First stop on Wine Food Explorer’s road trip to California’s multiple medal winners at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival
By Hudson Lindenberger
Over the next several months we will be visiting the nine California breweries that won multiple medals in this year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF), the preeminent beer competition in America. The festival, held annually in Denver, saw 732 breweries compete in 2013; a total of 4,809 beers were judged in 84 different style categories. California came in first with 52 medals – six more than second place Colorado. Nine breweries and brewpubs won 50 percent of those medals. Like Dorothy and Toto in OZ, lets begin the search for award-winning golden goodness.
Five bucks for a juicy brat and a pint of sweet suds is quite a delectable duo. Every Tuesday, Third Street Aleworks offers this tasty special along with an assortment of award winning beers. Situated in the heart of Sonoma County in the town of Santa Rosa, the brewpub recently brought home Gold and Bronze from the GABF. With 15 tap lines to choose from, you feel like a kid getting ready to visit Santa – what to ask for?
Sonoma County is home to more than 18 brewpubs and breweries and the number is growing. Russian River Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing and Bear Republic Brewing are a few of Third Street’s more noticeable neighbors, but, like George Clooney during award season, the accolades keep arriving on their doorstep. The brewpub recently brought home the largest haul of hardware in Sonoma County from the GABF, besting their neighbors. Their Blarney Sisters Dry Irish Stout has hauled in an impressive six medals from GABF and four medals from the World Beer Cup since 2002.
Sited steps away from the perennially packed Russian River Brewing tasting room, Aleworks head brewer, Randy Gremp, knows his lineup of offerings must shine brightly to attract the roving hopheads. His secret is to “use the freshest ingredients and to never stop tinkering with new styles.” They currently are pouring a Vanilla Chocolate Porter for the holiday season. Many first time visitors become regulars after abandoning the hour-long lines at Russian River, drawn to the large decks and aroma of burgers and beers at the Alehouse. According to Gremp, “Customers are referred to the us from the bartenders at Russian River all the time as a place to get a great beer and relax.”
The 18-year-old brewpub greets you with a large chalkboard loaded with abundant liquid gold – numerous styles are available. They specialize in “Anglo-Celtic” ales and assertive West Coast IPAs. Two taps are devoted to classic cask conditioned ales and usually several local ciders are on tap if you need a break from beer. The Bodega Head IPA, the perennial crowd favorite, is a hop-heavy fiend brewed with old school cascade hops. At 7.1 percent, sip slowly and savor. Their Bombay Rouge IPA brought home bronze this year from the GABF and is something you do not see very often, a red IPA. The beer is a combination of malty goodness and a unique hop hit that makes for one exceptional experience. Besides these beers you are sure to find an impressive assortment of Porters, Bitters, Ales, Darks and the occasional Barley Wine to name a few.
They expanded operations last year and have been offering their beers in 22-ounce bombers throughout Northern California since 2010. In addition to brewing all their beers on tap in house, Third Street also offers a full pub menu loaded with food designed to pair well with their beer. Their half-pound burgers are all natural Golden Gate Angus Beef and loaded with enough toppings to ensure a mild food coma. Their pizzas are a crowd favorite according to their Yelp reviews and as for the scrumptious sausages they offer up every day, they are fresh made local. The spacious dining room and bustling bar beckon you to slow down and enjoy the moment.
You can visit them at 610 Third Street in downtown Santa Rosa or visit their website at http://www.thirdstreetaleworks.com
Featured Image: Pictured left to right: Todd Hedrick, owner and founder; Randy Gremp, head brewer and Tyler Laverty, assistant brewer. Photo courtesy of Third Street Aleworks.