The “nectar of the gods” is quickly becoming the beverage of choice for the new generation of 20-somethings.
With this growing popularity, Wente Vineyards is trading in their grapes for hops, their corkscrews for church keys.
For the past 250 years, the Livermore Valley has been synonymous with fine wines and successful wineries, but there is a changing of the guard, a new libation on the rise — beer.
With microbreweries popping up all over the Bay Area, the renowned Livermore winery has taken a major leap, and will proudly allow local brews to flow through their taps.
“I like wine, I respect wine,” said Wente Grill manager Josh Craig, “but I love beer.”
On Feb. 21, Wente hosted its “Craft Beer Dinner with the Grill at Wente Vineyards.”
The idea behind the event was to bring local microbrews to the people around their birthplaces, and vice-versa.
“Its just good business, helping other local small business,” Said Wente Marketing Agent Sarah Alessi.
According to Craig, the event was the brainchild of the Grill’s head chef Owen Nattrass, but was immediately accepted by all involved.
“The idea (for the event) came up mid-2013,” said Craig, “I want to say around August or September, and it was awesome how motivated (the breweries) were.”
In attendance were representatives of four local breweries. Stephen Sartori, owner of Altamont Beer Works (ABW) (Livermore) and Blaine Landberg, Owner of Calicraft Brewing Company (Walnut Creek) drew the greatest interest.
Also present were Mike Johannsen, Brewmaster and co-owner at Schubros Brewery (San Ramon), and Joel Pelote, owner of Working Man Brewing Company (Livermore).
“We focus on locally and regionally sourced ingredients,” said Landberg, “structured like red wine.”
Landberg is proud to showcase his neighborly roots through his frosty brews. Not only through his locally grown ingredients, but also through the names they feature. His most popular brew, “Buzzerkely,” is made from the recipe he first discovered in his dorm room at UC Berkeley, and thus carries its name.
The beer Landberg chose to serve in the main event was Cali-Coast, a Klosch style beer based off of malt grown in Mount Shasta.
ABW, which is a bit better known in the local circles, presented themselves as if they were at a sales convention — offering giveaways along with, what Satori called, their “danky beer.”
“Hella Hoppy (American Double IPA) is like liquid crack,” Satori said. “People can’t get enough of it.”
For the main course, though, Satori’s offering was one of his most popular beers, Woodstock West, an American Pale Ale that garnered rave reviews.
“I like the Woodstock West, said guest Joe Camilleri, “Altamont Beer Works does it big, it’s full of flavor and has a nice finish to it.”
The “man-sodas” chosen by their creators were carefully paired with appetizer-sized meals by Nattrass to accentuate the flavors that make them so delightful to the palate. In particular, the Schubros Alcosta American Stout and its pairing shined.
“It tastes like desert,” said guest Nancy Labelle, “cocoa and orange, it goes great with dark chocolate. What more could you ask for?”
This success of the event pleased Craig, especially since this was merely a precursor to significantly larger one, planned for Fathers Day weekend.
“(The June event) went from a beer dinner, and it kind of escalated to a Beer fest,” said Craig. “It’s going to be these same four breweries, and Eight Bridges (Brewing), and it’s going to be another food and beer pairing, but it’s going to be over 100 people.”
Another idea that Craig is toying with is having live bands and barbecue paired with a local brewery, one day in each of the summer months – May through September.
While the patio nights are still in the planning stage, tickets to the June beer night will be made available shortly.
For those interested in attending future events at Wente, including the Craft Beer Dinner in June, tickets can be purchased at the Wente Vineyard main office.
Tickets, which included admission to the dinner, a golf course yardage book, a branded hat and an etched stein, are expected to be $149.
According to eLivermore’s history of Livermore, when the town was discovered in the mid 1800s, a vast majority of it was covered in hops — a key ingredient in beer making.
Now, with several breweries making home in the Tri-Valley, perhaps the expanding town is returning to its hoppy roots.