Anacapa Brewing Company

This week I had the opportunity to do my first official review of Anacapa Brewing Company’s beer. First of all it would be hard for the ambience to be any better. Anacapa Brewing Co. is located in a long and narrow 115 year old building in downtown Ventura.  Right behind the bar, almost in reach, is enough brewing equipment to make any beer geek go “Ah, I’m home”.  Mash tuns, and boil kettles and fermentors, oh my! The visit started off with a warm welcome and prompt beer service.  It is so nice to walk into a place, sit down and have your beer in minutes.

There were three Anacapa beers (Seward Blonde Ale, Santa Rosa Red Ale, Benny Hanna Espresso Stout) on tap when I visited. I started with the Benny Hanna Espresso Stout brewed with locally roasted Beacon Coffee (5777 Olivas Park Drive, Suite R, Ventura).  The beer poured so opaque black that when I held it up to the light and I didn’t even get a garnet glow through it.  Now that is a dark beer. It had a thick, compact, tan head but was poured to the top of the pint glass so it didn’t last too long.  The aroma was a mouth watering roasty bitter chocolate. My initial taste was filled with the smoky flavor of dark roasted malts that gave way to a tart flavor in the back of my palate which really helped to balance the smoky flavors. It took me awhile to place that tart flavor then I realized my favorite coffees often have the same flavor.  Mmmm, combining two of my favorite liquids and it works for me!

The second taste found a bitter chocolate flavor that stuck around for the remainder of the pint and helped to balance this beer’s sweetness. The balancing bitterness in this beer comes from two sources: the hops and the dark roasted malts. The dark roasted malts work together with the hops and add a pleasant complexity to the bitterness.  So instead of being just plain bitter (like an English pale ale) the unfermentable sugars left behind in the dark roasted malts help to round off any bitter edges. For me this beer had a near perfect mix of smoke, bitter chocolate and a refreshing tartness.

Note:  Often the smoky and bitter chocolate flavors found in a beer only come from the dark roasted grains used in the recipe.  Malt is always kilned to stop germination and to ensure that it is dry enough so it doesn’t mold while it is packed and stored.  Malts are also kilned to produce different flavor and color profiles.  The longer the malt is kilned the darker and more intense the flavors become. Flavor profiles can range from toasted grain to bitter chocolate to burnt coffee.

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