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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tuesday Tasting: Four Faces of Fritz

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we head to San Francisco to check up on the multi-tasking Fritz Maytag and try a little bit of all three.

Fritz Maytag is one of the founding fathers of the American craft brewing movement. If he had done nothing more than save a failing San Francisco brewery in 1965, and with it the Steam Beer (California Common) style, we would all owe him a debt of gratitude. But Maytag has done much, much more. Anchor Brewing is a success story. Anchor Liberty Ale, Porter, Old Foghorn Barleywine, Christmas Ale and other products should be on every beer lover's "to drink" list. In 1968, Maytag started to operate a Napa Valley vineyard, selling grapes to wineries. It was not until 2000 that the company opened a winery in Spring Mountain. In 1993, Anchor quietly began distilling, releasing a whiskey in 1996 and a gin in 1998.

"Over the last 40 years we've proven the small guy could provide variety to the beer business," Maytag says. "Now we've changed the American whiskey business by what we've done. Quantitatively, we're nothing. But qualitatively what Anchor Distilling has done is everything."

Lyke2Drink had the chance to sample a range of four Maytag inspired beverages recently and found each offers consumers a great taste experience.

Anchor Steam Beer: This is a beer that has been around since 1896, but gave many of today's Americans their first craft beer experience. It is 4.9 percent alcohol by volume and is a light amber color. The beer has a crisp, fresh malt flavor that makes it a classic among American lagers. While I enjoy this brew from a bottle, it is a treat when you can find it on draught in the eastern U.S.

Old Potrero 18th Century Style Whiskey: A barrel strength 123.2 proof whiskey usually is not this smooth. The 100 percent rye whiskey is pot distilled and aged in slightly toasted oak barrels for between 18-30 months. The whiskey is amber gold, with a nice fresh wood nose and flavor profile. There are attractive hints of almond and nice bits of subtle spice throughout.

York Creek Vineyards 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon: Deep black cherry red, this is a smooth wine with plenty of plum and berry flavors. It has a velvety and dry finish. The wine is 14.8 percent alcohol by volume and is a blend of 80 percent cabernet sauvignon, 5 percent cabernet franc, 12 percent merlot and 3 percent petit verdot. This is an extremely drinkable wine.

York Creek Vineyards 2003 Port: Made with 75 percent Sonoma and 25 percent Napa grapes, this port combines five different varietals in its blend. At 20 percent alcohol by volume you do get a nice warming sensation from a glass of this port. York Creek Port is a rich deep burgundy color and appears thick in your glass. There is plenty of fig and plump raisin flavors throughout.

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