Posts Tagged porter

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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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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There’s Beer in My Junk!

Junk House signI recently went to a little gastropub that just opened up down the street from my house called Junk House Gastro-Pub. This was a little funky, industrial, warehouse-looking place just off the freeway. I was directed to it by a hand-painted sign (graffiti style) with a name and an arrow pointing through a neighborhood of pre-fab condos. I must have driven past this place a dozen times and never noticed it, as I thought it was just a residential area next to the freeway.

It was not much to look at walking up to the place, with lots of corrugated steel, cement and chain link. The inside was much the same, with roll-up glass doors to one side, some scattered tables on the other side and a large L-shaped bar dominating the middle of the place. Despite all the industrial grunge (not dirty, but the general theme), the tables had wood tops and had lead pipes for legs. Cool vibe, but the menu is kind of expensive.

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Looking at the beer menu, my eye stuck on one particularly raunchy-sounding one: Stubborn Jack Smoked Porter Ale from a brewery called Ass Kisser in Ukiah, CA. This beer poured black, with off white head that left some nice lacing on the glass. Smokiness and chocolate met my nose on the smell. Chocolate came through first on theAss Kisser Smoked Porter taste, with faint smoke coming afterward. It was mild and medium bodied and the smokiness was hardly overpowering. The finish was of bittersweet chocolate. I have definitely had more dynamic porters, but it was a fair example of one.

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Ass Kisser Smoked Porter top

Junk House does have good food and a moderate beer selection, but needs to come down on its prices. I would not mind if they started brewing their own beer, either.

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Any Port in a Storm

IMG_1998A year or so after discovering Coronado Brewing Co., I finally went to its birthplace. In the interest of full disclosure, there are two locations: a restaurant on Coronado Island proper and the tasting room on the mainland. After consulting some of the local opinion around here, I decided on the tasting room. I was given the impression that the restaurant is a little like a Marie Callender’s that happens to serve Coronado beer. “Fair enough,” I says and off I went.

This place is in a pretty industrial area right off of the 5 freeway. One building looks like the next and I had never driven down in that area, so I drove past it a couple of times before I saw the bigger-than-life sign you see at the top of this post… It also has a very large flag on the top of it, but unless I was looking up (I wasn’t), I wouldn’t have seen it.

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Walking in, it is much larger than I thought it would be. Other than that, it is much like any other brewery: lots of concrete and stainless steel. Then there is the tasting bar just to the left of the door. They built a sort of patio area out of rough-hewn wood beams that sets it off against all the beautiful sterility surrounding it in the production area.

 

IMG_2010Coronado Brewing is very into branding. Every single one of their tanks is emblazoned with their mermaid logo. Of course, they have all of their merchandise for sale in the gift shop/tasting area, as well.

Behind the tasting area by the bathrooms, they have refrigerators that house almost every beer from their Core Series, as well as some from their specialty beers. Much of their selection is dominated by IPAs, but a few of my very favorite beers are hiding in there.

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I decided to just have tasters today, so I tried four: Ricky’s Malt Liquor, a session IPA, Blue Bridge Coffee Stout and Piccadilly Porter.

I didn’t get pictures this time, but I’ll do my best to paint some with words. The “Malt Liquor” was a light golden color without much head or carbonation. It did not have much of a smell, except for some sweetness from the malt. It was surprisingly mild and easy to drink, especially given the 9.1% abv. I am not sure I got a ‘malt liquor’ feeling from drinking it, but I enjoyed it.

I then moved to the session IPA. This was a pale golden, very clean-looking beer, with tiny bubbles and a mat of somewhat frothy head on top. The hoppiness coming off the top of it wasn’t enough to knock me back from the glass, but it was definitely present. Otherwise, it smelled only slightly fruity, with just a hint of grains. The first taste out of the glass was the hoppiness. Again, it wasn’t enough to fry the senses, but rather a pleasant flowery, slightly sweet flavor moving through my mouth. It felt thicker in my mouth than it looked in the glass, which was also a pleasant surprise.

Third was the Blue Bridge Coffee Stout. I have had this before in the IMG_2003bottle, but when I have a chance to get any beer from the tap, I am going to jump on it. This was no disappointment, either. It poured a deep, dark brown, though without much head, surprisingly. It definitely smelled like coffee and lots of toasty malts. The taste was lighter than I might have expected, given its stout-ness, with all the coffee flavor dominating the whole way through. It finished clean, with just a hint of the coffee that was so prevalent throughout.

Last, but not least, was the Piccadilly Porter. This one was not that different from the stout, with the pour, smell, taste and finish all remarkably similar. Especially surprising was the coffee flavor that seemed to overtake the toffee and chocolate flavors porters usually have.

Overall a pleasant experience. Tours are available, so I might just have to make a return trip to take advantage.

