Archive for June, 2015
First of all, I’d like to say Happy Birthday to America this coming Saturday. What better occasion to celebrate with a super special, uber-concocted barrel aged beauty as Sam Adams Utopias? Few, my friends. Few.
Knowing the painstaking process followed to make such a brew, I wanted to enjoy this without getting smashed, so I took only the small amount you see below. This was all I needed to get the full experience of this beer (which is technically more of a barleywine).
It poured a deep golden amber color, almost like a long-aged bourbon. As expected, it had no head or carbonation, as the aging process takes this element out. One whiff gave me a full spectrum of aromas that reminded me of the holidays: dark fruits, cherries, bourbon, cinnamon, cloves and honey. The taste was thick, with honey up front, followed by bourbon and tart fruit flavors. The combination of flavors and heavy mouthfeel reminded me of maple syrup. Dark fruit made up the middle, with a little sourness. It then moved to clove flavors, finishing with sticky sweet honey, balanced by tart fruit.
The long wait to try this one may have influenced the score I gave it, but this is about as complex and nuanced a beer you are likely to find.
Cellar 3 is a new brewery that Green Flash Brewing opened up in Poway. It struck me as Green Flash gussied up. Lots of canvases adorned the walls featuring works by local painters and moody accent lighting helped with the overall art studio look of the place. Walking in, visitors have to head to the left past the brewing area which featured giant wooden barrel brew tanks. That lead to the hallway-like expanse that is the tasting room. On the right is the tasting bar and the left is a the back wall that awkwardly features only one door to a good size outside patio area, complete with a food truck. The whole brewery was brand new when I visited, having opened only 3 weeks earlier, so it still had a bit of an unfishished feel to it.
Unfortunately, so too did the beers I tried. I decided to try a sampler, as this is the best way to taste as many of a brewery’s offerings as possible and still be able to walk out under my own power (I’m usually a lightweight). I started with Natura Morta with Cranberry. It poured like juice: bright red and almost no head, except for the slightest hint of bubbles. Very tart aromas of cranberry were all I could get from the smell. The taste was very tart and sour. It was like a kick in the teeth it was so strong. “Astringent” is a good word to describe some beers and I think it is definitely appropriate here. The acidity in this beer was WAY up there, making it borderline unpleasant. The middle was none too smooth, either, with an unpleasant sticky sweetness that followed the overpowering sweetness. It finished very tart and sticky, which I think was my mouth’s way of rejecting this concoction. Sorry, Green Flash…this one did not do it for me:
Hoping to recover from this last assault on my taste buds, I tried an interesting, incredibly complex-sounding one: Fresco Sauvage with Brett, a Belgian-style saison, aged in red wine barrels. Looking back, this may not have been the best choice following such as palate-killer as the cranberry one, but, alas… This one poured a light hazy yellow color, with smooth head that streaked around the glass. It had a bright, slightly sour aroma that seemed refreshing. There was little else to distinguish in the smell. The taste was indeed sour, but light mouthfeel and the bright flavor of citrus helped keep it at bay. Lemons and grassiness defined the middle of the drink and the light body and smooth carbonation helped move mostly just the lemon flavor through the finish. Interesting, but just ok:
Last, I tried the Noir Sauvage Dark Lager, a black IPA also brewed with brettanomyces. These are what give so-called ‘wild ales’ their wildness. This beer poured black with a lovely cap of tan sticky head. It smelled very rich, like chocolate, bourbon and sugar. The taste was every bit as rich, with a huge sugary rush at the outset, followed by bourbon and malts. Medium-thick mouthfeel with little carbonation made it feel rather heavy. The middle is bourbony with notes of dark fruits. It finished rich, with a touch of bourbon. An interesting beer here, but still mostly unremarkable:
Although I enjoyed my trip to this new spot, the beers I tried left something to be desired. I will be back and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do when they are a little more settled in.
