Happy FW Invitational Day – STiVO

Could this be a pilsner whale? Well, if STiVO Keller Pils a collaborative beer from Russian River owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo and Firestone Walker’s Brewmaster Matt Brynildson isn’t, then I can’t imagine what could be.
STiVO Keller Pils was brewed for this year’s Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest on June 4. Perusing the list that Firestone Walker made public, it is one of many pilsners that will be offered which is fantastic considering that it might be another hot day.

According to Brynildson, the STiVO recipes were already pretty close, “Our water philosophies and malt profiles were already essentially the same, and our yeast strains were pretty similar, so it really came down to how we wanted to handle the hops, and the overall weight of the beer we wanted to make.”

The beer will be hop split between Pivo’s German Saphir hops and STS’s Alsatian Aramis hops. Plus it “was racked to kegs unfiltered and will be presented in the classic keller style, naturally carbonated and slightly hazy.”

Up From the Cellar – Supplication from Russian River Brewing


I finally broke down and brought up a Russian River beer, Supplication.  Which the brewery website describes as a “Brown Ale aged in used Pinot Noir barrels from local Sonoma County wineries. It is aged for about 12 months with sour cherries, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus added to each barrel. Flavors from the cherries, Pinot Noir and oak balance each other nicely with a little funk from the brett.”

This beer has a 100% rating on Ratebeer.  So it must be good.  Here is my thumbnail review from 2010, “All I can say is TART. A great sipper filled with cherries in every sip. Only downside to me is that it really dries out the tongue. Had to have water handy to re-hydrate.”


The aroma of this beer is big. Kombucha style tartness just fills the nasal passages. This is, for sure, not a gateway sour. There is a bit of pie cherry in the nose but it is second fiddle to the sour.

There is a bit of Sweet Tart powdery sour notes in the first sip. Cherry is there as well. But there is something in the nose that just tastes off. Too vinegary at this point. If you search past the sour, there is a tiny bit of tannic flavor and a smidge of oak. But you gotta hunt that down.


The Verdict? I think this one passed prime and is sliding inexorably downward. The various bugs have gone too far with this particular bottle. Adding one off flavor that upsets the balance.

Up From the Cellar – Brux Domesticated Wild Ale from Russian River & Sierra Nevada


Refermented in the bottle with Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Brux will change and develop over time. Copper-colored, dry and complex, with slightly tart notes of green grass, pear, spice and lemon – this ale will progress in the bottle for many years.

That is part of the brewery description of the domesticated wild ale collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Russian River.


Back in July of 2012, I had these superlatives for the beer when I sampled it at the Surly Goat: “This is one tremendous beer. Pours a slightly hazy yellow. Barnyard funk greets the nose but does not overwhelm. The taste is sprightly with some funk and sour melding together. Some fruit notes tag along for the ride as well.”

But what do I think now that is has aged a bit.  Can it possibly get better?

Short answer.  No.  Not that the orange color that replaced the hazy yellow is an issue.  Nor is their a diminishment of barnyard funk.  What has changed and not for the better in my view is that last bit of fruit has faded off into the sunset and for sunrise there is a bit of a band-aid note at the back end that is a bit gacky on the palate.  And by gacky, I mean a flavor that erases the goodwill that came before and replaces it with a slightly rubber taste.  There is a nice tartness here though and the first 85% of the beer is fine even though it doesn’t reach the heights of 2012.

The Verdict?  Maybe this beer was in a trough.  Some beers go through phases (like a teenager) where they are unlikeable.  Would another year make this better? Or improve where it is?  Won’t know now but that is the fun of experimenting with beer aging.  The unknown.




Review – Yvan the Great from Russian River & Sierra Nevada

The penultimate beer from the Variety Box – Beer Camp Across America.  There is but one lonely can remaining.  For this beer Sierra Nevada brewed with the infamous Russian River to produce Yvan the Great.  Named in honor of Yvan de Baets the famed Belgian brewer this is a hoppified version of a Belgian Blonde.  Something that Russian River does very, very well.


