Best American Regional Beers
Sonoma, California-based chef and beer provocateur Sang Yoon is on a mission to convince people that beer can be just as fascinating as wine. He talks with F&W on where to find amazing regional and craft brews across the country.
Sonoma County is considered by many to be the place where America’s craft brewing got its start. What other places across the country do you visit to find great beer?
“The Pacific Northwest has been and still is the most vibrant beer culture in America. Seattle, Portland and the outlying areas of these cities have been at the forefront of American craft brewing. The Northeast has been doing very well with more traditional styles of brewing, particularly in places like Maine and Vermont.”
What are some of your favorite breweries across the country? Are there any regional distinctions to note?
“I would say, generally speaking, that East Coast brewers are making more traditional beer styles, while West Coast brewers are making more radical and exaggerated styles.
Some of my favorite brewers and breweries on the East Coast include Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine, which brews traditional and experimental Belgian-style beers, and Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. The brewer there had his first good beer at Father’s Office back in the ’80s, which inspired him to start making beer professionally. On the West Coast, some of the most innovative beers in the country are being made by former winemaker Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River Brewing Company in Sonoma, which I visited with F&W senior editor Ray Isle, and by Craftsman Brewing Company in Pasadena.”
Have you seen any new trends in beer recently?
“Yes, women are taking to craft beers more and more. I think the emergence of wine has helped. With more refined palates, women are now approaching craft beers with much more open minds and looking at them the way they looked at wine in the past.”
Ray tells us that you always have three kegs in your kitchen at home. What beers are currently on tap?
“Russian River Brewing Company Perdition, Allagash Brewing Company White and Brewery Ommegang Hennepin.”
On Tap at Father’s Office
At his Santa Monica, California, bar and restaurant, Father’s Office, Sang Yoon keeps 36 craft beers on tap at all times. F&W senior wine editor Ray Isle picks five that you have to try from the current beer list:
- Alaskan Brewing Company Alaskan Amber (Juneau, AK)
- This rich amber lager gets its incredible smoothness through its German alt-style (old-style) brewing—slower fermentation at colder temperatures.
- Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter (Bend, OR)
- A malty brew featuring dark chocolate and roasted coffee flavors with a waft of smoke.
- Craftsman Brewery 1903 Lager (Pasadena, CA)
- A pre-Prohibition-style lager, this brew is clean, dry and lightly hoppy.
- Brewery Ommegang Hennepin Farmhouse Saison (Cooperstown, NY)
- A warming mix of spicy gingersnap and citrus hops with a fairly high alcohol level of around 7.5 percent.
- Stone Brewing Company Arrogant Bastard Ale (Escondido, CA)
- A powerful, mega-malty, hugely hopped brew that should be drunk for its name alone.
Father’s Office, 1018 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; 310-393-2337.