As the 700 brewery milestone began to appear on the horizon, Merideth and I starting thinking about where we’d like the magical moment to happen. With a trip to Australia in February already scheduled, it was a pretty easy decision. That simple decision had consequences, however. In order to make it possible for us to meet that goal Down Under, we needed to be in the 675 range by the time we left. Hence, the six-hour journey on Thanksgiving weekend to add just two breweries to The List.
Merideth and I unsuccessfully visited our first destination, Blue Frog Grog & Grill in Fairfield, years ago. Returning from a trip visiting friends in Northern California, we unfortunately arrived well before the pub opened. We decided to wait but thinking about the long drive home, my impatience got the best of me. We ended up continuing on our way before opening time.
On this drive up, I began to worry that impatience could get the better of me again. Being Thanksgiving weekend, I had visions of Blue Frog’s mall location being a hub of gridlock for miles around. But failure a second time just wasn’t an option. Thankfully, the beer gods looked on us favorably this day and the mall seemed deserted when we arrived late morning.
Taking our customary seat at the bar, we ordered the taster set. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed to learn that their IPA and well-known DIPA were not available. Being a complete professional, however, I sucked it up and moved on to the five beers offered to us.
Ranging from a light-colored Hefeweizen and Blond Ale to the seasonal Oktoberfest and Irish-style Stout, it was a familiar brewpub lineup. The two standouts were the Blond and Red Ales. The unexpected assertiveness of both these brews, while not satisfying my IPA craving, was a pleasant surprise. Both were hopped well beyond what we expected from the usually mild styles.
My lunch was delicious. The thick cut ham on my sandwich had the comforting feel of eating Thanksgiving leftovers. Merideth also enjoyed her pulled pork sandwich.
We’d like to thank Brewmaster Nick Campbell for the gift bottles of the DIPA and 10th Anniversary beer. We look forward to trying them soon.
A short 20-minute drive away on the outskirts of Napa was our second and final stop of the day. Located in a business park, Napa Smith Brewery’s brand new tasting room shares a building with Bourassa Winery. We bucked the trend of most entering and chose beer over wine.
I thought I was very familiar with the Napa Smith lineup as their bottled beers are quite prevalent in Northern California. Much to my surprise, however, there were eight beers to try in the sample tray. Besides their standards, including the GABF silver medal winning IPA, the samples included a Wheat, Amber Lager, Red Ale and Imperial Porter.
The star of the show was the unique Hopageddon. The Imperial IPA, weighed in at 9.2% ABV and 144 IBUs. It’s distinct flavor came from a combination of being wet hopped and aged in Chardonnay and Cabernet barrels. Its hop character was conversely pungent and subtle. There was a hint of Chardonnay and a slight tannic quality. Certainly one of the most interesting brews I have tried in a long time.
Finished at Napa Smith, it was time for the three-hour drive home. We only spent a little over an hour total at both breweries, but adding two breweries brought us closer to our 675 target. Stay tuned as we begin the countdown to 700…
View all the images from our day…