After the First Lady and I made it official by tying the presidential knot, we got to embark on a fun-filled journey across the nation to the far-off land of California. The air is a bit denser here on the east coast, so I appreciated some time up in the hills of Napa and Sonoma where I got to check out some gorgeous scenery, breathe some fresh air, and sample some mighty fine wine. I was also lucky enough to make it up to Santa Rosa (foreshadowing a future post...) and Healdsburg. Ah, the meat of the matter.
Healdsburg, CA is home to the Bear Republic Brewing Company http://www.bearrepublic.com/home.php.
Some of Bear Republic's drinker-friendly brews have made it over to our neck of the woods, and I am quite fond of the ones I've tried. Racer 5 IPA is one of the more highly regarded of its kind, for good reasons. It has a nifty balance of malt and hops in a medium-bodied brew that really excites the palate. I've had it many times here on the east coast, but when in Healdsburg... I figured I had to try it right at the source. My memory could be pulling tricks on me, but I thought Racer 5 was just a bit darker and more malty when I've tasted it before. It seemed this time to be a little crisper and brighter, with a bit more grapefruity, hoppy bite coming through. Perhaps the flavors change just a tad when the beers travel across the land and age just a wee bit. Maybe I'm just crazy.
Actually, maybe I'm not crazy. After all, I have tasted the darker, maltier brews like Red Rocket and Hop Rod Rye that have graced the taps around here and I know Racer 5 is a little lighter than those, but still...
Okay, change of topic: While I was at the Bear Republic Brewpub I had the good fortune of trying a Big Bear Black Stout. It's everything it sounds like. Rich and hearty, Big Bear is full of stout flavor. Sadly, it was the last beer I got to try that evening, since last call had been given and my gullet was full to the point of bursting with Bear Republic's groovy food. The chili, ribs, wings, coleslaw, salad, garlic fries, and some other stuff I can't remember must have felt overcrowded, judging by the way they were struggling for their own space. And finally, Big Bear laid the smack down. And I threw in the towel.
I did get to try a bunch of Bear Republic's specialty brews by way of their 8-man flight (paddle plus two). I know I'm irresponsible for not writing all of it down, but I don't feel too badly because there was one brew that deserves mention above all the rest. The Cafe Racer 15 was an outstanding beer. Pretty certain it was a suped-up variety of Racer 5. The alcohol was only slightly more (Racer 15 being 8.5% vs. Racer 5 at 7%) but the body and the general presence were definitely more intense than the other brews on the flight. I would have most certainly gone back for a full pour of Cafe Racer 15 if I had the time and the capacity. It's a special beverage.
I really enjoyed the food, the atmosphere, and especially the beers at Bear Republic. It's definitely worth a look-see if you're in the neighborhood. Just a heads-up, though: If you're from out of town you may have trouble finding it right away because it's set back from the road aways in a walking plaza. And Bear Republic is a restaurant/brewpub, not a bar. So check the hours before you make your plans. It's definitely a great way to end an early night or to begin a late night. Cheers!