North Coast Brewing Co. 

Founded back in 1988, Fort Bragg, California's North Coast Brewing Co. lacks the gee-whiz wonder of some of the new kids on the block. Instead, it has been quietly and consistently producing some of the best beers west of the Mississippi. If it has been flying under your radar in recent years, may I suggest it's time to get reacquainted with one of the craft brew pioneers.

Berliner Weisse, $2.99-3.99

Brewed with peach and passion fruit juice, this limited release shows that North Coast can give a nod to what's trendy. A hazy straw pour, the generous head collapses quickly, while the added fruit definitely comes through on the nose. Sweet fruit flavors are balanced by the sour acidity you'd expect from this style.

Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale, $3.49-4.29

Inspired by the jazz legend Thelonious Monk, this is a chestnut-hued brew topped with a short-lived, mocha-colored froth. Caramel and currant aromas dominate, backed by touches of brown bread and spice. It's a bit boozy, but there's no trace of heat. The palate is a mix of sweet bread, raisin, date and creme brulee.

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, $2.69-2.99

This beer is a dense ebony in the glass, with a light brown head that leaves a tight lacing as it slowly collapses. Dark chocolate and toasted malt aromas are colored by touches of blueberry and herb. It opens with lightly bitter chocolate and charred toast, with just the right touch of sweet malt and vanilla bean. Smooth and almost creamy, this is a classic stout and a benchmark for the style.

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