Toolbox 03

Toolbox Brewing Company – Vista – The Brewery That Showed Me How Delicious Brett Can Be.

To the uninitiated you might think that having a bunch of brett beers (short for brettanomyces, a wild yeast that brings out some interesting flavors in beers) would mean pointlessly tart and funky brews. I certainly fell into that trap when I first heard that most of their beers were moving over into the brett family. Thankfully, as others have so nicely told me, my ignorance has proved incorrect and the resulting beers are delicious.

I don’t fully understand the things that make brett a favorite among certain sectors of the craft beer fans. But from what I got to taste today at Toolbox, they are doing a great job getting the right flavors from it for each beer such that it enhances the already delicious flavors. Yes there are some tart beers here and some of them might not be your thing right away but they are still very tasty and complex in just the right way. And they might be what turns you into a tart lover.

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Toolbox isn’t the easiest brewery to find either, hidden away in a tech park that I happened to pull into just as I was beginning to wonder if I had passed it. Luckily for me I turned at the right time and Google informed me that it was in that very parking lot. Like most locations of breweries you wouldn’t guess when you pull in that this is the sort of place to encounter a brewery, but as soon as you see the food truck outside you know you are in the right place.

Tart and sour beers are becoming a bit of an obsession to a small portion of the craft beer community in San Diego where complexity and quality of flavor trumps bitter hop bombs. In San Diego these beers are mostly limited to Council Brewing, which has built up a following around its flavored varieties of the tart saison, Lost Abbey, with its sours and farmhouse ales, and more recently Toolbox and Latitude 33.

Toolbox 04

I split my tasting at Toolbox into two sets of 4 tasters. Sadly, they don’t have a discount for having multiple tasters so you can easily spend $18 before tip on 8 tasters. But after you taste the beers you aren’t going to mind because all of them are high quality even if some might not be for you. The first round included the IPA, pale ale, saison, and milk stout.

Toolbox 07

I started with the IPA and immediately I was overwhelmed with an intense grapefruit flavor that I assume was enhanced by the brett yeast. The beer was mildly tart and got close to being too mouth-puckering but it overall resembled a typical west coast style IPA and did so nicely. Next came the pale ale and it also had a mild tartness to it but combined with more of a pineapple flavor. This combined with a nice light sweetness made this a very solid pale ale. This didn’t have any of the typical dark malt colors or flavors you usually see from the style.

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The saison was quite an impressive version boasting great amounts of spice and pepper with a good balance among everything. The addition of the brett made it a bit more harsh than the Lost Abbey saison but it still was nicely balanced and very tasty. The milk stout was so deliciously roasty that I would have sworn it had coffee added. Turns out it has none so I was all the more impressed. Despite being a milk stout it was not overly sweet as some can be and would satisfy those dark beer fans who accompany friends to toolbox.

Toolbox 06

My next flight included the Tart X, the sweet baby trey (a farmhouse ale with brett) and My Cousin Strawberry and Purple Drink, two fruit flavored beers. Purple drink was a boysenberry beer. Tart X took a while to get used to, being much more tart than anything I had in the first flight. After adjusting a little bit I found the lemon flavors to be quite nice and actually enjoyed it.

Toolbox 09

Next came sweet baby trey, which was my absolute favorite of the day. This famhouse ale mostly came at me with sweetness though nothing overpowering or cloying. It had a nice spice flavor that reminded me of Belgian yeast and overall was the most delicious of the bunch.

Me enjoying the second flight.

Me enjoying the second flight.

Next came my cousin strawberry, a beer that had just the right combination of strawberry and kiwi with a very mild tart flavor. The color of the beer was very interesting as well, almost a light pink. The purple drink was a nice dark purple color and was mildly tart as well. This one was based on the saison and had plenty of good berry flavor. Fruit beers being what they are most of these are smaller batch and so the flavors available might be different when you visit the brewery.

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Some may have seen me call Toolbox bold for moving their beers to mostly brett. I can safely say that the beers were all very well-made and balanced. I was also glad to hear that there is another even more traditional west coast style IPA in the pipeline as well, which should satisfy some who don’t like what I got to try. Having now tried the beers available at Toolbox I can say that they made the right decision and the complexity of flavors helps them stand out.

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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Valley Center Brewing 01

Valley Center Brewing – Complex Beers Worth the Drive

If driving to Oceanside the previous weekend to visit Bagby was far, I especially was not very excited about driving all the way to Valley Center to try a brewery. Though Oceanside is right off a major highway, Valley Center is only accessible by a few smaller roads where you aren’t going to be driving very fast. Though, after tasting some of the really tasty beers, I was glad I made the trek. I visited Valley Center Brewing on February 1st 2015.

