During our recent NorCal jaunt, The Commander, Mashtun Copperpot and I decided to ignore all of the winely goodness surrounding us and dedicated the weekend entirely to the mass consumption of barley and hops. As noted earlier, Northern California is a hotbed of ale innovation and some of the best brewers in these United States reside in the region. While we knew our final destination would be the legendary Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, we still had a number of small towns to drive through before reaching our goal. Fortunately, those “other” towns have some pretty solid ale factories in their own right.
I got a call from the Commander early on a Friday morning. He had landed in San Francisco only to discover that his half-baked brother’s fully-baked girlfriend had neglected to leave him house keys to access her apartment. We didn’t actually “need” the house keys…we just needed to get into the apartment so we could snag the Commander’s brother’s car keys. Otherwise, the 50 mile walk to Santa Rosa would have been a bear. Since the Commander and I are shockingly adept at breaking and entering, we sallied forth to the apartment anyway despite the warning from the brother’s girlfriend that the fence was “really high”. We assumed the phrase “really high” from a San Francisco denizen was somewhat meaningless…until we were faced with quite possibly the tallest fence in the entire Northern California region. 12-feet high and topped with rusty nails. Awesome.
Not to be deterred, we found a small side alley with stairs that cut the height of the fence in half. The Commander scurried to the top of the fence like the chipmunk he is and landed safely on the grass…before quickly realizing he was in the neighbor’s yard. He corrected his miscalculation, opened the fence gate from the other side, and after some missteps in discovering the correct set of keys, we were finally on our way. I should note that Mashtun had arrived separately at our first brewery stop well before our adventure began. Of course, he was systematically texting us pictures of the beers he was consuming while we were climbing fences, giving treats to guard dogs, and navigating the streets of San Fran with a woefully out-of-date Garmin. Needless to say, we were ready to murder Lord Copperpot as soon as we finally made it to our first stop.
And what was the ale factory at which Mashtun was sipping whilst The Commander and I struggled? None other than Moylan’s in Novato, California. Home to one of Brother Barleys’ favorite brews, the Hopsickle Triple IPA*, Moylan’s is a worthy early stop for any wine or beer tourist making their way to Sonoma or Napa County.
*The Hopsickle was actually the first tasting note ever posted on Aleheads. I gave it 3.5 Hops at the time since it seemed unwise to give a perfect 4 Hops rating to the very first beer I ever reviewed. If I were writing it up today, I’d give it 4 Hops without question. But we never look back here at Aleheads and so the Hopsickle will be underrated at 3.5 Hops for all eternity. Such is life in the blogosphere.
The Moylan’s Brewpub is a lovely place to while away an afternoon. It has the ambiance of a low-key sports bar…fairly large, well-lit, lots of TVs, and a nice, long bar along the front wall. We had lunch there and the food was better than average brewpub fare though not up to the standards of the modern day “gastropub” you can find dotting the landscape in many cities these days. The focus was on the beer…and rightly so.
Moylan’s makes a variety of beer styles…from the sublime to the workmanlike. I started with the latter…a nitro-poured ESB that was solidly drinkable if not particularly impressive. Refreshing, light, with an excellent creamy body and thick, everlasting head, the ESB had just the barest hint of citric hop bitterness on top of a mild base of biscuity, bready malt. It’s the perfect beer to drink after a long day of work in the sun (or a long day of hopping 12-foot fences). I followed that up with the Chelsea Moylan’s Porter, a well-roasted, chocolatey dark beer with a gorgeous fluffy head, epic lacing, and a nice, clean finish. The Commander and Mashtun each downed a Hopsickle with some pints of Kilt Lifter and Dragoon’s Dry Irish Stout in the mix as well. We also all split a bomber of Moylander Double IPA (not on tap for some reason, but Mashtun managed to wrangle a bottle from the bartender who noted that it was literally bottled moments before he passed it along to us). The Moylander doesn’t have the brutally delicious bitterness of the Hopsickle, but it’s a brilliant beer in its own right. Massive pine resin flavors balance perfectly with a big, sweet, pale malt bill. With a gorgeous amber body topped with a small, but diligent white head, the Moylander drinks light for the style and has a good alcohol punch in the finish. A highly impressive brew…second only to the Hopsickle in my mind as far as Moylan’s is concerned. I wasn’t thinking of beer ratings during our visit, but if pressed I’d give the Bitter 2.5 Hops, the Porter 3 Hops, and the Moylander 3.5 Hops.
We tried to contain ourselves since we still had many miles to go on the road and drinking and driving is utterly anathema to the Aleheads (no smarmy snark intended in that statement…no good ever comes from getting behind the wheel after one too many). Our next stop on the road: Petaluma, California…home to one of the best in the business, the Lagunitas Brewing Company. But that’s, as they say, a story for another time (or, you know, tomorrow).