If you are visiting the Napa Valley wine region and looking for a change of pace, take a brewery tour at the Calistoga Inn in Calistoga. The brewpub at the Calistoga Inn is small
production facility for pub and restaurant patrons only, turning out four house beers plus seasonal offerings on tap or in 22 oz. bottles. When you schedule the complimentary tour, consider arriving early at the pub or patio to taste through a sampling of the beers ($1.25/2-oz.) to enhance the experience, or have lunch with beer at the well-regarded restaurant. As a non-beer drinker, I was fascinated by the distinct aromas and flavors of the eight or so beers I sampled, with a range of body, acidity and even tannins, and the potential for pairing with food. The house beers consist of an American wheat ale, a pilsner, a red ale and a porter, and the seasonal offerings included a fruit-infused blackberry ale and a pumpkin ‘wit’ or belgian white ale. While extraneous flavors are not added to wine, it apparently is not uncommon in beer. The blackberry ale was not overtly fruity but detectable in the sublest sense, with moderately high acidity. The pumpkin wit was delightfully spicy and ginger-y with a rich mouthfeel – like eating spice cake – and was made with the addition of the sweet fairytale pumpkin, curacao and a ‘tiny bit’ of cinnomon, allspice and coriander.
Being a brewpub, the tour itself consists of four closet-size rooms, but for home brewers and aficionados, size doesn’t matter. Even for someone who doesn’t normally drink a lot of beer but knows a thing or two about wine production and appreciation, the tour is fascinating because of the young man giving the tour, Brewmaster Brad Smisloff. Brad is a young guy with a computer science background from back East who converted early to the science of brewing by working at a home brewery supply store, then as assistant brewmaster at Cambridge Brewing Co. and then as a brewer at Healdsburg’s Bear Republic Brewing Co. He’s like the guy behind the counter at your favorite hometown pub, but with a lot of technical knowledge, perspective of international styles and passion to share it all. Brad was able bridge the gap between his knowledge of artisanal beermaking and my knowledge of winemaking to make the visit endlessly fascinating. Imagine what it can be for a beer fan.
Tours typically last about 45 minutes, depending on the number of questions, and can be scheduled with at least 24-hours notice Monday through Friday. Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery, 1250 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga, CA. (707) 942-4101 or Info@CalistogaInn.com