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Main Street Brewing – Vancouver BC

Main Street brewing has been around a bit longer than Brassneck. They weren’t as crowded as Brassneck but still had a good number of people around when I stopped by. Main Street differentiates themselves with their four casks. Unlike most breweries that can only have one beer on cask at a time, they have room for four different casks. I tried the pilsner, session IPA on cask, brown ale on cask, southern hop IPA, and brown ale on tap.

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The pilsner was pretty much what you would expect from the style. The Session IPA on cask had some added Australian hops. It was a nice light citrus beer. The brown ale on cask was very delicious, perfectly smoothed out for an easy-drinking beer. I compared it with the tap version thanks to someone sitting next to me and noticed immediately the added bitterness and hop flavor from the tap version. The regular brown ale had just enough hop flavor that it was pretty much a delicious ESB. I ended up ordering more of this one once I was all done.

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Finally, the southern hopped IPA was pretty mellow with a light amount of bitterness and some small citrus flavors. It was a bit lighter on the flavor than I might expect from a 6.5% IPA but it wasn’t bad. I still preferred the brown ale with the perfect balance of malts and hops and overall great flavor.

Main Street’s four casks help draw people back into the brewery regularly. Casks tend to only last two days before they have to be taken off so with four different casks, there are many ways they can mix things up to get people to keep coming back. I was not expecting to like the brown ale so much but I am always glad to find a brown ale that hits the right flavor profile.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Brassneck Brewing – Vancouver BC

Brassneck hasn’t even been open a year (they first opened in October of 2013) and yet they felt like an established brewery from the selection and atmosphere. The look and feel of a place really does make a big difference. Brassneck was number 4 on my tour and I was ready for something to excite me. Thankfully I found something here. While at Brassneck I tried the pale ale, white IPA, passive aggressive dry-hopped pale ale, and inertia 2 barrel aged stout.

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The pale ale was pretty standard with a heavy pine flavor and a respectable malt background. I’ve never really grown to like this style so it didn’t do much for me. The White IPA had a nice bright citrus flavor that bordered on being fruity. This beer used a special new hop called sorachi ace that gave it some lemon and herbal flavors.

The Passive Aggressive Dry Hopped Pale was my favorite of the bunch. Coming in at 7% it might as well have been an IPA. The beer had some solid pine/citrus flavors that reminded me of the west-coast style of IPA. I was so impressed I had to order some more of this one before I left. Finally, the barrel aged stout was listed at 11%. It had some great flavors but was also pretty boozy.

On the wall of the brewery is a photo listing beers that were brewed previously.

On the wall of the brewery is a photo listing beers that were brewed previously.

Brassneck seems like it already has a big following and will continue to grow into a mainstay in the Vancouver beer scene as things move forward. For such a young brewery I had some impressive beers that suggested they know what flavors work and where people want things to go.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Parallel 49 and Bomber Brewing – Vancouver BC

Thanks to a helpful fellow blogger, I got to visit five breweries in a row. One of the smaller ones was missing any of the regular IPAs so I only had a few small tasters there and will pass on reviewing it. This post will review Parallel 49 and Bomber Brewing.

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The first Vancouver brewery I hit was Parallel 49. It was a small brewery with a small selection and I tried only a small number of the beers because we were planning on hitting multiple breweries. I tried the Ruby Ale, IPL, and German style IPA while I was there.

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The Ruby Ale was actually my favorite of the bunch. At 6% it had a surprisingly strong hop flavor with good pine and citrus flavors. Bread flavors of malts came through at the end to give it a nice finish. I think this had more hop flavors than the IPA. The IPL was a solid beer with good tropical fruit flavors and not overly bitter. It didn’t really grab me though.

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Finally, the IPA was all Munich malts. The malts pretty much dominated the beer as I tasted it, leaving hops to die in the background. Out of the three I much preferred the Ruby Ale and I can see why it is one of their top sellers.

Another small brewery, I stopped by Bomber quickly for a few tasters. Here I only tried the ESB and the IPA before moving on to the next stop. The ESB was medium bitter and had a decent bite but didn’t really grab me. The IPA was nice as well with some good citrus flavor at the front and a sweet finish. Neither one inspired me to order a pint.

 

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Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Fremont Brewing – Seattle Washington

I stopped by Fremont Brewing with my sister and my husband and we tried a small section of the available beers because it was still early in the day. I tried the pale ale, IPA, porter, imperial oatmeal stout, and imperial IPA.

