Archive for July, 2015

Country Charm in the City

Half Door pano_insideLocated in San Diego’s East Village a block from Petco Park was an old two-story white farmhouse with a wraparound porch. At first, visitors might not think they could walk in here to find a bar backed by a rather impressive liquor cabinet display, were it not for the discreet Half Door Brewing Co. sign hanging from the clapboard side of the building. The brewery is apparently patterned after the rural farmhouses found all over Ireland. This place had a very cool charm about it, from the long porch to the homelike feel seated in a residential neighborhood.

Walking inside, I was struck by the colorful wallpaper covering above dark gray beadboard on every wall, interrupted only occasionally by small black and white photos and old-looking lamps and sconces. The beams in the white plaster ceiling reminded me of Tudor style architecture and the floors were herringbone-patterned wood. To the right after walking in what felt like the back door, was the two-sided bar surrounded by small black and white tile. As I mentioned above, the liquor cabinet behind the bar was impressive, reaching clear to the ceiling. To the left of the bar and on the other side of the room were mostly high top cocktail tables and chairs by the small but plentiful windows.

This was an unusual place to grab a drink, but definitely worth a return trip.Half Door_collage

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Mission Accomplished

Mission TapsI finally got the chance to visit Mission Brewery in San Diego. I have meant to steer myself there for a while now, but for one reason or another, never have until now. This was an old brick building in San Diego’s East Village that used to be a Wonder Bread factory next to Petco Park. The surrounding area was a little…let’s call it unsavory, with lots of homeless in residence along most of the sidewalks and some trash blowing around, but the brewery was nice. Mission Brewing_outsideAs I mentioned, it was all brick and cement on the outside, complete with cracks and debris, all which served its old-world feel. Inside was more brick walls and cement floor, but the ceiling was an impressive display of wood that very much resembled a ship’s hull. Indeed, the bar to the right was made of wood that looked as though it was pulled straight from the deck of a galleon. To the left were tasting tables made fromChandeliers old barrels, along with longer regular tables, both hi-top and low. Also to the left was the brewing area, with a tasting counter surrounding two edges of it. No employees manned the counter and I saw no taps, so I thought it odd. The whole brewing area was unlit, apparently the case when not in use. From the ceiling above hung wrought iron chandeliers that I swore were right out of a European castle somewhere. There were also two shuffleboard tables with lots of rowdy patrons around them and a merchandise shop at the back. Root Beer and Imp RedNever one to waste an opportunity to taste, I got two: the Mission Hard Root Beer and Gentleman Grant Imperial Red Aged in Manhattan Whiskey Barrels with Cherries (a mouthful, but that’s the actual name.) Mission Hard Root Beer (7.5% abv): This poured like, well, root beer, dark brown with large brown head. The smell was only of root beer. The taste was boozy, with a little licorice. The root beer taste was definitely present, but the vodka-like punch of this one was a bit distracting. I found the whole drink a bit astringent.

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The Imperial Red (8.5% abv) was a treat. It poured deep orange-red with not much carbonation and thin white head. Aromas were mild, with hints of cherry and malt, but no whiskey. There was definite cherry flavor up front, with a little malt sweetness and then the whiskey kick in the middle. Medium bodied and lightly carbonated, it finished with some cherry sweetness and a touch of whiskey trailing. Though there were not many elements to this, I enjoyed its subtlety.

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I finished up with a coffee drink, the Dark Seas Russian Imperial Stout with Espresso (9.8% abv). This oneDark Seas RIS poured black with dark brown head that reminded me of root beer. Heavy aromas of coffee and roasted malts. The taste was all coffee up front with some dark roasted malts underneath. With a medium-thick body, the middle was strong and boozy, lightening up a bit to mostly mild coffee on the finish. Another dynamic beer with few flavors.

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This brewery is definitely worth a visit. Plus, as is the trend in San Diego, they have a food truck show up every day out front.

