Cali Beercation, Day 3 – The Redwoods & Anderson Valley

Day 3 was our day with the most driving and the least number of stops. But Ben and I agreed that it was our favorite day out of the whole trip!

We stayed in Oregon the night before and drove into California. Our main mission for the day was to drive on Avenue of the Giants through Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and to figure out as we drove where to go next.

We drove past a beach early in the day at the beginning of our trip and snapped a few photos. Ben’s not one to cooperate for pictures (unless I get him drunk, and even then, he’ll oblige, but make weird faces or “fish hook” my mouth, ruining all my pictures). Because it was Ben’s suggestion to pull over by the beach for a few photos, I hastily and happily snapped a few while I had Ben in a rare cooperative photo moment. When I got back in the car, I found that my hair was the thing that wasn’t cooperating. It was channeling the horrendous Donald Trump combover. Not. A good look. Oh well! The rare and elusive Ben Farrar was captured on film! So I guess I can’t complain! 

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Neither Ben nor myself had ever seen a giant redwood tree in person. We’re pretty giant people ourselves. Ben is 6’6” and I’m 5’11”. In 500 years, when we have kids, they’ll undoubtedly be giants. I don’t think either of us is very easily impressed or taken aback by nature. The last time I was in awe of nature when I saw the stately, rigid snow-capped mountains and the magnificent view at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado.

We were driving and knew we were getting near the forest. Our eyes were peeled looking for the first tree. They didn’t need to be. It was almost as if it jumped out at us. We literally both gasped in shock. And suddenly, we were enveloped in redwood trees, driving slowly with dropped jaws and constant exclamation of our disbelief.

We pulled off at the first spot we could. I feel like at that moment, getting out of our vehicle, was like a moment of awe in one of the Jurassic Park movies when someone stopped to get out of their vehicle, awestruck at the first sight of these larger than life dinosaurs. That’s exactly how I felt. And these trees were fucking dinosaurs… They can grow to be 2,000 years old.

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Ben and I wandered into the forest like children, looking up, trying to take it all in. I’ve never felt so small. I found a fallen tree and tried to climb on top of it. My long legs could barely reach to get me atop the moss-covered trunk. It just seemed to stretch for miles.

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I really can’t adequately explain how beautiful it was. I snapped some photos that do it far more justice.

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We stopped several times at little pull-off spots to explore more. The entire drive was right through the dense forest. I felt like I was in the movie Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. We were microscopic.

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At one of the pull-offs stood a giant tree with a hollowed out center. It seemed like lightening may have struck it and burned out the center at the base because the inside walls were charred. I took some pictures of Ben standing inside and then asked him to take some of me. I went to walk inside and the sheer size of this tree and the fact that I was entering something not man-made that towered above the earth literally scared me! I’ve never reacted that way to a thing in nature before.

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Experiencing the redwoods was Ben’s favorite part of our whole trip.

Continuing to drive through the last stretch of redwoods, we did nothing but look out the windows in awe.

As we left Avenue of the Giants to drive on the 101, the scenes changed, but the drive was no less beautiful. I love California!

Ben and I needed to figure out where to go next.

Last year on our Cali trip, we had visited Anderson Valley Brewing. After we left, I received a tweet from their brewmaster, Fal Allen, who I didn’t know at the time. (I later Googled him and found out that he’s a beer badass!)

I’m pretty active on social media, and I promote my blog on every avenue. I’m not sure if he saw that I was a blogger or just that I was a beer geek who had just visited. But he tweeted me that next time I came in, to let him know and I could taste some fun not yet released and barrel-aged beers. I think I tweeted back that I was vacationing from the east coast and that I likely wouldn’t get to return.

Ben asked if I’d want to visit Anderson Valley again, and I said yes. He said I should reach out to Fal on Twitter to see if checking out some fun beers was still a possibility. I figured I had nothing to lose in asking, and didn’t really have any expectations.

Fal tweeted me back and said that he was around and said that I should stop in. So Ben and I set out on another beautiful drive through the rolling hills of beautiful northern California through wine country. The winding roads would have been better suited to my Volvo C30 than they were to our giant rental SUV! It was a fun drive, regardless.

