Archive for February, 2014

It’s Time for a Pint!

Indeed it is! This week I am heading up to San Francisco for a road trip to see one of our favorite bands. Of course, that will not be the only focus. A central part of the trip for our merry little group is a stop at Johnny Foley’s Irish House. This pub is smack in the middle of the City Center/Union Square part of the city’s northern end. From what I have read, this is a very authentically Irish place, with lots of attention to detail in the decor upstairs. The main attraction seems to be downstairs with a dueling piano bar. Reviews are mixed, however, at how good of an experience this is, but I’m still going in with enthusiastic curiosity.

Foley’s is absolutely surrounded by other pubs and restaurants. The most intriguing to me are a Scottish place called Sutter Pub & Restaurant and a speakeasy-style bar called Bourbon & Branch. Never one to be prudish about where I enjoy a pint, I look forward to trying these places out, as well. We will also take some time to see other sights around the city, such as Golden Gate Park, the Wharf (typical tourist fare) and the Blackhawk museum. 

I’ll be sure to post pictures here when I get back. In the meantime, does anyone have any suggestions on other places to check out? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

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Ballast Point

IMG_1760 In my quest to visit every brewery in the San Diego county area (not really, but I do enjoy it), I had the opportunity to go to Ballast Point Brewing Company in Little Italy. This is a very nice section of town where I perpetually feel underdressed, but never outclassed. There are some good eateries and, in this case, a brewery. It’s kind of tucked away at the end of the main drag down there, but definitely worth the “search.” Walking in, I was immediately carded by a tall tatted hipster with dreadlocks, which I chalked up to their having to watch for under aged youths trying to sneak in there after a night downtown. Inside, I was met by basically a warehouse with a bar at the front and tons of tables.

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As you can see from the pictures above, there is quite a bit of space in there and more than enough people to fill it. Having the bar right in front of the door is not the best layout in the world, as the backup at the bar tends to block the entrance to the place a bit. I get it from a marketing perspective, though: people see a crowd at the bar, line out the door, they think, “This is a happenin’ place.” Now, I don’t know who says “happenin'”, but you get the idea.

The bar wraps around to the right, where they have a small-ish food counter, offering up choices of bar food like chicken strips, wings, chips & salsa, and the like. Around the bend to the left and behind the bar by the bathrooms are their display cases, in which they have for sale things like t-shirts and glasses. Not über convenient, or good for sales (I would think), but still nice to have a piece of the brewery to take home, if you should so choose.

Now, onto the beer! I ordered 3 tasters: the Sea Monster Imperial Stout, Piper Down Scottish Ale, and the Tongue Buckler Imperial Red Ale. The imperial stout was as you would expect. It poured a dark brown, with limited off white head. It was only limited because it was just a taster and didn’t have the depth in the glass to develop more. I caught noticeable coffee notes coming from the glass, with some heavy malty tones. The taste was much the same. I tasted bitter chocolate, coffee, and malt with a hefty alcohol kick at 10% abv. I then moved to the Scottish ale. This one poured a very bright red-orange color, with bright white head that was almost completely dissipated. I expected a sour smell, similar to a Belgian ale, but what I got was more on the sweet and malty side. The taste was heavy on the malts and the carbonation was fairly light. The aftertaste was one of bitter hoppiness. Overall, a very mild choice. Third on the list was the red ale. This one poured similar to the Scottish ale, but a little darker with a more quickly-dissipating head. The minute I put my nose over the rim of the glass, I was almost knocked back by the hops shooting out of the glass. This gave me pause before tasting it. When I did, I was immediately hit by the huge floral hop flavor. This didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would and I was rewarded for going back for more after the maltiness aftertaste settled on my tongue and throat to cool the hoppy bite.IMG_1761

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I was going to stop there, but then I saw what turned out to be the crown jewel of my visit to Ballast Point; one for which I waited over 10 minutes back in line at the bar. The Sextant Oatmeal Stout is hands down the best stout I have ever had. Naturally, they serve this from a nitro tap, which according to their website, causes carbonation with tiny bubbles and a richness unlike any other. This makes for a velvety smooth and surprisingly light drink. It is a super dark beer, with just a hint of red tint when held up to the light. The head is like that of a root beer float. What fragrance was able to make its way to my nose was full of mild chocolatey flavors. The taste– oh, the taste. It was like straight cream at first, with a cool milky sensation on my tongue. Rich chocolate followed this, with coffee and just the slightest bit of hoppy bitterness. A very light beer, I would gladly enjoy this beer anytime.

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Shot through the heart!

IMG_1767…and this wonderful liquid is to blame. Happy Valentine’s, everybody! If you drink this particular brew from AleSmith, it will be extra happy, if not a bit hoppy (sorry…) Anyway, My Bloody Valentine Ale is a beer for all you love-sick beer drinkers out there.

This red ale pours a deep red color with off whitish, soapy head that dissipates quickly. The picture to the left was taken about one minute after pouring. The first whiff brought a floral scent to my nose, quickly followed by a sweet maltiness that excited by taste buds. When my buds finally got their turn, they told me I was tasting a sweet, flowery IPA style beer. At this, I thought, “Uh oh…” The hoppiness subsided quickly and was taken over by the wonderful malty flavors this beer delivers in abundance. I was left with a pleasant malt flavor in my throat, with faint hints of the sweet flowers.

At 6.66% abv (cute, right?), the alcohol is not too much to take, but for me the floral hops may give me some trouble were I to drink more than one in a sitting. Still not a bad beer by any means.

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It’s BeerBQ Time!

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About once per month K ‘n B Wine Cellars has an event cleverly referred to as a BeerBQ. These are relatively small, intimate events, if for no other reason than the place itself is not large, at which they feature either brews from a local brewery, or beer that KnB itself makes from time to time. They always have great food, hence the barbecue part in the name, and it is always a good time.

Last weekend featured Hess Brewing. I had never heard of Hess before and I am always looking for new stuff to try. Lucky for me I was able to catch this one, as the beer I had was fantastic. Searching through the list of selections, I was nigh impressed by all the IPA and citrus flavored brews on offer (though I wasn’t completely turned off to the orange wit, but another time perhaps). My eyes landed on one and refused to look any further: Ex Umbris Imperial Oatmeal Stout in a cask. I am a big fan of oatmeal stout, due in part to its usual light creaminess that doesn’t fill me up like a normal stouts. I’ll have to look into why this is, as it seems very counterintuitive to have a beer made with oats be less filling than one without.

This beauty came as a dark chocolaty brown jewel in glass. Though not much head remained, what little was there was a somewhat thin dark tan foam. From other pictures I have seen, the head should have resembled that of a root beer float. No matter- I chalked it up to our server being busy and the beer likely sat for a bit before arriving to the table. I picked up definite coffee flavors in the smell, with some malty chocolate. The taste, per usual, was much as it smelled. I was hit first with intense coffee flavors, with the slightly bitter chocolate toward the middle. The finish was very malty, while both the chocolate and coffee flavors lingered.

A very tasty and easy-drinking beer, I could easily sip on this one, or multiples of them.

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