Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Great Anniversary Tasting Tour, Pt. 3

And now we come to the final installment of the Anniversary Tour. We spent the night at the Best Western Plus in Eureka. The room was comfy and convenient to the activity/pool/breakfast rooms. The only downside was the noise from the room above. Every floorboard seemed squeaky and creaky, kind of a strange thing for a motel. We heard every time someone got up in the night. But when you are on vacation and plan on sleeping in, it doesn't matter as much.

I was very impressed with the activity area. Part was enclosed, part was not. Part was covered, part was not. The floor was concrete, the ceiling was wood beams and such. There were patio furniture arrangements and tall propane patio burners to keep the temperature comfortable when the mist rolled in. Bright lights beamed down from fixtures (no dim fluorescents). Not only was there a pool, but there was a pool table. I was pitiful, never having played before. I finally begged off, letting my husband play against himself. This was MY kind of backyard patio!

After tooling around a little and enjoying yet another Starbucks (did we ever go to the same one twice?), it felt like we could make an early lunch at Eel River Brewery.

It's kind of neat how the breweries pick a geographical icon to make part of their logo, helping you remember the place, showing their pride in the place, making the art unique, and generally keeping the feel of the whole thing culturally local. I like that. Off hand I can think of: Sutter Buttes Brewing, Yuba City, the old water tower; Eel River, Fortuna, the old arched bridge that we crossed over to get into the town; Mad River, the leaping salmon; Redwood Curtain, the coastal redwoods (which only grow in the Pacific Northwest)... what significant figure would you put on a hometown brew you ran?


(We had hunted up Humbolt Brewing in Arcata, since that was one we had not been able to get to many years ago when we came (also for our anniversary!). But when we found out they had sold the brewing operations to an out of state company, we weren't interested anymore.)

Eel River taproom had two options, to eat inside or out, in a pretty picnic-looking area. We chose inside, with a good view of the brewboard. We decided to go with the individual sampler order route, and chose the Amber Ale, Porter, Triple Exultation, Ravens Eye, Onyx, Brown Ale, Cali Pale Ale, and Fortuna Fog.


They were all very good! All my notes have details like, "Best!" "Good!" "Rich" "Keeps up with other porters!" Of course, with so many tastings in a couple days, my main goals were to come across that specially good brew that pops up sometimes, and to decide which brewery was consistently good with its offerings. I think, after visiting Eel River, that I can confidently buy a variety out of the cold case knowing that it will be good. Noteworthy were the Onyx, which was Cascadian dark ale, and the Ravens Eye, a Russian Imperial Stout that compares favorably to North Coast's Old Rasputin.

Since we drove on home after this, via Hayfork (who would have thought such a vibrant little community would exist out in the middle of the mountainous nowhere?), you might think this was end of the tour. But no, I'm going to stick on a place we visited last weekend after a visit to beautiful Burney Falls.

You might imagine all kinds of reasons the town of Weed got its name, but they will probably be wrong. It is actually the last name of the man who founded it, a lumber guy. Since another kind of weed is sort of well-known in the general vicinity of the area, the Mount Shasta Brewing Company plays it up, rather than down. (why wouldn't they use the iconic image and aura of the famous and beautiful Mt. Shasta? Well, when I see that, I think of Shasta Cola.) They don't use the image of the plant so much, but they do have burlap marijuana sacks in their decor and brag to get your legal weed here!

The brewery was retrofitted from a historic creamery, giving lots of ambiance. You feel like you have stepped into an old feed store that someone has turned into their beer garage/den/lodge/pub. The brewing room is at one side and the bottling room is at the other. I'd love to come back when both are in operation. I think there would be a lot of going back and forth between the two and a lot to see.

This flight was amazing!


Since there was so much, we decided to share it, me generously offering all but a taste of the IPA to my husband.

I couldn't believe how good these were; each one was better than the next! When I started out, and I found the Golden lager not only drinkable, but something I would actually buy, I knew I was in for a treat. We worked our way through the regulars and then the seasonals. The Amber Ale was good enough that we bought a bottle of it. The Vanilla ESB deserves a special mention. I would never have put the two together, but it worked. It was like vanilla cream soda... but... beer. Unfortunately, it was only on tap, and we weren't prepared to buy a growler at that time.

Another special note was the Jalapeño Golden Ale. Forty pounds of jalapeño peppers will do a magnificent number on a barrel of beer. If you enjoy hot peppers and you like beer, trust me, you'll like pepper beer, and this is some of the best.

So that ends the Great Anniversary Tasting Tour. I hope you enjoyed it and are inspired to seek out the microbreweries in your area and get a taste of what they have to offer!

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