I made it to Fort Bragg (hence today’s title).
U.S. 101, as you go south from Oregon into California, becomes a string of expressways. This explains why my GPS balked at the idea – “avoid highways” doesn’t just mean interstates; it means avoid any limited-access routes. I ignored the machine and stayed on 101 until California Route 1.
The Pacific Coast affords some of the most awesome views ever, like this one of Port Orford, Oregon:
And these rocks, somewhere along the Oregon coast:
Once in California, U.S. 101 leaves the coast. The road began to cause me severe fatigue, to the point where I actually pulled off to close my eyes for a few minutes. The few minutes became about half an hour, but it was needed – I didn’t want to tackle the last few dozen miles while fatigued.
To get back to the coast, you have to get onto California Route 1. I took a little detour to see a thing I’ve known about since I was a kid, but never got to see, until now.
A bit of a tourist trap, yes, I know, but I’d never even seen a redwood before this trip.
I was expecting a twisty, turny mountain road for California 1, but the reality was much, much worse. The late afternoon sun barely even made its presence felt as I negotiated the corkscrew turns of this tiny, two-lane road. I’d say it had hairpin turns, but the turns made hairpins look straight. The road was, well, it was a bit of a challenge.
But it was totally worth it – after several miles of nearly empty roller-coaster track, I finally returned to the coast – just in time to experience my very first Pacific sunset. Some days just work out that way. I mean, I pulled off just as the sun was about to kiss the ocean.
And then, finally, I came to Fort Bragg. The importance of Fort Bragg, to me, is the presence of North Coast Brewing Company. North Coast makes my favorite beer of all time, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.
I like a lot of beers, ranging in style from American to European, from light to dark, from malty to hoppy and all points in between. Otherwise, why bother going on a beer tour of America, right? With the current Golden Age of brewing here in the U.S., there aren’t many styles I don’t get to sample. Well, from the moment my lips first kissed Old Rasputin, I knew I was going to have to visit Fort Bragg at some point. That point was today.
A bit of a digression about that particular style:
As I mentioned in a previous post, beer, at its purest, consists of malt, hops, yeast and water. A stout is a particularly dark beer; it is dark primarily because of the roasting process for the malt.
Now, you might think that Russian Imperial Stout was Russian, because of the name, but really, it’s British. Legend has it that sometime during the reign of Catherine the Great (the one with the horse), the British ambassador to Russia brought some good British stout along. It was a big hit. So, in a gesture of international good will, the ambassador arranged for several casks of stout to be shipped to Moscow.
Moscow being Moscow, the stout froze in the barrels, ruining the barrels and the stout.
The British, in a flurry of innovation not seen since Newton invented gravity, devised a way to increase the alcohol content of the brew while balancing the malt and whatnot to compensate. The increased alcohol content acted as antifreeze. The beer survived the trip through the harsh Russian winter, and Russians being Russians, they fucking loved the stuff.
Thus was born Russian Imperial Stout.
Other brewers produce Russian Imperial Stout, but my favorite remains Old Rasputin. Weighing in at 9% ABV, it’s not the highest alcohol content out there (even North Coast makes a higher ABV brew), but it’s got twice the kick of most ordinary beers.
And today, I got to sample from the source. To drink straight from the teat, as it were.
Fortunately, I got a room just a couple blocks from the North Coast taphouse.
Tomorrow, I’ll be meeting up with my friends in Livermore, east of San Francisco, so I’ll finally be off the road for a few days – and my focus will shift from beer to one of my other great loves: wine. There are dozens of wineries in the Livermore area, and while I don’t think we’re going to be able to visit them all, we can sure as hell try.