Posts Tagged coffee

Mission Accomplished

Mission TapsI finally got the chance to visit Mission Brewery in San Diego. I have meant to steer myself there for a while now, but for one reason or another, never have until now. This was an old brick building in San Diego’s East Village that used to be a Wonder Bread factory next to Petco Park. The surrounding area was a little…let’s call it unsavory, with lots of homeless in residence along most of the sidewalks and some trash blowing around, but the brewery was nice. Mission Brewing_outsideAs I mentioned, it was all brick and cement on the outside, complete with cracks and debris, all which served its old-world feel. Inside was more brick walls and cement floor, but the ceiling was an impressive display of wood that very much resembled a ship’s hull. Indeed, the bar to the right was made of wood that looked as though it was pulled straight from the deck of a galleon. To the left were tasting tables made fromChandeliers old barrels, along with longer regular tables, both hi-top and low. Also to the left was the brewing area, with a tasting counter surrounding two edges of it. No employees manned the counter and I saw no taps, so I thought it odd. The whole brewing area was unlit, apparently the case when not in use. From the ceiling above hung wrought iron chandeliers that I swore were right out of a European castle somewhere. There were also two shuffleboard tables with lots of rowdy patrons around them and a merchandise shop at the back. Root Beer and Imp RedNever one to waste an opportunity to taste, I got two: the Mission Hard Root Beer and Gentleman Grant Imperial Red Aged in Manhattan Whiskey Barrels with Cherries (a mouthful, but that’s the actual name.) Mission Hard Root Beer (7.5% abv): This poured like, well, root beer, dark brown with large brown head. The smell was only of root beer. The taste was boozy, with a little licorice. The root beer taste was definitely present, but the vodka-like punch of this one was a bit distracting. I found the whole drink a bit astringent.


The Imperial Red (8.5% abv) was a treat. It poured deep orange-red with not much carbonation and thin white head. Aromas were mild, with hints of cherry and malt, but no whiskey. There was definite cherry flavor up front, with a little malt sweetness and then the whiskey kick in the middle. Medium bodied and lightly carbonated, it finished with some cherry sweetness and a touch of whiskey trailing. Though there were not many elements to this, I enjoyed its subtlety.


I finished up with a coffee drink, the Dark Seas Russian Imperial Stout with Espresso (9.8% abv). This oneDark Seas RIS poured black with dark brown head that reminded me of root beer. Heavy aromas of coffee and roasted malts. The taste was all coffee up front with some dark roasted malts underneath. With a medium-thick body, the middle was strong and boozy, lightening up a bit to mostly mild coffee on the finish. Another dynamic beer with few flavors.


This brewery is definitely worth a visit. Plus, as is the trend in San Diego, they have a food truck show up every day out front.

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Please and Garzias!

Mike Hess Brewing PanoMike Hess Brewing is a great little brewery in North Park. Walking in, the first thing I noticed were the kettles and mash tuns right at eye level; I was walking above the brewing equipment! At the end of that catwalk was the tasting area straight ahead, with seating to the left and right. The area behind the bar/tasting counter appeared to be a gate or loading dock. The low lighting gave the place the feel of a super hip art gallery. In fact, there were what appeared to be large canvases on the wall, complete with accent lighting.

Coffee Grazias Vienna Cream beerGarzias Cream Ale top

The beer I decided on was one I don’t really drink much. I went with the Grazias Vienna Cream Ale. According to their website, they named this beer to pay homage to the homeland of Vienna style in which it was brewed. They also wanted to add a touch of gratitude by making the name sound like the Spanish word gracias, or “thank you.”

It poured deep copper with tiny bubbles and creamy white head. Malty sweet aromas met with some coffee on the smell. Nice light carbonation on the taste, with coffee up front. Sweet malts followed and lasted through the middle of the beer. Smooth with medium-light mouthfeel, it finished malty with a little coffee trailing. I enjoyed this beer:


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The 33rd Degree

Above the 33rd parallel in Vista, CA sits a small brewery among a backdrop of rolling brown hills, strip malls and industrial office parks called Latitude 33 Brewing Company. Seekers of this place have to know a little about the area to get there, methinks, but I found it ok and boy am I glad I did. Occupying the former home of Green Flash Brewing, the first thing I noticed was Irish music playing in the background (recorded, not live, unfortunately). This immediately got me in the spirit.

