My favorite offerings from a recent Beer Week festival all represent new, local breweries that opened taprooms within the last two years.
The San Mateo County Deputy Sheriff’s Association hosted the fourth annual San Mateo County Brewery Festival in Redwood City this summer. Among the 11 breweries and two cideries they featured, the following are my top picks for local offerings to sip for yourself.
Decoy, 47 Hills Brewing Co., South San Francisco, 5.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV)
Decoy is a German-style lager given an extra punch of flavor and aroma from the use of Horizon, Centennial and Cascade hops instead of traditional German noble hop varieties. The beer is a brightly clear gold color with a moderate white head, and the aroma is crisp and light with a faint hint of sweetness that is vaguely reminiscent of lemon-lime soda. With a gentle hop bitterness, subtle, grapefruity hop flavor and clean malt background, Decoy is a light-bodied and smooth-drinking summer brew.
Razz-Tafa-Rye, Sacrilege Brewing Project, Half Moon Bay, 6.1 percent ABV
Sacrilege pushes the envelope of traditional beer styles, and sometimes-unexpected flavor combinations work better than might be expected (PB&J Saison, anyone?). Razz-Tafa-Rye provides a pleasant balance of sweet and spicy. Pouring murky rose-gold in color with a low, white head, the aroma is pure fresh raspberry goodness. On the palate, the same fresh berry character hits first, but its sweetness is balanced by pungent, spicy rye malt. Hops are not the star of this show, serving only to contribute to the overall balance.
Father Francois Belgian Quad, Blue Oak Brewing Co., San Carlos, 9.6 percent ABV
The newest brewery in San Mateo County opened its tasting room in February, and the quality of brews coming from this new arrival is excellent. In addition to Blue Oak Brewing’s boldly hoppy Archimedes Double IPA, it also brought a Belgian Quad to the festival. Hazy orange in color with a head of large, off-white bubbles, the aroma showcased yeast esters of pear and candied orange, along with raisin and caramel maltiness, and noticeable alcohol. Simultaneously sweet and dry, with substantial but not unbalanced hop bitterness, the flavor vacillates from fruity esters to intense maltiness to hop bitterness and then back in the complex, semi-dry finish.
650 IPA, Alpha Acid Brewing Co., Belmont, 6.5 percent ABV
This IPA, which seems to combine the best qualities of West Coast and New England IPAs in the same brew, is a super-light, hazy, pale-lemon yellow color with a dense, persistent white head. The aroma features light malt, with hop aromas of orange zest, lemon, lychee and white wine. The flavor’s lemon-zesty bitterness has a simple, clean-malt underlying character. The hop flavor is intense yet delicate with juicy tropical fruit from Nelson, Galaxy and Simcoe hops. The finish is bright, crisp, dry, clean and bitter. Alpha Acid gets a special mention for being the only brewery that also made it into my highlights of last year’s San Mateo County Brewery Festival, with its Candyman kettle sour ale.
Derek Wolfgram is a beer judge and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.