Tag: Beer

Living in Beer Country

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Refreshing beer at Napa’s newest brew house, Fieldwork Brewing Company

Okay, so maybe Napa Valley is not beer country yet.  But over the past couple of years a number of brewing operations and brew houses have sprung up in the Valley and become instant go-to destinations.  We previously wrote about one of our favorite beer spots,
Carneros Brewing Company, which is in Sonoma County close to the Napa/Sonoma border.  (Beer? In Wine Country?).  Last night we finally made it to Napa’s newest spot for craft beer, Fieldwork Brewing Company, which is located downtown Napa in the Oxbow Public Market.  The space that houses Fieldwork was once occupied by Hudson Greens & Goods, a market that specializes in organic fruits and vegetables.  When Hudson moved its location within Oxbow, it opened up a space that sat empty for quite a while.  We locals started to wonder what was going on inside that mysterious walled-off corner of Oxbow and if the space would remain empty indefinitely.

A little over a month ago, Fieldwork Brewing Company had its big grand opening, revealing a beautiful long bar and seating area that fits perfectly in the corner.

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Fieldwork Brewing Company in Napa’s Oxbow Public Market

Although new to Napa, Fieldwork is not a new brewery; they have two other locations, one in Sacramento and the other in their hometown of Berkeley, California.  Somehow we have managed to miss Fieldwork on our many trips to Berkeley for football and basketball games, but we will surely remedy that this upcoming basketball season.

As we mentioned, Fieldwork has been open in Napa for about six weeks.  You might wonder why it took us until last night to sit down and taste their beer.  The answer is simple: it has been so instantly popular that we haven’t been able to get a seat at the bar in weeks.  Yesterday, we decided that if we wanted to taste some beer at Fieldwork we would need a plan.  Strategically, we decided that the best time to go would be between lunch and dinner.  When we first arrived, all of the seats at the main bar were taken, but there were three seats by the window on the right side of the bar.  We gratefully took them and ordered some beer. One of us ordered the Hoppy Pilsner, one of us the Fog Ripper sour ale, and the third of us (guess who!) decided that a six-beer sampler was the most appropriate way to get to get properly introduced to Fieldwork.

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Watching the sampler being assembled

As our beers were arriving we were still eyeing the bar, hoping that we could switch from our window seats, but everyone at the bar looked like they were settling in for the long haul.  We set our beers down on the ledge and admired the range of color between them.

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Hoppy Pilsner
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Fog Ripper Sour
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Six-beer sampler at Fieldwork, Napa

Almost as soon as we set the beers down, a table opened up behind the bar; although not as cool as the bar itself, it gave us more space to spread out a bit.  We delicately moved the sampler and the two individual beers to a table and sat down to start our tasting.  To complement the beer, we each ordered a taco from C-Casa, a favorite restaurant at the other end of the Oxbow Public Market.

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Wide range of colors and tastes

When ordering beer, we tend to go mostly with IPA or, when we’re really trying to branch out, a double IPA.  When sampling, though, we push ourselves to try new things. At Fieldwork, there was quite a bit to choose from.

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16 beer choices

Since we almost always drink ale, we decided to start with a non-ale and opted for the Outdoor Hoppy Pilsner as beer #1 in the sampler, followed by the Fog Ripper Tropical Sour Ale, Field Trial Blonde Ale, Watershed Extra Pale Ale, Corner Shop IPA, and, to finish, Hannah in the Wild Brett Biere De Garde.

We won’t do a beer-by-beer tasting review, but we will share some of our reactions.  The Outdoor Hoppy Pilsner was, indeed, hoppy, and it seemed like an ale-lover’s pilsner. Of the remaining beers, our favorites were the Watershed Extra Pale Ale and the Biere de Garde, a type of ale that we have not had before.  The color was lovely and both the aroma and flavor were sophisticated and smooth.

We hope to get back to Fieldwork soon and, next time, to sit at the main bar. Our new strategy is to get there when they open so we can be first in line.

John & Irene Ingersoll

November 28, 2016

 

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Beer? In Wine Country?

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Our favorite brewery in Northern California wine country

If you like underdogs, you would root for one of the few Latino-owned breweries in the United States. But if you really, really like underdogs, you would root for a brewery owned by Mexican immigrants and opened in the heart of Northern California wine country.  For those extreme fans of the underdog, we present Carneros Brewing Company, located in Sonoma Valley just west of the Napa county line.  This particular operation is challenging the conventions of not one, but two world-famous wine regions.

Carneros Brewing Company is located off of Highway 12 in Sonoma County; Napa Valley visitors coming from San Francisco pass Carneros Brewing, often without even noticing.  Living in Napa, we pass by the brewery every single time we drive to San Francisco or Marin County.  A couple of days ago, we decided to stop in and check our their selection of beers rather than visit another one of our local wineries.  We were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the beers and the cool atmosphere of the tasting room.

