Thursday, November 10, 2011

West Coast Craft Beer & Brewery Tour in Review - A Retrospective: Day 1: Sutter Buttes, Western Pacific

We're long overdue for an update - in particular about our tour this summer. Johnny and I (Creek) drove drove from San Francisco to the Olympic Peninsula, stopping at 20 breweries along the way. We sampled beers from tiny nanobreweries and large micropubs, covering the full range of west coast beer culture. Amazingly, we met brewers and got backstage tours at 10 of the 20, and were incredibly impressed by the complete open-door policy and kindness we experienced. We're going to share a bit about what we learned, the beers we drank, and the trends we saw in craft brewing techniques and establishments on the west coast.

Here we go!

Day 1:
A scary ice-cream truck is always a good start to a road trip :)

Our first stop was in Yuba City, at Sutter Buttes Brewing. It is a fairly new establishment - a mixture of homey and industrial. It was light, and comfortable, with lots of wood. The beer equipment was visible and the brewing process was a focus.

We were lucky to meet both the owner, Mark, as well as Peter of Odanata Brewing Fame, brewing a triple IPA so hoppy it was green. Both were kind and completely willing to talk with us. They were brewing on an 8.5 BBL copper clad system, with a line of fermenters, which doubled as serving tanks in a line behind a bar. We LOVED the directness of serving from the tanks and no brite tanks. This was one of our favorite, most direct set-ups.

They had a wide selection of beers and a simple, menu of fresh comfort food. The Beale's Best Bitter - a 3.7% British Pale Ale was sheer delight. Most of their beers were under 5%: the Extra Pale, Kolsch, and Brown were 4.5%. We always respect the low gravity brews that still have lots of taste. This is a trend we're really happy to see (perhaps also due to my own personal preferences), but there are plenty of strong beers being made in the craft beer world, so happy to see varieties you can have 2 or 3 of and still feel your lips.

  • Low to mid gravity beers (have another!)
  • Super-Mega-Hoppy
  • Fresh California Comfort Food (best of both worlds)
  • Brewing Process as Feature
We stopped to see some old mining equipment and a random ice cream advertisement still hanging on from another era.

On to the next: Western Pacific in Oroville, California
Later that day, we landed in Oroville, at Western Pacific - built in a train depot. The venue had incredible potential, but felt just a wee bit sprawling. We found the right door and, again had the good fortune of finding the brewer, who showed us the 7BBL used system and cold room, which were impeccably clean. The grain elevator out front was also pleasing to the eye - I love that it is a feature.

They had a nice low gravity extra pale ale that was a 4.5% and an oatmeal stout that was 4.1. The Belgian was 5%. the Pale and Red ales were in the mid to high 5% and the highest was the IPA at 6.5%.

  • Lower Gravity Beers (4-5%)
  • Historical Building or Location
  • Full Transparency about Ingredients

That night, we stayed near Mt. Shasta, which, regardless of your position on the scale of scientific to skeptic to spiritualist, is impressive and colossal. We arrived at night, and woke up to the delightful presence of the mountain, urging us onward, towards more beer...

Stay tuned for a review of Day 2:
Wild River, Grants Pass, Oregon
McMenamins Pub, Roseburg, Oregon
Amnesia, Portland, Oregon

Read about us in a recent addition of the North Bay Bohemian issue on Craft Beer
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