Beer of the Month: New Almaden Imperial Red Ale from Santa Clara Valley Brewing

Our Beer of the Month for March comes from a brewery that seems like it’s been around for a couple years, but only started brewing late last spring. It’s from Santa Clara Valley Brewing, formed by multi-GABF award winning brewer Steve Donohue and Apple Executive Tom Clark.  Their Electric Tower IPA drew plenty of raves, including one from yours truly, and Electric Tower tap handles have been popping up all over the South Bay.

Their recently released New Almaden Imperial Red proves Santa Clara Valley Brewing is no one hit wonder.    There’s plenty of malt, giving it a creamy mouth feel and lots of roasty and earthy flavors but hefty additions hops create citrus flavors pushing through all that malt goodness, resulting in a beer with plenty of bold flavors.  For all its strength and assertiveness, it’s also surprisingly smooth.  I hesitate to describe a beer at 10.0% abv as drinkable, but it’s certainly an easy sipper.

The name comes from one of my favorite places to the run in the Bay Area.   Reddish, cinnabar mercury ore was mined at New Almaden just south of South Jose starting in the late 1800’s  primarily for gold extraction to support the gold discoveries east of Sacramento.  You can find ruins of these mines at Almaden Quicksilver Park, which has numerous trails, rugged hills and spectacular view for excellent trail running.  Every Saturday and Sunday morning, plenty of running groups will gather at the MacAbee Road entrance to “do Quicksilver”.  I’ve also taken the family for hikes there many times as it’s a great place to learn our region’s history, enjoy nature, take in excellent views of nearby Mount Unumhum and challenge yourself on the trails if you’re so inclined.

Turns out, I’m not the only South Bay blogger that enjoys New Almaden Imperial Red and Almaden Quicksilver park.  Check out fellow South Bay Beer Blogger Brian Wimsett’s post on True Brew Too-Beer and Friends.

Mount Unumhum as seen from Almaden Quicksilver Park.
(Photo credit)

Beer of the Month: Electric Tower IPA from Santa Clara Valley Brewing

When I finally got a chance to try Electric Tower IPA from Santa Clara Valley Brewing, I was actually afraid to drink it.  Sure, Brew Master Steve Donohue won four Great American Beer Festival medals at Sunnyvale’s Firehouse Grill before leaving to start Santa Clara Valley Brewing with Tom Clark so you figured it was going to be good.  Plenty of people got pretty excited when they announced in March their licensing was complete and they were going to commence brewing, including myself.  I even kept bugging Steve a few times on his Twitter account about when his first beer would come out.  With all that build up, my biggest fear was that no beer could really live up to all these expectations and by the time  I’d finally try it, it would be a let down.

Since you know Electric Tower IPA is Beer of the Month, you can figure out the rest.

Drawing of the Historical San Jose Electric Tower
(Wikipedia Common Image

Yes, Santa Clara Valley Brewing delivers the goods and then some, meeting all the high expectations with their initial release.  I could tell this was going to be a good just by opening the bottle.  Wonderful aromas of pine and mango greeted my noise.  Sipping the beer delivered more of the same, with its smooth and flavorful tropical mango, pineapple and resin-like pine flavors.  There’s a solid, lightly toasty malt foundation to this fairly dry beer as well, but as with any good West Coast IPA, the hops are doing all the talking.  

So what’s this Electric Tower all about anyway?  Back in 1881, a large electric tower was erected in San Jose, used for lighting up the city.  These were common in America cities in the late 1800’s, often called Moonlight Towers, as electrification began to sweep the country. San Jose’s tower was one of the largest ones of this era.  You might say it was the earliest example of Silicon’s Valley technical prowess.

Electric Tower IPA:  Another reason it’s good to live in the South Bay.