Wednesday, February 19, 2014


You gotta extend a little empathy THIRD STREET ALE WORKS' way, though I suspect they don't want nor need it. Here they are, making all this killer "microbrew" since 1995 in downtown Santa Rosa, California, yet under the formidable shadow of the world-beating Russian River Brewing, who just happen to be down the street and around the corner. Not merely one beer drinker has told me tales of having been forced to leave Russian River in frustration due to lines, excessive crowds and whatnot, and having to suffer the indignity of the "consolation prize" of shuffling over to Third Street Ale Works just in order to have a beer. Rough life, this. 

I know there are also many who rightly ignore geography, hype and assumed terroir, and instead focus on what's going down their gullet and whether it's any good or not. On that count, I've found Third Street to be a mighty solid brewer indeed over the years, and me, I don't care what their hossana'ed neighbor's doing (I too have had to leave the latter in crowd-damaged frustration). Take this CALICO CAT CHOCOLATE VANILLA PORTER of theirs. I had it the other night at San Francisco's The Ave. Bar, and I nursed it but good. It's made with "nibs" from SF chocolatier Tcho, and with vanilla beans flown all the way over here from Madagascar. 

I was supremely digging its smooth coffee/choco taste and even its mildly chalky aftertaste. It was impressively true to form, a porter with loads of roastiness but all velvet and almost nothing harsh aside from a slight "bite" that came at the end. It has much of the character of something "imperial", but only weighed in at 5.5% alcohol. That's a bridesmaid I'd be happy to sneak away with. 7.5/10.