Sonoma County breweries won gold, silver and bronze at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Local craft brews rank No.2 and No.3 in the U.S. and continue to get nation-wide attention.
The big winners include; Third Street AleWorks, with two awards, including Gold for Blarney Sisters’ Dry Irish Stout in the Classic Irish-style Stout category and Bronze for Bombay Rouge in the Imperial Red category. Russian River Brewing Company took Silver for Sanctification in the American Brett Beers category and it was Bronze for Bear Republic for Heritage in the Scotch Ale category. The winners were chosen from more than 4,800 beers entered at the festival’s competition and only 252 medals were awarded in total, these stand-outs blew away the competition. The ever growing craft-brewing community in Sonoma County is keeping right-up with the much-loved wine industry, according to
Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Company is known by industry aficionados as one of the best breweries in the United States with a large selection of beer from big hops to Belgium ales. Their brews including Pliny the Elder is considered to be one of the best in Northern California and their beers are currently ranked No.1 and No. 2 in the US by Beer Advocate, with the Elder outranked only by Westvleteren 12, made by Trappist monks in Belgium. Third Street Aleworks and Bear Republic’s offerings also scored high on the list which is graded from beer industry experts and members of the community using data from millions of user reviews. Russian River’s coveted craft, Pliny the Younger, is made in small batches and available for only two weeks each February drawing crowds from California to across the U.S. to taste the ultra-hoppy triple-IPA. In fact, beer enthusiasts from as far as Japan and Denmark make the yearly pilgrimage for the release. Sonoma County's Economic Development Board has just presented the first ever Sonoma County Beer, Cider and Spirits Conference in Santa Rosa to explore and support the local beer culture.
At the Brewers Association World Beer Cup 799 breweries from 54 countries entered 3,921 beers in 95 style categories. The international judging panel from 27 countries conducted blind tasting evaluations and Santa Rosa brewers were big winners. Third Street Ale Works took home two awards including the gold medal (top award) in the categories of Classic English-Style Pale Ale and Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout. The Annadel Pale Ale was the top rated beer in the English-Style Pale Ale and Blarney Sisters Dry Irish Stout was the top rated beer in the Irish-Style Dry Stout. The Russian River Brewery medaled for their Supplication in the American-Style Sour Ale category. Bear Republic Brewing Company won the top award for their Black Racer; an aggressively hopped Black India Pale Ale brewed with crystal and roasted malts to achieve layered flavors with very little roast character relative to its dark color, in the American-Style Black Ale category
Editor's note: If you're planning a trip to Santa Rosa—or anywhere in Sonoma County or the North Coast—you ay want to check out the Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to wineries and craft beer specialists.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Calif., December 3, 2013—This winter, visitors to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks can enjoy events ranging from traditional to adventurous and spend the holidays in rustic comfort and joy.
Some will start the season by gathering around the Nation’s Christmas Tree – the world-famous General Grant Tree – in Kings Canyon National Park. On Dec. 8, at 2:30 p.m., park explorers can take part in the 88th annual Trek to the Nation’s Christmas Tree event, which features entertainment from the Jubilation Singers, Tubachristmas Ensemble, and Sanger High School Choir; along with a non-denominational holiday message. Admission to the park will be free from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at the Kings Canyon National Park entrance to accommodate visitors.
During the ceremony, a National Park Service representative will speak about the General Grant Tree’s role as a national shrine in memory of the men and women of the Armed Forces who have served, fought, and died to keep America free. A memorial wreath will be placed at the base of the General Grant Tree. Attendees can park at the Grant Tree Trail entrance or take a free shuttle from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center before taking the quarter-mile hike to this magnificent tree. Free shuttle users should allow for an extra 30 minutes of commute time. The Sanger, Calif. Chamber of Commerce is also offering chartered bus service from its offices.
When Jack Frost starts nipping, park visitors can take refuge in a cozy room at John Muir Lodge in Kings Canyon’s Grant Grove Village. Nestled in the midst of huge trees and sparkling snowdrifts, John Muir Lodge offers a unique setting for a cozy holiday with family and friends. Guests can enjoy the chilly weather exploring their surroundings, or congregate around the fire in the main lodge for games and holiday treats.
