Food & Wine

Pro and not-yet-pro brewers turn out for local beer events

Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
Craft Artisan Ales’ Nebulous Imperial IPA is one of California’s latest small-scale craft ales to earn a place at local beer events.

While SF Beer Week is now behind us – and there won’t be another intense concentration of beer events until Silicon Valley Beer Week this summer – plenty of interesting events are still happening.

Steins Beer Garden in Mountain View is scheduled to celebrate its second anniversary March 28 with its first homebrew competition, which aims to become an annual event. With the theme “Spring into Beer,” the contest has official sanction from the Beer Judge Certification Program, and the beer selected as the best springtime brew will be professionally brewed and served at Steins, with proceeds supporting a charity of the brewer’s choice. Entrants must register on the Steins website by March 13. Visit for more details.

During the height of SF Beer Week last month, I enjoyed an event that has become a great annual tradition. On Valentine’s Day, San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Co. hosted the sixth annual Meet the Brewers event, featuring beers from approximately 25 local breweries and food from several food trucks. The festival included excellent beers from local breweries such as Almanac Beer Co., Clandestine Brewing, Rock Bottom Brewery and Santa Clara Valley Brewing.

Monterey Peninsula beers

On this particular day, three of the most enjoyable beers came from the Monterey Peninsula. The balmy 75-degree temperature outside may have influenced my selections: The three notable beers were all golden in color, light- to medium-bodied and perfectly suited for summer.

My favorite beer of the day was Citraveza, from Alvarado Street Brewery. Described as a “hoppy, Mexican-style lager,” it quite simply tasted like summer. The beer was brewed using only Citra hops, which contributed a tropical mango and pineapple aroma, as well as a beautiful clean bitterness on the palate that lasted from the first sip through the finish. Citraveza is much hoppier than a typical Mexican lager, but that’s the point here. Simple, clean, fresh tasting and easy drinking, I wish this brew were available on draft or in bottles outside of Monterey. A day trip may be in order.

The Aisle 5 Cream Ale from Peter B’s Brewpub in Monterey was a great example of what I consider an underrated style. Golden in color, with a dense white head and slightly sweet aroma with just a touch of floral hops, the Aisle 5 was smooth and flavorful. The bitterness was slightly more pronounced than expected for the 18 international bittering units, but the beer was still well balanced. Crisp, light and refreshing, but with substantive body, the finish was clean and balanced between sweet and


Nebulous Double IPA from Craft Artisan Ales in Pacific Grove showcased big, fruity hop aromas – potent orange and passionfruit notes were somehow reminiscent of SweeTARTS candies (which I totally mean as a compliment). On the nose, a pleasant malty sweetness supported the fruitiness resulting from dry hopping with Citra, Simcoe and Galaxy hops. On the palate, the bitterness was intense and the sweetness less evident than in the aroma, but both sensations carried through into a well-balanced finish. Nebulous is on the edge of being too sweet for a Double IPA, but the sweetness did not go too far.

Derek Wolfgram is chief operating officer for the Silicon Valley Sudzers Homebrew Club, which welcomes new and experienced beer enthusiasts. For more information, visit

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