Written by Mike Sober
There seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life that I wish I would do away with once and for all. And that would be the annoying propensity to categorize, stereotype or just simply misjudge, mislabel or ignore certain breweries or beer destinations despite the obvious stupidity of ever entertaining such an idea in the first place. I seemingly do this despite several episodes that should have utterly slapped this occasional annoying habit clear of my conscience forever. And hopefully E. J. Phair in Concord California has once and for all driven this point home and accomplished this feat during my visits this past weekend.
EJ Phair is located in old town Concord California a couple three miles East of Highway 680. I travel the Highway regularly throughout the year to my youngest son’s house but have never bothered to stop mainly due to the presence of Hop Yard Ale House in nearby San Ramon. Hop Yard features their own Hop Town brews from their facility in Pleasanton as well as a couple dozen revolving quest taps of fine West Coast craft brews.
My wife and I decided that our latest trip from Roseville was going to take us straight to Concord for a visit to EJ Phair, figuring that even if we didn’t find any beers hoppy enough to satisfy our hophead cravings we could always stop off at Hop Yard for a Pint of Pliny the Elder.
I have to admit I hedged my bet a little right before we left town and did a quick check of EJP’s website. I was happy to see that their were two IPA’s listed under the heading of “E.J. Phair Brews”, including an entry in this years single hop IPA competition called “Johnny Bravo”. What really took my breath away was the “Guest Brews” which included Green Flash ‘West Coast IPA’, Bombay by Boat IPA from Moonlight Brewing, Bear Republic’s Racer 5, Drakes I.P.A. and Pliny the Elder from Russian River.
Despite of love of the hops I decided to forgo jumping straight into the India Pale Ale and went with some tasters of their American Wheat, Pale Ale, Pilsner and English style IPA. My son Zack joined me in trying the samples and we both agreed that all four were solid representations of the styles, very refreshing and worthy beverages.
By that time I was anxious to try some of the ‘Johnny Bravo’ which was EJP’s entry into Drake’s Brewing annual single Hop duplicate festival. As soon as I ordered a pint our friendly and efficient Beer Wench reminded us that there was also a beer available that wasn’t listed on the board. A new IPA (could there really be another IPA here?) called “Hop on Board”. Naturally we also requested a pint and went to tasting the two seasonal head to head. The Bravo IPA was a solid and drinkable beer with a lot of grapefruit and piney notes but a less than stellar mouth feel that was unfairly matched against the greatness of the HOB. The HOB was light in color, huge on aroma and a pure joy to behold.
Despite the presence of Racer 5 and arguably my favorite beer of all time Russian Rivers ‘Pliny the Elder’, I stuck with the HOB for the rest of my evening; and of course filled up a growler to take home as well.
We also had dinner that evening and the food was almost as good as the beer selection. I highly recommend PJ Phair’s as a great beer destination. Whether you’re a hop head or not….. don’t wait as long to stop in as we did…. you will not be disappointed.
E.J.Phair Brewing Company
2151 Salvio Street
Concord, CA 94520