pairings of beer and food. The fresh, beer-compatible cuisine puts an emphasis on local suppliers of fish, produce, cheeses and meats.

The tavern is set in a beautifully restored 105-year-old National Historic Landmark building made of stone and timber. A key architectural feature is the 85-seat classic outdoor European beer garden lined with trees, a fountain, an acoustic performance stage and an outdoor bar that can be covered in winter. Adjacent to the tavern is The Abbey, 2,000 square-foot music venue with a capacity of 200, which will regularly showcase local and national talent.

THE TASTING PANEL, 6345 Balboa Blvd, Ste. 111, Encino, CA 91316
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