Home > Beer Talk, Beers > Monticello Restaurant Beer Dream Team (Part Two – The First Bottles)

Monticello Restaurant Beer Dream Team (Part Two – The First Bottles)

The Seven Dwarves

So finally, after what seems like months of planning, discussion and some intensive research(!), we have our first beer selection coming to the restaurant tomorrow! I have ordered the first small batch of bottled beers, seven in all. As with so many things, it’s best to start small and simple, and so I cut down my original 30-strong dream beers to just these seven.

Kaitlin and Kelsey show off the beer at Monticello

Now you may notice that this list is heavy on the North Coast Brewery, and there is a very good reason for that. It seems to me that North Coast can almost do no wrong – I discovered this when I stumbled across their restaurant in Fort Bragg and worked my way through their sample flight. Simply put, they were all excellent, and some were, frankly divine, and I have to say that having them as the backbone of the bottled beer selection pleases me very much indeed.

We decided to start with a small selection that covers most of the beer types, all in 12-ounce bottles, all well known names, and all good examples of their type. Inevitably, there are things I’ve had to drop during the selection process; there is no hefeweissen, no American lager and no imports. Neither are there any of the really “big” beers yet – as time goes on we will be adding to this list to expand choice both for food pairing and sheer beer enjoyment.

So without further messing about, here are the seven on the shortlist:

Pilsner Style – North Coast Brewing, Scrimshaw

This is a pretty pale gold with a nice billowy head, which stands for quite a while. There was for me only a little lacing, but other than that it’s a faultless-looking brew.

First impressions for me were of fresh hay – grassy and a little floral, with a faint earthiness and some citrus. There’s some grain in the nose as well, not toasty, more like fresh French bread.

The earthiness turns out to be in the hop flavour as well, which follows up with a pleasant tangy bitterness. Now the maltiness kicks in a little more, with a nice dry finish in perfect balance with the nose.

It’s a light and pleasant drink, refreshing and easy to drink. It works equally well with most white fish and pale meats, and pairs easily with spicier foods, and best of all, at 4.4% ABV you can enjoy a couple in the evening.

Pale Ale – Anderson Valley Brewery, Poleeko Gold

A terrific pale from Anderson Valley, it looks great at the pour, with a fine head and pale gold, not quite clear, but with a haze reminiscent of the old cask-served beers of my youth.

The nose is citrus and floral, with a faint toasted aroma. Tasting proves this to be a true pale ale – it’s smooth and well-bodied, a little yeasty and with a light maltiness – think Rich Tea biscuits and you’ll have it. It’s delightfully fresh and is likely to be a good food pairing beer for everything except the darkest meats and richest sauces, and a very pleasant drink on its own.

Unlike many pale ales, though, this one really needs to be drunk whilst cold – maybe that’s part of the West Coast heritage, but I doubt that anyone will be nursing it long enough for that to be a problem.

Have a couple with rustic cheeses, pasta and chicken dishes. With 5.5% alcohol you can enjoy one, and one more.

Amber Ale – North Coast Brewing, Ruedrich’s Red Seal Ale

Red Seal was the first American draught beer that reminded me of the dark English bitter ales that were a favourite session beer back in the days before I came to live in the US.

It’s a dark amber brew with a firm creamy head, a veritable bouquet of fruity hop, toasty sweet malt and the very faintest hint of woodland.

The flavours are unsurprisingly hoppy, also toasted malty and a little fruity – almost like fresh dark currants. It’s a full-bodied beer, with a lot of malt, but as you’d expect from my description earlier, a good deal of hop. There’s a bitterness that follows the sweetness, ending with a dry finish and a touch of spicy citrus.

It’s an ideal pairing for most meats and stronger cheeses. Give me an English pub meal of ploughman’s lunch or a Cornish pasty, and this would be a great match, and at 5.5% it makes a good lunchtime or dinner beer.

Belgian-style Pale Ale – North Coast Brewing, Pranqster

As with any good Beligian-style brew, this is a lively-looking coppery beer with a good head and quite active carbonation. First impressions are of yeast and malt, and an aroma that is almost caramel – a little lush. There’s a hint of country air as well, that is not unpleasant, but somewhat surprising at first.

Tasting is even better than the nose – it’s surprisingly full-bodied, with a fruity, spicy flavour that complements the caramel of the malts. Pranqster is a more complex beer than most, and one that deserves to be savoured – taste this as though it were a fine wine, or (according to the BeerAdvocate magazine) with salmon or stronger meats.

Beware though – this is not a session beer. At 7.6% ABV you may not want more than a couple.

India Pale Ale – Green Flash Brewing, West Coast IPA

A top beer from a great brewery, this is a great strong and fruity ale that’s full in every way – it’s not a run-of-the-mill “pale” at all, being dark amber to copper and with a good pillowy head that stays for a long time. My first was a little cloudy – I keep meaning to check to see if this is bottle-conditioned, as it’s definitely yeastier than most.

The nose is pungent, spicy and herbal, with notes of pine forest and pummelo. You know this is going to be a big beer, and indeed it is.

Tasting it is equally delightful (unusually for me, as I am not a hop-head). It has a good body with light tingly carbonation and yet it maintains the crispness you’d expect from a good IPA. Heavy on the fruit, lots of citrus, apple and herb, light maltiness with just enough sweetness for my taste, but that’s followed by a whopping mouthful of hop.

It’s not bitter though, despite a little astringency, but it’s bitter enough. The finish is clean and remarkably fresh, which is great for such a big beer. with an ABV of 7.3. this will be great with any strong food from good sharp cheese, spicy foods and stronger-tasting meats.

Stout Ale – North Coast Brewing, Old #38

This is an Irish stout style, but is unlike the Guinness that most people think of as the “only” or “best”. In the glass it is black with a good tan head, and the aroma as you lift the glass is slightly burnt toast and malt, with some espresso for good measure.

Tasting it shows up the slightly dry nature, with a little bitterness in a good body. It’s a quality drink, not sweet but definitely malty, and smooth, as a stout should be. The finish is somewhat dry, and “more-ish”, so it is just as well that the alcohol is low, at 5.6%.

Porter – Flying Dog Brewery, Road Dog Porter

It seems hard for American brewers to make a bad porter, and here’s a good example of the style that I always thought of as quintessentially  English.

The first six brews

As you’d expect, it’s a rich dark ale with a great cream-coloured head. The nose is toast and caramel and a little mocha – this is not a hop-head’s brew.

Drink it, and that dark, rich sweet malt just fills you up – it’s not as full-bodied as many porters, but it is toffee-chewy, and there’s a hint of hoppiness that compensates the sweetness.

At 6% alcohol, it’s less punchy than Imperial stouts, but nonetheless packs a surprising kick, but is a good balance for grilled or smoked strong meats. I’d like to try it with chocolate, because it’s sweet enough to cope. If someone will bring me a Black Forest Gateau, I’ll sample it with this porter. For science, you understand.


† This was not actually my first choice of pale ale – that was Flying Dog’s “Doggy Style”. I erred on the side of waiting for a managerial decision before ordering that.

  1. 30 January, 2011 at 00:09

    As it happens, the distributor was unable to supply the Poleeko Gold, which means that the search is on for another Pale Ale…

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