With all of the frosty brews flowing during Redding Beer Week, it’s easy to branch out a bit and try a new beer just about everywhere you go. While Top’s market carries most of the familiar brews we all know and love, they also boast a surprising number of bombers that we rarely see around the Northstate. So when we saw the rare beer tasting event on the calendar, it was immediately circled as a ‘don’t miss’ affair. The tasting area at Tops is a well placed intimate space surrounded by well stocked shelves of wine and craft beers, with Nick, the expert buyer for the Market pouring everything himself. Nick is a wealth of information, and he hand-picked the line-up specifically to introduce us to beers that normally wouldn’t be in our basket at checkout.
While most of the offerings were not necessarily rare beers, they were definitely premium drinks that rang in with a sweet and clean Sparkling Ale and finished up with an earthy barrel-aged Barleywine. Tops also brought out fresh deli sandwich bites, and pizza still steaming from the oven to reset the palate halfway through. The chicken and olive slices with white sauce was a welcome addition to the creamy Mirror Mirror I was currently sipping and it paved the way to finish up the tasting perfectly.
Moving back a bit, here’s a breakdown of the line-up:
1. Calicraft Brewing Co: Buzzerkeley - This light and crisp beer was a great start to the event, with a sparkling spicy fruit nose that finished dry. The taste comes from honey notes with champagne yeast, and that glass was gone way too fast.
2. Deschutes Brewery: Not The Stoli - While this began as a Stoli brew, somewhere along the way it went awry and that turned into a beautiful mistake. The Belgian Quad is aged in oak barrels which gives the body a caramel sweetness and hints of chocolate, the underlying notes were sweet and fruity with a tart finish that left me reaching for another pour of that splendid nectar.
3. Rogue Brewery: One Brew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest - This Maibock was a good transition from the sweetness of the previous glass, this brew came out clean with a smooth finish. The mellow beer was a bit creamy with a slight hop finish that wasn’t overpowering or bitter. With such a smooth profile, the 9% was so hard to find that I actually looked twice thinking I wrote it down wrong. Drink this with caution, but by all means drink this one.
4. Deschutes Brewery: Mirror Mirror - This Oak Aged Barleywine is a 50-50 mix of Mirror Pond Pale Ale aged for 10 months in Pinot Noir barrels and a fresh batch of the same beer. This mix brings the thick caramel notes of oak aging together with fresh ingredients for a lighter profile without the earthy taste that can crowd out subtle tastes. Overall, it’s an enjoyable drink that I would pair up with a exceptional steak.
5. Bruery: Oude Tart - This sour was a good introduction choice for the varied crowd anticipated at the event. While on the lighter and tamer side of the sour spectrum, it was a solid offering with a clean mouthfeel and tangy dark fruit finish. We saw a mixed response to this sour, with about most the people interested in the new experience, and the rest tossing it into the dump bucket (*tear). As one patron put it, “it’s an acquired taste” consider me curious, but still cautious about the sour side of beer.
6. Hangar 24: Barrel Roll No. 4 Hammerhead - This big Barleywine gets the bold flavor from 10 months in charred oak rye whiskey and bourbon barrels. We finished up the event with this beer and it was a great send off. Peppered with enough hops to really get the earthy citrus flavor, this brew finished dry with a refreshing bitter end. To put this beer at the end of the flight was a great choice, with a complex profile that really brought the tasting full circle.
7. Bonus - Deschutes Brewery : Black Butte XXVI - Now they broke the seal on this one as a bonus after we left, so we’re writing this note based on a (few) tastes at the opening event. A double version of their Black Butte Porter, the XXVI had a variety of ingredients added to it. For the 26th anniversary, Deschutes added cocoa nibs, pomegranate molasses and cranberries.. The result, a rich, deep 11% brew that starts out sweet, then finishes tangy as the cranberries kick in.
So that concluded a most excellent event, with just about every beer on the line being something I hadn’t tasted before. For the $3 price of the event, it was more than worth it to come over and venture out past the steady favorites into premium territory.