I recently returned from my road trip to San Francisco and while the primary purpose of my vacation was to (finally) marry my handsome and charming boyfriend, as any self-respecting beer geek would do I also planned to fit in lots of brewery visits and craft beer sampling along the way.
California is one of those states blessed with a disproportionate number of amazing breweries and, more importantly, it is the home of my all-time favourite brewery Russian River Brewing Company located in the historic town of Santa Rosa (also the birthplace of Charles Schultz). To me, getting the chance to visit Russian River was akin to some sort of pilgrimage and needless to say my expectations were sky-high. I even wrote an open love letter to the brewery but alas they never responded.
For anyone who may have been living under a rock, in a cave, on a deserted island, Russian River Brewing Company creates some of the most memorable belgian beers (read barrel-aged sours) and IPA’s in the world. Beer for beer, Pliny the Elder, Supplication and Temptation may just form the triumvirate of just how good beer can get. The time and craft that goes into creating these beers painted a picture (in my mind) of the type of tap room and brewery that produces such wondrous libations.
So did the real live Russian River retain its’ cherished place on the pedestal when I visited? Well, no.
Granted I did visit the pub on Cinqo de Mayo, but it felt kind of like visiting Boston Pizza loud, busy, full of pretty drunk patrons, lots of crazy crap on the walls, given a blinking coaster to signal an available table. Now to be clear I am not a complete fossil who wants to sip and spit from champagne flutes whilst I sit in a cellar full of oak barrels BUT I did kind of expect an environment where people paid more attention to the beer that was served up in their pints. The wait staff did not seem keen to chat beer and while they served up flights with great presentation you were kind of left to do your own thing. At the very least I expected our server to follow-up on this massive flight to see what we liked or did not like.
Concerned that the boisterous college crowd may have coloured my first perception we returned the next day in the morning to pick up some bottles. Oddly enough it was already full of early morning drinkers and once again getting beer from the bartender was more of a chore than any sort of interaction i.e. most staff just walk by you while you try to get someone’s attention.
I am not really sure what I expected but somehow I expected more.