Posts Tagged nitro

Spring is in the Air!

St Archer-backlit

With the first day of Spring upon us, I thought it would be nice to take a break and go to a stalwart of the sunny San Diego beer scene. Even though Saint Archer Brewing Co. has not been on the beer scene very long. founded in 2013, it was recently acquired by MillerCoors. Despite the backlash against this transaction, for my money, they make pretty good beer. I have never been one to drink (or avoid drinking) on principle, so perhaps that makes me less than credible to some, but I am still willing to give them my business until they or their beer gives me a reason not to.

Saint Archer FlightThis particular visit started with the Mosaic IIPA (9% abv): This beer poured clear, pale yellow with minimal white head. It smelled sour and fruity. The taste was hoppy right away, with some fruitiness and a little malt flavor. Light-medium body and lightly carbonated, it finished hoppy and somewhat sour. I love mosaic beers, but this one was nothing particularly special.

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Next was the Scottish-Style Ale on nitro (7% abv): The Scottish Ale poured deep amber with super thick, creamy white head. It smelled somewhat sour and malty, with a touch of fruitiness. The beer tasted hoppy and fruity, with a somewhat malty backbone underneath. Medium in body and light carbonation, it finished fairly clean, with a nice smooth malt profile.

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I finished up with another nitro selection in their Irish Stout (4.2% abv): This last one poured black, with thick creamy white head that settled down to a loose foamy layer on top. It smelled mostly of bittersweet chocolate and roasted malts. The taste was light and mild, with lots of chocolate. Medium-bodied and lightly carbonated, it finished equally mild, with just the chocolate bitterness trailing.

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Just Clowning Around

Clown Shoes Unidragon Continuing our tour through Ohio, we stopped in at a local ‘mallpub’ (what I call bars that call themselves pubs, but are little more than yet another store in the middle of a strip mall.) Despite sitting among so many mall staples you know and love/hate, this somewhat local pub that had a pretty good vibe. There was lots of stained wood, dividers at the small bar with inlaid stained glass, a real tile floor and all kinds of nooks with private booths and low seating. We chose the bar and a beer out of Massachusetts called Clown Shoes Ohio Unidragon RIS on nitro (11.5% abv): It poured black with creamy tan head. Aromas included chocolate and bittersweet, with a little booziness at the end. It tasted thick and strong with lots of alcohol bite up front. The bartender recommended this over the Old Rasputin, but this one tasted far more bitter. The middle was characterized by heavy body and light carbonation, finishing smooth, with more of the bitterness and a touch of booziness.

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Power to the Brewers!

Yellow Springs Pano During our New Year’s trip to Ohio, we went to Yellow Springs Brewery. This super small industrial warehouse was off a side street you would have had to be looking for to find. A standard industrial building of painted white brick on the outside (with accompanying food truck), it had yellow and orange walls inside on one side with grey cinder block on the other. There was an art exhibition going on with the art on the walls, which left painfully little room to navigate. The tasting counter at the back had corrugated metal behind it. The brewing area was to the left behind a windowed wall with a door. Tasting tables were strewn throughout, seemingly haphazardly. There also appeared to be no real system to the line, with people backed up into the entrance to the place.

Bloodsmoke Barrel Aged Imperial RedMy first sample of Yellow Springs product was the Bloodsmoke Barrel Aged Imperial Red (11% abv). This tasty concoction poured deep red in color, with thin, sudsy head. It smelled malty and sweet, with a hint of dark fruit. The taste threw all the sweetness up front, with a load of malts and some fruitiness. Light-medium body and light carbonation did little to clear the sweetness, but it was still not overpowering. It finished slightly sticky sweet and malty, with a bit of fruit trailing. Despite the sugar load, I enjoyed this one.

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Next, I got myself the Birkensocks Amber Saison (5.5% abv). This one poured cloudy red-orange, with sudsy white head. It smelled slightly sour, but that was about it. There was nothing else to distinguish the aroma. The taste was mild and tart, followed by some yeasty, bready flavor up front and a touch of fruit that could have been citrus. Light in both body and carbonation, this beer finished somewhat sticky and tart, with some fruitiness trailing.