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Au Revoir Portland!

Mt. Hood as visible from almost anywhere in the city.

As promised, I went to Portland, Oregon last week and I loved it. I love the Pacific Northwest mainly for 3 things: the beautiful scenery, the weather (yes, I like rain), and now the beer.  Of course, I have long known about the vibrant beer culture up there, but to actually go to the place where it is all happening was really something. First stop upon arrival (around dinnertime) was Henry’s Tavern. This place was a kind of spontaneous decision, as we had yet to get our bearings and were very hungry. This is one of those tall brick buildings you’d expect in a historic district, but since many parts of Portland are historic, Henry’s place on 12th Street was hardly out-of-place. Walking in, the place seemed huge, with a large room that served as its bar area to the left and a long double row of seating to the right. Above and directly in front of the front door was a narrow loft with even more seating. It definitely had the feel of an old-timey feel, with unfinished wood floors and brick everywhere. They were very busy and short-staffed, but on to the beer.

Although they do not brew their own beer, they offer more than enough local and regional fare to choose from. Though they had a respectable list of stouts, my love of reds immediately drew my attention to that section of the menu. I was tired and wanted to get some bang for my buck, so I chose the Lompoc Proletariat Red. This was a pretty good one and at 6.2% ABV, very drinkable. It took so long to get to the table after I ordered it that I couldn’t tell you about the head, but it the beer had a dark, cloudy amber color to it. It smelled somewhat malty and sour, though that was not altogether unpleasant. It was not a cold beer, probably again owing to it taking so long to get to the table, but was surprisingly refreshing. At first, I was hit with the sourness and I thought I had gotten a beer different from the one I ordered. Then the heavy malts started coming through, making it almost creamy in texture and taste. Afterwards, I had mostly the heavy malt left to remember it by. Not a bad beer, but I was hoping for more.

IMG_1563Then we went back to the hotel and sat by the fire at the restaurant, Nel Centro. Their beer selection was not extensive, but the Amnesia Porter caught my eye. It came cold, which was quite welcome after the semi-warm beer at dinner. This dark beauty had little head, but swirling it a bit in the glass left some nice lacing. It smelled heavily of my second love, coffee, which excited me. At first the taste was like a shot of espresso, followed by that characteristic chocolate bitterness. The alcohol content was just enough to pleasantly warm my insides. That was pretty much it for the first day in Portland, as it was pretty late by then. I mean, we went to a pretty cool ice cream shop after dinner, but I want this to be less a travelogue and more about the beer.

The next day Portland collagewe got up early to see some of the sights and went to the Portland Japanese Garden. Again, I won’t bore you with details, but suffice to say it was pretty and tranquil.

IMG_1576Portland Japanese Garden

From there, we ventured forth in search of a brew pub called Kell’s Irish Brew Pub that I saw on the list of area attractions on our map. This is a fairly out-of-the-way place on the western side of the city. Inside, it is basically one big room, with a large fireplace on the left, the bar toward the back, the brewing room behind that, and the seating area just kind of haphazardly set around the whole floor. After being seated, I ordered my second coffee of the morning, this time an Irish coffee. As always, this was a tantalizing treat. I had IMG_1580somewhat underdone waffles to eat, topped with Jameson maple syrup that was too good to pass up. After I drained my coffee, I followed it up with one of only 3 brews they had. As usual, it was a red. It was a bright red color, came cold and without head. It smelled somewhat hoppy, with floral notes and something like a citrus, though I couldn’t readily identify it at the time. With my first sip, however, the fruitiness came through. It then kind of fell away to become somewhat flat in both flavor and carbonation. The finish was much the same and left only a slight malty taste. Not a great beer, but good enough for an experiment.

From there, we really didn’t have a destination, so we cruised around until we happened upon a very nondescript industrial building. Upon closer inspection, it was actually a listed attraction: Clear Creek Distillery. Now, I know this doesn’t really belong with a writing about all things beer, but I thought it was a good enough experience to share it.

