MERCED — In the five-plus years of writing this column, I have received at least a dozen letters from beer drinkers. Almost all said something like, I like reading your wine column, but I still prefer beer.
So, after 130 Wine Line columns, why not a Beer Line column? Yes, why not? So the editor and I went beer tasting at Dust Bowl Brewing Co. in Turlock.
The rapid success of this craft beer company is truly amazing: Here is the short version.
1. Fanatic beer lover finds good beer maker.
2. Good beer maker wins the Samuel Adams Homebrew Competition in 2006 and graduates from the UC Davis Master Brewers Program in 2008.
3. The good beer maker is named the John S. Ford winner, recognizing his top score worldwide (yes, worldwide) for the diploma in brewing exams. Now he is an excellent beer maker.
4. Fanatic beer lover and excellent beer maker join forces in 2009. They release their India pale ale called Hops of Wrath. It scores an exceptional rating (90 points) from the Beer Advocate and a gold medal (93 points) from the Beverage Tasting Institutes World Beer Championships in 2010. Add a 91 rating from Draft Magazine in 2012 and you can see why fanatic beer lover and excellent beer maker are all smiles. Sales grow. Plans to break ground in 2014 to expand the brewery to a 10,000 barrel capacity are in the works. More smiles, happy music and fade out.
In August 2011, Dust Bowl Brewing opened its tap room in downtown Turlock.
The brew pub has 14 taps featuring its beers, as well as guest taps and hard ciders. The day we tasted, there were six standard beers, four big beers and two guest taps. I suggest you try the sampler, which is your choice of five beers, 4 ounces each, for $7. Invite some friends along and share several samplers. Tasting beer is the same as tasting wine. See it, swirl it, smell it, sip it, swish/slosh it, swallow it, savor it and summarize it.
If you have questions, the staff is quite knowledgeable and helpful.
From your tasting, you can decide which beer youd like with your meal. The menu is innovative, top-notch pub grub, including soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, appetizers and flat breads. The portions are huge. I suggest you try the okie nachos. Theyre deliciously different, are enough for four people and terrific with the Hops of Wrath or the red IPA.
Beer and food pairings can be just as interesting as wine and food pairings. The editor and I had a great time at Dust Bowl Brewing and will definitely return.
Were glad fanatic beer lover met excellent beer maker. We left with smiles.
Cheers! Check out www.dustbowlbrewing.com.
Odds and Ends
The 2008 Three Rivers Columbia Valley cabernet sauvignon I was begging for is now available at the Merced Grocery Outlet. I think its a steal for less than $10. Its a big cabernet, and I suggest you decant it an hour or so before drinking. Grocery Outlet is also having its annual 20 percent sale starting May 8.
The deadline for home winemakers to enter wines in the Merced County Fair is May 9. Entry forms can be downloaded at www.mercedcountyfair.com. This year more categories have been added, including best label.
E-mail Russ Winton at firstname.lastname@example.org.