Calicraft Brewing Company - Oaktown
Int’l Bittering Units (IBUs):71
Serving Temperature:50-55° F
Suggested Glassware:Pint Glass or Mug
Malts:2-Row, Pale Chocolate, C-75, Dark Wheat
Hops:Columbus, Centennial, Cascade
Brown ales are one of those styles that often gets a bit overlooked among the flashier styles, and we have to admit we're guilty of this ourselves. But, truth be told, many of the brown ales we sample are just not that exciting, and frankly are rather insipid. Oaktown is definitely not one of those beers. This oaked brown ale presents a very deep brown color with reddish flashes, and offers quite the inviting aroma. Richly malty notes are apparent immediately, with prominent deeply-toasted notes delivering impressions of scorched bread crust, chocolate, and coffee. Look for a mild undertone of vanilla to go along with some oaky woodiness, too. On the palate: Yeah, this is one robust brown ale. A bold roastiness struck us with an impression of a three-way melding of coffee, toffee, and chocolate. The oak contribution imparts a pleasant woody dimension, while citric American hop varieties further decorate this brew with a bright, contrasting zing to go along with a very firm 71 IBUs. With the depth of color, roastiness, alcohol, and bitterness, this brew struck us more like a robust porter than a typical brown ale, and we're certainly not complaining. For pairing options, Calicraft recommends steak, strong cheese, and barbecue, and we heartily agree. The key is to avoid lighter fare which would be overwhelmed by the beer's bold flavors. However, a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a little chocolate sauce (or more than a little – we won't judge) would also be a good call. The chocolate and vanilla will find complements in the beer's roasty and oaky notes, respectively.
Calicraft Brewing Company, based in Walnut Creek, California, is a relative newcomer, having celebrated their 5th anniversary in May of this year, but its roots go back a long way – to the dreams of a nine-year-old boy. Zac Taylor, Calicraft’s Sales & Marketing Manager, gave us the back story for how Calicraft came together. The brewery’s founder, Blaine Landberg, grew up in Willows, California, up near Chico and its landmark of Sierra Nevada. His family had a holiday tradition of seeing which adults could bring along the most interesting beers, and Blaine’s homebrewing Uncle Gary would bring over his own creations, featuring everything from labels with kangaroos ("Hoppin Good Time") to others with names like "Your Mom’s Favorite Pale Ale." The young Blaine found these beers hilarious, and was enthralled.
Fast forward a few years, to when Blaine started working in his first brewery: his UC Berkeley dorm room, back when he was 19 years old. That initial batch began its fateful journey as a Duvel clone with California Starthistle honey, which was far too sweet until he fermented it with a Champagne yeast. The result yielded one of the best beers he'd ever tried, and would end up as the prototype for one of Calicraft's flagship brews, Buzzerkeley (although an additional 15 years of tinkering was involved in perfecting the beer Calicraft sells today). Currently, Zac explains, “We’re trying to push the boundaries of beer styles using California-sourced ingredients.” Other highlights include the easy-drinking Coast Kölsch; Oaktown, their bold, oak-aged brown ale; The City IPA; Chez Panisse, their collab with Alice Water’s famous Berkeley establishment using organic anise hyssop, Meyer lemon leaf, and lemon verbena blossom; and their multiple Barrel Project beers, featuring various fruits and wine grape pomace from Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. We look forward to seeing what they come up with next. (Be on the lookout for one of their limited release beers to appear in our Rare Beer Club soon!) For more info about the brewery and their Walnut Creek Taproom, call 925-478-8103 or visit www.calicraft.com.
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