Russian River Brewery- My Neighborhood Hangout Spot

Over the last several years I have traveled to over 370 breweries across the U.S. and written about the various beers, taprooms, people, and food. I have been asked why I have yet to write about Russian River, the best brewery in the U.S. and my neighborhood hangout….I have been pondering what exactly I should share about RRBC. Blind Pig is my favorite IPA just doesn’t quite seem like enough…but it is true and it’s the best craft brew made.

I have been bellying up to that bar for many years now, and had my fair share of time spent in line waiting for Younger, and popped in right at opening to try to obtain the “big bottle” days in a row… and finally I realized what the craft beer community needs to know about my beloved RRBC is not what everyone around the world thinks they know or reads about in the press.

After careful thought, I finally have something to share about one of my favorite places: it’s a wholesome locals spot, the bartenders are human, they like to educate people, they do get offended by rudeness, and the kitchen only has one oven so the pizzas and Pliny bites do take time. I am always amazed at how people just expect RRBC to be this magical place that can make pints and food simply appear and how people get angry when they cannot get the beer at home, or when the release gets blabbed about so they cancel it. Downtown Santa Rosa has some businesses that probably complain about the lines. Guess what? During Younger this year I never waited in line once, I was not the first to try it this year, or any year, but I was able to drive by a few times after work and miraculously there was no line, so I went in to indulge. For the beatification bottle release when there was a line around the entire block, I stayed away and drove passed around 2pm and went in only to have Amir ask if we wanted 6 or 12. They still had it. So if you’re looking for the excitement of waiting in line {like a tailgate with friends} then do it, otherwise, wait until the excitement dies down and you can go in without a huge line!

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The bartenders have finally warmed up to my husband and me and I’m not going to lie, it definitely makes the experience much more enjoyably. They’re funny, nice, make small talk, and even have Blind Pig in a glass before we can walk to the end of the bar. It’s sort of like my favorite coffee shop…or Cheers. We all wanna go where everybody knows our name, right?

I love the pizza, even if the crust is a little soft one day, I still love it using a knife and fork. The Mickey, New Yorker, and Mama Mia are my favs. The Drew bites are must if you are looking for a snack, but ask for them served flat. Health nut? The Asian chicken salad is dynamite.

I’ve gone to many of the events they put on over the years: the Friendship lunch was by far at the top of my list of favorites; a nearly 8 hour day eating food and drinking amazing beers. Any menu that had Pliny as the palate cleanser is bound to be amazing. Vinnie and Natalie took a photo at the release of Younger one year drinking Hop Slam and Vinnie gave one to my husband. We ended up going to Bell’s that April on our craft beer and baseball honeymoon.

http://jessposhepny.com/category/moxies-best-of/

Every trip we go on, we always bring a case of Pliny to give to people who are nice, give us good service, and are just downright cool people {who actually know of Pliny- surprisingly, there are many who do not know about RRBC}. Once in NYC at a cool beer bar and pizza place, Kiabacca, we ended up there every night on that trip, the bartenders knew us by day 2 and were super cool and knowledgeable. We put a Pliny on the bar and the light in the bartenders eyes, man, it was epic. One of the guys actually started to tear up he was so happy.

Some tips in making everyone’s experience at RRBC more enjoyable:

  1. Leave your growlers in your car until you’re ready to go {Especially if you have more that two} the space is limited at the bar. If you have a table, then suit yourself.
  2. If you’re sitting at the bar, make your case purchases when you’re ready to cash out so others around you are not crowded.
  3. The seat at the end of the bar is for one person, not two.
  4. If you put your name on the list for a table and you find a seat outside or at the bar, let the host know so others can take the table.
  5. Order your pizza and bites right away so that if the kitchen is really busy, you’re food should be out by the first sip of your second beer.
  6. You do not have to finish every sample in the entire sampler, but you should get the full sampler, it’s the best in my opinion out of 368 breweries. It’s worth the $22.
  7. WASH your growler.
  8. Don’t even think about bringing in another breweries growler, RRBC will not fill anyone else and they have asked that other breweries do not fill theirs.
  9. Bring your I.D. other wise you will get a pizza stamp 🙁 http://jessposhepny.com/category/moxies-best-of/

I’m thrilled that I have such a cool place to go grab a bite to eat and a pint right in my backyard. Cheers to great beer!

