North Coast Brewing Company
They start simply and move on to the complex.
The nose is a little more earthy than the average pilsner. Very clean & crisp. I even got a momentary impression from mouthfeel that I was drinking a soda. Not highly flavorful but a very nice session beer, a quaffing beer.
Rich malt with caramel notes and earthy hops, maybe floral, and a sweetness to it. Nice yeasty finish. Very nice mouthfeel with a certain foaminess that works very well, especially with food. At home I had this with General Tso’s Chicken, so a sweet and spicy sauce that was neatly tamed and accented by the ale.
Grigory Efimovich Rasputin, peasant, healer, possible lover of the Tsarina of Russia . . . and one tough hombre. Poisoned by a prince and a grand duke, he didn’t die. Shot three times in liver, kidney, and brain, he didn’t die. Finally they threw him through a hole in the ice to drown. After all of that, don’t expect this stout to be faint-hearted! It pours with a thick, light brown head, moderately persistent. It delivers chocolate and coffee on nose & palette. This is like iced coffee with no milk, but also with a dry stout character of roasted barley. It has the bitterness of coffee rather than the bitterness of hops, but the latter is what gives it that dry element. There’s a very round and rich mouthfeel, leading to a long roasty finish with just a hint of tobacco. Vashe zrodovye, “to your health,” and may you be as hardy as Rasputin!
As you can see, this is *very* dark for something called “Belgian Style,” this is the uncommon Belgian “Dark Strong Ale.” The nose delivers Belgian yeasty goodness but with a hint of sourness. It’s complex on the palette, with a sort of meatiness overlying the malt, some hints of chocolate, but like molè and not sweet. The sourness lurks around like an echo of a Berliner Weiss, but then there are hints of wood smoke and perhaps leather. That hint of chocolate lingers on the finish, alternating with malt. This is a Belgian style with an edge, appropriate for an ale named after Thelonious Monk and “supporting jazz education” as it says on the label. I had the privilege of hearing Monk play at Carnegie Hall, and the man’s music was complex and meaty with an edge. It’s a good match of man, music, and ale.
Clearly there are some very creative folks brewing in Fort Bragg, on California’s Mendocino Coast. I look forward to trying more of their products!