I recently found myself back in yet another nondescript industrial office park that seem ubiquitous in this area and ended up at a great little place named Arcana Brewing Company. This is a very small, slightly hard-to-find place in Carlsbad, about and hour north of San Diego. Driving through the parking lot, I came to a place called On-The-Tracks Brewery, but that must wait for another time to visit. Arcana was quite hallway-like and had no windows. In fact, the front door was in an entryway that was blocked off from the rest of the place by walls and another door. It made it very dark inside compared to most breweries I have visited. On the walls were bookshelves of games and little trinkets, display cases of artifact-looking things, and shelves with more objects in the steampunk style. Behind the tasting bar to the right was a huge display on the wall with shelf upon shelf of handcrafted, custom glazed mugs for visitors who join their Mug Club. Pretty slick.
Moseying up to the tasting bar, I was shocked at how many holiday beers they had on tap so late in Spring. Never one to pass on an opportunity to celebrate the holidays early, I got the Dark Christmas Ale. It poured very dark (duh) and cloudy, though it was hard to tell from the low light level in the brewery. It had a thin cap of tan head that stuck around for an appreciable time. Spicy and caramelly aromas met with a light fruity note on the smell. The taste was sweet up front with very little carbonation and medium body. The middle of the drink was a little disappointing, with an almost tasteless mildness, finishing dry with equally little taste, except for a token amount of malt.
I had hoped for more from this beer:
I moved on to something I thought would have decidedly more taste: the Barrel Aged Voyager English. Though I do not have a picture, it poured clear and deep red, with very little sticky white head on top. Sugary sweet aromas defined this one, with some cinnamon and light caramel notes. The taste was mild, with little carbonation and medium-light mouthfeel. Sweet up front with some melon-like fruitiness, the middle was a little mild. It finished a little overly-sweet with some melon afterward.
This one was equally ‘just ok’:
New English Brewing is a VERY small brewery in the Mira Mesa/Sorrento Valley area. Their operation is pretty typical of breweries around here: just a stall in an industrial office park, with a rollup door in front that gives the impression of a self-storage warehouse. There was a British flag on the wall, with the tasting counter straight ahead and the fridge/storeroom behind it. Three tables are all that fit in the very small amount of floor space available.
What they lacked in space, New English made up for in beer selection. They had a lot of different beers to choose from. Not wanting to miss out, I decided to make myself a flight: two casks, a brown and a tripel.
I started with the casked Pure & Simple IPA. It poured a rich golden color, with foamy head that stuck to the sides of the glass. It smelled mild, with slight fruity and flowery aromas. Medium mouthfeel and light in carbonation were the first impressions I got on the taste. The middle was malty with some fruity hops and it finished somewhat dry with mild hops trailing.
Next I sampled another cask offering: Humbly Legit IPA. This one poured a light golden with creamy, sticky white head. Aromas were floral and grassy; reminded me of springtime. The taste was equally as creamy as the pour led me to believe it would be. No identifiable flavors came through at first, though. Mild malty flavors lasted through the middle of the drink. Virtually no carbonation and medium-light mouthfeel, the maltiness faded to mild and dry sensations, with only a faint flowery hop flavor trailing. Not very strong on flavor on this one.
After that, I moved to the Brewers Special Brown. It poured dark amber, with small, loose off white head. It smelled carmelly sweet from a heavy dose of malts. The taste followed right up with sweet carmel and malty sweetness, though more mildly than the aromas led me to believe. There was also a very slight taste of dark fruit underneath all the maltiness. Medium mouthfeel and light in carbonation, it finished very malty sweet and carmelly. Despite all the sweetness, I liked this beer.
Finally, I made my way to the Troopers Tripple (not tripel as I originally thought.) This session IPA poured very pale yellow with fizzy white head that did not stick around long. It smelled hoppy and grassy, with some light fruit aromas. A strong dose of flowers met my tongue on the taste. I noted the medium mouthfeel and light carbonation next, followed by a malty middle, finishing with more floral flavors, with some fruitiness. It also left my mouth a little dry.
So, not an overwhelmingly tasty collection of beers greeted me on this visit, but overall I enjoyed this brewery brought.