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Serving Beer
at your next party?

Serving good beer is much like the service of good wine. Take a moment to consider the historic craft of brewing and give it its due. Even what we think of as everyday domestic beer will taste better if you think of these few points:

Store beer in a cool, dark, dry place, chilling when ready to serve. Much like wine, beer is affected by light and temperature, being even more perishable. Generally, beers should be fresh, so look for date stamps on labels — these are like expiration dates. A few very specially made beers gain character with age, but that’s another story.

Don’t feel obligated to serve one bottle per person. A standard 12-ounce bottle of beer will most likely fill your glass, but also give you a nose full of foam when you try to appreciate its aromas. It will also warm too quickly. Instead, share good bottles of beer or store open beers in the refrigerator for a few minutes to maintain their temperature.

Refrigerate or ice each beer to its proper temperature (see sidebar), erring on the side of too cold — they will warm up quickly at room temperature. Generally, the lighter the beer, the colder it should be and the darker the beer, the warmer it can be.

Make sure glasses are as impeccably clean and fine-rimmed as you would for a wine glass- no chilling is necessary! Think of the handle of a beer mug as you would the stem of a good wine glass; it keeps the hand from warming the glass or marring the surface.

Very light beers — wheat beer, pilsner, and pale ale — are fine in a pilsner glass, large champagne flute or white wine glass. Fuller-bodied beers, from red and brown ales to porter and stout, benefit from a larger goblet, as you might use for red wines. Some styles of


Pilsner: Pale-gold straw color with flavors of sweet hops and a gentle bitterness. Quenching and refreshing. Think Sauvignon Blanc.
Try with salty or slightly spicy foods, lighter fishes, ceviche, fresh vegetable salads with good olive oil, Thai food, sushi, and fresh goat cheeses.
Serve at 45-55 degrees

India Pale Ale or “IPA”: Rich yellow-gold to copper penny in color with flavors of bitter hops and a malty finish. Think Chardonnay.
Try with roasted chicken, meaty fishes, grilled shrimp, lobster salad, light meat with cream sauces, and aged cheddars.
Serve at 50-55 degrees

Brown Ale: Rich, russet-ruby brown color with malty, toasty flavors and a milk chocolate head. Think Pinot Noir.
Try with roasted red meats or game, rare tuna, salmon, barbecued pork, wild mushrooms, and soft-ripened cheeses.
Serve at 50-55 degrees

Porter: Saturated red-brown color with a rich mouth feel, flavors of toasted walnuts and molasses with a pleasant bitterness to the finish. Think Syrah.
Try with braised meats, smoked bacon or sausages, stews, grilled meats, hard cheeses with nuts, and dried fruits.
Serve at 55-60 degrees







During Harvest Time,
Beer Is A Winemaker’s Best Friend


Wine may fuel the economy in these parts. But beer, on occasion, fuels the making of wine. Especially at harvest, when winemakers are earning their sweat-equity and when the thought of a cool beer at day's end keeps the mind focused. Yes, even the locals can get wined to death, seeking a more thirst-quenching drink; when the grapes have reached their picking point, it’s definitely time for a frosty one.

As it happens, Wine Country is also a burgeoning beer country. The region is home to several boutique breweries where the suds are taken seriously and the harvest of hops is no small matter. A survey of some of the area’s microbreweries reveals the same craftsmanship and skill that have made wineries famous. It comes as no surprise, then, that winemakers are often spotted sampling the wares of their brewmaster counterparts.

At the Calistoga Inn, winemakers are known to dip in for a sip of the handcrafted suds from the Napa Valley Brewing Company. Although beer was brewed in the county before prohibition (1920 to 1933), it wasn’t until 1987, when Napa Valley Brewing Company began filling its brew-making vats, that a craft beer renaissance in the area was launched.

The main styles from the brewery are wheat ale, pilsner, and red ale, although the brewmaster introduces the occasional porter, stout, or India pale ale (IPA) (see sidebar on page 5 for descriptions). A true local brewery, some 95 percent of the production is poured through taps at the Calistoga Inn itself. The balance is snapped up by the kegs-full by local residents, a few restaurants, and specialty markets. The Calistoga Red Ale earned a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 1991, and the Calistoga Wheat Ale won gold in 1994. The inn's pub is a popular gathering place for locals, with its well-trodden wooden floor and interesting assortment of old beer memorabilia giving the pub a European feel.

