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Beer Man: Anderson Valley, Abita miss mark with new offerings

6:42 PM, Jan. 16, 2013  |  Comments
Brother David's Double Abbey-Style Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Co. in Boonville, Calif. is 9 percent ABV.
Brother David's Double Abbey-Style Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Co. in Boonville, Calif. is 9 percent ABV.
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Anderson Valley is one of the long-time microbreweries in the U.S. and I have fond memories of first trying out its Boont Amber Ale, Poleeko Gold Pale Ale, Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout and Summer Solstice back in the days when such beers were a novelty on liquor store shelves.

Like the imported Samuel Smith beers in last week's column, however, many Wisconsin stores seem to have replaced Anderson Valley beers with others in recent years. So it was a pleasant surprise to see a Belgian-style offering appear from the California brewery.

It seems like all the flavors are there in Brother David's Double Abbey-Style Ale: banana, dark fruit, bubblegum Belgian yeast esters, caramel malt, sweet dark candi sugars, etc., but they just don't seem to gel together. The best word to describe it is rough, especially when comparing it to many ales from Belgium, which generally seem richer, and more complex, balanced and sophisticated.

This may be as simple a matter as not having aged the 9 percent ABV beer long enough before its release. The head was quite disappointing, also, as I'm used to huge, rocky heads from such beers, while Brother David's quickly evaporated into nothingness.

Abita (www.abita.com) is another brewery that has been around for more than 25 years and its Amber was a pleasant surprise when I first tried it during my honeymoon in New Orleans 20 years ago.

Its Pecan Harvest Ale suffers the same fate as Shiner's Holiday Cheer, sad to say, as the pecans advertised on the labels don't make their presence known, even after the beers warm up.

I find this surprising because I have had Nutty Monks recently, a cocktail involving pecan- or walnut-infused cognac, and the nut flavors seem to easily come through in the drink.

Not so in the Abita beer. It is basically an American pale ale with some caramel malt flavor and slight piney hops. It is not helped by having a thin body and timid mouthfeel.

Both Anderson Valley and Abita have widespread distribution in the U.S.; the Abita Beer Finder link is at abita.com/find_abita/; Anderson Valley has a new website under construction. Check back later at avbc.com.

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