Valley Center Brewing 01

Because I visited with a groupon, I started out with a bunch of tasters. Though I also had two full pours to look forward to, also included, since my husband, who was driving back, was only going to help me a little bit with those. I was intrigued by the selection once I noticed some styles that I don’t expect.

Valley Center Brewing 02

To start with I ordered a flight of Rusty Pail Pale Ale, Farmhouse Ale, Oaked Red Ale, Hell Hole Cayon Stout, Smoked Porter, and Evening Star Barrel Aged Stout. Later I also tried the Belgian IPA, the Coffee Stout, and the Coyote Run IPA.

First taster flight. Note how dark the beers in the back are as well.

First taster flight. Note how dark the beers in the back are as well.

The farmhouse ale was quite tasty, offering plenty of mild tart flavors and a little crisp fruity bite at the back end. The brewers describe this as having apple flavors. Rusty Pail pale ale was a very typical pale ale flavor like a Sierra Nevada Pale though the malts were a little less intense and didn’t overpower the hops. This one was just OK to me.

The oaked red ale was the first beer I noticed that really had some different flavors at the beginning compared to the end. Later I noticed that a lot of the other beers had flavors that changed over the course of a taster sometimes very significant. At first the red ale was too smoky but when I got closer to finishing the taster I started to notice the smoke balanced much better with the rest of the beer.

Next came the smoked porter. This was interesting because the bourbon flavor was much lighter than you typically see in San Diego bourbon aged beers, giving it an almost sour flavor. Combined with that was a light smoke flavor to balance it out. This is certainly not your typically roasty porter and my husband was not a fan.

Valley Center Brewing 04

Then I tried the Hell Hole Canyon stout. This one was so good I had to stop my husband from drinking the whole taster before I got to try it. This was also the second of my full pours later. Flavor wise, I was quite impressed by all the different things I tasted from coffee to bitter chocolate and plenty of roasty flavors. I hope this one sticks around for quite some time.

The Belgian IPA was also very tasty. At first I got a ton of spice with mild citrus hops but over time the spice seemed to mellow out, leaving me with some fantastic citrus flavors and a little bit of ripe fruit. This was later my first full pour and still very enjoyable. The Coyote Run IPA started out with a powerful ripe peach flavor with plenty of tart and as I progressed through the taster the malts became more prominent. Though I wasn’t immediately drawn into this beer it seemed to be quite popular among regular visitors. Sadly the other IPA they usually have was gone when I stopped by, perhaps due to popularity.

Full pour of the Belgian IPA.

Full pour of the Belgian IPA.

The coffee stout, made with local roasted Sumatra beans, was a tasty coffee beer with plenty of coffee flavor at the forefront. Though to me compared to the Hell Hole Canyon it was hard to ask for more. Finally, the bourbon barrel aged stout called Evening Star, like the smoked porter had an interesting intense tart flavor that I don’t normally find in this sort of beer. This sort of tart flavor tends to come from something aged in wine barrels.

When I asked the head brewer about these two tart aged stouts I was told that they used barrels that had already been previously used by another brewery, so they didn’t have the same intense flavor of bourbon that tends to come from first run use. I didn’t find either of the barrel aged beers to have the sorts of flavors that typically get me excited about bourbon aged beers so they aren’t for everyone.

Valley Center Brewing 07

From what I tried, I was glad I made the drive up to Valley Center. I still can taste the delicious flavors of the Hell Hole Canyon Stout and the Belgian IPA. They also had four lighter beers that I wasn’t able to try, a Kolsch, Blonde, Cream, and Summer Ale. I’m told that these were added due to local demand and since I am not a big fan of those styles I stuck to what I enjoy. At some point I may make my way back there, possibly while I am in the area for some seasonal event, so that I can try the other IPA that was not available when I stopped by.

Valley Center Brewing 06

Valley Center Brewing is also interesting because they had a few experimental beers on tap to try. I didn’t end up tasting the experimental beers while I was there either, but it sounded like there were some interesting beers available on there. If you are in the area and want to have a beer, Valley Center Brewing offers a great lineup of interesting IPAs, Stouts, and even a solid farmhouse ale. The Belgian IPA and Hell Hole Canyon both stick out as great beers that have just the right flavors.

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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Wrought Iron IPA 02

Abita Wrought Iron IPA – a Delicious New Favorite of Mine

Part of what got me started with this blog is the desire to cut through the noise and let people know when a great beer shows up. Usually this is from local breweries, but occasionally something from out of town gets wider distribution and becomes available locally. That happened to be the case with Louisiana brewery Abita that I just noticed in the local shops with an interesting IPA.

Wrought Iron IPA 02

What first stuck out to me was the fantastic little informational chart on the six pack itself spelling out the different types of hops, malts, yeast, and water used as well as how dark and bitter the beer is and even suggested food pairings. Based on the description I was intrigued because it seemed to be a lighter color hop-forward beer just how I like it.

