Archive for April, 2015
I recently went to a little gastropub that just opened up down the street from my house called Junk House Gastro-Pub. This was a little funky, industrial, warehouse-looking place just off the freeway. I was directed to it by a hand-painted sign (graffiti style) with a name and an arrow pointing through a neighborhood of pre-fab condos. I must have driven past this place a dozen times and never noticed it, as I thought it was just a residential area next to the freeway.
It was not much to look at walking up to the place, with lots of corrugated steel, cement and chain link. The inside was much the same, with roll-up glass doors to one side, some scattered tables on the other side and a large L-shaped bar dominating the middle of the place. Despite all the industrial grunge (not dirty, but the general theme), the tables had wood tops and had lead pipes for legs. Cool vibe, but the menu is kind of expensive.
Looking at the beer menu, my eye stuck on one particularly raunchy-sounding one: Stubborn Jack Smoked Porter Ale from a brewery called Ass Kisser in Ukiah, CA. This beer poured black, with off white head that left some nice lacing on the glass. Smokiness and chocolate met my nose on the smell. Chocolate came through first on the taste, with faint smoke coming afterward. It was mild and medium bodied and the smokiness was hardly overpowering. The finish was of bittersweet chocolate. I have definitely had more dynamic porters, but it was a fair example of one.
Junk House does have good food and a moderate beer selection, but needs to come down on its prices. I would not mind if they started brewing their own beer, either.
I recently took a trip to Coronado “Island,” though technically it is classified as a tied island, connected to the mainland by a thin strip of land called a trombolo. For the purposes of this visit, however, I will continue calling it an island. It is a beautiful place, with lots of beaches and the ever-present shopping areas. One of the shopping areas houses the main brewery and restaurant location for Coronado Brewing. A friend told me this was basically a fancy-looking Coco’s. Despite what I had heard about this place, I had to try it. “When in Rome,” as they say…
The general theme of the place seemed to be a mix of old world industrial and Caribbean plantation. It is a big place, with brick on the outside and lots of wood copper, stained glass and more brick on the inside. There were big wooden plantation-style shutters on the windows, slate tile on the floor and a tin roof. It was very much a working brewery-restaurant, with the brewing operation out back. In fact, I passed by it on my way to the rather inconveniently located restrooms.
Which, appropriately enough, brings us to the beer. I decided on a sampler, as I am prone to doing at places I have never been before. I tried to cover the spectrum, light to dark, refreshing to filling, with one thrown in for interest.
My sampler began with the Maidens Altbier. It poured dark amber with white head that slowly slid down the sides of the glass, but left nothing behind. It smelled malty sweet, with hints of plum and raisin. Dark fruit flavors brought a malty sweet taste to the front that was quite mild. Medium in both carbonation and body, it had a malty middle that faded into a somewhat bitter finish. I liked this one, but would have preferred a tad more complexity.
Next came what I thought would be the most interesting of the lineup: the Lime Light. This one poured very pale yellow with tiny bubbles and head that clung to the glass. The second I put my nose over the glass for a whiff, all I could smell was the very strong lime aroma. Strong though it was, it did smell fresh. The taste was very mild, with some grassy flavors and a whole lot of lime. I could detect virtually no carbonation and it went down very light. Light flower notes came out toward the middle, with more grass and lime flavors carrying through to the finish. Much like the chile experience I had in New Mexico, this just was not my cup of tea…or beer.
I thought a good way to transition from the strong flavor of lime from that last taster would be to have a sour, so I tried the Second Chance Sour. It poured very pale yellow, though slightly darker than the Lime Light. On top was a cap of creamy white head. Grassiness and sour aromas were all that rose from the glass. The taste was very tart, almost puckeringly so. That same sourness pretty much dominated the entire drink from beginning to end. I’m a bit of a sucker for sour beers, so I did not mind.
