Archive for category Musings & Funnies

Prost to the Equinox

Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock A little late, but no less sincere. Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock (7.9% abv): This beer poured hazy amber with thin, fizzy head. It had a slightly malty and fruity aroma. The taste was mild and slightly sweet. It came with a malty sweetness at first, moving on to some caramelly fruitiness into the middle. Light body and light carbonation lead to a finish that was mostly malty and caremelly sweet. I’m not usually a fan of sweet beers, but this is a great example of a Doppelbock.

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Great Danes of California

XPAR8890Sitting right at the entrance to California’s Central Coast wine country, sits a tiny town called Solvang. Of course, leave it to me to find the beer in such a small community, one appropriately called Solvang Brewing. A quaint enough place on the main drag in town, this Tudor building had an attached windmill that seemed to be a prerequisite for a town that serves as both Scandinavian refuge and central coast tourist trap. There was a small patio crowded with too many tables with umbrellas. Walking in, there was no lobby to speak of, with a host stand to the right and a merchandise display case.

We sat in the very loud bar area, which had some low have booths to the right and the bar to the left. There was a fully stocked, leather-topped bar, with a mirrored back and chalkboard menus. Red-brown padded leather lined the bottom of the bar. The ceiling was made of brown painted beams, molded to look roughly hewn. Toward the back and behind the host stand was even more seating. There really was nothing distinctive about the place. I would like to head back to check out the restaurant area; otherwise, it was just like any other bar.

Solvang Brewing Helheim Black Rye IPAI got a stein of their Helheim Black Rye IPA (7.5% abv). It poured dark brown with thin, sudsy white head. Aromas included a touch of rye spice and really not much else. The taste was hoppy at first, with some spiciness from the rye following. Light body and light-medium carbonation, it finished caramelly and bitter.

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Bitter in Bay Ho

Bitter Brothers SignIn the Bay Ho neighborhood of San Diego, I discovered a small brewery by the name of Bitter Brothers Brewing Co. Walking through the roll up door under a Vegas-style incandescent sign, it was a simple enough set up, with the brewing system at the back in front of another roll up. A steel top tasting bar wrapped the main seating area, with industrial looking stools that had seats that screwed into the bottoms on huge bolts. The whole place was unadorned, save for a silhouette of two men, clearly at odds, with their arms crossed standing back to back. There was also white herringbone tile backing the bar.

 

 

As always, my first time at a brewery called for a flight. In this case, I had company, so we got two and sampled everything the brewery had to offer. I started with the Little Brother Citra IPA (4.8% abv). This beer poured clear yellow with thin white head. The aroma exploded with lots of piney hops. The taste was mild at first, with some refreshing piney hops into the middle. Light bodied and lightly carbonated, it finished with the same piney hoppiness.

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Next I had a taste of the Prodigal Son Amarillo IPA (6.8% abv). This one poured darker yellow than the Little Brother with the same thin white head. The aroma was sweeter with a nice maltiness. The taste was mild and smooth, with some fruity hop flavors into the middle. Light bodied and lightly carbonated, it finished a little maltier than the first one. Otherwise, a very similar beer.

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Third in my tour of Bitter Brothers, I had Sibling Rivalry NW IPA (7% abv). It poured deep red-orange in color with thin slightly off white head. There was almost a complete absence of aroma, though maybe a little maltiness. The taste was a little sweet, with some hoppiness that lent a slight melon taste. The middle was light and fresh. Light bodied and lightly carbonated, it finished fruity and hoppy.

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After that, I tried the Family Tart Berliner Weisse Naked (4.5% abv). As provocative as it sounds, the name merely indicated that it was not flavored with anything extra. This beer poured hazy pale yellow with fizzy white head that dissipated quickly. It smelled heavily of lemons and fresh-cut grass. The taste was refreshing, with a slight tingle from the tiny bubbles and a heavy dose of lemons. Light body and with slightly more than light carbonation, it finished with the sort of stickiness that happens in my mouth after tasting something very sour, even though the drink didn’t bowl me over with sourness.

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Rounding out the first five was the Family Tart Berliner Weisse Guava (4.5% abv). This version of the Family Tart that immediately preceded it in our flight poured the same as the previous one, but the head would not stay longer than a few seconds. It smelled heavily of guava and fruit sugars. The taste started out like its predecessor, but with lots of fresh tasting guava juiciness. The middle was sticky and sweet. Light bodied and lightly carbonated, it finished with the same fruity stickiness and a tiny hop flavor trailing.

