2005 | REGIONAL | WEST COAST
A Tasting Of Holiday Beers XVI : Pacific Coast Puts
On A Grand Winter Event
By Mike Pitsker
Saturday, December 11, was a fine, crisp early winter’s
day in downtown Oakland, with cold, clear blue skies and a
tang of bay salt in the air. By 11:30 a.m., a line had formed
outside the brewpub, all anxious ticket holders for Pacific
Coast Brewing Company’s annual Holiday
Beer Tasting. Now in its 16th year, this event packs ’em
in; tickets sold out the week before, and there wasn’t
an empty seat in the house.
I sat at the bar with a few fellow beer nuts who contributed
their input as we sampled 14 winter brews, mostly from California
and a couple from other Western states, even a pair from Belgium.
Food served with each round was well chosen for flavor complement
and contrast. The price of $35 per ticket was well worth it
for four hours of brewed fun and culinary entertainment.
Owner/brewer Don Gortemiller and partner Steve Wolff ran
the ceremony, deftly timing each round with the offerings
from the kitchen and sending servers and our bartender, Tony
Patterson, scurrying with pitchers and platters to keep up.
Each sample came properly poured so that all aspects of the
tasting experience were available; the sights, smells and
flavors became a series of wonders we all relished. Snatches
of conversations overheard indicated we had an educated group,
and I found some of the descriptions enlightening. It’s
just plain fun to sit with a crew of like-minded people enjoying
a common passion.
The first samples we tasted were spiced ales, including HopTown’s
nitro-infused Vanilla Cream Porter, Anchor’s famous
Christmas ale and Pacific Coast Paul’s Dirty Scarecrow,
a high-octane pumpkin ale brewed for the occasion by Pacific
Coast bartender Paul Wichelman. Hoppy beers followed. Sierra
Nevada’s annual Celebration scored its usual high marks,
but Drake’s Jolly Roger Ale, a double IPA, received
many votes for best of show. The Belgian and Belgian-style
beers followed, with Pacific Coast’s own Holiday Trappist
Ale, St. Feuillien Cuvée de Noël and Huyghe Delirium
Noël. All three were fine specimens of the style. Strong
ale was next, with Sudwerk Doppel Bock and Deschutes Jubelale.
Finally, we tasted barley wines. El Toro’s Yo was poured
first, followed by Uinta of Utah’s X Anniversary Ale,
Rubicon Blonde Bombshell Barleywine and North Coast Old Stock
Ale. The barley wine category seemed to have the greatest
disparity, in the judges’ estimations; the scores were
all over the board, illustrating just how difficult it is
to brew — and taste — that style.
Throughout the sampling, Don and Steve wandered through the
crowd, making points about style and flavor, assisting those
who needed coaching, and helping all enjoy the event. Don
has an especially educated palate, and I would include him
in any group of expert tasters. Throughout the afternoon of
sampling brew and fine food, Don and Steve’s crew made
everyone feel welcome, as if we were all in a very large living
room enjoying each other’s company over a pint. Bravo
to the staff of Pacific Coast Brewing Company!
The final tallies are posted on Pacific Coast’s website
and I invite you to visit the brewpub in downtown Oakland
and sample the house-brewed beers.
Pacific Coast Brewing Co.
906 Washington St.
Oakland, CA 94607
Mike Pitsker is an associate editor of the
Celebrator Beer News and a longtime beer industry professional.