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Framework Stout Nitro

Yes, that is Cards Against Humanity on the table to accompany our drinks

I finished the evening at the brewery with the Framework Stout Nitro (6.1% abv). This one poured black, with surprisingly thin brown head. It had very mild, bitter chocolate on the nose. The taste was just as mild. There was a chocolaty bitterness up front, with some roasted malts into the middle. It had medium-heavy body, light carbonation and finished very chocolaty and bitter. A bit too much chocolate for one beer.

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Chuck Alek and the Super Flights!

Chuck Alek Interior PanoHappy New Year everybody! I hope you all had a safe and happy celebration. I celebrated with my very first mobile post and a trip to the desert east of San Diego. In the town of Ramona, there was a small strip mall with a brewery called Chuck Alek Independent Brewers. The door lead right to the tasting bar up front. There was not much fanfare at the tasting bar, except for some barrels in front of bar. The walls were white with a large dark red stripe in the middle. The Chuck Alek logo was stenciled into the gray concrete floor. There were picnic tasting tables to the right, with rustic-looking framed posters describing their beer. Some more barrels sat by the tables.

I had never heard about them before, but they certainly welcomed all who came to taste their beer. They had not only a 6-beer taster, but also a flight that includes tasters of all TEN of their beers! Not expecting this, I figured I may as well kick off the new year right and get the most well rounded idea of their offerings I could.

I started with the Flycaster Helles Lager (4.8% abv). It poured clean golden with only a little head. Slightly hoppy and floral aromas characterized this first one. It tasted light and sweet. A touch of malts came before the floral hop flavors came in through the middle. Light in both carbonation and body, this easy drinker finished clean, though somewhat sweet and flowers trailing.

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Next, the Dowser Düsseldorf Altbier (5.4% abv). This one poured bright cloudy orange with small white head. It smelled malty sweet and rich. The first taste was malty with a little caramelized sugar. The middle is medium-bodied and lightly carbonated and it finished with the same flavors as the start. Not real dynamic.

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Third, The Weiss (4.5% abv). It poured an almost neon cloudy yellow color with lacy white head. Lemons and a little hoppiness dominated the aroma. It tasted effervescent and sour. There was lots of lemon flavor into the middle. Light carbonation and body, it finished tart and sour. Not very interesting.

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Then I tried the Cartographer IPL (6.6% abv). It poured clear pale yellow- like a Pilsner. There was little to no head and virtually no smell. Hoppy tasting up front, there was little else to distinguish the drink. Light-bodied and light in carbonation, it finished just as hoppy as the start. This was kind of a nothing drink.                                 

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The midpoint of my tasting oddessey saw me try the Adventus Holiday Red Ale (7% abv). It poured like the Dowser, with small white head. It smelled malty with only a touch of caremelly sweetness. The taste was malty at first. Then some piney hops come in toward the middle. Light body and carbonation, it finished hoppy, with a bit of malts to calm things down.                                  

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Chuck Alek Tasting Flight The second half featured the dark stuff. It started with the 1933 Milk Stout Nitro (3.7% abv). It poured black with creamy tan head. It smelled of coffee and chocolate. The taste was full of coffee that carried through to the middle, which was a bit heavy and light in carbonation. It finished somewhat heavy, with lots of coffe and some bittersweet chocolate. I enjoyed the heavy dose of coffee in this one.

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Next up, the 1850 Runner Running Porter (6.3% abv). It poured dark brown with foamy brown head. It smelled of coffee, chocolate and a little nuttiness. It tasted of chocolate at first. It was quite mild, so not much in the middle. Medium body and light carbonation, it finished with chocolate and some nuttiness.                              

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The eighth taster was the Conductor Baltic Porter (9% abv). It poured deep dark amber with smooth tan head. It didn’t smell like much. It tasted mild and slightly sweet. A little chocolate and dark fruit flavors came on into the middle. Medium-heavy body and light in carbonation, it finished with lots of chocolate and molasses flavors.                              