 

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Moxie’s Chicken and Vegetable Soup with St. Florian’s 48/96

St. Florian’s Brewery has been a longtime favorite of mine since they opened just a few years ago. They are an awesome family and are striving to help firefighters and those in need. They’re constantly donating to local charities and they just care. I like to recommend local businesses but also those who support the community. St. Florian’s makes great craft beer and deserve a try if you have not been there yet!

Moxie’s Chicken and Vegetable Soup

with St. Florian’s 48/96

 

You’ll Need:

4 medium sized chicken breast, cleaned of fat, and cut into thirds

4-5 carrots, peeled and chopped in rounds

7 stalks of celery, sliced thick

2 turnips, peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes

10-15 cremini mushrooms cut in halves then sliced

½ red onion, chopped

6 zucchini, cut in half then sliced thick

2 quarts vegetable stock {homemade if possible}

Olive oil for cooking

2 cups St. Florian’s sessionable 48/96 ale

 

Method:

In a medium sized stock pot, over high heat, lightly coat with olive oil, and add in the chicken. Sear on each side about 2 minutes, just to to caramelize for flavor and to seal in the juices. Add the St. Florian’s 48/96 to the pot along with the onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and turnips. Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside while deglazing the pan with broth as needed. Place the chicken back in the pot and add in enough broth to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil, add salt and pepper to taste, and half of the sliced zucchini, then reduce heat to low and cover, let cook on low for an hour {until the chicken falls apart}. Add in the rest of the zucchini {so that some is bright green and slightly al dente when served}, stir and continue to let cook until all of the chicken is shredded.

Serves 8, or makes enough to freeze for lunches and dinner for the week.

Cheers!

StFlorians Beer

Are you a beer trader or a beer traitor?

The urge to travel all over for beer has grown immencley with every trip I take and every bottle I open. My husband and I have began to check Kayak regularly for weekend trips to PDX and Seattle since our local airport flies directly there and now San Diego. It’s almost silly NOT to go away on our weekends. We have traveled to several different states and visited over 300 unique breweries. We’ve met some stellar people, enjoyed amazing beers with brewers and owners, and shared in the love for craft beer. Many of the greatest breweries in the world are right here in my backyard {my opinion of course} but there are an astronomical amount of great breweries out there and much of that beer is impossible to find in Northern California. So what do you do? Well, you trade. I send you beer and you send me beer and it goes on and on like that. But what happens if one of the beer traders becomes a traitor and goes back on their word, keeps your fantastically unique beer package, and does not reciprocate? Do you cry over the beer that could have been? Stomp your feet because you forked out the cash at your local pub and beer shop on beers you let slip away for nothing? Or do you you stalk the person until they cave?

My first and only experience with beer trading has come to a halt because the man on the other end has not kept his end of the bargain. We met at a brewery I really, really enjoyed while on vacation {in June} with my family in Denver, Epic Brewing.

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We met said trader when he and another gal poured our beer sampler for us. We sipped then we scattered throughout the brewery as we picked out all the beers we wanted to ship back. Said beer trader mentioned that he would be happy to ship our beers {that we purchased that day} to us and that we should also start a beer trading relationship because he loved Pliny and anything from Russian River. Well, I don’t know about you, but if a person who knew their beers, who seemed like a well respected person in a brewery offered and asked to begin a trading relationship, Id do it {I did do it}. Finally our beers came {the ones we purchased}. Said beer trader sent me the total cost for shipping along with the beers he’d like. I went on my way to my local spots, Russian River and Beercraft to pick out a case of some really great loot to send him. I send the beers, email the contents to him and wait…and wait…waiting still.

He received the beer.