Just a bit south from Calistoga is the Silverado Brewing Company, located on Highway 29 between St. Helena and Calistoga. Built into a beautifully restored 1895 stone building that originally housed a pre-Prohibition winery, the brewery is on the same property as the Freemark Abbey winery. Partner and brewmaster Ken Mee is a fourth-generation Napa resident, and has been brewing beer since 1978. He’s well known among his winemaking counterparts and, in fact, there are more than 60 wines on the restaurant’s list. But winemakers typically come to sample his beers, especially after the hard hours of harvest time.

“All our neighbors stop in for a cold one after the work is done,” says Colin Wright, one of Silverado’s managers. “We get the Mondavi crew in here quite a bit, as well as the Duckhorns, and people from several of the Mom and Pop vineyards in the area.”

Mee’s forte lies in American-style ales and in classic European lagers. Staples on the menu include a rich amber ale — a deft mix of strength and smoothness with the perfect amount of hoppy bitterness. The pale ale is slightly malty with a clean finish that pairs well with food. And the “certifiable” blonde ale is a workmanlike beer, with a nice golden hue and light body. Silverado also makes a hefty oatmeal stout for those classic Napa autumn days, as well as a handful of seasonal beers that keep the locals returning time and again.

The brewpub itself is a lively, neighborly spot that serves up a hearty menu well suited to its beer selection. Steaks, chops, and Italian-inspired classics rule the roost. The wines of Freemark Abbey are always available and Silverado also offers a fine house-made root beer and cream soda.

In Sonoma County, where the cool coastal fog gives the hillsides a misty morning dusting, locally crafted beers have something of a cult following. There are several top-notch brewpubs countywide, spread far enough apart to provide the local winemakers each their own beer-drinking turf.

The Third Street Aleworks in Santa Rosa has a self-proclaimed goal to make great beer, great food, and have a great time doing it. Since it opened in 1996, the large, lively brewpub has become something of an institution. At once a social hangout for locals and a bastion for beer lovers, the pub is the brainchild of Jim Tasley, Todd Hedrick, and Chris Hagan, lifelong friends and beer enthusiasts.

Third Street takes a craftsman’s approach to beer-making, using top-quality ingredients blended with care. The “Brewster” is Denise Jones, who has at the ready about a dozen beers at any given time. A specialty of the house is cask-conditioned ale, a time-tested method found only in the most serious brewer’s repertoire that creates a more subtle carbonation in beer. AleWorks also has three flagship ales — the Annadel Pale Ale, the Stonefly Oatmeal Stout, and the Bodega Head IPA. Additional beers are brewed seasonally or for special occasions.
The brewpub is large, more than 7,000 square feet, with seating for 150 beer fans. The traditional pub pursuits are all accounted for: billiards, darts, and meandering conversation. The kitchen is ably skilled to keep pace with the brewmaster, serving a vast and varying menu of updated pub-grub and American comfort food. The daily made soups are a perfect place to start.

Also in Sonoma County is the Bear Republic Brewing Co., an award-winning brewery just outside Healdsburg’s downtown plaza. Bear Republic is a father and son operated establishment built into a handsome building with rich wood and glass appointments that show off the beer-making hardware — fermenting tanks are directly behind the bar, creating the impression that beers from the tap are straight-from-the-vat fresh. And indeed, they are. Ingredients are part of the décor at Bear Republic — sacks full of grain can be seen in the pub, awaiting their turn to get made into beer.

The well-crafted suds come from a recipe that uses two yeast strains (usually only one strain is used) that are blended into an infusion mash, creating a more complex set of flavors. The result is an excellent list of beers that nobly stake their claim in a region dominated by wineries.

The star brew at Bear Republic is the gold medal-earning Racer 5 IPA, a dark amber-colored beer with a malt flavor and a hoppy finish. The Cream Ale is another hit, with a light gold hue and flirty hop flavor. The English-style ale is more malty and one of the best in the lineup. And for the hearty, only the Big Bear will do — a dark and malty stout, sweetened with hints of brown sugar.

Food on the Bear Republic’s menu includes a good selection of hearty burgers and fresh salads. But the highlights here are daily soups and chilis, offered with fresh-baked breads.


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