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The Northern California Craft Beer Guide 

Ken Weaver -- Cameron & Company

click to enlarge The Northern California Craft Beer Guide - KEN WEAVER
  • Ken Weaver
  • The Northern California Craft Beer Guide

Anderson Valley's Poleeko Pale Ale. Eel River's Triple Exultation. North Coast's Old Stock Ale. Redwood Curtain's IPA. Six Rivers' Paradise Moon Coffee Porter.

That's a nice evening out.

It's also beer writer Ken Weaver's top five craft beers to try on the North Coast.
Not your top five? For a mildly amusing drinking game, suggest your own list next time you're out with friends.

Weaver offers "5 to Try" lists for eight regions in Northern California in his book The Northern California Craft Beer Guide. In all, that's 40 to try.

Weaver and photographer Anneliese Schmidt (spouse and beer buddy) spent six months sampling Northern California's craft beertopias. They sipped in Santa Cruz, tapped Tahoe and knocked back a few in San Francisco, Oakland, Chico and here.

The result's a 292-page travel guide with brewery directions, hours and tasting notes for around 300 breweries, brewpubs, craft beer-centric bars, restaurants and bottle shops.

Quirky breakouts feature festival listings, bottle cap art and a "Trouble Brewing" comic that mocks beer snobs. Profiles of endemic NoCal beers include Anderson Valley's Boont Amber with its "restrained caramel sweetness, vibrant red fruit character and enough zesty hop bitterness to steer things." Weaver's tone? Knowledgeable but unpretentious.

When picking faves, Weaver attempts diplomacy. He offers even-handed insights and notes award-winning beers. At Lost Coast in Eureka, Weaver praises a limited-release "keg-conditioned IPA dry-hopped with Calypso hops, which was fantastic." He lauds the "impressive line-up" at Mad River, from Steelhead to Jamaica Red, and appreciates the Kona in Six River's Paradise Moon Coffee Porter. Eel River's Triple Exultation? "Delicious layers of caramel, red fruits, and a touch of warming alcohol."

He raves about Redwood Curtain, whose tasting room is now temporarily closed. Weaver signed copies there Aug. 25 after a visit to Hops in Humboldt. In the book, he calls Redwood Curtain's Belgian styles "some of the best you'll find in Northern California" and the IPA a "kickass divergence from West Coast IPAs in general."

For Weaver and Schmidt, drinking craft beer is work, if also a dream gig. Weaver, once a particle physicist, now brew-blogs, judges beer competitions and contributes to All About Beer magazine. The couple owns two Breathalyzers.

Beer people are good people, Weaver asserts. Educated artisans and craft consumers form an enviable community, a movement that counters the homogeneity of the BMC -- "Bud-Miller-Coors. The big guys, the behemoth brands, the insipid mass-market lagers."

The book costs $21.95. Its paperback cover appears sturdy enough to handle a spilled chewy porter or two. At the Breathalyzer Superstore, devices start around $50. If you're going to try Weaver's tasty 40, invest.

Deidre Pike recently moved to Trinidad from Honolulu, where craft brewing is in its infancy. She feels happily at home in Hopboldt Humboldt.


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