Archive for October, 2015
With San Diego Beer Week closing in on us next week, we have Halloween to keep us company this week. With this in mind, we celebrate the scariest beers we can find. San Diego Brewing Co. was more than happy to oblige with their Monster Mash 2015 (8.6% abv):
This “scary dark ale” (read: “imperial stout”) poured black, with thick foamy brown head. Dark fruit and raisin aromas dominated the smell, with some spice and brown sugar making it through. The taste was mild at first, then I tasted spicy dark fruit. It was little bitter going into the middle of the drink. Heavy-bodied with light carbonation, it was smooth to the finish, with more dark fruit flavors and a tartness I had not tasted before. Nice and dynamic for a stout.
Have a happy and safe Halloween!
Oktoberfest may have officially ended October 4, but the folks at new start-up brewery Helix Brewing Co. in the eastern part of San Diego sure know how to keep the party going. I missed most of the festivities they held earlier, like a traditional stein-holding competition, but staff and guests alike were all still in a festive mood. There were Bavarian flag pennants hanging from the ceiling and wall outside, bartenders in Lederhosen and official Hofbrauhaus steins on the bar inside.
Entering through the patio, the outside gave me the impression of walking into a warehouse or fish cannery. A corrugated metal roof and support beams wrapped in rope greeted me on my way in the door. There was a tree in a planter right in the middle of the patio, with party lights strung throughout that alleviated this somewhat. Inside, there was brick to the left and unfinished wood to the right on the walls. A concrete bar sat in front of the brewing area to the right with four small tasting tables in front of that. A large TV and chalkboard also hung on one wall.
With no Oktoberfest beers on tap (??), I opted for the Red ‘N’ Actvie Hoppy Red Ale (5.2%). This beer poured bright amber, with thin white head that dissipated quickly. It smelled somewhat malty, with far less hoppiness than the name of the beer implied and a slightly fruity aroma. The taste, however, was hoppy up front. This continued into the middle, where some maltiness worked its way through. Medium-bodied with light carbonation, the maltiness continued to a finish that saw the hoppiness return. Unfortunately, there was no real dynamic flavor profile to this one. I wish I could have had an Oktoberfest…
Summer’s not over yet! Yes, I know that the calendar would have you believe that Fall officially began on September 23…but I refuse to recognize it! As should you, since there is a great town north of San Diego in the so-called “North County” section of the city called Oceanside. This is a pretty typical working-class beachside town that happens to house Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The beach is fronted by a collection of hotels and high-rises, followed by some quaint shops and bars. A few blocks away from all the glitz is a brewpub called Bagby Beer Company.
This place has much of the same beachy feel as the boardwalk, but is located in a decidedly industrial part of town. Even so, it has a nice open front like you would find at a beach restaurant, with beechwood tasting counters at the patio railing running the length of the place. Roll up glass doors reveal long tables of the same beechwood as outside, with both cushioned stools and hard benches for seating. Glazed brick backs the bar area and loud green paint adorns the walls to one side.
All of this beachiness made me thirsty, so I dove right into a flight of house brews. I started nice and light with a German-style Altbier called ALT In the Family (4.7% abv). It poured a rich amber color, with tiny bubbles and thin white head that dissipated quickly. I smelled wheaty and malty aromas, with a slight sourness underneath. It tasted smooth and mild. In fact, there was little in the way of flavor at the beginning, shifting to only a little maltiness toward the middle. Light- to medium-bodied and lightly carbonated, this beer finished mild and somewhat malty, with little else to distinguish it. Refreshing, but a little boring.
Next, I moved to the Struggle Bus Extra Pale Nitro (4.8% abv). This beer poured pale, clear and yellow in color, with little carbonation and a cap of creamy white head. It smelled sour, tart and slightly skunky. The taste was smooth from the nitro and light. It was a little lemony, with some sourness at the start. The middle was light and tart, with little carbonation. It finished just as light, with some sourness and little else. I had high hopes for this one. It was good, but it just wasn’t very interesting.
Next up, I had a hope-inciting beer called Reconnoiter Porter Hoppy Porter (7.4%). Figuring this one was from their Department of Redundancy Department, I was intrigued. This one poured very dark brown, with thin, but creamy off white head. It smelled of coffee and little else. It had thick and creamy mouthfeel, with strong coffee flavor up front. Some bittersweet chocolate came through the middle, with medium body and light carbonation. It finished with more strong coffee that overpowered whatever other flavors might have been there. I like coffee, but this was yet another one-dimensional beer.
I finished ‘strong’ with the Bruges Cruise Belgian-style Dark Strong (11.4%). This big beer poured dark amber in color, with small bubbles and medium off white head that did not last long. Malty, sweet and boozy aromas defined this one, with a little sourness and spice at the tail end. Smooth and medium-bodied, some spicy flavors came through at first, mellowing to a malty sweetness toward the middle, though the spiciness lingered. Medium carbonation helped to keep things lively, while it finished with malty flavors and that lingering spiciness. Despite the prominent spice, I liked how dynamic this beer tasted.