We got to the tap room, which is in a separate building on the same property, and both ordered a beer. I tweeted a photo of my beer there, hoping that Fal would pop over and say hello and maybe chat with us for a minute or two. I had no clue we were set for hours of fun here!

And so my favorite part of our entire beercation started.

Fal walked in from the brewery a few minutes later. “Here. I brought this for you,” said Fal after he walked up to me, holding out a 22 ounce bottle of Huge Arker, a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout.

“Wow,” I immediately thought. That’s incredibly generous to give to someone you’ve never met. And this is what I love about the world of beer.

He asked Ben and me what we had tried so far. We told him we were on beer number one, and he humbly said he’d get us samples of everything as he headed behind the bar. He came back with a tray full of every beer they had on tap and sat down with us.

I told him that I’ve been obsessed with their watermelon gose ever since I tasted it last year at the brewery, when it was a test beer only on tap at the brewery. I explained that weeks before visiting last year, I had told Ben that I wanted to brew a watermelon gose. I said that I thought the combination of salt and watermelon was just itching to be explored, and I couldn’t believe that no brewery had tried one. I told him that tasting his was the highlight of my Anderson Valley visit last time.

I continued that I was ecstatic that the beer was just released in 22s the other month, and I immediately went to seek some out.

We tasted more and talked about his recipe ideation.

This couldn’t get better, I thought!

Wrong.

“Do you want to go on a tour of the brewery?” he asked. (You know what the answer was!) So we grabbed a beer and walked out of the taproom and into the brewery. He showed us their beautiful copper brewhouse. He explained that they used to polish everything, but at some point, decided to just stop. I thought it was fitting. These aren’t the shiny copper kettles at the pristine Sierra Nevada in Mills River, NC. Those kettles wouldn’t really fit in in Boonville. The brewhouse had its own beauty in the darkened copper with specks of green. They were almost like the majestic redwoods that had earned their place over time to be there.

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We walked to another building that housed the bright tanks and some other equipment. “Your beers are empty,” proclaimed Fal. “We’ll fix that.” And we were treated to cans of Briney Melon (that beautiful watermelon gose!) that were canned that day. Cans! I can’t wait to get cans of this in NC so I can have some all the time! And they’re the prettiest cans in all of craft beer, in my opinion!

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“Do you want to see this barrel room?”

“Yes!”

“Do you want to see this other barrel room?”

“Yes!”

We tasted beer from the barrels. Our glasses were never empty, and our taste buds couldn’t have been happier.

We walked back over to the tap room with Fal with some other fun beers to try. I remember at one point telling him he didn’t need to crack open those cool beers for us. He politely protested. “No. You guys are my VIPs.” He went on to explain that his girlfriend has Celiac’s Disease and can’t have wheat. We were sharing beers with him like we would share with the best of friends, cracking bottles that you save for special occasions.

We talked more about their funky experimental beers as we tasted some great treats, and he told us the story behind their Horse Tongue Wheat beer.

We chatted about the culture of youth today, and the fact that I bet my youngest sister had never used a pay phone. Boonville has their very own language known as Boontling. Fal told me that a pay phone in this language was called a buckey walter. We’re drinking AND we’re learning!

Boontling was an elaborate jargon developed in the relatively isolated community so that the locals could talk amongst themselves without being understood by others when others were present. The slogan “Bahl Hornin’” can be found on Anderson Valley’s bottles and cans. It means “good drinkin’.”

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I never expected we’d be received with such incredible hospitality there. It’s not hard to see why this was my favorite part of our whole vacation. Fal Allen embodies everything I love about craft beer. This isn’t just a drink. It’s a culture. A way of life. Anderson Valley Brewing is incredibly lucky to have such a down to earth and hospitable ambassador of their brand and brewmaster. I’m a fan for life. And I like to think that I made a new beer friend that day. Thanks for your insane generosity and for being a perfect example of everything I love about the craft beer culture and community, Fal.

Day 3 was a day of few visits. But with the argument of quality over quantity, there’s no comparison to how great that day was. It’s for sure a day I’ll never forget.

 

 

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