Lattitude 33 water towerThe entrance had a pool table, ringed with stools and a counter area. This led to the main brewery and tasting room. It was a very small, tidy space, but this only served to concentrate and enhance the working brewery atmosphere. The intoxicating smell of roasted barley and malts was thick in the air, which only got me more excited to get to the beer.

I decided to make my own sampler and started with the Straw Horse Wheat. This one poured a very clear pale yellow, with thin white head that left only a little lacing on the sides of the glass. Citrus, mainly lemon, aromas dominated the smell. The taste was very fresh and lemony, propped up with a malty backbone. Light carbonation helped give this one a light-medium mouthfeel. There really was not much else to this beer.


Sampler lineup_wheat_strong_stout

Next, I sampled the Honey Hips strong ale. At 8.3% abv, I expected a boozy sipper. It poured a cloudy golden amber color with pale off-white head that did not stick around long. Sweet roasted barley came first on the smell with some spice afterward. True to this brew’s name, the taste was strong and boozy, but lots of malty sweetness helped to temper it. Medium carbonation and medium mouthfeel helped bring out some plum flavors and sugary malts after the booziness subsided a bit. It finished a little heavy and boozy, but enjoyable.


Then I moved on to the bourbon barrel aged stout. This was an off-menu item when I was there and the bar tender just suggested it when I ordered their regular Breakfast Stout. Don’t tempt me with a good time… of course I had that instead! This beauty poured black, with thick tan head that really had some staying power. Even though it was like a thick cap on top, it still allowed the potent boozy aromas of the namesake bourbon through on the smell. Whiskey and sweet malts flooded my nose and it was wonderful. The taste was all whiskey up front. It was almost overwhelming, but then some sweet malty flavors came through, before the bourbon came back and lasted through the finish. This was a rather thick and boozy beer, but I definitely liked it.


Lat33_bfast_stoutI was going to stop there, until a friend asked if I wanted another. Since I switched the Breakfast Stout out of my original order to accommodate the bourbon barrel stout, I considered it only a short while before enthusiastically agreeing.

This one poured thick and black, with tan head that stuck around about as long as that of the bourbon stout. It smelled sweet and malty, with a touch of vanilla. Being a “breakfast” stout, I expected some coffee aromas, but none materialized. After my surprise at how light this stout was subsided, I did not have to wait long, as it was all coffee flavor up front. Then some sweet vanilla came through, before the strong coffee came back through the middle of the drink, lasting through the finish alongside some moderate booziness. Lat33_bfast_stout_top

At 8.5% abv, I am not sure I would have this with breakfast, but good nonetheless.


All in all, this is a great little brewery that makes some really tasty, if undynamic beers. I’ll definitely be looking them up in the future.

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It’s Pronounced “Merkin”

Firestone Velvet Merkin

Well, now that Thanksgiving is over, happy December, everybody!

I have already regaled you with my experience with Firestone’s Velvet Merkin during San Diego Beer Week, but it got me wondering: it is delicious cold; what would it be like warm? After all, I, a certified cicerone and the Firestone rep at the event I met while enjoying the cold one at KnB spent some time trying to warm our glasses with our hands while drinking it. So, I was able to get a couple of bottles of it and left one in the cupboard and one in the fridge. Here is what I found:

Warm, it poured much as it did from the tap, with brown, foamy head. It smelled immediately of chocolate, followed quickly by the characteristic bourbon, a little coffee and raisins. The taste was very smooth, with bourbon first, then some almost fruity sweetness and none of the raisin from the smell. It finished warm, with lots of boozy bourbon on the finish.

Velvet Merkin topCold, the head dissipated much more quickly. There was none of the coffee aroma that came through in the warm pour, but all the chocolate, bourbon and raisins came through. The taste was a bit sweeter than with the warm, with little influence from the bourbon anywhere until the end. Lots of raisiny sweetness dominated the majority of the drink, with a surprising lack of bourbon flavor.

The verdict: Still a fantastic beer, cold and warm. I would still prefer it warm, as chilling beer tends to hide flavors and make it a little less dynamic.

