I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Steve and Barri Altimari—creators of this month’s featured Aphotic imperial porter with cacao nibs—for nearly a decade now. Steve’s previous brewing work at Valley Brew crossed my radar while I was still living back on the opposite coast, and I’d been actively trading for limited releases like Effinguud (a tart strong ale aged in French- and American-oak port barrels), Überhoppy Imperial IPA, and Decadence Grand Cru 2007 (a Belgian-style quad blended with “pomegranate lambic”) long before I met their makers.
Here’s what I remember of that first meeting. My wife and I were traveling in from northern Nevada, scouting out possible places to settle down along the way, and Steve’s brewing spot at the time was our first major stop in California before heading farther north. We hung out at their production facility, sampling through a surprising number of stellar beers from a tiny brewery, many pouring through what was readily deemed “the magic tap.” This consisted of one single stainless-steel faucet mounted to the outside of a gigantic cold-storage room—and every half hour that tap would be changed to pouring a different beer from Steve’s stockpile of barrel-aged offerings. One fellow taster was a snake geek, and I learned firsthand there’s a challenge to drinking with a ball python on your head. The beers were precise. The company was kind. And I’m grateful that that initial stop set the tone for our time in California since.
We drove up to Ashland, Oregon afterwards—my wife driving safely, while I snoozed in the passenger seat—and by the time we would finally settle in NorCal for good, Steve and Barri would already be in the process of transitioning to their next venture. High Water’s proven a far better outlet for them—it’s been refreshing to watch the creativity they generate together. While I prefer High Water’s lack of snakes, I still dream of having my very own magic tap.