As a fairly regular beer blogger since 2006, you'd think I'd be kinda ruling the roost by now, sitting in the "fabled catbird seat", being dined and wined and personally fêted all over the beer landscape. Somehow, though, my 30-ish readers a day, frequently dismissive reviews and my abundance of half-assed snark haven't quite moved the needle for me in the "industry". So when someone at a brewer is kind enough to extend a benefit my way, it comes as a surprise, and it is readily accepted – that is, if I like the brewer.
SPEAKEASY ALES & LAGERS and I haven't always been so tight. Despite being one of the only brewers within San Francisco's city limits for many years until the recent craft/artisanal explosion, I never dug their wares like a true believer until only recently, and have never enjoyed their flagships – Big Daddy IPA, Prohibition Ale and, in particular, Double Daddy IPA, which I helpfully described in 2006 as having "the warmth and bitterness of straight-up paint thinner". Just a good old-fashioned "ribbing" on my part, but no, I didn't like their main stuff much, despite very much wanting to be a hometowner and local fanboy. Then a couple years ago, some inventive specialty recipes started flowing from them, and I gave 'em a respectful college try – and I really, really loved them. "BETRAYAL", for instance – more on that one later. "MASSACRE" was excellent. "SCARFACE". Perhaps they'd evolved – dare I say into a brewer who made multiple beers I liked?
Anyhoo, they have a brand new taproom set to open tomorrow. They're having a big party and everything. They invited me and a few others to come take an early look at it last night in a "Friends and Family Preview", and oh by the way, drink as much beer as we wanted for $0.00. I thank them for their generosity, and will tell you straight-up that free beer or no, their new taproom is absolutely gorgeous. Everything is in wood, and the set-up, befitting the brewery's name, is 1925 speakeasy all the way, up to and including a panic button on the wall that says "Press In Case of Raid". Flickering candles, private rooms, bathrooms labeled "Gents" and "Dames" - it's all very tasteful and alluring. So……does the beer measure up? Let's find out.
SPEAKEASY ALES & LAGERS - "THE WITNESS": Described as a "Belgian-style wheat", I guess you and I might normally call that a witbier, but they don't. And you know what? It doesn't really taste like one either. Malty, with a juicy finish yet an overall dryness. It's brewed with orange peel and something called "pink peppercorns", and yet it had flavors and nuances a little bit to the left of a witbier's center. Which is cool. And yeah, I liked it. 7/10.
SPEAKEASY ALES & LAGERS - "BETRAYAL": Hurray. I truly now have a reason to come drink here every night. I love this imperial red in bottles, and I love it even more on draft at the brewery. Galaxy hops, chocolate malt notes, and all in all a perfect blend of both, with good carbonation & hopping halfway between "smooth" and "biting". An absolute gold standard imperial red. 9/10.