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Trading Co. Barleywine British-style Old Ale (11% abv)
. The biggest beer of the bunch, it poured like a fruit juice- cloudy and red-orange, with small white head. Fruity and sweet aromas characterized this one. The taste was rich and fruity, with a touch of booziness into the middle. Medium body and light carbonation brought a finish that was fruity, boozy and warm.

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This monster flight wrapped up with the Trading Co. Quadrupel Belgian-Style Dark Strong (8.8% abv). It poured bright orange, with tiny white head. It smelled grapey and roasty sweet. Tastes included malty and winey flavors. There was lots of tart grape flavor into the middle. Light-medium body and light in carbonation, this last offering finished dry, winey and grapey. Interesting.

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A fairly low budget location, Chuck Alek certainly had a promising lineup and a respectable philosophy. I just hope they are able to step up their offerings to make each one more dynamic.

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There’s Copper and Gold in Them Glasses!

Ballast Point Nitro Copper ESBAs the Christmas holiday draws near, I think about what will warm my belly in the most seasonal way possible, while still providing some taste exploration. Ballast Point isn’t afraid to experiment with their beers, which is good for us consumers. Case in point: the Copper ESB on nitro (5.5% abv): It poured a rich copper color (duh) with a creamy cap of off white head. So thick was the head that not much made it through the foam in the way of aromas. The taste started off very mild, with a little caramelly sweetness. There was just a touch of bitterness into the middle. Almost no carbonation and a surprisingly light body did nothing to change the mildness. Not much else to distinguish it. A seriously benign drink.

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To wake up my taste buds from such a sleepy start, I next tried the Schooner Wet Hop Ballast Point Schooner Wet Hop(5.5% abv): This one poured a deep golden color, with thin white head. It smelled grassy, floral and pretty refreshing. The taste was mild, with a moderate hoppiness and some of the flowers and grass I got from the smell. Mild through the middle, with medium carbonation and light body, it finished hoppy and somewhat sour, with flowers and grass lingering. I appreciated the change from hoppy to sour back to hoppy, but overall another mild one.

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Going With the Flow

Rip Current CollageThe North Park neighborhood in San Diego is home to a ton of cool shops, eateries and breweries. One brewery that had a tasting room in North Park was Rip Current Brewing. Based a little less than an hour north in San Marcos, their tasting room was a small corner shop with roll up doors on either side of a very small entry door. A long tasting bar ran the length of the place with both low- and high-top tasting tables scattered at both ends. There was a kitchen with an order window at the back behind the tables. Unfinished wood behind and underneath the bar helped carry the beachy/driftwood theme of the place. The walls were covered with a beach mural, with a display case on one wall containing vintage beer cans. The counters facing out of the roll up doors to the street had cool neon blue accent lights underneath.

Rip Current Flight

It being the Christmas season and I never being one to spoil an opportunity to get into it, I decided to try a flight of dark, roasty beers I thought would warm me up on a cool night. I ordered four and they came in a plastic surfboard-shaped holder. First up was the Palomar Chocolate Porter on Nitro (6% abv): This poured a deep, dark crimson-brown color with thick off white head. It smelled chocolaty and rich. The taste was mild at first, with some chocolate coming through. There was a tiny bit of smokiness that surprised me. It was light into the middle. Light-bodied and lightly carbonated, it finished smooth and light with a hint of bittersweet chocolate. Good, but a little underwhelming.

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Next I tried the Barrier Reef Nut Brown (5% abv): It poured rich amber in color with barely any head, but what there was stuck to the glass. It smelled malty sweet, with a touch of barley and lots of roasted malt aromas. The taste was mild and malty. There was a little bit of bitterness, but the malts completely buried it. The middle was light-medium, with light carbonation. It finished light-medium with the same heavy dose of roasted malts.

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Then came the Deep Crimson Imperial Rye Red (8.3% abv): This one poured bright amber-red in color with persistent white head. It smelled somewhat sour and bitter with only a little maltiness. The taste was malty and slightly sour at first. Light carbonation kicked in toward the middle, which was malty and bitter. Medium body lead to a light finish with the sourness returning.

