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Nickel for your Thoughts

Nickel Beer Co. CollageWith the weather heating up, what better way to celebrate than to head for where it is hottest? Way out east of San Diego is the town of Julian. Julian is home to some of the best apple pies you can find. They even have hard cider on offer, too. If beer is more your thing, there was a cool jailhouse-turned brewery and tasting room called Nickel Beer Co. just off the main drag in town. A quaint green brick building on the outside, the inside had the same green brick and lacquered wood paneling everywhere. An open beam ceiling exposed some insulation and ducting that was sprayed black. There was an iron stove to the left of the front door and a very small tasting bar to the right. One room at the back right of the place was a jail cell that was converted to a game room, with a foosball table as the main attraction. There was an inexplicable pass-through window to the left of the door behind the stove that sat next to the door, with a shelf on which sat an impressive collection of beer steins. A pretty odd vibe to start with, but certainly nothing to keep me from getting a taste of what I came for.

IMG_4042Nickel Beer Co. Store RoomNickel Beer Co. Jail CellNickel Beer Co. Brewing Tanks
Nickel Beer Co. Tap Room

 

 

 

As is my standard in a new place, I went with a flight. At Nickel, this comes in a muffin tin. This was the first time I had seen this and I thought was a pretty cool presentation, considering the rural locale. I started with Blair’s Not Bitter Fresh Hop Ale (4.1% abv): This beer poured amber with loose white head. It smelled mild and light. The taste was indeed mild and somewhat malty. With light body, there was just enough carbonation to keep things moving. It finished light and malty, despite the hoppy name. Not a real impressive beer overall.

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Next, I tried C.C. O’Neill’s Irish Red (5.4% abv): It poured almost the same color amber as the hop ale with smooth white head. There was virtually no aroma. The taste was malty and mild. There was a little sweetness with just a hint of bitterness. Almost no hops came out to play in this one. The middle was mild and light. Lightly carbonated and light body, it finished malty sweet. Though better than the first, it was just ok.

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Nickel Beer Co Muffin Flight

The top row was for someone else

I finished up with My Way Fresh Hop IPA (6.3% abv): It poured light golden in color, with thin white head that had some staying power. There was a heavy dose of hops on the smell, with some floral aromas and a little bitterness. The taste was smoother than the smell implied and was somewhat sweet at first. Fruitiness followed with some more bitterness into the middle. Light bodied and lightly carbonated, the middle was light, finishing with fruity and bitter flavors. Tasty, but not real dynamic.

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Definitely a quaint brewery in a quaint area and worth a look.

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Running From Taste

Ninkasi Beer Run IPAJust exploring my surroundings some more, I went down to the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. I don’t usually go down there, as it is mostly surfer bros, tatoo and vape shops and a whole heap of trendiness in which I don’t belong. What did belong (in my beer glass) was Beer Run IPA (7.3%abv). This beer poured golden color, with a cap of foamy white head. It smelled floral and bitter. The taste was very bitter, followed by some floral hops into the middle. It was light bodied and lightly carbonated, finishing much as it started: bitter and floral. Not super dynamic for one of my favorite breweries.

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Oasis in the East

Pacific Islander collageDriving through the Mad Max-style scenery of Santee, there was a small oasis called Pacific Islander Brewing. It had a great Polynesian surfing theme. The outside was adorned with Polynesian ceremonial masks and lifeguard chairs, with AstroTurf and large tile. Inside was a standard tasting room, complete with a long tasting table and lots of concrete. There were also surfboards hung on all of the walls.

Of course, I got a flight, on accouna I had never been before. First was a Li’ke Li’ke (6% abv): It poured rich golden-yellow with tiny bubbles and almost no head. It smelled somewhat skunky and a little cheap (like Miller or Budweiser). The taste was as mild as expected, with only a small amount of hoppiness and little else to distinguish it. All in all an underwhelming start.

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Next was the Duty Free IPA (7% abv): The second beer poured deep clear orange with just as few bubbles as the blond and only slightly more head. Aromas were super floral, with a bit of tropical fruit after. The taste was hoppy at first, with rich fruit flavors that included mango, a touch of coconut and maybe pineapple. Mild into the middle, it was light bodied, lightly carbonated and finished smooth and fruity.