I emailed and asked about the ETA of our beers heading back this way. Said beer trader asked me for a list of beers I wanted. I said, “Funkwerks, anything from Odell, anything hoppy, and any sessions”. Seems simple enough and totally doable?! I got the cold shoulder, then I heard that he was tight on cash and had to wait until after GABF. Then after GABF {for those who don’t know, that’s in October}, he emailed me and said he had beers to send off and would at the end of the month. Then  I was occupied with family for Thanksgiving and when I returned, I emailed again, asking about the beer. Checking in, really. Finally after email, after email, after email… I was encouraged by local beer friends to get in touch with said beer traders manager because he was using his resources at Epic to falsely encourage people to trade with him. I heard back from the manager and said beer trader… she was nice and apologetic {I prefaced my email with, “I do not want anything for free but I’d like you to know…}, and HE was so rude it was hilarious, “I’m a guy in my twenties and I cannot just meet your demands for beer”. Wow. That came a s a surprise to me since I was not demanding anything specific and I’m also in my twenties. To cut it off, I asked him to just make good on his end of the bargain and send me a check. Let’s forget about the beer {quite honestly if he had IPA’s for me back in July or August then they’re not as fresh now…}.

Ready for the finale?

I have heard squat from him. His manager emailed me in a very political email saying that Epic has nothing to do with this trade {which they don’t but the brand is still tainted in my mind because of beer traitor} and she hopes I will continue to buy their beers, also, my beer traitor’s last day at Epic is next week. Well isn’t that convenient? I have his contact information for work. Now, since I mailed him beer to his home, should I start writing him letters? Do I contact him time and time again because it’s the principle, you should never rip someone off?  Or do I just write it off and let karma take over?

What would you do? How does one recover from such an ill experience?

Beer culture is a great culture and people like this should not be allowed to be a part of it. Beer is about passion for great beers, fun, and sharing.

Unfortunately now, I cannot bring myself to buy anymore Epic beer. And while I have always loved their beers and I see them all the time at Beercraft, I will not buy them and I end up sharing this story with all of my beer friends. It’s a shame. I can only hope that my beer traitors boss will regulate the way her employees are able to beer trade while at work with the customers that they would not have known had it not been for the brewery. I would have never met said beer trader had I not been going to Epic in the first place, therefore it’s a little bit Epic’s responsibility to provide some sort of solution.

I enjoy buying beers for my friends but I don’t enjoy buying beers for people who are rude. I am totally bummed by experience with my beer traitor.

The takeaway: if you want to trade beer then, trade beer and be fair. Don’t be a beer traitor.

 

 

 

Big Island Brewhaus

Big Island Brewhaus

On a rainy drive back from Hilo to Kona we decided to take a detour and hit the big Island Brewhaus. The Overbourd IPA we had picked up from the market across from where we are staying and fell in love. Unlike a traditional “Brewhaus” this place is Santa Cruz meets Jamaica and makes a baby in Hawaii. It’s super low key, hippie-esc, down-to-earth {no pun intended} and makes some incredible beers. It’s a mexican restaurant and a brewery. The food menu is pretty extensive and inexpensive. We tried a snack: the nachos with shredded chicken. Good flavors but the chips were soggy from the juice from the chicken {they must have been built then put in the broiler to melt the cheese}, there were about 9 chips on the plate, they were big but still unlike a nacho plate… the beers: they had 14 beers on tap. They do samplers of five 3.5 ounce tastes for $6 and some change. We tried them all. The Pau Hana Pale Ale, Panilolo Pale Ale, White Mountain Porter {so odd that I would like a porter but this was light bodied, with a nice clean finish of caramel and toasted nuts. It was fantastic.}, and of course the Overboard IPA.

We sat inside and listened to the music of the live band just outside on the covered patio. We ended up chatting with a sweet couple: Sandy and “Big” Earl. Nice people. Sandy resembled my hubbies mom a lot and that was kind of a cool thing since it was always her thing to come to Hawaii as a family. And Earl was a hoot. He had clearly traveled all over and lived in many places, he had stories about it all. Nice folks, the kind I always enjoy meeting when we travel.

