New East Bay brewery: High Water Brewing

Have you ever been to Valley Brewing in Stockton? Me neither, though I used to hear the beers were worth the trip. Good news for us: Valley’s former award-winning brewer, Steve Altimari, has started his own brewery in San Leandro, making his highly-praised beers readily available in the East Bay and San Francisco.

The new brewery, High Water Brewing, brews at Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro and has office space next door. The initial two batches of beer first went on tap in February at a few SF Beer Week events and choosy bars like Monk’s Kettle, Toronado, and Beer Revolution. They were Altimari’s recipes, but while the brand-new High Water company waited for its paperwork to finish up, Drake’s distributed them with names like “Drake’s High Water Hop Riot IPA” to make everything 100% legal. Perhaps you even drank one and assumed it was a Drake’s beer, but at this point, you should be able to simply ask for “High Water.”

The beers

Altimari’s first two beers at his new venture are both IPAs. Hop Riot is a 7.3% west coast IPA finished with Apollo and Citra hops, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a double IPA. Altimari’s actual double IPA, Retribütion Imperial IPA, is 9.5% alcohol, 95 IBUs and “a very hop-centric introduction [to the new brewery],” said Altimari, “but there is nothing wrong with that in today’s beer climate.” Hop Riot and Retribütion will be available in 22 ounce bottles as well as beer bars in mid- to late March.

Not all of High Water’s beers will be IPAs, of course. The third release, Old & In The Way English-style Barley Wine, is being brewed around now and will be aged in brandy barrels for a late fall or early winter release. The High Water crew will brew the barley wine again later to release a non-barrel aged version, and to blend the two together for a third barley wine creation.

And those are just what Altimari called the “standard” High Water beers. There will also be four seasonals this year alone. In late spring, look for a Belgian-style ale with pomegranate and cherry juice. Next, High Water’s third IPA will emerge, fermented with Belgian yeast and maybe “a couple surprise ingredients,” hinted Altimari. The third seasonal will be a Baltic Porter (one version barrel aged, one not) and the final seasonal will be a lightly spiced holiday ale that will be out in time to grace your Thanksgiving table. Looking even further ahead, Altimari is currently growing some wild yeast starters at his house that will be used to produce sour beers we can try in 2012. Yeah, yeah, patience…how long’s that gonna take?