Archive for August, 2015

Gettin’ Cultured

Culture signIn the San Diego community of Ocean Beach, there is a bunch of shops down one of the main drags in town. In one of these samey-looking storefronts, I went to a great craft brewery and tasting room called Culture Brewing Company. It had a very strong beach vibe, with lots of driftwood on the façade and sandy concrete- perfect for sandy people just coming from the beach two blocks away. Inside, it was somewhat artistic, with carefully crafted barrels for cocktail tables, kegs and furniture made from barrel staves. Culture collage

Bathroom hallwayThe front of the brewery was large and open, with a roll up glass door and a tasting counter looking out to the sidewalk and street beyond. Local photography adorned the righthand wall, while a good-sized tasting bar sat to the left. The brewing area straight at the back of the room had large viewing windows to allow guests to join in (visually) with their craft. To the left of the brewing area was a long, creepy-looking hallway that led to the bathrooms. The whole place had a nice open floor plan, but no air conditioning.

The ambiance immediately got me excited for the beer. First, I tried the Mosaic IPA (6.6% abv). This poured an opaque golden color with tiny bubbles and foamy white head. It smelled slightly hoppy and fruity, but I detected no other aromas. The taste was light, fresh, and fruit-forward with a malty backbone. Light carbonation and body helped keep things Culture Mosaic IPArefreshing, with some hops toward the middle. It finished with some sweet maltiness trailing, but none of the hops or fruit from before. I had hoped for more from this one, but a good everyday beer:

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Next up, I saw they were running a fundraiser for one of their brewers who was very sick and the proceeds from one of their beers went to help him with treatment. Lager-ita (abv not available) poured opaque pale yellow with soapy white head. Aromas were sour and skunky, much like the cerveza Mexibeer style, which the bartender told me this drink resembled. The taste was light and refreshing, despite the aromas. It helped that I already knew what I was getting into with the cerveza style (always ask before tasting, kids!). Some hoppiness, but mostly sour, cerveza-Lager-itaesque flavors dominated through the middle. It was light-bodied with light carbonation and finished just as light, with the same sour/skunky flavors from earlier in the drink. I considered this a typical cerveza, but it was refreshing.

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Despite the average beers, I very much enjoyed this brewery: great atmosphere inside and out. The staff was very helpful, the art exhibited in the photographs on the wall and the seats under our butts definitely gave this place a lot of character. I will definitely be back.

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It Was an OK Day At Sea

I recently found occasion to go back to Ballast Point to sample more of their ever-expanding list of experimental beers. As usual, they did not disappoint. Starting with the always good Sculpin on nitro (7% abv), this beer poured golden in color, with thick creamy white head. I detected sour and mild malty aromas with only some hoppiness. The taste was mild and light. Hoppy and creamy up front, it was light in body and carbonation, mostly due to the nitro. It finished smooth with some sourness and hoppiness. Not a lot going on with this beer, but a good everyday drinker.

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A little out of order, next up was Homework #5 Hoppy Belgian Ale (5.2% abv). This one poured rich golden-yellow as well, but with only a thin layer of white head. Sour smell at the front and somewhat sweet aromas at the back. It tasted malty sweet at first, then smooth into the middle. With light-medium body, it finished hoppy and mild. An adequate beer, but nothing really to hold my interest for very long.

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Ballast Flight

Then I tried the Sea Turtle Saison (abv not available, as they were too quick with the eraser after they ran out) made with green tea and mint: It poured a pale opaque golden color, with loose white head that did not stick around long. It smelled sour and tart, with some fruit aromas coming around the end. It tasted sour and effervescent up front, with a touch of hoppiness. The middle was light and smooth, finishing equally as light and smooth. There was not nearly the amount of dynamic, if delicate, flavor profile I expected from this one. Sure, I could blame it on the two prior tasters, but I thought this one was a little lacking. Points for effort, however.

