Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

A stellar tasting of holiday beers at Pacific Coast, Oakland

By William Brand
Monday, December 15th, 2008 at 3:13 pm in Uncategorized.

Pacific Coast Holiday Tasting servers, left to right, Lauren McCullough, Shareen Baumgarner, Valerie Boes and Michael Klinge

Pacific Coast Holiday Tasting servers, left to right, Lauren McCullough, Shareen Baumgarner, Valerie Boes and Michael Klinge

Had a great afternoon Saturday at the 20th annual Holiday Beer Tasting at Pacific Coast, 906 Washington St. in downtown Oakland.  The pace was leisurely, the food was excellent – whole hams, jambalaya and among the 15 beers there were some stunners. In truth, this list can serve as a shopping guide for your personal holiday stash. Also, many of these beers remain on tap this week at the brewpub.

Old Stock 2007Old Stock Ale, 2007 FOUR STARS PLUS, North Coast Brewing, Fort Bragg, CA. Personally, this was a star among stars. The one we tasted is now at least 15 months old, it was the color of a fine brandy with an compelling aroma of  chocolate and a brandy note from the alcohol. It’s 11.4 percent. The taste is complex; it starts out dry with a rising, mellow sweetness and a tang of alcohol in the follow. This an English-style Old Ale on LSD: English Maris Otter barley malt; funky, earthy, English Fuggles hops. But it’s nearly twice as strong as a typical English old ale.  It not pastuerized, The strength and aging mellows this beer into a beauty to behold. The ’09 comes out in January. It’s a beer to buy and hold for a while.

Pizza Port Belgian-Style Quadruppel The Mother of All Beers FOUR STARS , Pizza Port, Solana Beach CA. (San Diego County). This big, 110.5 percenter is a stoner. I’m not sure if it’s brewed at Pizza Port or at their sister-spinoff Port Brewing, co-owned by Tomme Arthur, in San Marcos. Doesn’t matter. It has a wild, brandyish nose, a clean brown color with ruby highlights. Initially there’s a bit of sweetness with a building complexity, levels of sweetness and hops and alcohol. Whew.  They used to bottle it, don’t know if they still do. If you see it, my recommendation is to snap it up.

Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout FOUR STARS, Stone, Escondido,

Don Gortemiller and part of the crowd.

Don Gortemiller and part of the crowd.

CA. (San Diego County)  As this 9.2 percent beer ages, it simply gets better and better. This beer was made with a lot of real chocolate added to the fermenter and as it ages – it’s about nine months old now – the chocolate becomes more and more pronounced. Simply delicious from the dark malt-chocolate nose to the big choco finish. Another year of aging? Wow.

Doggie Claws THREE STARS PLUS, Hair of the Dog, Portland OR. The aroma alone was enough to win me over, It has a huge, sweet malt nose. This is a real American-style barleywine: lots and lots of sweetness, toffee, caramel, you name it and whack from the hops int he follow.11.5 percent, 70 IBUs (Internatioal Bitterness Units. Quick comarison, Bud’s 13 IBU, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 37.). Doggie Claws is one of those beers that will only improve with age. A year or two from now all that sweetness will fade, leaving a silky malty taste and a real champ.

Green Flash Grand Cru, Green Flask, Vista, CA. (San Diego County). THREE STARS PLUS. Brewed first with Green Flash’s regular yeast, then a Belgian yeast, it’s 9 percent. Lots of spice in the nose from that Belgian yeast and a blast of hop bitterness in the follow. A fine, very drinkable beer.

Pacific Coast XX Holiday Belgian-Style Double and Pacific Coast 20th Anniversary Ale both get THREE STARS PLUS. Both were brewed with honey malt, caramel malt, Belgian dark candi sugar, brown sugar, molasses, real honey and a big hop package. Both are 8 percent. The Anniversary was fermented with Pacific Coast’s regular yearst; the Double was fermented with a Belgian yeast – and because they had a problem with their chilling equipment – got more a warm treatment.  Big differences resulted. The Double had a spicy fruity nose and taste, the Anniversary was drier.

Doggie Claws

Samichlaus Helles THREE STARS PLUS, Schloss-Eggenberg Brewery, Vorchdorf, Austria. For years Samichlaus, brewed once a year and released a year later on Dec. 6, was the strongest beer in the world. At 14 percent, it’s still heart-stopping, but it’s been surpassed by Sam Adams Utopias (27 percent), by De Sruise Double Black (26 percent),  Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (21 percent) and a dozen others. Go to for the whole list, mostly of beers that can’t be found out here or for that matter in the U.S.

First brewed in 1979, the original Swiss brewery was taken over by another brewery and that appeared to be the end of Samichlaus.  But two years ago, Schloss-Eggenberg got the recipe and released its firstSamichlaus last December. This year, for the first time, it’s a blond beer, a light copper color with a nose of liquid malt and alcohol. It has a toffee sweetness that you’ll either hate or love. I really liked it. This would be a great beer to sip with dessert. It’s available now in good beer stores and worth a hunt.

People’s Choice Award: They’re still tabulating the scores. But my guess might be Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin. It’s a 6 percent. oatmeal stout, aged at least a year in bourbon barrels and is a key component of the blend of beers used to create Firestone Walker’s 12th Anniversary Ale.  People I talked to at the sold-out tasting almost universally loved it. And true, it’s a fine beer: roast malt nose, silky, velvet taste, coffee in the finish. I give it THREE STARS.  Problem was, it was in very august (and strong) company.

Biggest and really, the only disappointment of the day, was Harvieston Ola Dubh Special 30 Reserve. Pacific Coast’s Don Goretemiller and Steve Wolff said they paid far more for this keg than any other beer in the list. But it was disappointing. It poured flat with a heavy dark malt nose. It tasted like machine oil with a bourbon finish.  Both Don and I have had this beer in the bottle. It was entirely different: Honey and vanilla, smoke. Dazzling.

Photos: Glass of beer is North Coast Old Stock Ale 2007.

Pitcher of beer: Very, very fresh Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws.

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • Kevin

    I’ve been a fan of the Old Stock Ale since ’05, and have a 4-pack put away from each year up through -08… with the ’09 release I think I might sit down with a few friends and taste all five…

  • Georgia

    Another missed *local* beer event. Great tasting notes.

  • William Brand

    An Old Stock tasting. Just right for a winter;s evening