San Luis Obispo is a pretty little town on the central California coast. Quiet and peaceful, it’s a far cry from the madness and shallow culture of SoCal. For those who remember “progressive” music, Yes-frontman Jon Anderson lives in San Luis Obispo - and has done for many years - while on the day of the beer festival, Steve Hackett was playing in town.
But yes, the beer festival. This was a little different from the usual festivals in that we were offered unlimited pourings, plus several local artisanal food vendors were on hand to provide tasty bites, which were also free.
There’s no point in reviewing each beer as most of them are unlikely to make it out of central California, let alone across the pond, but I’ll list all the ones on my list, plus put in a couple of reviews where appropriate. The highlight was a vertical tasting of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barley Wine from 1987 to 2017 (1987 being the first year for Bigfoot), but that’ll be in another post.
So, in order of tasting...
1) Lagunitas Imperial Stout (9.9%), Petaluma, California.
2) Lagunitas Gnarlywine Barleywine (10.9), Petaluma, California.
3) Figueroa Mountain 6th Anniversary Grand Cru Ale (14%), Buellton, California. This one was amazing. Figueroa Mountain brought this gem out of the vaults with the 6th Anniversary Ale being aged in Apple-Pear Brandy barrels, Grape Brandy barrels and Whiskey barrels. The nose itself, of fermented fruity esters, was enticing enough, but then the flavour profile sealed the deal with that classic note of Belgian yeast accompanied with vanilla, honey, pears and figs. The honey really softened the beer, which helped disguise the high ABV. Notes of pears and brandy saw out the finish. As Del Boy would say “Luvly Jubly!”.
4) Naughty Oak Brewing Co. The Able Central Coast IPA (6.3%), Los Alamos, California. I’ve never come across a “Central Coast” IPA before (as in what would distinguish this from a West Coast IPA or a San Diego IPA or a Pacific Northwest IPA), but either way this was a blatant violation of The Trade Descriptions Act. It gave the very faintest note of hops and that was it. Think of a glass of water with a hop cone dropped inside it and you have The Able IPA. Not very “able” at all.
5) Kaweah Brewing Co. Slauncher Imperial IPA (9.0%), Tulare, California.
6) Earth and Fire Brewing Co, Anonymous Imperial IPA (8.7%), Paso Robles, California.
7) 7 Sisters Brewing Co. Stout (6.0%), San Luis Obispo, California.
8) Dead Oak Brewing Co. Stout (6.8%), Atascadero, California.
9) Stone Berlin Groundbreaking Collaborations #07 Zuper Magik Wootstout by Drew Curtis, Greg Koch and Wil Wheaton (10.1%), Berlin, Germany. Imperial Stout brewed with hazelnuts, pecans and almonds, partially aged in German whiskey barrels. I just happened to be walking past the Stone booth when they cracked open the 1.5 litre bottle of this Imperial Stout. This was my first tasting from their Berlin brewery, so the moment of rarity was not lost on me.
I think we all know that Stone can be hit or miss at the best of times and this, sadly, was a miss. The body was incredibly thin and while there were certainly some nutty notes, the whole thing faded away very quickly, leaving just a watery finale. Any hints of whiskey were long gone.
The good news is this was my last tasting before heading over to the 8.00pm Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barley Wine Vertical Tasting. Things could only get better...