Pale Comparison It'll cure what ales ya on a hot September day.
A funny thing happened on the way from the wine tasting.
After swirling and spitting some of Sonoma County's finest wines at this year's Taste of Sonoma event at the Green Music Center, the heat of the day set in and I stumbled into the expanded beer garden. Did I want a pale ale? The outgoing staff at the Seismic Brewing Company booth wanted to know. That hefty pour of a complex (but low-alcohol) and refreshing Namazu pale ale, which I hardly swirled and certainly did not spit, was among the few drinks that memorably brightened up the afternoon.
When the Seismic project was announced, the story was all about the novelty of Christopher Jackson, son of North Coast wine icon Jess Jackson, founding a craft brewery. When the operation got up and running, the story was about their sustainable practices—lowering water use and using geyser-based energy, for example. So what's the story, now that beer is flowing in the taproom? Well, the beer.
But it isn't just about Chris Jackson's beer. "I'm not going to win any major competitions with my home brewing," says Jackson, laughing off his attempts. Instead, he points to the contributions of his team, which includes brewer Andy Hooper, who came from Anderson Valley Brewing Co., and taproom manager Alfie Turnshek, formerly of Brewsters Beer Garden in Petaluma.
"I view myself as a facilitator," Jackson explains. "With Alfie at the taproom and Andy in the brewery, what I did was set the standards, and got their buy-in. But when it comes to the creative execution of the brewery—that's them."
The taproom, anchoring a corner of the Barlow market district in Sebastopol, has style. It's clean, contemporary and emphasizes natural wood tones. The few decor standouts include a glowing Seismic logo, an enigmatic sketch of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry and a curvaceous nook.
The beer also has style, although what style is difficult to pin down. Is it a Germanic take on West Coast craft-brew style? Their Shattercone IPA stands out partly for its restrained structure and use of Hallertau Blanc hops.
"There is merit to the German provincial styles of beer," Jackson allows. "It's fortunate that Andy and I had a similar view of what genre we wanted to be in, and that was about balance and execution, not extremes of style."
Seismic's core lineup includes Alluvium pilsner, Megathrust IPA and Liquifaction kölsch-style ale. The Germanic theme continues with a Doppelbock and a refreshing gose on tap.
And when it's time, yet again, for evening winter warmers, a bourbon barrel–aged porter awaits.
Seismic Brewing Taproom, 6700 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol. Open daily, 11:30am–9pm; to 10pm Friday–Saturday. 707.544.5996.