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Whatever Blows Your Skirt Up

Moylan's Kilt LifterBut don’t call it to a skirt! I received this beer as a gift from a friend who said it was really good. Any beer that sports a Scottish tartan and whose name includes the word ‘kilt’ definitely piques my interest.

This scotch-style ale poured cloudy red with tiny bubbles and thin, but surprisingly creamy off white head. It smelled slightly sour, with rich malty notes underneath and a hint of dark fruit. I tasted fruit up front, something like plum, though I could not place it, with some sourness and lots of malty sweetness. Medium bodied, it had a pleasing amount of carbonation. The finish was fairly heavy on the malts, with a little sourness.

Moylan's Kilt Lifter top

Over all, a little too heavy for me to drink this one often:

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San Diego International Beer Festival 2015

SDIBF_frontI recently attended a glorious event held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds (home of the famous Del Mar racetrack) called the San Diego International Beer Festival. Held at the same time as the San Diego County Fair, this exhibition brought together some 400 beers by breweries from all over the world. It was a great atmosphere and an even better way to taste a whole lot of different beers in one place.

IMG_3446There were two ticket options available: General Admission, which got visitors unlimited one-ounce tastings over four hours and a plastic ‘souvenir’ tasting cup, and VIP, which allowed an extra hour of unlimited tastings (why?) and a glass souvenir tasting cup that vendors would fill as full as three ounces for each tasting. Four hours was plenty for me since, as mentioned at the top, there were over 400 beers to try. I got my fill of far too many to list and/or review here, so I’ll just hit the highlights.

The first stop I had to make was at the booth of my favorite brewery: Deschutes. As luck would have it, they had some cleanup to do from the previous tasting session and were not going to be open for another hour, so I was forced to move on. I sampled mediocre beer after mediocre beer, some even downright swill bucket material…until I happened upon the Einstock beer tent. With only three beers on tap, I did not really know what to expect from this Icelandic brewery, until I saw this:

Einstock_ax

I need one of these

That, my friends is one serious bottle opener. No matter what the beer tasted like, I was in from this implement alone. The Icelandic White Ale was a typical example of a witbier: poured very pale light yellow with a fizziness that reminded me of Squirt soda.  There was lots of fresh citrus aroma and taste that was quite refreshing. It didn’t have much of a finish, but the effervescence kept my tastebuds alive.

Next I tried the Icelandic Arctic Pale. This one poured a bit darker with still minimal head. It smelled remarkably malty for a pale ale, with only a hint of hops. My first taste was of malty sweetness up front and some fruit flavors to follow. The middle was mild and light, finishing with the same maltiness as at the top. It wasn’t a particularly dynamic beer, but enough to hold my interest for the third tasting.

The Icelandic Toasted Porter was actually the one I was looking forward to the most. It poured deep, dark brown, with only a little fizzy brown head on top. It smelled distinctly of chocolate and coffee and little else. The taste was purely of these two flavors the whole way through, though not overpoweringly so. I liked this one most.

SDIBF_collageInnumerable samples and a giant hot dog later, because I’m a responsible drinker, I finally got to my number one destination of the event: the Deschutes Woody booth. It was done up in finished wood to look just like a beer barrel. Enjoying one of the many brews they had on tap, the driver of the woody saw the Deschutes hat I was wearing and came over for a chat. I mentioned that this DeschutesWoodywas was very cool booth and that it reminded me of the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

“Funny you should mention that,” he said. He then brought out his phone and explained that he had contacted them once to partner on a promotional event, but was rebuffed, with the folks at Oscar Mayer telling him that the Deschutes drinkers were “not their demographic.”

Pardon me, Oscar Mayer, but since when have hot dogs NOT fit the beer crowd like a glove? Never, that’s when. He was lucky enough, however to get them to pose for a picture at another event. This simply made my night.

The San Diego International Beer Festival was a fantastic event with lots of beer vendors, even more beer lovers and lots and lots of beer. I sincerely hope this even comes back next year, as I’ll absolutely be there!

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