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The Freewheel line with a couple of English friends.

It takes a lot of beer to keep the wine business running smoothly. Here in Redwood City, we are very fortunate to have a great English style ale producer right in our backyard: Freewheel Brewing Company. The staff of K&L are fictures at our local pub, and it is a rare moment when one of us isn't there having a pint and a bite of their excellent food. We are also lucky enough to be the first place to offer their bottled beer for sale. If you have never had it, the Freewheel Brewing "FSB" Freewheel Special Bitter, California (500ml) is the benchmark in fresh, balanced, smashable ale. We will do our best to keep some in stock for you, the customer too!

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Entries in Belgian (3)


Meet Tyler King of The Bruery

Patrick Rue loves beer. Belgian beer, to be specific. He started brewing it while he was in law school as a diversion. And it worked. These days everything else is a diversion from beer at Rue’s two-year-old, rapidly-growing brewery in Orange County, California, punnily named The Bruery. Tucked into a non-descript industrial park right off the 57 freeway, the Bruery team works around the clock crafting some of the most innovative beers on the domestic market, Belgian-style or otherwise, in a deft waltz between three 15-barrel, one 30-barrel and three 45-barrel gleaming stainless steel fermenters.

"There's nothing bland about our beer," head brewer Tyler King told Steve Greer and me on a recent visit to the Bruery (see our interview with Tyler above), and that is for certain. Where most West Coast breweries seem content to one-up each other in the "my beer is hoppier than yours" game, the boys at the Bruery are yeast fanatics. They have their own proprietary Belgian yeast strain (the Filthy Blonde we tasted was a yeast propogation batch) and play around a lot with brettanomyces and lactobaccilus. And they infuse their beers with David Chang-like creativity. Right now they’re working on a 100% brettanomyces black Thai beer infused with galangal root and keffir lime that has the savoriness of Tom Ka and the richness of a stout, while never falling out of balance.

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Girls Like Beer

Girls like beer. Maybe not all girls, but a lot of us. Enough of us, in fact, that it shouldn't come as a suprise to find out we do. So I was shocked when one of my usually-enlightened colleagues seemed surprised that I showed up to this week's staff beer tasting, and eagerly at that. For me there is only one caveat: the beer has to be good.

Fortunately for me, we've never had more good beer at K&L than we do now. Our beer buyer Bryan Brick and his liasions - Steve Greer in Hollywood and Mike Barber in San Francisco - are doing an incredible job stocking our shelves full of delicious and even thought-provoking beers from the US and around the world. We've got "session" beers and age-worthy beers and sour beers that beg for a spicy, salty sausage like the kind at Wurstküche here in L.A. or at Suppenküche in San Francisco.

Anyway, we tasted through about 20 beers in Hollywood this week, and I really liked about half of them. That doesn't mean the other half weren't good, they just weren't my style. I prefer dark beers - porters and stouts - Trappist ales, Saisons and sour beers. I am generally NOT into West Coast uber-hoppy beers (or any uber-hoppy beers for that matter); they make me fall asleep. That said, here are my favorites from our tasting:

2009 AleSmith "Decadence" Dunkel Weizenbock, California (750ml $11.99) This is AleSmith's anniversary brew, a rich, dark wheat beer with a really creamy palate and a banana-y nose with a graham cracker counterpoint. It was a little sweet and fruity, but with a good salty pretzel or one of Rockenwagner bakery's pretzel rolls it would be sublime.

Brouwerj De Ranke "HOP Flower Power" Belgian Pale Ale, Belgium (750ml $15.99) So there always has to be an exception that disproves the rule. This Belgian beer may have HOP in its name, but it's remarkably balanced and that's what I liked most about it (that and Flower Power used to be my nickname in college). The nose was quite pretty here, with citrus and flower aromas, and it had nice weight, bitterness and crispness on the palate with a hint of minerals.

Dogfish Head "Festina Peche" Berliner Weisee, Delaware (12oz $2.49) Delaware is one of those states that you don't hear much about, but man do they make some good beer. This low-alcohol peach beer isn't the sweet, sticky, girly drink you might imagine, but instead something very sour and lactic. I imagined sipping it on a very hot day with homemade sausages on the grill.