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Last, I tried the Delaminator Smoked Doppelbock (7.8% abv): It poured dark brown with tan head that left moderate lacing on the glass. It definitely smelled smoky, though not overpoweringly so. There were also malty, chocolate and molasses aromas. It tasted boozy, malty and a little sweet. Some of the malt flavor turned to roasted malt flavor toward the middle. Light in both carbonation and body, it finished sweet, warm and malty. Even though I don’t normally care for sweeter beers, this s just what I needed to end my night.

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Bag Me A Beer!

Bagby Beer PanoSummer’s not over yet! Yes, I know that the calendar would have you believe that Fall officially began on September 23…but I refuse to recognize it! As should you, since there is a great town north of San Diego in the so-called “North County” section of the city called Oceanside. This is a pretty typical working-class beachside town that happens to house Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The beach is fronted by a collection of hotels and high-rises, followed by some quaint shops and bars. A few blocks away from all the glitz is a brewpub called Bagby Beer Company.

This place has much of the same beachy feel as the boardwalk, but is located in a decidedly industrial part of town. Even so, it has a nice open front like you would find at a beach restaurant, with beechwood tasting counters at the patio railing running the length of the place. Roll up glass doors reveal long tables of the same beechwood as outside, with both cushioned stools and hard benches for seating. Glazed brick backs the bar area and loud green paint adorns the walls to one side.

All of this beachiness made me thirsty, so I dove right into a flight of house brews. I started nice and light with a German-style Altbier called ALT In the Family (4.7% abv). It poured a rich amber color, with tiny bubbles and thin white head that dissipated quickly. I smelled wheaty and malty aromas, with a slight sourness underneath. It tasted smooth and mild. In fact, there was little in the way of flavor at the beginning, shifting to only a little maltiness toward the middle. Light- to medium-bodied and lightly carbonated, this beer finished mild and somewhat malty, with little else to distinguish it. Refreshing, but a little boring.

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Next, I moved to the Struggle Bus Extra Pale Nitro (4.8% abv). This beer poured pale, clear and yellow in color, with little carbonation and a cap of creamy white head. It smelled sour, tart and slightly skunky. The taste was smooth from the nitro and light. It was a little lemony, with some sourness at the start. The middle was light and tart, with little carbonation. It finished just as light, with some sourness and little else. I had high hopes for this one. It was good, but it just wasn’t very interesting.

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Bagby Beer Flight

Next up, I had a hope-inciting beer called Reconnoiter Porter Hoppy Porter (7.4%). Figuring this one was from their Department of Redundancy Department, I was intrigued. This one poured very dark brown, with thin, but creamy off white head. It smelled of coffee and little else. It had thick and creamy mouthfeel, with strong coffee flavor up front. Some bittersweet chocolate came through the middle, with medium body and light carbonation. It finished with more strong coffee that overpowered whatever other flavors might have been there. I like coffee, but this was yet another one-dimensional beer.

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I finished ‘strong’ with the Bruges Cruise Belgian-style Dark Strong (11.4%). This big beer poured dark amber in color, with small bubbles and medium off white head that did not last long. Malty, sweet and boozy aromas defined this one, with a little sourness and spice at the tail end. Smooth and medium-bodied, some spicy flavors came through at first, mellowing to a malty sweetness toward the middle, though the spiciness lingered. Medium carbonation helped to keep things lively, while it finished with malty flavors and that lingering spiciness. Despite the prominent spice, I liked how dynamic this beer tasted.

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It Was an OK Day At Sea

I recently found occasion to go back to Ballast Point to sample more of their ever-expanding list of experimental beers. As usual, they did not disappoint. Starting with the always good Sculpin on nitro (7% abv), this beer poured golden in color, with thick creamy white head. I detected sour and mild malty aromas with only some hoppiness. The taste was mild and light. Hoppy and creamy up front, it was light in body and carbonation, mostly due to the nitro. It finished smooth with some sourness and hoppiness. Not a lot going on with this beer, but a good everyday drinker.

