“Beer in wine country”. Talking about it is beyond passé now. But me, I’m giving thanks and praise that even beyond Russian River Brewing, Lagunitas, Moylan’s, Bear Republic and the whole NoCal crew there are still new brewers from Sonoma county peeking above their kettles and throwing their proverbial mugs into the ring. I recently procured bottles from two of the newest, HENHOUSE BREWING and DIVINE BREWING, and goshdarn if I wasn’t as pleased as punch with the results. To wit:
HENHOUSE BREWING – “SAISON”: My pal Chris surreptitiously brought down this bottle and their oyster stout from Petaluma and presented them to me, cloak-and-dagger, in front of the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco. He and I both agree that the oyster stout’s a little on the mushy middling side, but that this SAISON is pretty rock and rolling. It pours with a big, big head of fresh, frothy foam that forces the drinker to wait for it to settle before digging in. Classically yeasty and peppery and shining brightly with a clear yellow opacity, it’s a dry, thin-bodied Belgian copycat with a touch of sweetness in the finish. A very pleasant beer from an upstart with some great labels and tons of what they call “upside”. 7.5/10.
DIVINE BREWING – “TEUFELWEIZEN”: Finding any backstory on this small start-up was a bit difficult, but this article explains the Divine Brewing story very well, and they’ve instantly rocketed up the charts of my heart with this amazing weizenbock-style beer called “TEUFELWEIZEN”. Wow. It’s a malty, cinnamon-and-spiced dark ale that is not from Sonoma Spring Brewing (another upstart!), - it was just brewed there. A big, big smell and another blast o’ foam greets you at the gate, and then once you’re in, Teufelweizen has an incredible taste of black currant and a dull sweetness, along with multiple tongue-coating properties that ensure these delicious flavors linger. I bought it wholly on a “buy local, let’s see what this is” whim, and now I’m going to go out and buy more. 8.5/10.