Believe it or not, there wasn’t much of a flourishing craft scene in Runcorn in the 2000s. Now of course we have our wonderful Society Taproom, four breweries, and a beer festival to look forward to, but my introduction to Craft came a bit further from home, in California.
Beer flights, brewpubs, tasting sessions, meet the brewer – all these things we now find synonymous with the modern craft ale scene I first encountered in California, specifically San Diego, LA, San Francisco and Long Beach. British beers were scarce and the typical domestic offerings didn’t always cut it for me, plus in the 90 degree heat you don’t always want a pint of Guinness or Boddingtons, usually the only two British beers on draft, though they were always served freezing cold. Sierra Nevada, Stone Brewing and Anchor Steam are the Californian big boys and the brewers I was most often imbibing when I went over there for nerd extravaganza San Diego Comic Con for about five years on the bounce. Not surprising that these three are in the lineup for a six week Craft Beer Residency for Californian beer, taking place at over 100 pubs until the 21st of July.
Craft Beer Residency have picked a pip of a summer to launch their Californian project – these beers will always taster better when the sun is cracking the flags and you can pretend you’re in the San Diego Gaslamp quarter rather than the back yard of a bar in Liverpool, as lovely as this city is. The Shipping Forecast on Slater St are holding a meet the brewer with Scott Ungerman of Anchor Steam on July 10th but as regular readers know, Tuesdays are when I take my 90 year old Grandad, “Crazy” George, to the Grapes pub quiz, so I wandered over to the Shipping Forecast on a Monday evening to reminisce on the days when my summer was spent almost exclusively in the hot Californian sun with a beer in my hand. (Apologies to the Ship and Mitre whom I bothered incessantly on twitter about this tasting session, because I was convinced it was being held there. I can’t read, you see.)
First up, on draft, was the Southern Gothic unfiltered pilsner from Sierra Nevada. Despite my usual aversion to floral hops this went in a more grassy direction and was not unpleasant. For balance, I took along my good friend Phil, who has male taste buds and doesn’t engage in all this ‘flavour wheel’ nonsense. He described the Southern Gothic as ‘slipping down a treat’, and ‘nice’. So there you have it. You could really taste the pale malts too, which stopped it being too overpoweringly hoppy and dried out the aftertaste.
Also on draft was the Blood Orange Blonde, which gives me occasion to use my favourite moment from Project Runway.
Now this was good stuff, a lovely malty orangey grapefruit extravaganza, properly tangy just as citrus beers should be. Phil noted that it reminded him of sangria, and do you know what? Do it – stick a slice of orange in there. It’s the summer! The only danger with this beer is that you might get tongue fatigue after more than a pint – it’s deffo a one pinter.
American white beers are some of my favourite things on this planet, and Sierra Nevada’s Ovila White Ale was my favourite of all those we tasted. It packs a much more orangey, juicy punch than most witbiers and is thirst quenching and chuggable – though you shouldn’t because it’s 5.3% and in the hot weather that will just lead to disaster. Phil noted that it ‘tasted orangey’. Thanks for that Phil.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, Anchor Brewing’s Brewers’ Pale Ale. The tasting notes say quaffable, but not for those who don’t like ‘dank pine’ (what a interesting choice of words). The Nelson hop blend for me was like being whacked in the face with a pine cone, though Phil found it more drinkable. He described it as ‘too rich’ and I know what he means, overpowering in a way. If you’re a fan of big hop flavours, drink on.
Finally, one which didn’t appear in the tasting notes, which was Sierra Nevada’s 2018 edition Hoptimum. I feared it due to the name but then I realised it was a 9% Double IPA – now this is the only way I can happily drink the hop party which was released into this bottle, lovely stuff, if deadly. Luckily Phil and I shared one bottle – it’s possibly not in the tasting notes for the Craft Beer Residency because if you tried to drink a few of these on a hot summer’s day you’d be found upside down in a skip somewhere. What a belter!
There are 16 keg, 4 cask, and 4 packaged ales in this residency, including IPAs, a gose, a lager, a barley wine and Anchor’s signature California Common. You can find out which pub closest to you is taking part on the Craft Beer Residency website.
Let me know your favourite Californian beers in the comments. Cheers!