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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 Russian River Brewing (2)


Sonoma Road Trip Stories, Part II: Russian River Brewing Co.

Russian River Brewing CompanyBy: Jim Boyce | K&L Staff Member

A Visit to Russian River Brewing Co.

When our domestic buyer Bryan Brick sent us a list of places we would like to see on our first Sonoma Valley work trip, my immediate response was “Russian River Brewing"! After all, when serious fans of adult beverages--beer, wine, or the hard stuff-- are anywhere near Santa Rosa, making a stop at Russian River Brewing Co for a beer, some snacks, and growler fills is an absolute priority. Russian River was originally owned by Korbel Cellars until they offered the brand to brewmaster Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo in 2003. The Cilurzos opened the brewpub in Santa Rosa in 2004, and it didn't take long for them to build a huge local following. In 2008, they opened a production brewery nearby, allowing them to triple production and distribute to new crowds. The pub is now a destination (beer) tourist attraction and continues to produce plenty of delicious beers without compromising an iota of quality. As they state on their website, demand continues to grow “but they prefer to grow their business organically while focusing on efficiencies and quality.”

At K&L we are asked every day if we carry Russian River's Pliny the Elder, one of the most popular beers in the world. Ninety-nine percent of the time that answer is “sorry, we’re sold out.” We receive a generous allocation of five cases a week, but we still sell out within an hour of receiving them, and that happens despite our efforts to keep it fair for all beer lovers by enforcing a three bottle per person sale limit. This should give you a sense of how loved and sought after this beer truly is.

For many traditional “American clear beer” drinkers, Pliny the Elder was the gateway beer that launched them into the world of craft brews. Anyone who is new to the craft beer scene or unfamiliar with Russian River Brewing should absolutely hunt a bottle of Pliny down. At K&L, we have a system of notifying our customers when a specific product becomes available, and it is through this system that our Pliny customers get their beer. Simply go to, create an account (if you don't already have one), and click on the Waiting List link in My Account Center. Use the key word option to and enter "Pliny" and save. Now, you will receive email from K&L when we receive Pliny into stock, at which point you can make your online purchase. Online or calling in your order immediately after receiving the email notification is recommended. Since the bottles sell out within the hour you will likely be disappointed if you plan to drive to the store to pick some up! You can place your order as a Will-Call pick up in an any of our three retail locations (we transfer to all stores for free) or for shipment to any place where we can legally ship beer.  

While Pliny is a great beer, I personally think the majority of Russian River's beers are even better! At the store, we currently carry Damnation Golden Ale and Salvation Belgian Dark Strong Ale with the newer Row 2, Hill 56 Pale Ale hopped with Simcoe hops soon to return. At Russian River, there are about fifteen beers on tap. One of my favorites is Perdition, their “Biere de Sonoma,” which comes home with me in a growler every time. At this last visit, we grabbed a round of Gaffers, their English Pale Ale. The fruity malts and biscuity hops made for a great brew to wash down the Pliny Bites, pizza dough bites topped with mozzarella, garlic, cheddar, and jalapenos. As they brought out the Clipper (dipped in savage sauce is a hell of a combo) and Mikey pizzas we ordered a round of Erudition Saison, which is a favorite style of mine. Bright citrus, floral notes and spicy pepper make this beer quite refreshing.

Long story short: visit the brewery if/when possible, taste as many beers as you can muster, and take in the atmosphere. The bartenders are great and the pub food is solid. Russian River Brewing Co. is a gem of north-west California, don’t miss it!



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.