About a week ago, Mrs. BetterBeerBlog and I headed over to Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose for a pint night featuring the beers from Anderson Valley Brewing Company (AVBC). AVBC has been brewing beers in Boonville since 1987. Up until April 2010, AVBC was owned by Ken Allen. Allen sold the brewery to Trey White, which opened the door for the return of AVBC former brewery Fal Allen (no relation to Ken).
Up on tap for AVBC at Harry’s Hofbrau were their Summer Solstice summer seasonal and their Boontlingerweiss, a limited brew krystal weizen. As per the tradition of a pint night, if you so chose, you could keep the brewery branded pint glass your beer was served in. Kevin Olcese, General Manager of Harry’s Hofbrau, was kind enough to give us our pint glasses for free but we paid for our beers at “non-keepsake glass” price.
Summer Solstice, 5% ABV
Aroma smells like a cream soda, slightly sweet smelling with vanilla character. The flavor is malty, slightly sweet, with a toasty note, very light caramel and vanilla. The overall flavor profile is highly reminiscent of a cream soda. Hop flavor is very low, hop bitterness is just as low. Body is light, carbonation is high, finish is slightly, dry. It’s sweeter than I anticipated but it’s not cloying. Pretty good summer drinking beer.
If you’re into sweet beers then Summer Solstice just might be your beer. Despite the aroma and flavor, the beer’s sweetness is not at all cloying. The light body and high carbonation make for a refreshing experience while the malt sweetness with vanilla notes will be sure to win over your non-beer drinking friends.
Boontlinger Weiss (krystalweizen)
For those of you unaware of what a krystal weiss beer is, it is basically a Bavarian-style hefeweizen that has been filtered until it’s clear. That’s it. Boontlinger Weiss is slightly hazy gold color with a white head. Flavor is slight wheat malt, light citrus and resin notes, and a light peppery phenolic character with an herbal hop flavor. Hop bitterness is medium-low, carbonation is spritzy, finish is dry. Tastes like an American wheat ale when cold. As the beer warms up though, the Belgian yeast character starts to show through more and the beer becomes way more interesting. The “light, peppery” phenols become more pronounced, but not overwhelmingly so, and the beer get a little more stone fruit character.
As was conveyed to me, Boontlinger Weiss starts off with a malt bill comparable to that of a Bavarian-style hefeweizen but is fermented with a Belgian beer yeast strain. Specifically, the same yeast used to brew the Brother David beers. What I found really interesting was that Boontlinger Weiss is fermented at 48-degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature normally suited for lagers. The particular strain of yeast they used can generate a lot of phenolic character and to keep this in check, they ferment the beer at much lower temperatures.
Harry’s Hofbrau still has some way to go before they can be considered a true, craft beer spot. At is stands, many of their customers come in for their food, a hearty and rib-sticking, fare of roasts, beef, birds and pork. In many ways, the restaurant will always be their literal bread and butter.
That said, Harry’s Hofbrau is off to a fantastic start. Their draft selection is currently a mix of interesting Belgian ales, American craft and even macro lagers for their long-time customers not yet converted to the world of craft beer. I think the next step for Harry’s Hofbrau will be to replace their draft macro lagers with more American craft and relegate macro lagers to being available only on bottle. I think this will be a great way to get more craft beer on tap without alienating their customer base who has been with them through the years.
Coming up next for Harry’s Hofbrau will be a pint night featuring the beers from Chimay. From what I heard, Harry’s should be pouring the Chimay Première (red label, a Belgian Dubbel), Chimay Cinq Cents (white label, a Belgian Tripel) and Chimay Grande Reserve (blue label, Belgian Dark Strong Ale). There might even be a special bottle of something or another showing up as well.
Chimay will always have a special spot in my craft beer heart. Chimay Grande Reserve was the first Belgian ale I tried that really got me hooked on Belgian beers, and craft beer in general. I really enjoyed the complexity of the beer, it’s apparent sweetness and fruity complexity. Barring any major issues, Mrs. BetterBeerBlog and I should be there enjoying these beers and supporting Harry’s Hofbrau.