HaandBryggeriet "Dark Force" Double Extreme Imperial Wheat Stout, Norway (500ml $8.99) At 9% ABV and full of letters you ordinarly wouldn't see together, I strongly advise against asking for this or trying to spell it after you drink it. Just grunt and point. This beer smells like unbaked pumpernickel bread - with distinctive molasses and coffee bitterness - rounded out by bacon and chocolate notes. It's surprising crisp on the palate and goes down easier than you might expect.

Isle of Skye Brewery "Black Cuillin" Scotch Ale, Scotland (500ml $6.49) This is the second Scotch-style beer we tried, and I lreally liked them both. It drank like a light-bodied stout, perfect for when you're craving a heartier beer on a hot day. Mint, tamarind, cocoa and anise on the nose, with a smooth and toasty palate girded by faboulsly salty bacon flavors. Yum.

Oskar Blues "Old Chub" Scottish Ale, Colorado (12oz $1.66) I really have to give props to the folks at Oskar Blues, time and again they prove that canned beer can be good. This Scottish Ale is similar to the Isle of Sky Scotch Ale, though a little lighter in chararcter with a hint of carob and caramel.

Russian River Brewing Company "Supplication" Brown Ale Aged in Oak with Cherries Added, California (375ml $10.99) I've been a fan of RRBC beers since my college days at Sonoma State, and honestly I think their beers just keep getting better. This is super sour, like fermented sour cherry juice, and probably not for everyone. But I thought it was well-balanced and just needed something fatty and slightly salty to go with it. I would love a glass with a pork terrine.

Valley Brewing Company "Decadent Evil" Belgian Style Golden Ale, California (22oz $6.49) Prior to trying this beer my only experience with Stockton, where its from, was on a road trip in college. Needless to say, this beer is better than my foggy memory. Its malty nose has notes of citrus and banana that carry over to the palate. Its creamy middle and slightly sweet finish made me think of Gewürztraminer, which made me think that this beer would be really awesome with some spicy Thai or Vietnamese food.

Valley Brewing Company IPA, California (22oz $5.99) Did I mention that I don't like hoppy beers? That usually means that I don't like IPAs, but I liked this one. Full of peach, melon and Cara Cara orange aromas, this beer tastes like tangerines and nectarines, witha  sour note from pineapple and a mild hop bitterness. The 22oz bottle is mighty dangerous considering how well this drinks.


New Beer, Part 2

I told you it was coming. After I recovered from my all-American Memorial Day, which involved a city-wide garage sale, chicken-fried bacon, betting on the horses and a BBQ, I’m finally ready to tackle the next installment of Beer.

Stone Brewing Co. has dropped some new releases on us over the last week or so. Well, to be exact, these have both been released but hard to come by and I finally wrangled a few cases of each. Both the Stone "Sublimely Self-Righteous" Ale (22oz $5.99) and the Stone Brewery "Cali-Belgique" IPA( 22oz $5.99) have made it to the shelf. These are both very limited, especially the Self-Righteous, so get in touch soon if you want a few bottles.

Another recent arrival that has got Beer Fans around the Bay buzzing is the Brooklyn Brewery "Blue Apron Ale" Dubbel (750ml $9.99). This beer was made by Brooklyn specifically for Thomas Keller at French Laundry. The only problem was the batch was too large for Keller to handle in a timely fashion. So the distributor needed to dump some and BINGO! We have the first Brooklyn Brewery beer, that I know of, to be distributed in CA.

The major part of this latest installment, however, will be composed of the last Shelton Brothers special order that just arrived. I’ve had to take over a bit more space in my cold box just to make it all fit, but I’m sure you’re all happy to hear that. Here goes….

Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre "Gavroche" Bière de Garde, France (4-pk $14.99) A rock solid Biere de Garde rarely seen here in the states. When you absolutely, positively need to get your funk on.

Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! "Rigor Mortis Abt" Quadrupel, Canada (11.2oz $5.99) These beers are quickly gaining a following with not only our customers but also our staff

Brasserie La Choulette Framboise, France (750ml $12.99) An adult raspberry beverage.