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A little out of order, next up was Homework #5 Hoppy Belgian Ale (5.2% abv). This one poured rich golden-yellow as well, but with only a thin layer of white head. Sour smell at the front and somewhat sweet aromas at the back. It tasted malty sweet at first, then smooth into the middle. With light-medium body, it finished hoppy and mild. An adequate beer, but nothing really to hold my interest for very long.

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Ballast Flight

Then I tried the Sea Turtle Saison (abv not available, as they were too quick with the eraser after they ran out) made with green tea and mint: It poured a pale opaque golden color, with loose white head that did not stick around long. It smelled sour and tart, with some fruit aromas coming around the end. It tasted sour and effervescent up front, with a touch of hoppiness. The middle was light and smooth, finishing equally as light and smooth. There was not nearly the amount of dynamic, if delicate, flavor profile I expected from this one. Sure, I could blame it on the two prior tasters, but I thought this one was a little lacking. Points for effort, however.

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Lastly, I tried the one I was most afraid would taste like fruit juice, but had to try because it was from a cask: Tart Wahoo with hibiscus and lime (7% abv): It poured the color of cranberry juice, with lots of fizzy bright white head. Tart berry aromas dominated the smell, as expected. It tasted super tart from the start. With virtually no carbonation, despite the copious fizz on the pour, it was light. There was no real discernible taste through the middle of the drink, but finished a little sweet and tart. This was probably not one I would get again and, from the full glasses of folks around me who had already been there a while, I was not alone in this assessment.

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The Best Week Ever (Day 8)

SDBW logo

To celebrate Day 8 (Friday) of The Best Week Ever, I decided to stop by a few different places– you know, for perspective. The first stop I made was right after work at AleSmith Brewing Company in Mira Mesa. This is another of the many microbreweries hidden away among the many industrial office complexes dotting the landscape. I have only been here once before and it was some time ago, so away we go.

AleSmith insideWalking in, I was greeted by two employees handing out tickets to people. To the left was the tasting area, with cocktail tables and chairs and the tasting counter/bar area. To the right and back a bit was where the brewing magic happened. All the way out the back of the place was a little seating area where they also host whatever food truck happens to be visiting any given day. This day, apparently, they had a release party going on for their Barrel-aged Vietnamese Stout. Sounded delicious…and highly alcoholic. Besides, I had no ticket, so I just headed to the counter.

The first sample I ordered was the AleSmith Nut Brown on nitro. This poured very dark, with creamy whitish head. It smelled rich, with lots of roasted malts, something like brown sugar aromas and bourbon toward the end. The first thing I noticed on the taste was how rich and smooth this was for a brown ale. All of the malts were up front, though not overpowering or enough to coat my palette. It went down very smooth with a malty sweetness on the finish. This one gets:

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I finished at AleSmith by trying their X Extra Pale Ale. It poured very bright, pale yellow, cloudy and looked very refreshing. Bitterness, citrus and hoppy fruitiness met my nose upon smelling it. The taste was bitter at first, but some fruity sweetness made it through. The bitterness quickly returned and lasted through the finish. There was a little refreshing fruitiness on the aftertaste. Although I liked this one a little less than the brown, I still give it:

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Oggi's calzone/beer collageAfter that, I headed over to Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company in Mission Valley. This is a great place to catch any sports game on tv, have pizza and some great brews. They have a number of locations, this one in a shopping mall area in the shadow of a Costco and an IKEA. The layout is warehouse-like, with a cavernous seating area of both booths and tables. The brewery is straight back, with unfortunately small viewing windows. The bar area is somewhat closed off by a windowed retaining wall to the left, as Oggi’s appeals to lots of families with kids, as well as the sports-loving, beer drinking crowd. Speaking of beers, they have a ton to choose from, but I always initiate any visit to a brewhouse by trying the proprietary stuff.

