In an office park about an hour from downtown San Diego, I found myself in the town of Vista and at Booze Brothers Brewing Co. The vibe was hard to describe, but it struck me as hipster-meets-western at a deer lodge. To the right of the door were a studded leather couch and leather chases. Continuing through another doorway, I was hit with plants hanging from the ceiling, cactus in whiskey barrels and three skinny tasting tables made of rough-hewn logs along the walls in front of the entrance. There was also a modern-looking black leather couch seating area in the middle that would not have been out of place in an office from the ’90s. Barrels and a bench seating area sat further to the left in front of the bar. Overhead hung light fixtures made from old bedsprings and Edison bulbs. The bar area was adorned with unfinished wood, steer horns and a framed long rifle above the taps. Out back was a surprisingly large patio, with picnic tables and planters for seating and a tasting bar.
This being a new place, I got a flight that included a blonde, a session IPA, a barrel aged Belgian and a nitro stout. Following tradition, I started with the Penny Blonde (4.8% abv). This beer poured clean golden-yellow, with a thin film of white head. The aroma was unremarkable and mild. It smelled mostly yeasty. The taste was a bit mild at first, moving to a bitterness toward the middle. Light bodied and lightly carbonated, it finished light and easy, with a slight bitterness and yeastiness on the aftertaste. Like the aroma, this one was not very remarkable, but refreshing.
Next was the Good Guy Session IPA (5.2% abv). This one poured a lighter golden color than the blonde, with a thin layer of sticky white head. It smelled of hoppy tropical fruits and a little honey. The taste was hoppy and bitter at first. Then the fruitiness kicked in, lending flavors like melon and honey. The middle was mild. Light bodied and lightly carbonated, it finished smooth, with a light tingle from the carbonation and a lingering fruit flavor with a touch of bitterness.
Third in my tour of the Bitter Brothers menu was the Aged Aristocrat Bourbon Barrel Aged American Amber (7% abv). Based on the flavors of an Old Fashioned cocktail, this beer poured red-orange in color with a layer of fizzy off white head. It smelled sweet and strong. There was a hint of apricot on the nose. The first thing to hit me was a huge dose of apricot and spice flavors. It reminded me of muddled cider at Christmastime. It was also pretty boozy up front. The middle was sweet and somewhat sour, with light body and light carbonation. The finish was sticky, sour and warm. I wanted to really like this one and it was interesting, but the flavor combination just did not do it for me.
Rounding out my four-pack, I got the Stump Stout on nitro (8.4% abv). This last beer poured black, with thick tan head that painted the sides of the glass. Lots of coffee presented with the aroma, with some bitterness and a little malt. The first taste was all coffee. The middle was also of nothing but coffee, as was the finish. Medium bodied and lightly carbonated, it reminded me of a shot of very strong joe. I must have been in the mood for coffee because I liked this beer.