The pale ale was quite surprising because it wasn’t particularly malty. Flavors of citrus and tropical fruit came out nicely. The IPA had some nice bright hop flavors. Mostly the hops came through as grapefruit and citrus flavors that dominated.

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The porter had some nice chocolate flavors with a good smooth finish from the oatmeal. By contrast, the dark star imperial oatmeal stout was not for me. The majority of the flavors came forward in a more boozy taste that wasn’t particularly strong in either coffee or chocolate. I didn’t get much sense that this was an oatmeal stout either from the flavor.

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The imperial IPA had some seriously intense citrus flavors. This was the closest thing I tasted in Seattle to the San Diego style of double IPA that has become quite common. It had very little malt flavor at the back end.

Fremont brewing is certainly worth stopping by for a visit so you can try the pale ale, IPA, porter, or double IPA depending on your tastes. They also had a nice large outdoor seating area with plenty of sun and shade options.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Seattle Beer 05

Triple Horn Brewing – Seattle Washington

Though it is only a few miles away from Redhook, most people visiting probably only ever stop by Redhook. That is quite a shame because Triple Horn has some solid brews available that are much more flavorful than Redhook. When I stopped by I tried the blood orange wheat, IPA, session ale, oatmeal porter, and double IPA.

The blood orange wheat was quite refreshing and unlike any beer I have tried before. The infusion of blood oranges really gave it a strong citrus flavor that was very tasty. The session ale had a nice light citrus kick and yet was still solidly bitter. The IPA was certainly on the darker maltier side but it was well-balanced so the floral and pine flavors came through nicely on the back end.

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The oatmeal porter was much more flavorful than the one at Redhook and had much more noticeable coffee and chocolate flavors. The Double IPA was seriously bitter and also quite heavy on the malts. Thankfully this one also has some enjoyable hop flavors at the back end leaning towards tropical fruits and citrus.

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I ended with the Barrel Aged Belgian Strong Ale, aged in Jim Beam barrels. I expected to love this one but I actually hated it. The flavors of the underlying beer were far too heavy on tart fruit flavors along with the spice flavors you tend to find in some forms of darker Belgian beers. The spice and fruit flavors overpowered the rest of the beer. The whiskey flavors didn’t particularly help because they were added pretty lightly.

Overall, Triple Horn is a solid smaller brewery that you should absolutely check out if you are in the area and don’t particularly like wine. The IPAs are fantastic as well as the blood orange wheat.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Redhook Brewing – Seattle Washington

Redhook is such a big name that I thought it might be disappointing. After all, many of its bigger brews make their way down to San Diego and so I have had them before. But I had hoped that I might encounter some interesting smaller batch beers that were only available at the tasting room. Sadly, they required me to buy a flight of tasters at once so I had to try almost everything even though I prefer to stick to a few styles when there are a lot of beers to taste. I tried the Wisecracker Wit, ESB, session ale, ale, porter on nitro, IPA, and double IPA.

The wit had a nice sweet Belgian flavor and a light enough ginger flavor that didn’t overpower the rest of it. The ESB you have probably had before. Even on tap it was largely an easy drinking beer without any serious amount of flavor. I was glad that the malts didn’t overpower the hops too much but it was largely a bit weak for my tastes.

The session ale was a slightly weaker version of the typical session IPA. It had some nice light citrus hop flavors but again was not particularly strong tasting. The audible ale pretty much tasted like a typical northwestern pale ale with cascade hops and not a lot of flavor.

Enjoying the outdoor seating area with my taster flight.

Enjoying the outdoor seating area with my taster flight.

The porter on nitro was nice and smooth but again pretty lacking in flavor. I didn’t get much of the coffee and chocolate it was described as having. The IPA was nice, sporting good citrus and pine flavors. It was clearly a fresh batch and had a nice sweet finish. Still I couldn’t help compare it to the Bellevue Brewing IPA I had the day before.

The double IPA was on the sweeter side, far too sweet for me. I didn’t particularly care for it because it did not seem to feature the hops very prominently and wasn’t particularly bitter. Redhook was an interesting place to stop and visit if you are going with friends out to Woodenville Wineries but none of the beers were particularly impressive.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Seattle Beer 01

Bellevue Brewing – Seattle Washington

I visited Seattle recently and recently with the hope of visiting some local breweries. Sadly, I only ended up visiting four. Still, I will provide my thoughts here on Bellevue Brewing, Redhook, Triple Horn, and Fremont Brewing. 

