Jul. 18, 2012 - Issue #874: Musician’s Survival Guide: Songwriters on Songwriting
A lesson in Boontling
Good story, good beer
Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boonville, California
$16.99 for six pack
Every once in a while a brewery comes along where the story is more interesting than the beer. Even rarer is when the story is equally as interesting as the beer. Anderson Valley might be one of the very rare latter category.
I have been aware of Anderson Valley's reputation for a number of years. It clearly offers high-quality craft beer, which, until recently, was only available in its small region in northern California, but has recently entered the Alberta market.
What I didn't know was it connection to a very old and very odd regional culture. The main centre (if you can call it that) of Anderson Valley is Boonville, population 700. It is home to a 120-year-old dialect called Boontling. Based on English, it mixes Gaelic, Irish and a local flavour to create a dialect unknown outside the gentle fields of this valley. It is, of course, dying out, but Anderson Valley the brewing company is doing its bit to keep it alive—including the names of its beer (Hop Ottin' translates to "hard-working hops"). Pretty cool, if you ask me.
I tried their Hop Ottin' IPA, which is obviously their interpretation of a west coast India Pale Ale. It pours a deep orange with a moderate off-white head that leaves just a touch of lacing. The aroma combines a soft biscuit sweetness with a rounded, woody hop. I take a sip and find a light breadiness and honey upfront, followed shortly by a fruity hop flavour that reminds me of passion fruit and pine needle. The linger is sharper and more citrusy, providing an overall dry quality to the beer.
It is not as hoppy as many west coast IPAs I have tried (eg: Surrey's Central City Red Racer IPA), but the overall flavour profile is strong enough to hold up. The malt is unabashedly present, yet the hops don't shy away at the insult. Which, in short, means this is a hop-accented ale that is wonderfully balanced. They leave enough residual malt behind to make sure the beer isn't boring. The hop character is complex, yet they find a way to keep it from being overpowering.
If I was in Boonville right now, I would wish you a "bahl hornin'," which directly translates to "good drinking," which is what you can have much of with Anderson Valley Brewing. V
Jason Foster is the creator of onbeer.org, a website devoted to news and views on beer from the prairies and beyond.
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