IMG_1581We parked it what was essentially an alley and upon trying to enter the place, we discovered the door was locked. Turns out there is a sign on the door that instructs entrants to knock…read for comprehension, kids (Hooked on Phonics worked for me!) We entered into a tasting room with various bottles set on tables and counters around 3/4 of the room. We were given a card that served as our “passport”. In it, we could browse the menu of “Eau de Vie” (brandy), grappa, whiskey and liqueurs, taste up to 5 and check them off so we remember what we had. I started with the single whiskey selection they had: McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey. I knew nothing about this one before tasting it, which was why I was surprised and a little dismayed at the thick peat and smokiness in both the smell and flavor. I was a little afraid this would set my chest afire with heartburn, as this kind of whiskey usually does, but I pressed on. Next I tried two of the brandies- the apple and the pear. Both smelled heavily of their respective fruits. Both were relatively thin and clear. Both started with a quick hit of alcohol, then the fruit flavor, finishing back with the alcohol burn afterward. The next one I tried was grappa. I had never had this type of alcohol before, so I had to look it up. According to Clear Creek’s website, it is made from the crushed seed and skin leftovers from wine makers. The result is a rather harsh, vodka-like burn, with (for me) very little fruitiness. I tried it– then I moved on. The final one I tried was easily the most intriguing of the bunch. It was the one the reps in the store recommended I try last. It was a Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir. That’s right: pine flavored booze. It looked much the same as the pear and apple brandy, with the slightest green tint. One smell told my confused brain that I was about to drink a liquid pine tree. The taste was not any different from the smell and gave me a bit of indigestion. Even though I wouldn’t buy a bottle of it, I am glad for the interesting experience of it.

IMG_1586Next, we went in search of dinner. What better place, I thought, than the brewery we had an inexplicable amount of trouble finding upon our arrival the day before: Deschutes Brewery. This was the one place I was looking forward to making my whole trip. Despite not being able to find it in the dark the previous night, we had no trouble getting there this time. A popular place, we had to wait a bit to get in and seated. Once inside, it has a very warm noisy (but not over the top) feel. The beer menu, as you would imagine, is extensive. For me, the best way to deal with this…”problem” is to order multiple brews at the same time. Of course, IPA crowded the menu, but they were easy enough to avoid and I filled my sampler IMG_1590thusly: the seasonal Jubelale, Double D Imperial Spelt Ale, Black Butte Porter XXV, Fresh Hop Saison, River Ale, and Nitro Obsidian Stout. It was quite a tray. I tried them in order, so let’s dive in.

First was the Jubelale. It was a pretty dark red color without much head, but what head was visible was a light off white color. It smelled of mulled spices and made me think of hot cider. The taste, on the other hand, was not cidery, but reminded me of dark fruit like plum and raisins. Very warming, it was a pleasant experience with a medium malty fruit aftertaste. Next up was the Double D Imperial Spelt Ale. In my journey of beer learnings I had never come across the term spelt before. Turns out this is a type of malt. I like malt. I liked this beer. It had almost no head left when I got it and it was a bright red-orange color. It smelled spicy and fruity, like banana and citrus. The taste was not far off these flavors. It was light to medium bodied with a little alcohol warmth on the finish. Then I tried the Black Butte Porter. I had had this one before, but couldn’t remember. I have a soft spot for porters and it was a good one anyway. This one, too, had no head left, but I imagine it was tan and thick. It had a bitter smell and I couldn’t quite make out any chocolate or coffee. Tasting it, they definitely came through. It also had a slight richness to it that tasted like roasted brown sugar. The finish was pretty light and tasted mostly of chocolate. For a porter, this is a pretty mild beer, but I liked it. Fourth up, the Fresh Hop Saison. This was the riskiest part of the sampler for me since hoppy beers usually bother me so much. What head was left was very white and frothy. The brew was very bright yellow and opaque, as you might expect from a saison. I got lots of citrus from both the smell and the taste alike. The aftertaste was slightly sour and tart. Moving on, I went to the River Ale, which looked like a lighter version of the Double D. Its head was well dissipated by then. It smelled like spiced fruit and a slight floral aroma. The taste was not so heavy on the flowers, but the fruit did come through, with a peppery accent. The finish was mild, with the fruity spiciness lingering a bit. Last was the one I was most excited to try: Nitro Obsidian Stout. This one was super dark, I daresay darker than the porter, with very creamy tan head that stuck around for a good long while, which I appreciated. The taste–oh man, the taste. First I was hit with the rich roasted barley, then it got bitter, finishing with the prominent coffee and chocolate that I love in these beers so much.

Thus concludes my trip to the northwest (at least where beer was concerned). A very good trip, for sure and I will be back.

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Dinner & Dessert in a Glass

IMG_1557[1]I just tried a new release by Karl Strauss at, where else, my favorite neighborhood haunt. In short, the Peanut Butter Cup Porter is a humongous, tasty beer. Got it poured, but had to wait for it, as it was quite busy, so the head was all but non-existent by the time I saw it. It looked to be a pretty dark off white/tan color that complimented the super dark, barely opaque nectar in the glass. It smelled very rich, like a bag of Tollhouse chocolate chips. I didn’t take any peanut butter from the smell, though. The taste, on the other hand, was just about all the peanut butter the smell was lacking. It first hit me as engine oil, very thick on my tongue, rich, though not sweet, and somewhat chocolatey toward the middle. It finished with a nice alcoholic warmth.

All in all, not a beer I could drink all the time, but a good one, nonetheless.

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