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Good Gourd! It’s Upon Us!

Hess Magna CucurbitaNow that San Diego Beer Week2014 is over, the season is here: Fall pumpkin beers! I am always excited for this time of year, as I like all things pumpkin. Well, let me clarify that by saying I like things that taste like an actual pumpkin, not pumpkin pie- unless, of course, it is actual pumpkin pie. That’s what made this one a pleasant surprise.

As you can see, it poured black, with tan foamy head that reminded me of root beer. Smells coming off the top were rich and included bittersweet chocolate, coffee, slight fruitiness of prunes, maybe a little apple and some spice- a nice complexity that gave me great hope for this beer. The first thing I tasted was the chocolate, followed by what almost tasted like a sourness that I assumed might have come from the pumpkin (if it was made with any.) It had almost no noticeable carbonation, so it was very smooth and velvety, if a little thick on the mouthfeel. It finished a little dry, but the overall roasted malts persisted throughout the whole experience. Hess pumpkin stout head

Overall, I liked this beer, thought it had a little too much of the cursed pumpkin pie flavor for me. At first, I rated this a 3.5, but it grew on me afterward and I rate it:


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Make mine a venti!

IMG_1926Whenever I have the chance to have two (or more) of my favorite things at the same time, I jump on it. That’s why when I saw this beautiful bottle from Lagunitas Brewing Company in the grocery store, I couldn’t help myself. As the name indicates, this beer is brewed with coffee in it, which according to the folks at Lagunitas, makes it a really nice breakfast beer.

Well, I didn’t want to wait until breakfast to have this beer. Plus, I have to work in the morning during the week. It pours a deep dark brown, as you would expect from a stout. On top is a cap of off white head that is fairly effervescent for a stout. The first thing to hit my nose was the coffee flavors. The official description of this beer touts it as beer first, coffee second. My experience, however, was coffee first, though this may have been due to my expectation of a strong coffee flavor. With that still lingering in my nose, the first sip was also a pretty strong coffee flavor.

The bitterness from the java gave way to the more malty toffee flavor of the beer. It was also more heavily carbonated than I had expected. This surprised me a bit, but didn’t really take away from the beer. It reminded me of the mouthfeel of New Castle Brown Ale. The finish was fairly dry and earthy, with hints of vanilla and of course coffee.

I liked this beer. I expected motor oil, as many coffee stouts tend to be thicker than mud; this one was pleasantly light (for a stout). Some reviews I have read rail against the coffee in it, calling it “overpowering.” As I was expecting a bunch of coffee, I didn’t mind that at all.

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It’s BeerBQ Time!

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About once per month K ‘n B Wine Cellars has an event cleverly referred to as a BeerBQ. These are relatively small, intimate events, if for no other reason than the place itself is not large, at which they feature either brews from a local brewery, or beer that KnB itself makes from time to time. They always have great food, hence the barbecue part in the name, and it is always a good time.

Last weekend featured Hess Brewing. I had never heard of Hess before and I am always looking for new stuff to try. Lucky for me I was able to catch this one, as the beer I had was fantastic. Searching through the list of selections, I was nigh impressed by all the IPA and citrus flavored brews on offer (though I wasn’t completely turned off to the orange wit, but another time perhaps). My eyes landed on one and refused to look any further: Ex Umbris Imperial Oatmeal Stout in a cask. I am a big fan of oatmeal stout, due in part to its usual light creaminess that doesn’t fill me up like a normal stouts. I’ll have to look into why this is, as it seems very counterintuitive to have a beer made with oats be less filling than one without.

This beauty came as a dark chocolaty brown jewel in glass. Though not much head remained, what little was there was a somewhat thin dark tan foam. From other pictures I have seen, the head should have resembled that of a root beer float. No matter- I chalked it up to our server being busy and the beer likely sat for a bit before arriving to the table. I picked up definite coffee flavors in the smell, with some malty chocolate. The taste, per usual, was much as it smelled. I was hit first with intense coffee flavors, with the slightly bitter chocolate toward the middle. The finish was very malty, while both the chocolate and coffee flavors lingered.

A very tasty and easy-drinking beer, I could easily sip on this one, or multiples of them.

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