Good morning Cal Poly! And in case you don’t read me until later, good afternoon, good evening and good night. I wish I could have been more studious during the three-day weekend. Instead, I spent my Martin Luther King, Jr. Day working hard for you, sampling various beers. Exhausting! But, I did manage to tough it out for you guys and gals. No need to thank me, it’s just what I do.
Last week I promised that I would be leaving my living room to do my next tastings, and, as I cannot tell a lie, I have kept that promise. Wait — that kind of sounds familiar. Probably just déjà vu. Anyway, I did indeed leave my apartment and venture out unto the beer world. I will thus be attempting the first of what some might call a “local brewery profile.” Of course, some people may have a cooler name for it. In fact, these same people may leave said cooler name ideas in the comments section of this beer column at mustangdaily.net. Maybe.
This week’s profile is of a local favorite of mine, called Central Coast Brewing. This slightly recessed micro-brewery is located on Monterey Street, just down the hill from Splash Café. Micro as this brewery may be, its beers pack a macro flavor. It also boasts a great beer-tasting deal: five tastes for five bucks, unless you decide to sample one of the several more expensive beers, which may cost you a dollar or two extra.
Still, while you may not be able to “get your buzz on” with five or six bucks, you will be able to have a great beer experience — or as I like to call it, a great exbeerience. And while you’re there, don’t be afraid to do as I did and ask the brew master, who is often working, about the different beers you are trying and the beer-making process. This can only enhance the exbeerience.
I had the opportunity (time and money) to sample seven of Central Coast Brewing’s beers: Topless Blonde, Golden Glow Pale Ale, Rolling Thunder IPA, Chai Cream Ale, Stenner Creek Stout, Imperial Smoke Porter and the Anniversary Ale. I will share not only my experience with each, but also what I learned from the brew master as I sampled.
The Light Beers
The first beer I tried was the Topless Blonde (4.8 percent ABV). This type of beer is known as blonde ale, which is the same as cream ale and California common. Although it is a very light ale — great for those of you who are typically lager fans — it still provides a nice, creamy flavor and feel that is quite enjoyable and refreshing. This ale contains a high amount of German-style hops, which are traditionally known for being very floral, as well as a little wheat malt.
Beer fact: When talking about malt, one is typically talking about malted barley or other grains. The malting process involves soaking the grain in water, allowing it to germinate, and then quickly drying it to cease this germination. This enhances the sugar production in the grain. While the majority of beers contain various types of grain for flavoring, the base for most beers is the two-row barley because of its sugar content.
I sampled the next two beers side-by-side. These were the Golden Glow Pale Ale (5.8 percent) and the Rolling Thunder IPA (7.5 percent). In my very first column, I mistakenly said that IPA stood for Indian Pale Ale. I had added an extra “n” to the style’s name, which is actually India Pale Ale.
The Golden Glow Pale Ale was mildly bitter and nice and hoppy. It uses the floral-aroma-producing Cascade hops, which also give the beer its mild bitterness. And, of course, it had a rather golden hue. The Rolling Thunder IPA is bitterer and offers an even hoppier aroma and taste. In appearance, it is darker amber and happened to be, on this occasion, a little clearer than the Golden Glow. For an IPA, it was rather smooth — a characteristic that can be contributed to the age of the batch, for IPAs tend to become smoother over time. The Rolling Thunder also uses Cascade hops, but also includes Chinook hops, which are known for their bittering effect.
Next up was the Chai Cream Ale (5.5 percent). “Whoa there,” you might be saying. “What do you mean Chai?” The Chai Cream Ale makers use the same recipe as the Topless Blonde, but add chai instead of hops in what would be the dry-hopping process. As odd as this may sound, it turned out to be a wonderful, creamy combination. This is definitely a beer for those chai lovers out there and is definitely, without a doubt, a healthy way to enjoy a good beer. (These statements have not been approved by the FDA). On a side note, this beer is brewed in partnership with SLO Chai and is, as far as the brew master knows, a unique offering.
The Dark Side
To follow that is the Stenner Creek Stout (4.6 percent). This is quite the interesting experience, as this beer is served on nitrogen, meaning that it is combined with nitrogen while being dispensed. This little addition to the pouring process gives the beer a better feel and adds a slight creaminess. The Stenner Creek Stout also offers the widest array of ingredients out of all the beers at CCB, providing for a complex and very flavorful beer. Included in the ingredients list are oats, which give a heavier feel to the beer. Another effect of the nitrogen is the extra time it takes for the beer to settle after being poured. So while it was the next beer poured, I didn’t actually sample it until after tasting the following beer.
The Imperial Smoke Porter (8.7 percent) is rather self-explanatory. It was a considerably heavy beer that was very smoky, a characteristic gained from the use of the apparently very strong, cherrywood-smoked malt. While quite flavorful, the smokiness may have been a little too prevalent, even for me. If you are looking for a heavy, punch-packing beer with a high ABV, then this is your pick.
My final tasting was of Central Coast Brewing’s Anniversary Ale. At a whopping 12 percent ABV, this beer packed quite a punch. What it offers in alcohol content, it certainly matches in flavor. A relative of the Scotch Ale, one of my favorite CCB brews, this barley wine (a name generally given to beers that have an ABV of around 9.5 percent or above) is another smoky one, but it also offers a bit of sweetness on top of that.
Its complex flavor may be attributed to the fact that it was brewed last February and has been aging since then. As with most anniversary brews, this is a limited release, with only 72 individually numbered and signed bottles. So, if you are a collector, you may want to add this to your list. I would however, go give it a try first, since it is certainly not a beer for everyone.
And the winner is…
As I conclude this review I feel compelled, for whatever reason, to pick a favorite out of all the beers I tried. As much as I so often go with the darker beers, I have to say that my favorite beer this time around was the Chai Cream Ale. This unique combination was deliciously creamy and refreshing.
For those of you who are fans of IPAs and are looking to try theirs, I would wait a week or two until the next fresh batch is ready to be served, that way you can experience the full flavor of the beer.
Also, a few people have left comments on the column at mustangdaily.net requesting certain beer samples. If you have a favorite beer, let me know. I’ll dedicate a column toward the end of the quarter to tasting as many reader-requested beers as I can afford — the key word of that statement being “afford.”
And finally, if you are going to be sampling only the heavier, higher ABV beers at Central Coast Brewing, be sure to remember to keep our roads safe. Bring a friend who prefers the lighter beers, or else make some time to go and chat with the brew master or whoever is serving. I was there for two hours, and time flew by. Don’t let a DUI or, worse yet, an accident ruin an awesome exbeerience.