The craft beer boom began with Sierra Nevada almost 35 years ago in Chico, California. That’s largely been the extent of the brewery scene in our city ever since. By comparison Bend Oregon has 17 breweries, with a smaller population than Chico. Portland has a much larger population than Bend, but they also have about twice as many breweries. Asheville, North Carolina, where Sierra Nevada opened a second brewery, is about the same size as Chico, but hosts 18 craft breweries.
All those breweries in Bend probably don’t add up to Sierra Nevada’s output, and folks in Chico really do love our local brewery, but I don’t think anyone would complain about some variety. It’s always exciting to hear about a new brewery working to break into the local craft beer scene. Recently Eckert Brewing started selling their malted rice, gluten-free beer at Chico’s best bottle shop. Now another brewery hopeful is branching out with Great Balance Brewing. Currently Great Balance brewer Matt Roach is only brewing small batches in his garage and isn’t a licensed brewery, but he has the first big step down: making great beer.
On Saturday Matt hosted his third Balancing Act beer tasting event at his home in Chico. He had two beers on tap: Think Pink Triple Berry Wheat and EnjoyMy Imperial Grapefruit Double IPA. Now, when I make beer and am trying to judge the success of a batch I’ll ask myself “if I bought this in a store, would I be pissed off?” If I can answer no, then I call the brew a success. Matt is way beyond this with his beers. Not only would I not be pissed off if I bought one these two beers in a store, I would say they easily compare in quality to some of the best beers you can purchase.
The Think Pink Triple Berry Wheat uses 12 pounds of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries per 10 gallon batch. It is a light, easy drinking wheat with loads of fresh tart berry flavor. This beer does not at all suffer from the artificial flavor many fruit beers have. For my taste it could stand a bit more wheat/malt flavor, but I think this beer would sell really well as is, and make for a great gateway beer. Refreshing, unique, and well balanced; this is a beer that could get people talking about a new brewery. Think Pink weighs in at 5.2% ABV and 18.7 IBU.
The EnjoyMy Imperial Grapefruit Double IPA has 12 types of hops added during 6 hop additions. That’s really what it takes to compete with the top commercial double IPAs out there, and Matt pulled it off. This beer has lots of citrus, grapefruit, and earthy hop flavors. A few of the commercial double IPAs with grapefruit flavors use loads of Citra hops resulting in a catty flavor. I was relieved to find this isn’t a problem with this beer. The hop flavors, while big and in your face as they should be with a double IPA, were also balanced and complex. The grapefruit flavor comes through, but not the cat pee flavor that has turned me off of other citrus hop bombs. EnjoyMy boasts 9.1% ABV and 99.5 IBU.
Matt was very hospitable and eager to chat about making beer, and answer everyone’s questions. I hope things work out for him and he is able to make the leap to brewing professionally.