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Lastly, I tried the one I was most afraid would taste like fruit juice, but had to try because it was from a cask: Tart Wahoo with hibiscus and lime (7% abv): It poured the color of cranberry juice, with lots of fizzy bright white head. Tart berry aromas dominated the smell, as expected. It tasted super tart from the start. With virtually no carbonation, despite the copious fizz on the pour, it was light. There was no real discernible taste through the middle of the drink, but finished a little sweet and tart. This was probably not one I would get again and, from the full glasses of folks around me who had already been there a while, I was not alone in this assessment.

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Let the Party Continue!

IMG_3628I decided Pacific Brewing Co. deserved another visit, as I only tried two of their offerings before. This time I opted for a flight to get a good idea of their range of brews. From left to right in the image above, I started with the Cruiser Pale (5.4% abv). It poured a cloudy dark golden color. Effervescent, it gave off sugary aromas with some maltiness and citrus, as well. It tasted creamy, with the maltiness up front. Nice carbonation toward the middle, which helped to break up the light-medium body. It finished mild, somewhat sour and tart, with the malts trailing. A really dynamic beer for a pale ale:

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Next was the Simma Down Brown (5.8% abv). This one poured dark brown, almost black, with smooth off white head. Coffee and chocolate aromas came off the top, with some roasted malts. I tasted mostly coffee at first. Some fizziness took me to the middle of the drink, where some semi-bitter chocolate came through. Medium bodied, it finished with straight coffee the rest of the way. Not too dynamic, but I enjoyed the coffee flavor, which was more mild than most of the other coffee beers I have tried.

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Next up was the Hernandez Pale (6% abv). This beer poured a rich golden color, with small, fizzy bubbles. It smelled exclusively hoppy and floral. The taste was mild up front, somewhat creamy and hoppy. These flavors continued to the middle, with only the hoppiness persisting through the finish.

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Saving the biggest one for last, I tried the creatively named Wallaby Hunter IIPA (8.2%): It poured a pale effervescent yellow with tiny bubbles and creamy white head. Floral aromas at the front of the glass and malty toward the back (I recently read an article suggesting smelling from different parts of the glass, distances from the glass, etc.) Malty and hoppy in equal measure at the first taste. Then it transitioned to creamy into the middle. Mild and light-medium bodied, it finished somewhat boozy and creamy. Nice dynamic way to finish off this flight:

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What the Ale?

Back at Rough Draft Brewing again and I tried some of their more experimental offerings. First, I had the Rough Draft What the Ale? pale aged in Pinot noir barrels. This one poured a deep golden orange color with tiny head that dissipated quickly. Grapes and malts predominated the smell. The taste was malty sweet and slightly sour. Grapey wine flavors carried through the middle. Medium-light body with light carbonation, it finished with a moderate light wine flavor. It was an interesting beer.

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Then I tried the Grapefruit Weekday IPA. It poured bright golden, similar to the regular Weekday IPA, with tiny bubbles and small loose head. The aroma was slightly sour and citrusy. The taste was tart up front, with some grapefruit and mild hoppiness. The middle was somewhat malty and sour. Medium bodied, it finished tart and citrusy. Not quite dynamic enough for me.

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Sorry about not having photos. For some reason Apple iCloud hides certain ones from upload…

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Abbey Road South

Abbey pano

No, not the Beatles album from 1969… This was a craft beer purveyor in the South Park neighborhood of San Diego that billed itself as a pub. I don’t know if it necessarily met my personal definition of “pub,” but it was a cool place. Laid out in an L-shape, this relatively small bar/eatery sat at the intersection of the two main streets in town. It was fronted with large windows and roll-up doors, with tap handles hanging from the ceiling above. A small three-sided bar was located toward the back, with lots of mostly low-top tables in between the bar and the front door. Three TVs and a large projection screen adorned the little wall space that remained. Off to the left was a pool table and to the right outside was a small, narrow patio that faced the street away from the front door.

Craftsman saisonI had one beer while I was here: Craftsman Fireworks Saison (6.5% abv). This beer poured oddly dark, as most other saisons I had ever had were very light in color, with light white head. Aromas were malty sweet with a slight sourness and some fruitiness that I could not identify. It tasted malty sweet at first, then some fruit that tasted like melons and raisins came through in the middle. Light body and lightly carbonated, it finished somewhat sweet, with a touch of tartness to keep things interesting.

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