Exploring the world of beer and homebrewing has been a major interest for Adair Paterno over the past couple of decades, and in a story familiar to many in the brewing industry, that passion for discovering and making beer is ultimately what led her to launch a brewery with business partner (and brewer) Tim Clifford. The brewery they created, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, has developed a stellar reputation for everything from hops-forward IPAs to mixed-fermentation farmhouse-style beers, all brewed in their small warehouse brewery just outside of Santa Cruz, California.
Their small production and focus on the craft of brewing, paired with endearing slogans such as “know your brewer,” are not just quaint for the sake of novelty, but are informed by a hands-on work ethic and a belief in slow, organic growth. “We were beer geeks before we owned a brewery,” Paterno says, “and seeking out new beers and new places to drink beer has been a big part of our lives for many, many years.”
Those years took Paterno to opposite ends of the country, from California to South Carolina and back, and as she honed her palate, trends emerged that one can find today in the beer Sante Adairius is known for. Dryness and drinkability are top criteria both in the beer she loves to drink and in the beer they love to make, and those two element feature heavily in her 6-pack of favorite and inspirational beers.
Moonlight Brewing Death & Taxes
(Santa Rosa, California)
“Moonlight, the brewery, and Brian Hunt, the brewer, are two of my favorites in the industry. Being in the Bay Area, we had access to Moonlight, and Brian would hand deliver most of the beer to Bay Area accounts. Death & Taxes is the first schwarzbier or black lager that I remember drinking, and it was (and still is) imminently drinkable while being super dry. There’s a nice amount of body—it’s not too dense or chewy. “Brian is one of my favorite people, and I’ve always appreciated his outlook on business. The bottom line is important, but the craft is really what drives him. He takes the beer very, very seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously—something he makes clear with the tongue-in-cheek taglines and logos on their glassware.”
Jester King Brewery Le Petit Prince
(Austin, Texas) “Le Petit Prince is the quintessential brewers’ beer at Jester King, and I’ve learned that the brewers refer to it lovingly as ‘teeter.’ For a beer at less than 3 percent ABV, it has tons of flavor, and at that low level of alcohol, it may even be considered hydrating. It has all of the nice, dry, funky character that I love about Jester King beers, and they are one of my favorite breweries altogether.
“Le Petit Prince is a beer I always keep around for myself, and we carry bottles of it at our second location [the Sante Adairius Santa Cruz Portal]. I don’t know at what point they switched to green bottles, but I find that it actually adds complexity to the beer. They went out on a limb in doing that, but I enjoy the notes that it adds to the beer.”
Russian River Brewing Blind Pig IPA
(Windsor, California) “I had to put an IPA on the list, and while I mostly drink our IPAs, it wouldn’t be fair to include them in this list. But Russian River’s Blind Pig was one of the first IPAs that I fell in love with.
“We were drinking beers at the Live Wire bar (San Diego, California) in the mid 1990s. I loved hoppy beers and was a big fan of Anchor Liberty Ale, even though it wasn’t called an ‘IPA’ at the time. I also remember us drinking a lot of ‘Oregon IPA’ at the time, but it no longer exists, and I can’t remember who brewed it. Anyway, we were at Live Wire one day and ordered Blind Pig IPA from Blind Pig Brewing Company in Temecula, California. It blew me away—they were so groundbreaking in their use of hops. That IPA has continued to be one of my favorite IPAs to this day, and while Pliny gets all the love, every time I see Blind Pig on draft, I order it.
“It can’t be understated how influential Russian River has been on us as a brewery. From the early days of Tim’s homebrewing, Vinnie was so open to talking about process and brewing techniques. And to this day, their brewery and how they run it truly has influenced us as a business.
“I remember back in the 2000s when it was pretty much just Lost Abbey and Russian River making mixed-fermentation beers in California. Vinnie spoke at conference and gave out oak chips with their house culture in them. Tim cultured that up and used it in a bunch of homebrews. Those homebrews formed part of what is now our house culture, so for all I know, that’s still in there somewhere.”
Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery Pockets of Sunlight
“Saison is my favorite style to drink, and more specifically mixed-fermentation saison. Typically, I like to drink beer that pairs well with food, and mixed-fermentation saisons lend themselves especially well to drinking with food. Pockets of Sunlight is a fantastic example.
“As a lot of people know, I spend some time in Ohio right now, and when I’m there, this is the saison I always go to. It’s brewed with honey, coriander, and lemon verbena and is all fermented in stainless tanks. It’s dry, citrusy, and bright—all the things I love about saison.
“Our Saison Bernice is also fermented in stainless, and I find that I tend to enjoy stainless-fermented saisons more for day-to-day drinking than their wood-aged counterparts. Don’t get me wrong, I like the character that wood provides—a roundness and vanilla quality—but when I just want a bright, slightly tart, drinkable saison, I go for one fermented in stainless (or not too, too long in oak).
“For an everyday drinking saison, more often than not, I reach for Pockets of Sunshine.”
De Ranke Simplex
“This was a hard choice, and I was tempted to include Brasserie De La Senne’s Taras Boulba in its place. I love that beer, and keep Taras Boulba around to drink myself all the time. If we’re talking about influence in the beer world, from a saison maker’s standpoint, there isn’t anyone more important than Brasserie De La Senne’s Yvan de Baets. From his contribution to Phil Markowski’s book Farmhouse Ales to the beers he brews at De La Senne, he’s made a big impact. But Taras Boulba has been covered pretty extensively in this column before, so instead I’ll go with De Ranke Simplex.
“I just recently had this for the first time, and it was one of the most delicious beers I’ve ever drunk. The beer is not a Pilsner but drinks a lot like a Pilsner—it’s bitter and dry with a super fluffy head, and at 4.5 percent ABV, it’s one of those beers like Le Petit Prince that you can drink all day. It’s dry as a bone and thoroughly attenuated, and I love the way the carbonation plays with the body of the beer. I don’t have a Pilsner on my list, but this fills that place for me that a Pilsner would otherwise fill.”
Hill Farmstead Vera Mae
(Greensboro Bend, Vermont)
“Again, saison is my favorite style to drink, and I don’t know that Vera Mae gets the love that it deserves. It’s a beer that makes me think of spring, as it’s brewed with dandelions that they harvest there on their property. There’s a romantic notion about that, but the saisons that come out of Hill Farmstead are impeccable. The dandelions add a slight bitterness to the beer and dry it out a bit.
“This saison sees oak, but it doesn’t spend a long time in oak, so the wood doesn’t contribute much to the character. The result is a clean, refreshing saison with dry drinkability.”