Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bear Republic Night @ Rubicon

Left to Right: Rich (Ricardo) Norgrove Jr., Glynn Phillips, Rich Norgrove Sr.

This week we celebrated the long-awaited Bear Republic pint night with Rich and Rich Norgrove both in attendance (Jr. coming directly from Yakima Valley for his hops selection of the year). This was the first of what Rubicon's owner, Glynn Phillips, hopes will be a running series of events that celebrate the cooperative spirit of the brewing community, a trend I'd love to see fly around the country. If this doesn't mean much to you, think about it for another minute.

Do you know of any business in your town that specializes in making a great product that would not only carry a competitor's product, but invite the people of the competition in for a night-long celebration and meet-and-greet with said competition's fan base? I don't. Perhaps this is a new wave of brewer collaboration, a move we've seen when brewers will make a batch of beer with their friends in the industry - like Isabella Proximus, Collaboration Not Litigation and the Mikkeler/Stone/Alesmith project. Rubicon is clearly not the ground-breaking company in this regard, either. Stone has been bringing in brewers to their facility for some time. That said, this just isn't something I see everyday.

About the Beers

The samples, eight Bear Republic beers

Bear Republic brought eight beers to Rubicon along with pint glasses and shwag for prizes. Among the beers were three offerings that were new to the PBN crew (who was there in full force): Double Aught, Mach 10, Rebellion. Rounding off the list were Racer 5, Red Rocket, Apex IPA, Big Bear Stout and Pete's Brown.

If you haven't been to the brewery you may not know of Apex, their IPA that is a touch bigger and bolder than Racer 5. The hops were a bit resinous and sticky, but also had a lot of flavor you hope for in an IPA.

Rebellion is a beer I think they were trying to pass off as a Pale Ale, but one sip made it clear this was yet another well-crafted IPA. Using only Simcoe hops the beer was bitter, peppery and featured a slightly oniony aroma. Yeah, it was good.

Double Aught was their twist on the American lager, but came across mostly as a big-bodied pilsner. The hops were bright, spicy and floral and at 4.2% ABV was a beer you could enjoy all day. They didn't it, but I think the name must be a take on the street name for Coors - Double-O. If that is the case, well... that's funny.

Mach 10 was their double IPA of the day. We didn't have time with Norgrove to figure out the difference of intent from this brew and Racer X, but they are clearly different animals. This brew was big in alcohol (8.7%) with a bit more fusel notes than expected. Still, in Bear Republic fashion this brew was full of hop flavors and bitterness.

The rest of the beers are a bit more common, so I won't get into them. If you haven't tried them, you can likely trade for a sample somewhere if they're not sold in your location.

Rich Norgrove Sr.

Before calling it a night, Rich senior was presented with a 3-liter bottle of Rosebud, Rubicon's old-ale that is brewed once a year. The bottle was signed by the entire staff and the presentation proved to be a very classy gesture by Phillips and the gang at Sacramento's oldest brewery.


Did you know that the first six batches of Bear Republic beer were brewed at Sacramento's Rubicon brewery? Yup.

Along those lines. There's been a rumor around Sacramento that Racer 5 was actually Rubicon's IPA. Just to be clear, that is entirely false. It ain't even close. But, to be fair, when the IPA category was introduced in the GABF, Rubicon won the first two gold medals! To this day they are the only brewer to win back-to-back golds in that category.

Also, Norgrove Jr. found his appetite for better beer while he went to school in Sacramento at - you guessed it - Rubicon Brewing. It was great seeing his facial expressions as Rich (Ricardo) retold the stories of his younger days in Sacramento drinking beers that the local legend Phil Moeller made. For those up on your local beer history, you can figure out just how long ago that was.

Extra! Extra!

As mentioned, Norgrove had just returned from his hop selection in Yakima. The news? Things are definitely looking up, but this year looks to be a little tight for American brewers. Sounds like things will be exponentially improved in 2009. Oh, with the declining dollar American hop growers have been selling a whole lot more hops to big European and Asian brewers who have one thing on their mind: Alpha Acids. In case you're interested, many American brewers look for a whole lot more.


The turn-out for Rubicon's pint night was outstanding! Thanks to all of you who made the event a success.