Posts Tagged rye

Great Danes of California

XPAR8890Sitting right at the entrance to California’s Central Coast wine country, sits a tiny town called Solvang. Of course, leave it to me to find the beer in such a small community, one appropriately called Solvang Brewing. A quaint enough place on the main drag in town, this Tudor building had an attached windmill that seemed to be a prerequisite for a town that serves as both Scandinavian refuge and central coast tourist trap. There was a small patio crowded with too many tables with umbrellas. Walking in, there was no lobby to speak of, with a host stand to the right and a merchandise display case.

We sat in the very loud bar area, which had some low have booths to the right and the bar to the left. There was a fully stocked, leather-topped bar, with a mirrored back and chalkboard menus. Red-brown padded leather lined the bottom of the bar. The ceiling was made of brown painted beams, molded to look roughly hewn. Toward the back and behind the host stand was even more seating. There really was nothing distinctive about the place. I would like to head back to check out the restaurant area; otherwise, it was just like any other bar.

Solvang Brewing Helheim Black Rye IPAI got a stein of their Helheim Black Rye IPA (7.5% abv). It poured dark brown with thin, sudsy white head. Aromas included a touch of rye spice and really not much else. The taste was hoppy at first, with some spiciness from the rye following. Light body and light-medium carbonation, it finished caramelly and bitter.

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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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Funhouse of Beers

Barrelhouse 101 panoramaI hope everybody had a very merry Christmas. I certainly did. I got to try out a new place in my hometown. It is called Barrelhouse 101 and the 101 is meant to indicate that they have over one hundred beers…on tap! I thought this was great news and I had to try it.

Barrelhouse interior frontAs you can see, the outside resembles a firehouse or something on a dock. It’s also colored a little like a funhouse, with very bright blue and yellow walls, with an all but neon-colored door. Walking in, the interior gave a very industrial vibe as well, with high I-beam rafters and big halogen lights you might find in a factory hanging from the ceiling. The bar area felt a bit cluttered and crowded with tables fairly close together, not to mention close to the bar itself. I appreciated it, though, as most brewhouses are cavernous warehouses of equipment with just a tasting room. Of course, this place does not brew its own beer, so that may have something to do with the layout…

Barrelhouse interior leftThe kitchen area to the left was cool, with a red studded leather wall to separate it from the main dining area. It gave it a kind of retro diner feel, though I don’t know that is what they were aiming for. At least it was festively decorated, with all of their stockings hung along the length of it. The patio area, on the other hand, wasn’t much to look at: fairly small and narrow, with not much to look at but the street. At least it had heaters to help cut the beach wind chill.

Institution Restraint Maple BrownThey have pretty great food, but who cares about that, right? The beer selection was enough boggle the mind and confuse the eye. I was able to pick one out of the crowd, though: Institution Ale Company Restraint Maple Brown Ale. I thought it appropriate for the holiday weekend I had just celebrated. It poured a deep red-brown color, with a sudsy white head that really stuck to the glass. It had mild aromas of roasted malt and chocolate. Despite the name, no maple came through on the smell. The taste was also mild and smooth. It started with the roasted malts, moving to bitter chocolate. The finish was equally mild as the chocolate lingered.

Despite my hope for a semi-sweet holiday beer, this one underwhelmed a bit:

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Ninkasi The Devil Went Down to Oregon I was going to stop there, but I was getting on a train home in an hour, so I figured I’d have another look through the prodigious selection. I am very glad I did, as I found a beer Ninkasi let me (and the rest of their followers) know about on Instagram and it was called The Devil Went Down to Oregon Imperial Dark Rye. This is a collab Ninkasi did with Devils Backbone Brewing and it is far more appropriate for the holidays. It poured dark red with medium white head. It smelled sour, with hints of malts and a very slight sugary smell. There was also some spice to make things interesting. The taste was smooth, which surprised me for a rye. The malts came through in the beginning, with the rye spice showing up toward the middle. Medium carbonation helped break up that spice, but it came right back. It finished smooth, with the spice persisting afterward.

I enjoyed this one, despite the spiciness. Call it my Ninkasi bias:

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A great place to check out if you are in the Ventura, CA area.

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Ballast Point 2

Ballast Point building name

No, you are not seeing double. Ballast Point Brewing Company has opened a third brewery in San Diego! This is great news for me, as I work just up the road a piece from this particular location. It is in the middle of an expansive and otherwise unremarkable industrial office complex. At least it is labeled well (and huge!).

Ballast Point Brewery outside

Walking in, I immediately noticed the fondness for wood, rope and glass. It invokes, as I suspect was intended, the feeling of being on a sailing ship.
Ballast Point inside The lines of sight allow a wide open view of the entire tasting room and (future) restaurant. The bar takes up a considerable amount of the room, which is good, as they have a number of great beers on tap to try.

Beer menuOf course, this is just part of the beer list they have, but it gives you an idea of what is on offer (as well as the beers I sampled while there…but more on that later.) They also have tours of their brewing facilities available every 15 minutes or so. This was exciting for me, as I am kind of a nerd for that kind of stuff. On the tour, we learned that they can make 150 barrels of beer per brewing run. In addition, they also have capacity for 300 bottles and 300 cans. That’s a ton of beer! This is great news, as they have some great stuff.

brewery restaurant
Dining area

Ballast Point insideNow, for the beer sampling! I couldn’t decide on any beer(s) I wanted a full 16 ounces of, so I got a flight of three different ones. First was the Three Sheets Barley Wine, Bourbon & Rum Barrel Aged. At 10% abv, I knew it was going to be a big one. It poured dark and cloudy (stormy, even?). It was a slightly reddish color with persistent brown head. It smelled slightly sour, very malty and thick (if a texture can be a smell.) For a 10% beer, it did not taste very boozy. Instead, I tasted sweetness up front, with a stickiness that would not go away. That sugary profile was dominant and carried right on through the finish. beer sample lineupNext, I tried two variations of their flagship stout, Victory at Sea. The first was one with Mole. It poured very dark with the consistency of motor oil and dark, quickly dissipating head on top. I was actually surprised at how quickly the head went away, as stouts tend to pride themselves on their staying power. The very first aroma coming from the glass was very prominent chocolate flavors that were slightly bitter and very rich in coffee and vanilla. Though I didn’t get any spice on the smell, it was definitely apparent on the taste. It hit right up front and persisted throughout. I was surprised again by the small amount of mole/chocolate flavor that only came through in the middle and quickly faded to the same spiciness that started it all. Despite the lack of a very dynamic profile, I enjoyed this one for its uniqueness.

I finished up with Victory at Sea, Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged, another big stout. This one also poured black with quick brown head. It smelled very boozy, despite having the same alcohol content as the previous two I had tried. After the strong alcohol aroma, I got some rich chocolatiness. The taste was very rich, mild and boozy. Heavy whiskey flavors dominated up front, with some chocolatey bitterness to follow, followed by some spice from the rye. Not too much sweetness, despite the rich taste, but it finished a little sticky and still very boozy. I like whiskey and I think they went a little heavy on the whiskey flavors in this one.

Overall a very nice brewery from a brewer of some of the best beers in San Diego.

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