There’s gold in them thar hills – Beer Warrior in California.

Back in early May I was fortunate enough to be asked to be best man at a wedding. “So what?” I hear you cry! Well nothing really, apart from the wedding was to take place in Northern California.

Having been to the west coast of the USA previously, I took the opportunity this time to explore and sample the fast growing and ever changing range of beers brewed by micro breweries. My target over the next ten days was not to let one drop of Bud, Coors, Miller Lite, or any of the national brands past my lips.

Taking San Fransisco as a starting point, you have on your doorstep assorted breweries and brews worth seeking out. Anchor Brewing – a San Fransiscan legend. Home of the Anchor Steam Beer (5.0%) malty, nutty, dry and hoppy and Old Foghorn (8.7%), a rich barley wine. Further into and in downtown San Fransisco is the Gordon Biersch Brewing Co. Recommended is the Weizen (4.5%) aromatic and soft and in a true Bavarian style.

Travelling further north towards the wedding, I passed close by to the brewing town of Chico, home of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Either in draught form or bottled, the Town Ale (5.5%) is certainly worth finding. Having a natural haze to it, I found it fairly bitter to taste but very flavoursome. Having reached the wedding venue by now, I was pleasantly surprised to find a varied selection of micros on offer in the hotel bar. Amongst them was Tahoe Red, which was quite earthy and peaty to taste. I loved it. I even cradled a bottled version with me throughout the best mans speech!

Bottle label

Once the wedding was over I decided to move yet still further north, managing an overnight stay in the brewing town of Fort Bragg. Here, I found the North Coast Brewing Co Inc. where I managed to track down the Red Seal Ale (5.4%) – very fruity and quite hoppy. It went very well with the pizza I was eating at the time. I also tried the ACME California Pale Ale, but thought it fairly bland.

Heading back southward now, toward San Fransisco, I still managed to sample the following.. Sonoma Mountain Brewery Golden Pilsner – very lively but lacked real taste, Mendecino Brewing. Red Tail Ale (6.4%) – Pale – excellent. Lagunitas Dog Pale Ale and Healdsburg Wild Horse Ale (6.0%) – fairly dry but just what I needed after a fairly long drive.

I hope this will encourage you to find other beers when travelling further afield, rather than the nationals and mega – hyped brands that we are expected to drink. And as for the Bud…

Beer Warrior in California was Neil Raynor

August ’98