The Brewhaus is well worth the drive where ever you are staying on the island.

 

Big Island Brewhaus & Tako Taco Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Beer VS Wine

 

At a recent wine tourism conference we had a session about beer and wine tourism. What are these breweries doing that wineries are not doing in order to be more successful? What separates out the beer industry from the wine industry? It’s the connections. I’ve been to over 300 distinct breweries all over the U.S. and 9 out of 10 of the breweries have replied to me and engaged with me in some way on social media when I tweet or post a photo tagging them. Aside from the online connecting before and after visiting, the breweries for the most part have someone who is so insanely passionate about the beer behind the bar to explain anything and everything to me, making it more evident that this is more than just a job.

 I have seen many people in breweries: the Brewers, owners, wives, or someone highly connected to the brewery who is taking their time out of whatever it is they’re doing to respond to my messages. Its awesome. One of my favorite things about the way breweries connect with me {their consumer: the beer traveler} is they will comment on my blog and make it obvious that they took a little extra time to look me up, check out what I do, and comment on that. It shows me that they care about their consumers, they want to know who we are and because of that, I want to buy more beer!!

http://jessposhepny.com/2014/11/beer-vs-wine/

And we already buy lots of beer!!

Having been in the wine business for over 14 years, I ask myself, “why do I prefer to go beer tasting over wine tasting?” Being a manager of a prestigious family owned winery where our customers come first and I make it my job to ensure each guest is happy, I wonder why other wineries struggle with this when it’s so simple: be transparent, be genuine, ask questions, care about the answers, and engage. After sitting through this seminar, I realized that it is not easy to give the customers what they want because as the business, you have to ask what it is they want first and that is what the breweries do and then they listen. It cannot be a one-off thing, and that’s really where people are having a tough time in the luxury service industries because people do not have to buy from you…they can buy from a hundred other places or people like you. What can YOU do to stand out? CONNECT. I am not quite sure why the beer culture has this down so well and the wine business that has evolved over the years seems to struggle with it.

 As a consumer, I want to hear from the brewer or winemaker, I want to meet the owner, I want to see them tweeting and pouring behind the bar, I want to see that they are human. There really isn’t much that is different from hundreds of years ago in sales: know your customer, gain their trust and keep a loyal customer.It’s work, but it is possible.

 Some tips from a loyal consumer: ease up on the snobbery, engage with guests on a more intimate level: ask them about who they are and what they like, tell them about you and why you are brewing or making wine; built a familiar connection and that will make them want to know more, tell their friends, and keep coming back.

 UPDATE:

This is a comment from a brewery owner I met at a new {at the time} brewery in Sacramento. Find my write up of Bike Dog here.

AJ on said:Edit

How about a brewery owner who gets a new Instagram follower, recognizes the name as the business of two great beer travelers he met almost a year ago then hunts them down, stumbles across their blog and writes silly response like this?

PS the Mosaic Pale Ale is proving to be a customer favorite, you were onto something early :) ”

This just goes to show that breweries have a lot of power with the people and many of them use it like AJ did above: he stumbled upon me through social channels and reaches out on my blog and even remembers the beer I loved so much when I visited once. All it takes is a little effort when you are literally stumbling around on the inter-web. Thanks AJ for taking the time out!

Cheers!

Beer + Food

Falling Sky Brewery & Delicatessen is neat inside: it’s got sort of a vintage feel with the brick wall and every so often a single brick slightly pushed out that then rest with a bold bright color and the long, family style table down the entire center of the restaurant. It’s warm and inviting. The people are nice who work there.

We split a brisket sandwich with marbled rye and a side of sweet potato fries: wow- it was delicious and the fries mouth watering. A perfect pairing for the beer taster. The taster is served in a metal framed cloud. For me, the highlights are the catchy slogan, the stickers, the scrumptious sandwich with melt in-my-mouth meat, and the Neverland Berliner Weisse.