Next up was the Stingray Point IPA. This one poured a rich golden color with fine white head. Lots of bubbles made this drink look quite lively. It smelled flowery sweet, with a bit of maltiness to back it up. The taste was much the same, with hoppy flowers, followed by a malty undertone. It finished mildly hoppy without much else to complicate it. A simple IPA.
I finished heavy with the Export Stout. It poured dark brown, with tan head that stuck around for a long time. It smelled light for a stout with definite coffee and chocolate notes. The taste was super malty, with bitter chocolaty flavors. It mellowed through the middle, finishing back with the malts, bittersweet chocolate flavors and coffee underneath.
Overall, a good trip to Coronado. I do not agree with the Coco’s assessment, however. I thought the setup and decor of the place made it a unique and fun place to visit. Even so, I wish this selection of lesser-known beers from a brewery I really like had been better.
High in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of central Nor Cal rests one of the most successful breweries in the U.S: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Ok, not really…it is located in the college town of Chico, CA, but it sure sounded good. It does brew the second best-selling craft beer in America, according to Wikipedia. It is a beautiful site and brewery. It sits in a mostly urban center of the city, ringed by picturesque mountains of the Sacramento Valley. Getting to the place was not difficult, though finding parking might become so at busier times. We had to park about a block away in what felt like overflow parking under an overpass. People spilled out of the doors to the tasting room and restaurant. There was a wait, so I went exploring both the grounds and the bar.
The tasting room had a very warm feel, with lots of stained wood, polished copper and stained glass. It felt a little upper-crust for my taste, but I ignored that and headed to the bar. There were many beers on tap, which may have been part of the reason the tasting area was jam-packed with people. I picked a flight of four tasters: Draught-Style Pale Ale, Kellerweis, Oliva Abbey Tripel and Old Chico Brand Crystal Wheat. Normally, I would not order two of the same style of beer, but I wanted to compare them to see what I could pull out. They did not bring them in order of light to dark, weak to strong, despite how I ordered them. I decided not to hold it against them and dove right in.
I started with the Draught-Style Pale Ale, which poured a golden amber color, with thin white head and little lace on the glass. It smelled slightly sweet with some fruity flowers. With smooth mouthfeel and little carbonation, the first flavors to come through on the taste were flowers, then some malts. The middle brought some bitterness and if finished sweet, with some of the bitterness trailing afterward. Not a particularly dynamic or flavorful beer.
Next up was the Kellerweis. It poured a bright, cloudy, pale yellow color, with thick head and lace that characterizes most wheat beers. This one was a bit thicker, though, due to the open fermentation tanks in which it is brewed. This allows open air into the beer as it ferments, giving it a wilder, fruitier character. It smelled sweet, with lemons and…banana. I am not a fan of banana flavors in my beer, so this immediately turned me off to this brew. The first flavor to come through was lemon, but then the bananas came on strong. It was very smooth with medium mouthfeel, but there was not much flavor through the middle of the drink. Bananas came back to finish this one out. Bananas killed it for me, but still some interesting dynamics:
I then moved to the Oliva Abbey Tripel. This poured a rich, clear, golden-yellow, with small, loose head that did not leave much on the sides of the glass. Rich aromas of sourness and yeastiness came from the glass on the smell. The taste surprised me with a lot of malty sweetness that verged on sugary up front and some yeasty grain afterward. Medium carbonation broke up the richness a bit, but it finished with a sugary yeastiness and only a touch sour.
I finished up with Old Chico Brand Crystal Wheat. This poured very clear, pale yellow, with persistent bright white head and strong lacing left on the glass. Not much to the smell, with only a little malty sweetness. The taste was smooth, with light bitterness and some hops. Light grainy wheat flavor characterized the middle, but hoppy bitterness served to drown this out. It finished light, with a touch of grainy sourness. This was much lighter than the Kellerweis and was awarded bonus points for keeping banana out of it.
All in all, I did not choose the most dynamic set of tasters I have ever had, but still enjoyed the experience. It really was a beautiful brewery and is worth a trip if you are ever in the area.