BrasserieThiriez "Xxtra" Saison, France (750ml $11.99) One of my favorite French producers, if you are a fan of anthing and everything Saison this will rock you

Brouwerij De Ranke "Cuvee de Ranke," Belgium (750ml $14.99) Easily one of my favorite producers, this is there version of Lambic and it is a perfect summer refresher

Brouwerij De Ranke "Kriek De Ranke," Belgium (750ml $16.99) If I actually have any of this left by the time this e-mail goes out it will be a miracle. I had my first of many bottles to come the other night and it is easily one of the best Krieks I've ever had.

Brouwerij De Ranke "Noir de Dottignies," Belgium (750ml $14.99) The newest beer from De Ranke to hit the US market, somewhere between a Dubbel and a Belgian Strong Ale; dark, malty and mysterious.

Brouwerij der St.Benedictusabdij de Achelse "Achel 8° Blonde" Tripel, Belgium (330ml $5.99) The smallest of all the Trappist breweries and one of two where the monks still brew, this is a rare treat that is getting gobbled up quickly. We actually had the Brune as well, but it all sold the day we did our last tasting. More will come soon...

Brouwerij Kerkom "Bink" Tripel, Belgium (750ml $14.99) A pure triple, earthy, bright, tropical and full of character rather that simple alcoholic heat

Hook Norton Brewery Co. "Hooky Bitter" Bitter Ale, England (500ml $5.49) A perfect everyday beer in every way.

Inveralmond Brewery Ltd. "Blackfriar" Scotch Ale, Scotland (500ml $5.99) Malty with a creaminess like chocolate and toffee pudding.

Ise Kadoya "Genmai Ale," Japan (500ml $7.99) From a brewer that also made soy sauce and Mochi. Genmai rice is used in the brewing process here adding malt like complexity to this one of a kind beer.

Ise Kadoya "Triple Hop Ale" IPA, Japan (500ml $7.99) A Japanese version of a "West Coast" hop bomb, who knew?

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Biere de Mars, Michigan (750ml $14.99) Anyone that has ever drank beer with me knows my affinity for this brewery. Their latest seasonal release and a perfect puckering sour aspect that makes this wholly refreshing.

Mahr’s "Der Weisse Bock" Weizenbock, Germany (500ml $6.99) Think Aventinus rather than Vitus and you will head down the right track with this one.

Mikkeller "Draft Bear" Imperial Pilsner, Denmark (750ml $14.99) My go to beer when you have to absolutely, positively have the most refreshing Pilsner out there.

Mikkeller "Not Just Another Wit," Witbier Denmark (750ml $14.99) The boys from Denmark have another hit on their hands with their Wit. Brewed with an unusual amount of Hops (goldings, amarillo, saaz and cascade), spices (orange peel and coriander seeds) and flaked oats.

Mikkeller "USAlive" Belgian Wild Ale, Denmark (750ml $19.99) A version of their "It’s Alive" bottling with a more pronounced US hop profile.

Nøgne-Ø Brown Ale, Norway (500ml $8.49) There is something about a well-crafted Brown that really does it for me. And yes it is worth $9.

Oppigårds "Well-Hopped Lager" Plisner, Sweden (500ml $5.99) Do I really need to say more?

The Nils Oscar Company "India Ale" IPA, Sweden (330ml $5.49) With a strong malt base and a ton of Amarillo hops this is like a DIPA without all the alcohol.

Farnum Hill Ciders Extra-Dry Cider, New Hampshire (750ml $14.99) First the Henny’s and now these guys. Cider is the new lager. Crisp and full of kick-you-in-the-shins acid, this better than a cool glass of water on a hot day.

Farnum Hill Ciders Summer Cider, New Hampshire (750ml $13.99) Seasonal and maybe even a bit more refreshing than the Extra Dry above, this has a pinch more sweetness and a broader texture.

Oliver's Cider & Perry "Blakeney Red Varietal" Perry, England (750ml $14.99) True English Perry. Dry, no bubbles and with as much pear fruit as any sane human being can handle.

So there it is. Part 2. In the can. The great part is I’m already composing our next email, where you may find new, and old, bottlings from AleSmith, Port Brewing Co, Avery, Stone, Cantillon and Fantome. Keep in touch.


Bryan Brick