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Bitter Brothers flight

 

Heading up the second half of our flight was the Golden Child Hefeweizen (5.2% abv). This beer poured hazy golden in color, with almost no head. the taste was bready and starchy. Lots of banana flavor hit my tongue at first and continued on into the middle. Light body and light carbonation lead to a finish that was slightly malty, but mostly yeasty and banana-y. Not my favorite style to begin with, but especially not with such heavy banana flavor.

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Brotherly Love Dunkelweiss (5.5% abv) was next. It poured rich, dark brown, with moderate off white head. Aromas included lots of malty sweetness and a toasty character, though I did not get any of the banana that so defines the closely related Hefeweizen style. The taste was also a bit different, with a light grainy quality. The middle was somewhat bitter, with light body and light, tingly carbonation. It finished with more roastiness and malty sweetness.

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Fourth (or ninth, but who’s counting?) up was the Black Sheep Coffee Porter (5.2% abv). This one poured deep chocolate with thin tan head. It smelled roasty and slightly sweet. There was a slight coffee flavor afterward. It tasted almost like a rye at first, with a slight spice note, leading to some toasted malts and maybe a little coffee bitterness. Medium bodied and lightly carbonated, the drink finished somewhat bitter, but mostly it tasted like roasted malts. Tasty.

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I finished up with the nitro version of the Black Sheep. This version poured the same color, but with the thick cap of tan head that marks nitro beer’s signature feature. The aroma was very similar to the draft version. The taste was almost fruity, with something like a dark fruit sweetness at first. Then some bittersweetness came on into the middle. Medium body and light carbonation lead to the finish, which included rich, sweet flavors, with a touch of bittersweet chocolate. Oddly, I did not enjoy this one as much as the regular draft version.

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Out of This World Brew

Intergalactic Brewing CollageAfter exploring breweries all around it, I finally made it to a nearby brewery called Intergalactic Brewing Co. A small brewery in an office park in the eastern part of Mira Mesa, the place had a somewhat barroom-meets-warehouse feel, with a couple of what looked like snap-together cocktail tables and stools in the lobby/entrance area. Beyond that was the main room, with three unfinished picnic tables, a couple more cocktail tables and not much else. The loading dock was to the back right. Just in front of that was a shuffleboard table. The tasting bar was simple and small, with a good number of taps and only a few stools for seating. Party lights hung below the hanging lights of the building. Definitely a low-budget operation, but I certainly don’t fault them for that. You have to start somewhere.

All You Need Is Love Red IPAStill in a charitable mood, I chose their submission to the All You Need Is Love charity, called appropriately enough All You Need Is Love Red IPA (5% abv). The bartender told me this “hoppy red” turned out more on the malty end of the spectrum than they wanted. “I’ll be the judge of that,” I said (in my head). It poured a reddish-brown color with lots of tiny bubbles and foamy off white head. It certainly smelled malty, with lots of malty sweetness and a toasty character. There was a slight hint of fruitiness and even a slighter hint of yeastiness. At first I tasted only malts, with a hint of sweetness. As it moved to the middle of the drink, more sweetness came on, with some dark fruits. Light-medium bodied and lightly carbonated, it finished malty, somewhat sweet, with a sort of tartness I couldn’t rightly identify trailing.

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Rustic Brew

Booze Brothers collage

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.

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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.

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Booze Brothers filght

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.

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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.

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Send in the Longships

Longship Brewery collageThis episode brought to you by yet another nondescript industrial office park brewery. Just outside the tech center of San Diego, Mira Mesa was home to Longship Brewery. This small outfit was run by a team of three: the owner/bartender, brewer and brewery manager. Their sign was quite distinctive and helped me find the place, but it was otherwise unmarked. The inside, however was full of Nordic flare, from the extremely rough-hewn wood bar, to the water-themed mural on the wall behind, to the Viking warrior shields on the walls. There was more to look at here than at many breweries I had been to lately.

Longship Brewery shieldsAs for the beer, the names of their brews were all appropriately Nordic and I was in the mood for a stout, so I got a chocolate stout called Muninn (5.25% abv). It poured dark brown with tan head on top that dissipated rather quickly for a beer on nitro. Aromas were heavy on the bittersweet chocolate, with a hint of malt behind it. The taste was very mild at firs, Muninn chocolate stoutturning to a heavy, though tasty, dose of chocolate and bitterness. The middle was equally mild, with medium-heavy body and light carbonation .It finished bitter and full of chocolatey goodness. Lesser breweries would have made a beer like this taste like Hershey’s in a glass, but this was pleasantly mild, but still with taste.