This is a blonde for sure!  This pours an extremely light and extremely clear yellow.  I can see very clearly through it.  I was expecting more hops in the aroma but I am not picking them up.  This drinks Belgian all the way.  Lots of spice.  Clove in the forefront.  I’m getting a ton of vanilla as well.  Ice cream vanilla to be more exact.  No head or lace at all here and not much in the way of bubbles either though it is crisp on the palate.  Towards the back there is a subtle note of orange but you have to reach for it.

I like it but I don’t know if this is what was envisioned if the label copy is to be truly believed.


Other side of the river

Facebook can often be an echo chamber of noise and quizzes to determine which dwarf from Snow White you would be (Dopey).  But you often run across gems that don’t seem to get talked up as much.  And I found one from the Bullseye Brewco website regarding Russian River. Two NEW beers under a side label. Ones that people will struggle to spell.

Amasa a blonde with Brett and Dauenhauer a hoppy pale with Brett added.

photo from Bullseyebrewco website
photo from Bullseyebrewco website

Hopefully these two will stay in Sonoma.  I am a big fan of purely local beers.  Make the people come to you so they can see the great things in your neck of the woods.  I will certainly look for these next time that I venture north.

You can check out the Sonoma Pride website but the link above has better info than you will find there.

Bay Area Craft Beer for Thanksgiving

Instead of sitting down with a bunch of folks around a turkey and a jiggly plate of canned cranberry, I set sail with beer pilot Rich north to Santa Rosa and beery points around it.

I will be writing about it with a critical eye over on Food GPS later this month (so my thoughts can gather like swallows heading to Capistrano).  But first, some of the beers that I encountered on menus…..


BarrelWorks in Buellton


Stumptown in Guernville


Bear Republic in Healdsburg


Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco


Russian River in Santa Rosa

Beachwood + Pliny (yes, the Younger)

Readers of this blog know that I firmly, staunchly and unabashedly cannot stand the hype around Pliny the Younger. Granted, it is a really good beer. But I can usually find Blind Pig or the Elder and I don’t have to fight a frenzied crowd and I can get a full pour.

That is why I love the way Beachwood handles it. Raffle the tickets off. Donate to charity and people who win can get a peaceful experience of the beer when they want to. This is the way to do it.
2ndAnnualPlinytheYounger copy

Beachwood + Pliny the Younger

Now I am not a big fan of the over-hype of Russian River’s Pliny the Younger. I have railed about it before HERE. But I like the tack that Beachwood BBQ has taken with it. I would even go so far as to charge more for each raffle ticket.

Here is all the info you need: PlinytheYoungerV5 copy but suffice it to say, I much prefer a laid back atmosphere to enjoy any beer. Some people get a rush from the crowds but not I. So plan ahead to go to Beachwood sometime between the 17th of January and the 20th of February to get your chance to win a taste in peace (or at least donate to charity).

P to the T and the Y

For those who love the elusive Pliny the Younger, here are the details according to Russian River …..

We are releasing Younger at our pub in Santa Rosa on February 4th. When the pub receives it’s allocation, those kegs will be allocated to last for exactly 2 weeks. Therefore, we may run out at the pub each day, but will have more the following day for 2 weeks. It will be available in 10 oz. glasses only- no growlers or bottles to go. This will allow more beer enthusiasts like you, as well as our regular customers, to enjoy some Younger this year! And we won’t see it on Ebay!

Following are the markets to which we will send Younger (same as last year):

San Francisco
East Bay
North Bay
Southern California
Seattle, WA
Portland, OR
Philadelphia, PA

I will celebrate the start of PTY season with a nice Blind Pig a great IPA that I don’t have to fight through a crowd to get.

East meets West meets Italy

“This may well be the craziest and amazing brewery in the world” – Leonardo Di Vincenzo, Brewmaster, Birra del Borgo

Truer words may never have been spoken. Four breweries collaborating on one project! Two Italian craft brewers – Teo Musso, Brewmaster of Birrificio Le Baladan and Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra del Borgo, and two Italian-American craft brewers – Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Vinnie Cilurzo of the Russian River Brewing.

The first beer will be an English Mild with a dash of chestnut.