Bellevue Brewing was the first place I visited near Seattle and some of the beers were quite impressive. I tasted the pale ale, ESB, scotch ale, oatmeal stout, IPA, Triple Wheat Ale, and Malt Liquor.

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The pale ale was slightly sweet with a nice citrus back to go along with the typical pine hop flavors. The beer was nicely balanced so that the malts did not dominate like they do in some pale ales. The ESB was a bit too light on the flavor for my tastes. It didn’t have any interesting flavors that I noticed.

The scotch ale was interesting because the first thing I tasted was a sort of sweet grape juice flavor. I didn’t really detect much of the caramel and toffee flavors the brewery described it as having. The oatmeal stout was quite nice on the lighter end of the stout spectrum. It was good and creamy and sported some light caramel flavors.

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The IPA was bursting with flavors. I found out that this beer is brewed fresh every six days, which explains why it had that fresh taste. The IPA was on the lighter side and bursting with citrus and floral flavors. It reminded me of the San Diego style of IPA I had previously missed while visiting Seattle.

The triple wheat IPA was a powerful brew and had plenty of intense flavors from similar hops as the IPA. I also got a nice tropical fruit flavor from it. The use of wheat malts kept it from being overly malty like many triple IPAs tend to get. The malt liquor was very strange because despite its 8% alcohol it was very light in bitterness and had almost no body to it. Perhaps some people will enjoy having a strong beer that has very little taste but it seemed like a total waste to me.

Overall Bellevue Brewing was a fun place to visit and had some fantastic IPAs. When I found out that my sister had not yet visited there despite living in Seattle for quite some time now we stopped in for a pint a few days later. They had added a rye version of the IPA by then and it impressed me so much that I had a pint of that rather than the regular IPA.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Introduction to Craft Beers Part 7 – IBU and ABV

For the final part of this series on craft beer basics, I thought I would explain some common acronyms. You commonly see IBU and ABV listed on the menu but you might have been embarrassed to ask what they meant.

Why do breweries list ABV on the boards?
ABV stands for alcohol by volume and sometimes you will just see a percentage of alcohol listed. Though technically not all beers need to display the percentage of alcohol, and thus the mainstream brewers don’t bother to post it, it helps you as the consumer to understand something about the beer before ordering it.

Though higher alcohol content does not always equal better flavor, it tends to lead to bolder flavors. It also makes a big difference typically in the thickness of the beers, with beers over 8% typically tasting quite a bit thicker. Once you become familiar with a style of beer, then it tells you quite a bit about a stout to see that it is 5% vs 12%.

It is also important for you to pay attention so you can try to keep track of how much you are drinking. Gone are the days when you can simply count the beers. You will typically see beers with higher alcohol content served in smaller glasses because that helps reduce the amount of alcohol in one serving. If you drive to the brewery be especially careful to limit your intake so you don’t drink and drive. Most breweries will serve you beer to go in a growler so you can finish enjoying your favorite beer at home without getting into an accident or getting pulled over. When I take friends out to visit breweries, I like to bring home a growler so that I can drink when I get home.

Why do breweries list IBU? What is that?
Not all breweries list IBU but many do because it gives you a lot of information that you might not realize. IBU stands for International Bitterness Units and it is an easy way to check that the beer you are ordering is not going to be too bitter for your tastes. Some smooth light porters might list an IBU of around 30, sometimes even lower. This is typically a level at which the average drinker probably won’t notice any bitterness at all.

At the middle end, a lot of IPAs and pale ales come in at around 50-60 IBU. This might be too much for some people but it is still in the middle range and a hop head might demand even more. Imperial IPAs and sometimes extra strong stouts can be from 80-120 IBUs. These beers are going to be noticeably bitter and are not good to try for your first time. You can see for yourself if bitterness is something you like as you drink more beer. I tend to enjoy beers at all levels of the scale but I do have a soft spot for the seriously bitter brews.

I hope you learned a lot about beer in this educational series. You should now be able to recognize the differences between the different styles of beers. Slowly you will start to differentiate between malt and hop flavors in your favorite beers.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Introduction to Craft Beer Part 6 – IPAs

When I first started to get into IPAs, I thought they were all going to be amazing but it turns out there is a huge spectrum in which you can have a variety of different flavors of IPA. At the low end, you have English style IPAs that represent how the beer was originally made. They tend to be closer to a pale ale and lower in alcohol. Then in the middle there are different styles depending on area of the US where the beer is brewed. Northwest style IPAs present serious pine flavors from the local varieties of hops and frequently are on the lighter end of the alcohol scale, sometimes as low as 5.5%.

