A Tasting of Holiday Beers XXII

Holiday Beers XXII

Last Saturday I attended Pacific Coast Brewery’s 22nd Annual Tasting of Holiday Beers. It took place at Pacific Coast’s historic brewery in Old Oakland on a blustery day made blusterier by all the beer.

I went with four of my closest friends, all avid beer drinkers. We had been looking forward to the event for weeks. Fifteen beers were on the menu along with a ten-course meal that took place from noon to four. In short, it was set up to be everything a beer tasting should, and it did not disappoint.

The hundred people in attendance were given score sheets with 5 categories to score:

  • Prior to Taste
  • Aroma
  • In Mouth Feel and Taste
  • Drinkability
  • After Tasting.

There was a section at the end of each row for comments. Looking back now at my sloppily-scrawled, beer-stained scoresheet, I’m not sure what to make of some of the adjectives on there, but it’s all I have to go by, so here goes.

What struck our table early on was how different all the beers were. The styles ranged from Lagunitas’ Imperial Pilz Fusion IV to a Smoked Sour beer from Bear Republic. Anchor Brewing Company’s Our Special Ale had the most interesting nose with floral and licorice scents. It had a lot going on, but the early leader was Dogfish Head’s Theobroma (pictured with the salmon), neck-in-neck with Lost Abbey’s Gift of the Maji and Black Diamond’s Grand Cru. The experimental nature of the first round was interesting, and made for some curious expressions after multiple sniffs and tastes.  We were truly tasting the newest, boldest products out there. It was just what we came for, and happily picked through courses of Lasagna and Salmon along the way.

The heart of the order (in my opinion) then followed. As a man who has given himself over fully to the double and triple-hopped IPA culture prevalent in today’s craft scene, the next three beers were my bread and butter. Drake’s Jolly Roger is an Imperial Red that hops along happily but maintains a solid red foundation. Rubicon’s Hop Sauce has a moderate nose and waits until it’s in your mouth before hitting you. Then there was Speakeasy’s “The Don”, coming in at 11.1%, this Triple IPA split for best beer at my table along with the Jolly Roger.

What came next was a string of excellent beers put forth from familiar names, including Pacific Coast’s own Holiday XXII Imperial Blue. Brewmaster Don Gortemiller’s Imperial Red had a fruity nose that finished the same, but with a pleasing bitterness throughout. Schmaltz R.I.P.A. On Rye was our waitress’ least favorite, but the favorite of a guy at the table near us. Another waitress wasn’t a big fan of Anderson Valley’s Black IPA, although I found it quite charming. My table on the whole was disappointed by some of the big names, like Dogfish Head and Stone’s Lucky Bastard, but we talked to others who had them near the top of their lists. All in all, that was the beauty of the event. With so many styles, and so many beers by so many great brewers, there was something for everyone.

Of course sorting it all out was the fun part. After 15 beers (not full pints, don’t worry), all anyone wanted to do was stand around and talk about beer. I even got to chat with Brewmaster Don himself, although he wouldn’t budge when I pleaded with him to start bottling Pacific Coast’s brew.

The five of us are already looking forward to Pacific Coast’s Spring beer tasting. They have had such success with the event, they now do it twice a year- in both Spring and Winter. Buy your tickets early, because it always sells out. Whether you can make it or not, the next time you are in Oakland, California, make sure to stop by and sample some of Don’s beers. He always has a half dozen of his own on tap, as well as 15 well-selected beers from the top names in the industry. In fact, if you go soon, you’ll get to sample the same 15 we did last Saturday.

What a great Saturday it was, and we left with full bellies and enormous, ABV-induced smiles. Just as it was beginning to rain, the five of us went back to my house where we continued tasting- this time my very own Pale Ale. It has matured nicely, and was solid and quite popular among my tasting panel.  The beauty of beer tasting is the job never ends.

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