Napa Smith – Beer is what winemakers drink when they need to take a break. Where else in Napa County can one visit a brewery and taste a wide variety of *beer* in a tasting room. This is the only open to the public tasting room for beer at a brewery in the entire county. They are now open 7 days a week with both bar and table seating. The brewery building was vacated a few years ago by Hakusan Sake Gardens; this building is across from the tasting room and is now where all the production takes place. Tours of this facility are offered once a day at 3pm. You know your in the Napa Valley when, while your primary business is not wine yet you make wine anyways! The brewing facility is also the bonded winery for their small lot productions of wine.
Napa Smith released their first beer in 2008. Long time brewer Don Barkley has over 30 years in the industry brewing beer for such notables as New Albion Brewery (no longer in business but recognized as the first microbrewery of the modern era in the United States) and 20 years at Mendocino Brewery (Red Tail Ale, Hawk). Don has brewed the beer at Napa Smith since they started production in 2008. Keeping the brewing within the family, Don’s son also works here – in production.
A wide variety of brews are available for tasting and can be selectively chosen based on the types of beers you enjoy drinking – ranging from many ales, IPA and a wheat beer. Their Organic IPA won a silver medal at a recent national brewing competition. This is the most distinctive of the several beers we tried. It has good character and flavor.
A seasonal unusual type of beer is their “Crush Beer”, which is an amber lager brewed with a tiny amount of Napa grapes.
For groups who visit to taste beer, invariably someone in the group prefers wine – it is the Napa Valley after all and Napa Smith makes a number of premium wines sourced from both Napa and Sonoma. These wines are not available for tasting at the main “beer bar” but rather are among some of the wines offered in the adjoining room, operated by Bourassa Vineyards. These are fairly small production lots and are all hand crafted. Currently their total annual production of wine is under 3000 cases.
The 2007 Sonoma-Smith Goldensong is mainly Sauvignon Blanc with 8% Semillon blended in. The bouquet is decidedly tropical with notes of honeysuckle and lesser nuances of lime. This wine shows a rich mid palate to finish. There is some viscosity that contributes to a slightly rounded mouth-feel, but it is certainly not a heavy wine.
The 2007 Napa Smith Petite Sirah shows a bouquet that is fairly fruit driven – mostly rich dark sweet fruit and leads one to believe this wine might be anything but “petite” on the palate. Not so, it is a medium bodied wine with a clean rather quick finish.
The 2007 Merlot Napa Smith has an appealing complex nose. It’s like holiday dessert in a glass! Chocolate covered cherries, cinnamon and other baking spices show – its medium bodied with some intriguing spice notes on the palate. The tannins start to creep in just past the mid palate – they are certainly there, but they are not harsh in nature. This wine has decent acidity. It is a good food wine.
Napa Smith has strong distribution in the Napa Valley at a number of restaurants and retail outlets. They are also distributed in a number of states. Visit: www.napasmithbrewery.com