The Sequoia Natural History Association, National Park Service and National Audubon Society have teamed up to host the annual Sequoia Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 14. Enthusiasts of the park’s feathered friends are invited to head to the Foothills Visitor Center and embark on a wintry adventure to identify the many beautiful species who call Sequoia National Park home. This is a free event and is open to explorers of all ages.
Sequoia National Park’s premier lodging destination, Wuksachi Lodge, is also decking its halls in preparation for a holiday season full of hustle and bustle. Snow is a key component of any Sequoia winter, and Wuksachi Lodge will have plenty of wintry toys available so guests can take full advantage of the park’s regular flurries. For those seeking thrills and chills, snowshoes and cross-country skis are available to traverse the lush forests around the lodge, with two for one rentals lined up for the busy season. Kids (or kids at heart) can have fun creating snow forts, building the ultimate snowman or dashing through the snow on snow discs and sleds, available at the onsite gift shop. After a day of play, visitors can warm up and refuel with a seasonal meal like braised Brandt beef, roasted root vegetables or savory rotisserie chicken by Executive Chef Jeff Graham or a signature holiday cocktail by bartender Travis White at The Peaks restaurant.
The main lodge at Wuksachi will be full of holiday cheer, and guests can take part with a wood ornament decorating workshop on Dec. 18. On Christmas Eve, the lodge will host a cookie decorating workshop just in time for a visit from Santa, who will lead a round of carols and coax excited little ones to sleep with favorite holiday tales. But the holidays don’t end on Dec. 25. On Dec. 28, a snowshoe hike led by the Sequoia Natural History Association will set out from Round Meadow at 10 a.m. Wuksachi will also hold a New Year’s Eve bash.
Editor's Note: Information for this article supplied to TASTE News Service by Travmedia sources. Those planning a visit to this part of California may want to visit the High Sierra listings in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it are are links to hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to the sites of craft beer specialists and nearby wineries.
Kona Brewing Co.
Serving Style: 12-oz. bottles
Availability: Fall and winter in of the U.S.
Appearance: “Dark brown with a nice oatmeal-colored head that dissipates fairly quickly.”
Aroma: “More subtle than I would have thought. Faintly like coffee—or maybe root beer?”
Taste: “Encountered this beer in a half-case sampler of different styles made by the brewery. The label reads (in part) 'Porter with 100% Hawaiian Kona Coffee'. A gimmick? Maybe. A hybrid? If so, more likely to work with a porter than a lager. The idea seemed intriguing. I've no idea how much coffee is used, but the Kona Brewing website indicates malts they've used include pale (premium-2 Row), extra special, Carapils, Caramal malt, roasted barley, dark chocolate malt and victory. The hops are Millenium and Willamette.
“Some carbonation that we found attractive may be why this brew seemed lighter than expected. Porter can be dense and tend toward the syrupy. Not so this one. After some time in the glass, the bubbles left, as did the chill. The roasted coffee aroma became more apparent with a bit of mocha there, too. Though I wouldn't have expected it, the Kona Pipeline actually delivered some of the promised qualities in an easy-drinking package.”
Food Affinity: “If you're drinking in the morning, we'd recommend trying it with a good corned beef hash topped with poached egg. For lunches or dinners we'd like it with a shepherd's pie or good old American beef stew.”
Reviewed by Dan Clarke
J Cuvée 20 Brut (N/V)
Producer: J Vineyards & Winery
Appellation: Sonoma County
Suggested Retail: $28
“Mostly Chardonnay (54%), the balance from the red varieties Pinot Noir (44%) and Pinot Meunier (2%) in this cuvée sourced from Russian River Valley fruit. Freshness and elegance here as citrus and green apple characteristics appear in a bright, sparkly package. There's a nice creamy background to complement the zingy acidity. A high quality exemplar of the California style of sparkling wine.”
Food Affinity: “Would work with any of the traditional pairings at this time of year—caviar, smoked salmon, salted nuts, etc. We'd love it with deviled Dungeness crab on toast points.”