I started with Oggi’s Duck Dive Hefeweisen. This was bright yellow, unfiltered (as it should be), with only a little soapy head. It smelled quite citrusy and light. There was virtually no taste at first, but then some sour citrus made it through. The light carbonation helped move the beer through to a light finish, with only a little citrus on the aftertaste. It was not as wheaty or bready as advertised, nor as much as I had hoped. For that reason, I’m giving it:

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Amber pintNext, I moved on to the Sunset Amber Ale. This poured a rich dark red-brown, with creamy head that really stuck to the glass. This told me that this beer would have a whole lot of malty richness to it. Light aromas of sweet roasted malts and slight fruitiness made their way out of the glass on the smell. I tasted rich malts, a very pleasant creaminess and some bitterness. The bitterness did not last long and quickly faded through the finish back into the rich malt character that defined this beer throughout. I really appreciated the heavy malts in this beer, so I give it:

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I finished my celebration of Day 8 by searching for a pub (I’m a sucker for pubs). Finding one in the Normal Heights neighborhood, I met some new friends and enjoyed Guinness and Smithwicks the rest of the evening.

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Ballast Point

IMG_1760 In my quest to visit every brewery in the San Diego county area (not really, but I do enjoy it), I had the opportunity to go to Ballast Point Brewing Company in Little Italy. This is a very nice section of town where I perpetually feel underdressed, but never outclassed. There are some good eateries and, in this case, a brewery. It’s kind of tucked away at the end of the main drag down there, but definitely worth the “search.” Walking in, I was immediately carded by a tall tatted hipster with dreadlocks, which I chalked up to their having to watch for under aged youths trying to sneak in there after a night downtown. Inside, I was met by basically a warehouse with a bar at the front and tons of tables.

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As you can see from the pictures above, there is quite a bit of space in there and more than enough people to fill it. Having the bar right in front of the door is not the best layout in the world, as the backup at the bar tends to block the entrance to the place a bit. I get it from a marketing perspective, though: people see a crowd at the bar, line out the door, they think, “This is a happenin’ place.” Now, I don’t know who says “happenin'”, but you get the idea.

The bar wraps around to the right, where they have a small-ish food counter, offering up choices of bar food like chicken strips, wings, chips & salsa, and the like. Around the bend to the left and behind the bar by the bathrooms are their display cases, in which they have for sale things like t-shirts and glasses. Not über convenient, or good for sales (I would think), but still nice to have a piece of the brewery to take home, if you should so choose.

Now, onto the beer! I ordered 3 tasters: the Sea Monster Imperial Stout, Piper Down Scottish Ale, and the Tongue Buckler Imperial Red Ale. The imperial stout was as you would expect. It poured a dark brown, with limited off white head. It was only limited because it was just a taster and didn’t have the depth in the glass to develop more. I caught noticeable coffee notes coming from the glass, with some heavy malty tones. The taste was much the same. I tasted bitter chocolate, coffee, and malt with a hefty alcohol kick at 10% abv. I then moved to the Scottish ale. This one poured a very bright red-orange color, with bright white head that was almost completely dissipated. I expected a sour smell, similar to a Belgian ale, but what I got was more on the sweet and malty side. The taste was heavy on the malts and the carbonation was fairly light. The aftertaste was one of bitter hoppiness. Overall, a very mild choice. Third on the list was the red ale. This one poured similar to the Scottish ale, but a little darker with a more quickly-dissipating head. The minute I put my nose over the rim of the glass, I was almost knocked back by the hops shooting out of the glass. This gave me pause before tasting it. When I did, I was immediately hit by the huge floral hop flavor. This didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would and I was rewarded for going back for more after the maltiness aftertaste settled on my tongue and throat to cool the hoppy bite.IMG_1761

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I was going to stop there, but then I saw what turned out to be the crown jewel of my visit to Ballast Point; one for which I waited over 10 minutes back in line at the bar. The Sextant Oatmeal Stout is hands down the best stout I have ever had. Naturally, they serve this from a nitro tap, which according to their website, causes carbonation with tiny bubbles and a richness unlike any other. This makes for a velvety smooth and surprisingly light drink. It is a super dark beer, with just a hint of red tint when held up to the light. The head is like that of a root beer float. What fragrance was able to make its way to my nose was full of mild chocolatey flavors. The taste– oh, the taste. It was like straight cream at first, with a cool milky sensation on my tongue. Rich chocolate followed this, with coffee and just the slightest bit of hoppy bitterness. A very light beer, I would gladly enjoy this beer anytime.

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