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Tasting Room, Carneros Brewing Company, Sonoma County

We went to Carneros Brewing on a Sunday and the mood in the tasting room was quite lively.  There was a combination of first-time visitors like us, as well as a number of tables of “regulars” that were definitely not on their first visit. Several of the tables were occupied by frequent visitors who knew the various brewery offerings and were happy to talk about their favorites.  Because it was our first time at the brewery, we opted to order a 5-beer tasting sampler.  Choosing just five beers, though, proved to be more difficult than we expected as there were nearly a dozen beers that caught our eye.

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Carneros Brewing Company menu

In the past couple of years, we have tended to order almost exclusively ales, and in most cases IPA.  As a result, we decided not to include a traditional IPA (the Carneros IPA) in our 5-sampler, instead opting for the Pilsner, the Jefeweizen, the Morena ale, the Negra IPA, and the Carneros 2K Imperial Porter.

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5-beer sampler at Carneros Brewing Company

We are more familiar with the order of wine tastings, which usually start with the lighter (white) wines and transition to the red wines:  first the “lighter” reds such as Pinot Noir, finishing with the stronger reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon.  At Carneros Brewing Company, the tasting order resembled the wine tasting order, with the first beer being a pilsner, which, compared to the beers later in the selection, is much lighter and can be analogized to white wine.  Even though we favor ales, we really enjoyed the Cerveza Pilsner, which had a crisp taste and an unexpected fruity ester profile that is generally found in ale but not lager.  Although only 5% alcohol, the Cerveza Pilsner had a strong, balanced flavor that we do not expect from the more commercial brand of lagers on the market.  Much to our surprise, the Cerveza Pilsner turned out to be one of our favorite beers we tried at Carneros Brewing.

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Cerveza Pilsner at Carneros Brewing Company

After quaffing the generous 5-oz pilsner sample, we moved on to beer #2, Carneros Brewing’s take on the traditional southern German beer where a significant portion of the malted barley is replaced with malted wheat. When done properly, Hefeweizen will display notes of banana and cloves both in terms of aroma as well as taste.  The Jefeweizen that we tried was most definitely done properly – the beer had a nice balance of fruity banana as well as spice and cloves on the finish.  After two beers, we were impressed with the Carneros Brewing Company beers and congratulating ourselves for branching out and not just ordering the IPA as we tend to do.

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Jefeweizen at Carneros Brewing Company

Our third beer was the Morena ale, an amber ale with strong notes of caramel and an almost creamy finish.  We liked this beer and would order it again, but it was not as distinctive for us as the other four.  Nevertheless, it was good enough for us to consumer the entire 5-oz tasting before proceeding to beer #4, the Negra IPA.

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Negra IPA at Carneros Brewing Company

As mentioned above, we are not strangers when it comes to IPA; moreover, we have consumed many dark beers in our day as well.  However, as to the combination of IPA and dark malt, we have to admit we are complete virgins and the Carneros Brewing offering was our very first.  We were not sure what to expect from the combination of the IPA’s bitterness and the toastiness of the dark malt – we were imagining the love child of a Guinness and an India Pale Ale. In fact, that is more or less what we experienced:  the Negra IPA maintained a strong bitter undertone (70 IBU’s) of a typical IPA but the chocolate and coffee notes found in dark malt ales.  Although it was our first dark malt IPA, it will not be our last, and we will be seeking out similar beers from other craft makers to compare flavors.

Our final beer – the heavyweight in terms of structure and depth – was the Carneros 2K Imperial Porter.  At more than 8% alcohol, this was the strongest beer that we tried in our flight.

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Carneros 2K Imperial Stout, Carneros Brewing Company

We have an Irish brother-in-law. His father worked at the Guinness plant in Ireland for over 40 years.  Enough said? We drink a fair amount of stout when we get together and have acquired a real taste for well-made stout.  The Carneros Imperial Stout was a strong offering, with medium carbonation, notes of coffee and toffee, and a smooth, creamy finish.  Next time we will have to do a side-by-side tasting with a Guinness Stout (or extra-stout) to see how they compare.  But to finish up our 5-taster, the Carneros 2K Imperial Stout held its ground just fine.  We were glad we finally stopped at the brewery after driving by at 50-60 mph multiple times on our way to San Francisco.

Next door to the brewery tasting room is the winery tasting room for Carneros Brewing Company’s sister company, Ceja Vineyards, another success story for an extended family of Mexican immigrants who literally worked their way from the bottom to the top.  In our next blog we will share our experiences with the matriarch of Ceja Vineyards, Amelia Ceja.

John & Irene Ingersoll

September 23, 2016