Posts Tagged oatmeal stout

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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Micro-brew Mecca

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go to two local breweries that I read about in the Mission Times Courier, Groundswell Brewing and Benchmark Brewing. These brewery start-ups are located right in the Grantville neighborhood of San Diego, a commercial/industrial section just north of Mid City in San Diego. We went to Groundswell first, so let’s start there.

Oops, sorry- something broke Oops, sorry- something brokeIMG_1705Groundswell Brewing was started just last month in November, so they are just getting going with their production. It was started by 6 friends from the Art Institute San Diego. Most of them went to the culinary school, but Chris, the bartender who helped us, went for sound production. When he’s not brewing beer, his day job is running the sound system at San Diego Padres games at Petco Park.

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There wasn’t much to the outside- it’s in an industrial complex, all of which look the same, so I got some shots of the inside. This is a pretty comfortable place to just lay back on their pillowed benches, or belly up to the bar, order a brew and relax. There was Bob Marley blasting from the sound system to help mellow the mood. As I said, they just started up, so they didn’t have a huge selection, but I appreciate smaller selections of (hopefully) better beers. I decided on the Piloncillo Brown.Oops, sorry- something broke

I had high hopes for this beer, as I’m a big fan of brown ales. It poured a deep, dark brown, with a fairly bright, thin head. It reminded me of a semi-flat root beer. It smelled faintly of caramel and malt, with just the slightest hint of sweetness. The taste, however, was pretty bland. It didn’t have those roasty flavors I have come to expect from a brown ale. It was actually pretty tasteless, though more carbonated than the lack of head lead me to believe it would be. The aftertaste was the winner for this beer for me. It brought out all the aforementioned flavors and characteristics that were missing up front while drinking it. Overall, not a bad beer, but just nothing to write home about.

They are just starting out and Chris told us that they occasionally do specialty brews, so I will definitely check back with them to see how they come along.

Oops, sorry- something brokeOops, sorry- something brokeNext, we went to Benchmark Brewing, which is just around the corner from Groundswell. These guys have been around since April, so they have had some time to get their feet underneath them. This brewery is run by a man and wife team, with his mom helping out behind the bar. He is the head brewer, while his wife did all of the interior decoration. The decor isn’t half bad, either. It has your standard industrial feel, with little things here and there to help spruce it up a bit. For instance, the lighting over the bar consists of groups of reclaimed old flashlights tied together into chandeliers.Oops, sorry- something broke Oops, sorry- something brokeOops, sorry- something brokeThe walls are a kind of rustic wood grain, with old-timey lamps overhead. Under the stairs (going up which, a chain and sign saying “Stay on the trail” discourages) is a nice rock garden with some children’s toys. Our host told us that since opening, they have discovered that the sand in the rock garden serves as a fun sandbox for kids who come in with their parents. She also let us know that Benchmark is currently just producing for corporate accounts and plans to focus on the smaller batch production for their tasting room later. Probably the coolest thing about Benchmark is their policy on growler fills:  you can bring in any growler from any other brewery and they will fill it with any of their beers, so long as you somehow obscure the other brewery’s label on the growler. She advised that this is due to a change in California state law that says breweries and tasting rooms can freely dispense their product in any (legal) way they see fit. Now, mind you, they are not required to fill growlers from other breweries; it is just a nice service they offer to those who choose to come into their tasting room.

IMG_1710Now onto the beer. None of their beers are high in alcohol, making for a nice way to taste all they have to offer. Although the Dubbel was tempting, I decided to go with their oatmeal stout.
This one poured like a rich, dark coffee, with a tan, frothy head. It smelled like coffee, brown sugar and roasted malt. The first thing to hit my tongue, after the creaminess of the head, was the malt. It coated my entire mouth for a good while. This kind of masked most of the other flavors that may have been present. I wouldn’t call it oily, but it was certainly a thick mouth feel. The real experience, much like with the brown from Groundswell, was in the aftertaste. The brown sugar sweetness followed the roasted malt flavor, which was itself followed by a sort of fruity character. I was left with flavors of coffee bitterness and roasted malt on the finish. I really enjoyed this beer and at only a little over 4% abv, I would be able to enjoy a few of these.

I enjoyed Benchmark a little more than Groundswell, but as I said, the former has had a little more time to get going.

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