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Pacific Islander flightThird up was a red that wasn’t on the menu (no name or abv given). The pour was dark red with bright white foam on top. Aromas included heavy malty sweetness and a little sourness. It tasted rich and sweet, with a little brown sugar into the middle. Mild and rich, it had medium body and light carbonation. The finish was malty and sweet. This was their best beer on offer that particular day.

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Fourth, was the Tahitian Brown (5.8% abv): This one poured a deep, dark chocolate color, with bright white head. It smelled of coffee, chocolate and malts. The first thing I tasted was coffee, followed by the chocolate and malty sweetness. Mild, lightly carbonated and light body, it finished smooth and rich, with the bitter chocolate trailing.

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Last was the Stink Eye Chocolate Stout (7.1% abv): The last one poured almost black, with thick, sticky tan head. It smelled like rich, bittersweet chocolate and a little boozy. The taste was unexpected: it included a chile flavor and a little vegetal bitterness. There was also a touch of pepper. The middle was heavy and equally rich. Lightly carbonated and heavy body, it finished heavy and sticky.

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Faniciness Prohibited

Prohibition collage

Prohibition Brewing Co. was a way out-of-the-way place in Vista. The building it sat in reminded me of a cross between an old motel and a Mexican food restaurant. The outside was squat, dark and covered in a mural of a small bar scene. The inside was reminiscent of an ecclectic barn-meets a pizza parlor. There was a host stand in the entry way, with both wooden and round fiberglass picnic tables beyond. The floor was made up of large black and white checkers. To the left of the entrance was the small bar area, which from the outside, was all I was expecting to see on the inside, to be honest. Their beer selection was larger than I was expecting, with some equally surprising styles, including a Black Rye IIPA, Wheat Hopped IIPA, and Vanilla Cream Ale.

Prohibition sweet biscuit amberI got the Sweet Biscuit Amber (6.1% abv): This beer poured red in color with thin, fizzy white foam on top. It smelled very malty and a little sweet. There was also a little fruit aroma toward the end. The taste was mild at first. Then the malty sweetness kicked in, followed by a touch of fruitiness. The middle was characterized by more maltiness and a biscuity dryness, that I assumed gave the beer its name. Medium body and light carbonation lead to a somewhat bready finish, with malty sweet stickiness trailing.

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Brew By the Bay

Bay City Brewing collageI hope all had a great Mother’s Day. I went to a really random-seeming spot called Bay City Brewing. This was a very small place tucked away by the freeway by, well, Mission Bay in San Diego. It was kind of beachy, with a light blue wall behind an industrial-rustic wooden bar top, Edison light bulbs and skylights overhead. There was one long tasting table with the same wood on top. Beyond the bar was the brewing area, with four fermenters, two brew tanks, a lauter tun and one mash tun. They even had something delicious looking in barrels on the floor.

inexplicable door

A door…leading to a pole.

Being the patriot I am, I had the ‘Merican Stout (6.66% Bay City Brewing 'Merican Stoutabv): This beer poured deep, dark brown, with thin white head. It smelled of coffee and only slight bitterness. The taste was unlike any stout I had had before: it was carmelly, somewhat malty and a little bitter. Some sourness lead into a middle that was light, malty and had medium carbonation. The finish was light, with some malty sweetness and lingering bitterness, as the carbonation tingled on my tongue.

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Bay City Brewing Sour BrownThen I tried was the Sour Brown (4% abv): The second beer poured a light brown color, with thin white head that didn’t stick around long. It smelled like spice, anise and slightly of malt. The taste was sour at first, with some spice and then the anise kicked in- not enough to knock my teeth out with licorice, but a nice subtle flavor. The middle was medium-bodied and lightly carbonated, while the drink finished with some spice and a lot of malty sweetness.