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Drinking…For a Cause

Second Chance All You Need Is Love porterAt a brewery in the Eastern part of San Diego county is a brewery called Second Chance. I still need to get a post up about that wonderful place, but this one is all about the beer. I really like a couple of their regular beers, but two on the menu when I went recently struck the philanthropic heartstrings a bit. The first one was called All You Need is Love (7.7% abv). With 5% of the proceeds going to a charity called Equality Florida & Stonewall Citizens Patrol in San Diego, benefiting victims of the recent Orlando nightclub tragedy, I had to get it. This scotch ale poured dark amber, to the point of looking almost wine-colored. What little head there was left a white ring around the edge and was loose on the sides of the glass. The aroma was rich and almost sweet, with a dark fruitiness to it, with maybe a little malt on the back end. The taste was mild at first, with lots of dark plum and grape flavor. The same grapiness carried through to a middle that was light bodied and lightly carbonate. The finish was also light, with some more plums and dark fruit and a sticky sweetness trailing.

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Brewbies On My MindMy next sips for charity came from a beer called Brewbies On My Mind (5.2% abv). This lovely was a pink saison, which I had never had before. 5% of sales from this beer were being donated to the Keep a Breast Foundation, so here again, I couldn’t not get this one and feel ok about myself. It poured pale pinkish-amber, with lacy head on top. The aroma was almost all citrus- like pure grapefruit in lemonade, with a little malt added. The taste was a little tart at first, with lots of grapefruit flavor and a smoothness, thanks to the maltiness, that carried into the middle. Light bodied and lightly carbonated, this refreshing beer finished with a little tartness and a touch of sour on the finish.

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Ninjas and Monkeys and Pirates, Oh My!

Helm's BrewingOn a corner on the main drag through San Diego’s Ocean Beach, was a cool new brewery and tasting room called Helm’s Brewing. Just down the street from one of my favorite breweries, Culture Brewing, Helm’s new location had a long bar top seating area at a large roll up window overlooking the street. The place was small, with the tasting bar directly in front of the door, facing more tasting tables to the right. There was a definite nautical motif, with a boat wheel over the hall to the bathroom at the back and another painted on the floor in the center of the tasting room. On the wall, there was some photography of beach landscapes and boats.

Helm's Brewing inside 1 Helm's Brewing inside 2

 

 

 

 

 

With more than a few beers to choose from, I settled on Ninja Monkey Pirate (6.3% abv) because, with a name like that, how could I pass it up? This hoppy saison was a collaboration beer between Helm’s and another local brewery called Monkey Paw. This beer poured bright golden-yellow, with fizzy white head on top that clung to the sides of the glass. The aroma was definitely hoppy, with some fruitiness and a whole bunch of bitterness. There was even a touch of lemon. The taste was mild at first, with some citrusy hop flavor next. The middle was light and refreshing, with light body and light carbonation. it finished clean, with only a little bit of lemon flavor trailing.

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Ninja Monkey Pirate

Next up, I had a half pour of the Hispañola Golden Stout (7.5% abv). A neighbor at the tasting bar had one sitting in front of her so it piqued my interest. This beer poured deep golden in color with a cap of creamy white head. Aromas included coffee and a mild bitterness. The taste surprised me with a richness and sweetness I was not expecting. It tasted something like chocolate and sugar. There wasn’t much else going into the middle, which was medium bodied and lightly carbonated. The finish was more of the chocolate and a stickiness that was less than pleasant. Kind of disappointing.

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Hispanola Golden Stout

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Double Duck

Stopped into Duck Foot and had myself their medal-winning Double White IPA (8.6% abv): This guy poured golden yellow with loose, fizzy head. Aromas included tropical fruitiness, like melon and an ironically intense mildness. The taste was sweet at first, with some definite melon flavors, followed by what might have been kiwi and watermelon. The middle was mild, with light body and light-medium carbonation and finished smooth, with the same fruity sweetness trailing.

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Belching in Vista


Took a trip up to Vista to visit Belching Beaver Brewery. I’ve seen this beer all over San Diego and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to go. It was in an old bank building that was not much to look at on the outside, but the inside had at least a little character. The bar was all copper-backed, with cool copper foil tile and sheets of copper backing the taps. The seating area and restaurant area sat directly ahead, complete with another counter area, in the middle of which were slits that spouted orange-lit steam, so that it looked like fire, looking away from the bar toward the back of the restaurant.


Beyond were roll up doors that opened to a good-sized patio area with plastic wicker furniture. To the right of the bar sat the original bank vault, that gave this place away as a former bank building.


I had the Beaver Buzz (5.3% abv): It poured dark chocolate brown, with thin white head. The aroma was definitely of coffee. There was a bit of bittersweet chocolate and not much else. The taste was malty and somewhat thick at first. The intense coffee flavor came through first, with some more maltiness to follow. The middle was medium-heavy and lightly carbonated and the coffee flavor carried through to the finish. A pretty basic coffee beer, but tasty.

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