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Falling Sky Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon

Claim 52 Brewing

Claim 52 was a great find. I was using the nearby feature on Untappd and we kind of stumbled onto this one. We asked around about it and all the local breweries said it was definitely worth waiting for them to open. They are open Thursdays 4-8pm, Fridays 4-9pm, and Saturdays 2-7pm. The owners/brewers pour the beers in their taproom as they balance brewing the beer just on the other side of the partition.

It’s evident that thought went into their space too: old church benches line the perimeter, tall tables in the center, corn hole boards hanging on the wall for use, and video games {free} for your playing pleasure. This is a kid friendly spot too.

Surrounded by a lot of awesome small breweries in Eugene, Claim 52 is a bit more special: they are a couple of guys working hard to make consistently unique beers. The Gose was one of the most interesting beers I have had with notes of fresh orange zest and black tea coupled with a subtle salty finish; it was growler worthy.

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 When we were leaving, my husband was trying to pack the growler in our already full ice chest when the Pliny bottles we brought were staring him in the face, so he ran back in a gave the brewer one. The look on his face was priceless and he was so thrilled and appreciative. That’s one of my favorite parts about beer travel: sharing the love!

I look forward to visiting these guys again and tasting the new stuff that they come up with. This is a true gem- these guys are going to blow up!

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Claim 52 Brewing on Urbanspoon

Old 99 Brewing Company

In the tiny little one horse town of Roseburg, Orgeon, is this small little warehouse style brewery owned by three couples {two who live nearby and one who lives in Vancouver}. The wives run the front of the show and the husbands brew the beer. They are super down to earth, friendly, and welcoming.

They are happy to sell samplers of all of their beers, they fill growlers, sell cool ones, have a place to sit inside, and even a place to set your beer while you are in the bathroom {it’s the little things in life…}

This is starting to come as less of a surprise throughout our Washington and Oregon trip: I loved the red. Of course the IPA was standout but the red was balanced and hoppy, my favorite was the “Plan B“, more of a hoppy pale, and the “Billy Bad Ass“.

The hours are very limited. Thankfully they had just started to be open on Thursdays the week we were there! Fate. They are open Thursdays and Fridays from 4-8pm and Saturdays from noon to 8pm.

This was a fun find. All of the people sitting around were local and excited to support these cool cats in their great beer making venture. I look forward to going back!

@Old99Brewing 

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Wild Card Brewing

We were hitting Redding late at night and after trying desperately to watch game 3 of the world series, we were stoked that Wild Card was still open after the game ended {a sad, sad ending….} We chit chatted with the owner and he gave us a tour of the brewery. A cool little spot. Their story is that they just picked up and left for London so he could pursue brewing, then they did it again when they came back here and decided to start their own venture. The husband and wife team use the term “Wild Card” as their mantra. It’s how they operate and it’s working for them. The beers are fantastic. I love the Liars Dice and {Oddly enough} the Double Down Imperial Red.

Owner and Brewer, Jeff made us feel right at home and stayed after and told us the whole story, gave us the run-down on all of the beers, and his philosophy. It made for a nice impression of this fairly new brewery. Look for their beers at the West Side Grill in Santa Rosa and soon to be distributed in Northern California.

This brewery is worth the visit. It’s the only true brewery in Redding.

Follow them on twitter here {there are a few Wild Card’s so finding them can be confusing}.

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Redwood Curtain Brewing

Our 297th brewery. We cut over to the coast on a week long beer trip from Seattle. Redwood Curtain has been on our radar for a long time since our friends at Beer Craft put some of their fantastic beers on their even more fantastic beer list.

A small brewery, opens at 3pm. Get there right at 3pm or before because the place fills up fast! Sampler of all the beers, amazing. They will fill any growler too so come prepared but buy one of theirs too. All of the beers are worth writing home about. My favs were the Tropical Thunder DIPA and the Centennial Jack Pale.

Great people, cool schwag, fantastic beer. Worth the trip.

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