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Hooligan Kinda Day

Mike Hess HooliganMike Hess brewing is known for widely palatable beers. St. Patrick’s Day is an occasion for special releases. This past holiday they released a cask of Hooligan Irish Stout (5.5% abv). It poured black with a nice cap of smooth tan head. Aromas included lots of bittersweet chocolate, roasted malts and just a hint of coffee. The drink was smooth, not served too cold and creamy. Medium body and light carbonation lead to an equally smooth finish, with mostly bittersweet flavors trailing. None too interesting, but still festive.

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New English- A Blurb on Bourbon

New English Bourbon Barrel Aged BrownBourbon barrel-aged Batch #6 stout (6.6% abv): This beer poured deep chocolate-brown with a slight haze and light white fizzy head on top. It gave off strong bourbon aromas with a little bit of chocolate. The first taste was mild with a bit of sweetness. Then the boozy bourbon flavor kicked in, with a touch of maltiness into the middle. Medium body and light carbonation lead to a pretty mild finish with mild bittersweet chocolate on the end.

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Hop on the Good Foot

IMG_4885IMG_4955The Miramar/Mira Mesa area is known for an abundance of breweries. One fairly new brewery (est. 2015) tucked away in another industrial office park was Duck Foot Brewing Co. This small brewery had its own parking area, rare for many tasting rooms and breweries around San Diego. Walking in, I was struck by the wall to right paneled in unfinished wood slats. The rest was treated concrete and industrial looking pipes. The tasting bar was directly to the front with white subway tile behind, surrounded by dark metal bolted to the wall. There were also tasting tables in front of the door and a counter around the windows overlooking the street outside. The tasting counter continued off to the left where the brewing area was. There were also giant murals on two of the walls of Rock’em Sock’em robots with boxing gloves and two pin-up girls riding a rocket painted like a shark.

Duck Foot IPA with gingerI started with the IPA w/ginger on cask (unknown abv). This beer poured a creamy opaque orange-yellow color, with creamy white head. The aromas included ginger and fruity hops. I was surprised at how cold it was for a cask. It started smooth and light. The first taste was hoppy, a little fruity, creamy and dry. Then the ginger kicked in, but not overly much. The same tastes persisted through the middle, which was mild, light-bodied and lightly carbonated. It finished with mild fruity flavors and the light ginger trailing.

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The sucker I am for beers on nitro, I finished with the Irish Stout on nitro (4.7% abv). It poured black, with a nice cap of creamy off white head. It smelled first of coffee, then of bittersweet chocolate and a touch of vanilla. It tasted creamy and mild at first. The coffee came on after, with a little chocolatiness. The middle was still mild, with light body and light carbonation. It finished with a little sweetness and more chocolatey coffee flavors.

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This was a cool brewery, with a lot of potential.

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The Fifth

 Went to a very out of the way brewery near Palm Springs called La Quinta. It was a very small industrial place, with orange sponge paint on the walls, unfinished beadboard, and a brown concrete floor. There was a half wall with corrugated aluminum siding in front of a very small tasting bar. There was a tasting bar along the window to the left, overlooking the dusty street outside. The bathrooms were through a door to the left of the bar, which also led to a back room seeking area amongst the brewing area, with a picnic table and some stools along a tasting bar at another window overlooking the street.

Koffi Porter on nitro (6.2% abv). The beer poured very dark brown, with a thick cap of smooth light tan head. It smelled heavily of coffee, with lots of roasted malts and a touch of bittersweet chocolate. The first taste was of the chocolate, with roasted malts following. A heavy dose of coffee flavor came on into the middle. Medium-bodied and lightly carbonated, it had a smooth finish that had more of the coffee flavor lingering.

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Ghost of Hops Past

Rhinegeist MosaicFinishing up in Ohio, I wound up trying a brew from Rhinegeist, a Cincinnati brewery running out of a far older brewery that shuttered during Prohibition. The Mosaic Pale Ale (5.6% abv) was a great introduction to a brewery I had never tried before. It poured opaque golden, with thick sudsy off white head. The smell was super hoppy, with lots of floral and citrusy fruit aromas. The first taste was all hops, with the same floral notes as the aroma. A touch of malt came on into the middle. Light body and light carbonation lead to a somewhat malty finish, with more of the floral hoppiness trailing. This was a very smooth pale.

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