Posts Tagged Julian

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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Berry Bruiser

JulianBlackandBlue_fullContinuing non-beer experience from earlier last month, I had another cider from Julian Hard Cider called Black & Blue. Now, normally I don’t like to eat or drink things whose name tells me what it could potentially do to my body, but this one was tame enough. It was just a cider, after all.

It poured a deep purple-red color with again very little carbonation. It smelled, appropriately enough, like tart black and blueberries. It also smelled a little yeasty. There was a surprising amount of carbonation at first. Then the blueberry flavor came through big time. The tartness of the berry flavor was a lot to take at first, but it soon mellowed out and an almost sticky sweet berry flavor washed away any other flavors that were in there. It finished with a little of the stickiness, but with a nice blackberry flavor lingering afterward.

Even though I liked it well enough, I think ciders JulianBlackandBlue_backare just a little underwhelming for me overall:

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“Like Double Cherry Pie…”

Julian Cherry BombContinuing my New Year’s focus on some things not beer, I had another cider from my trip to Julian, CA. This one was cherry-infused and one with which I had almost the greatest hesitation going in. I am always leery of cherry flavors, as most of them remind me too much of cough syrup I had to take as a kid. Immature? Maybe, but it’s my thing… anyway, on with the show.

This one poured a dark red amber color with no noticeable head. It looked a lot like juice sitting in the glass. The aromas were yeasty and sweet, with tart cherries after and a very faint sourness. The taste was cherry up front all the way. It became tart very quickly after taking the first sip, though not so much as to overpower with any kind of pucker factor. The sweet cherry flavor came back right after, though the tartness persisted and lingered through the finish.

This was a surprising cherry drink that reminded me of anything but cough medicine. It was refreshing and not overly sweet, as I feared it might be. Still, nothing spectacular:

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Apple of My Eye

Julian trip montageIn this new year (happy new year, by the way), I decided I need to start exploring my “new” hometown area a little more. Not wanting the downtown experience, with all the hipsters, run-of-the-mill bars and any kind of defined scene, I decided to head east to Julian, CA, home of some rather popular hard cider you may have seen on the shelves at a store near you.

This trip took me through two Indian reservations, four valleys and a lot of windy mountain roads, ultimately bringing me to the sleepy little community of Julian. This historical town is in the high desert east of San Diego. I learned some interesting tidbits in the local museum there, such as the town’s founding by three Civil War soldiers because land was much cheaper than in post-war Georgia. Some good food and interesting things along the main drag there in Julian, but we’re here for the beer, right?

Well, not to disappoint, but the drink of choice in this area is cider, mostly due to the vast apple orchards in the valleys around there. Enter Julian Hard Cider. Their process is very simple, brewing only with fruit juice and yeast. There is something to be said for simplicity in craft brewing.

The…brewery (do they “brew” cider?) is harder to find that I thought it would be, considering it sits Julian Hard Cider montagein a town of fewer than 2,000 people. Like most breweries I have encountered, it inhabits an industrial warehouse-style building about three miles off the main drag. It is connected to an indoor mall of sorts, with a Mexican restaurant, craft studio and some other odd shops. I drove past it a couple of times before figuring out where I needed to be.

Walking in, to the right was a wide open gallery-style area with all the shops along the outside, an arcade in one corner, and a sitting area in the middle with couches and a couple plush chairs. It was kind of an odd assortment to me. But not to be deterred, I headed in for some sampling.

Julian Harvest Apple CiderAs you can see above, the good folks at Julian Hard Cider pour samples of their entire collection of 5 ciders, but I will talk about only one of them here: Julian Harvest Apple Cider.

This is the lightest of their offerings, though each holds steady at a surprising 6.99% abv. Harvest Apple poured completely clear, with only the slightest hint of gold from the apples and only very few tiny bubbles from the carbonation. It had a sweet yeasty aroma, much like that of champagne. There was only a light apple smell and a touch of fermented sourness. It tasted very fresh, with the apples foremost, then the yeasty champagne flavor kicked in. After that, a tart sourness came through, finishing dry with tart apple flavors.

This was a refreshing drink, but it reminded me far too much of champagne, which, in turn, reminds me of a headache.

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