Then there is the West Coast style which features heavy citrus and floral flavors with little emphasis on balancing the hop flavors with the malt flavors. This sometimes leads to delicious light colored brews that focus almost exclusively on bright hop flavors. West Coast IPAs typically hover around 6% alcohol with some approaching 7%. West Coast style IPAs also tend to be more bitter as well because the brewers are trying to push the envelope.

It is common to see the term American IPA. These frequently tend to be darker brews with a lot more toasty malt flavors balanced with the hops. For me this means I need to taste it before ordering a pint because I don’t care for very dark IPAs. Then you have the double and triple IPAs that have become especially popular in San Diego where the brew typically starts somewhere around 8% and goes up to 13 or 14% at the high extreme.

Double IPAs vary significantly between breweries with some focusing on the heavy malt character to balance the hops and others pushing all limits by presenting the most bitter brew possible with malt flavors that you can barely recognize. If you tend to prefer darker colored IPAs or lighter colored IPAs it helps to do some research before buying a six-pack because not all beers feature clear descriptions.

The other distinguishing thing in IPAs is the type of hops used. Flavors can vary widely depending on the variety of hops used. Learning specific types of hops is not easy but asking breweries about the hops in your favorite brews is the first step.

If you explore more, you might notice a lot of different labels thrown on IPAs such as Belgian IPA, Black IPA, Rye IPA, etc. Pay close attention as you order these and you might slowly start to recognize the way in which they are different. Typically a Belgian IPA is made with Belgian yeast and it has many of the distinct flavors of a Belgian style beer. Black IPAs tend to have a lot of roasted malts so they often come across like a hoppy version of a porter or stout. Rye IPAs tend to focus on the spicy flavors of rye as it interacts with the hops. It is a flavor that you will learn to recognize over time but is fairly hard to describe.

Local IPA favorites: Societe The Apprentice, Council Chazzam!, Pacific Bomboro, Alesmith IPA, Stone IPA, Ballast Point Sculpin, Saint Archer IPA, Rough Draft Southern Triangle, Helm’s Wicked as Sin, New English Humbly Legit IPA,

Local Double IPA favorites: Green Flash West Coast, Green Flash Green Bullet, Ballast Point Dorado, Stone Enjoy By IPA, Karl Strauss Tower 20, Saint Archer Double IPA, Rough Draft Hop Therapy, Alesmith Yulesmith,

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Introduction to Craft Beer Part 5 – Porters and Stouts

Properly differentiating between a porter and a stout is pretty difficult but they have some significant similarities that make them quite popular especially the way breweries in the US tend to make them. The one thing that generally identifies porters and stouts is their dark, almost black color.

The flavors can vary quite widely depending on what the brewers tend to focus on. One reason a lot of people love porters and stouts is that they tend to be on the sweeter side. It is common to see chocolate or coffee used to give flavor to these beers.

Most porters and stouts have some form of roasted malt that gives it a unique flavor. Sometimes oatmeal is used to create a silkier brew. You sometimes see these beers served “on Nitro.” This style of serving a beer works great with porters and stouts because the Nitrogen gas helps to make the beer appear creamier due to the much smaller bubbles it forms.

When ordering a porter or stout, pay close attention to the way it is described on the menu. If you don’t see a description, ask the bartender to describe the flavor so you can get an idea before ordering or ask for a small taste. I frequently will ask for a taste before ordering an unfamiliar beer because you don’t want to drink a full pint of something you don’t enjoy.

Porters and stouts vary widely in the alcohol percentage. Some go as low as 4.5-5.5% and many breweries make imperial or double porters or stouts that are around 8-9% with some especially strong brews hitting 12% or higher. Most imperial porters or stouts focus on chocolate or coffee flavors to help balance out the stronger alcohol content.

Imperial stouts and porters also tend to pour much thicker and are sometimes compared to motor oil because of how thick they can get. Other flavors that can be quite prominent in stronger porters and stouts are some plum and ripe fruit flavors from certain varieties of malts. You can always ask where a flavor in your favorite beer comes from if you are tasting it at the brewery.

Local Favorites: Green Flash Double Stout, Alesmith Speedway Stout, New English Zumbar Imperial Stout, Ballast Point Porter, Imperial Porter, and Imperial Stout, Council Brewing Imperial Oatmeal Stout, Rough Draft Vanilla Stout.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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