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Brewery Review
North Coast Brewing Introduces New Brands and Celebrates 20th Anniversary
“Life is short. Seize the day.”

That’s the motto of North Coast Brewing Company (NCBC) in Fort Bragg, Calif., and that’s exactly what the brewery is doing when it comes to production of its beers and the development of its newest ones: Old Stock Cellar Reserve, Le Merle Belgian-Style Saison, Brother Thelonious Belgian-Style Abbey Ale and Cru d’Or, an organic Belgian-style dubbel ale.

“We have a great reputation amongst consumers for producing great beers, and we want to take advantage of that,” says President and Brewmaster Mark Ruedrich, referring to the brewery’s expanding barrel-aging program and what is called their Ultra-Premium and American Artisanal Series. The Old Stock Cellar Reserve (only 600 cases made), the newest of the American Artisanal Series, was released in November. It is sold only at the North Coast Brewing retail store, at the Brewery Tap Room & Grill across the street in Fort Bragg, and by mail order in California.There are two variations of this 14.7% abv beer, one aged in bourbon barrels and one in brandy barrels, imparting their respective qualities and nuances.

“Developing new brands is fun and challenging. We’re all beer lovers, too.”

“Another part of the impetus in developing new brands is that it’s fun for the brewers,” says Ruedrich, adding, “It’s fun and challenging. We’re all beer lovers, too. We’ve been students of beer since the late ’70s.” This year marks the 20th anniversary of NCBC.

On the Belgian-style front, Le Merle Saison, the second in the American Artisanal Series, was an outgrowth of a special limited-edition beer brewed for Whole Foods called Silver Jubilee, celebrating Whole Foods’s 25th anniversary. The beer was so well-received that North Coast has continued it under the new label of Le Merle, which is French for blackbird.

The name is also a tribute to Merle, Ruedrich’s wife, who is retiring after many years of working at the company. Among her numerous responsibilities at North Coast for more than 20 years, she is perhaps best known for managing the Brewery Tap Room & Grill for much of that time. Le Merle is a Belgian farmhouse-style blond ale; it’s dry and peppery, with a touch of sweetness and an abv of 7.3%. The blackbird on the label was painted by artist Paulo Ferreira of Colored Horse Studios in Ukiah, Calif.

According to Ruedrich, Brother Thelonious Belgian-Style Abbey Ale (9.3% abv), the first release of the American Artisanal Series, was a result of “wanting to brew a strong, dark ale that would rival Old Rasputin.” The name came out of some brainstorming sessions at the brewery, with the play on words of the Belgian reference to “monk” and, of course, the formal surname of “Monk.” That, combined with Ruedrich’s and Senior Vice President and National Sales Manager Doug Moody’s love of jazz music, created the name.

Moody had the idea of contacting the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. After some talks, a relationship and a partnership were formed: North Coast supports the Institute’s educational efforts by making a contribution for each case of Brother Thelonious sold. Moody is also the host of his own weekly radio jazz show in Fort Bragg, called “Moody’s Moods,” heard on KFMB-FM, Mondays, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Artist Eduardo Smissen of Elk, Calif., created the colorful and thought-provoking Brother Thelonious label.

Yet another Belgian style from NCBC is the organic Cru d’Or (8% abv), a dark-colored Belgian dubbel that is malty with sweet overtones. It is made for and sold at Whole Foods.

NCBC’s delicious Belgian-style golden ale, Pranqster, formerly available only in a 12-ounce bottle, will soon be available in a 750-ml bottle with a corked finish, which will give this memorable ale a deserved makeover and a stronger presence on the retail shelf.

In other NCBC news, 2008 will mark the third year that the brewery will be partners with the Monterey Jazz Festival and provide the official and exclusive beer at the longest continually running jazz festival in the world.




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