Wrought Iron IPA 03

When I poured my first glass of Wrought Iron IPA I was hooked and immediately went back to where I got the six-pack to buy another one in case they ran out before I got back. Grapefruit flavors balance nicely with the malts leading to a distinctive flavor that I haven’t had elsewhere. The light grapefruit closely resembles Alpine’s Nelson. Bright general citrus flavors give a solid bitterness as well.

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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Green Flash Food Truck 01

Green Flash’s new House Food Truck is Here to Stay

Ever since Green Flash started having food trucks at their brewery in Mira Mesa I have been chasing the food trucks. Thanks to their schedule posted online I was able to decide when to go based on when my favorite food truck was there. Now that has all been replaced by a house food truck that will be serving food at the brewery whenever they are open.

Green Flash Food Truck 01

The menu can be found on the Green Flash web site where they previously listed the schedule of food trucks. Now it explains that the Green Flash Gastro Truck is here to stay and the current menu is displayed. When I visited on February 11, 2015 the initial menu already presented plenty of great options.

Bahn Mi with Alpine Nelson.

Bahn Mi with Alpine Nelson.

The group I was with ordered the Pork Bahn Mi, Rocket Salad with Chicken, and Shrimp and Gritts along with a side of fries that later turned into two. Prices are in line with the food trucks I am used to seeing at Green Flash, around $10 per item with some of the starters a little less. The side of fries for $3 is large enough to share with a friend or two while you each enjoy your order.

Shrimp and Grits.

Shrimp and Grits.

The Pork Belly Bahn Mi paired delightfully with the Alpine Nelson I had with it thanks to the recent acquisition of Alpine by Green Flash. The habanero aoli on the pork, which was flavorful and not overpowering, really responded nicely to the grapefruit flavors of the Nelson. As you can see below, the Rocket Salad had a good portion of chicken. Also, my dad very much enjoyed the flavors of the shrimp and grits.

Green Flash Food Truck 07

Green Flash Gastro Truck felt like a combination of some of the best culinary ideas I have experienced at visiting food trucks. I’m looking forward to doing some beer and cheese pairings on a future visit with their cheese board. If you have enjoyed other food trucks at Green Flash in the past, this new house truck will feel right at home.

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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Budweiser Superbowl Commercial Makes fun of Craft Beer in an Ironic Way

It is no surprise to see a Budweiser Commercial be a huge part of the Superbowl. They have been one of the big spenders for years. But what is surprising is their choice to shift away from the ads focused on the masses that don’t show you a single thing about beer to something that proudly trumpets their Macro beer status and mocks craft beer at the same time.

There are many things wrong with this ad, but most of all is the suggestion that craft beer drinkers only care about sipping and dissecting their beers and not about actually drinking and enjoying their beers. There are many different styles of beers, from the easy-drinking session IPAs, brown ales, and pale ales, to the more sipping-friendly double IPAs, barley wines, and imperial stouts. Though tasters are a common part of craft breweries, they exist not to promote sipping but to give beer drinkers a way to try the different types of beers available at a brewery without having to order a pint of each.

What the craft beer movement shows is not that craft beer is meant to be sipped but that there are many different types of beers available for all kinds of fans. If you want something lighter, and equivalent to Budweiser, there are plenty of delicious local Blondes, Session IPAs, and Ambers that are meant to be enjoyed all day long. If you are looking for something with a little more punch, there are plenty of West Coast style IPAs that are a bit stronger but still can be enjoyed over time.

Finally, there are the barley wines, imperial stouts, double IPAs, imperial reds, and other sorts of beers that are best enjoyed slowly either because of the rarity or the high alcohol. These beers are not fussed over, though. Instead, they are enjoyed for all the flavors they present.

The ad is also ridiculously ironic considering AB In Bev is currently on a buying spree, picking up craft breweries. Most recently this includes 10 Barrel out of Oregon and Elysian out of Seattle, Washington. For a company to simultaneously make fun of craft beers while buying up new breweries to promote it is hard to tell what the focus is. Either way, it is a sad attempt to attack the craft breweries that have been winning over the public’s appreciation lately.

UPDATE: Craft Beer response to the Budwesier ad is below. Totally nailed it.

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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Hop Industry Predictions from the Source

During the Hop Grower’s Convention that was hosted by Stone Brewing Company I got to meet with the owners of 47 Hops, a mid-sized hop grower and distributor that helps bring some of the much-sought-after hops to the market. The evening was a lot of talk about the hop industry as it exists right now and some of the challenges ahead that will end up ultimately affecting the type of beer available and what the smaller breweries can make.

The guys at 47 Hops were kind enough to treat a few other bloggers and me to beers, cigars, and pizza, though anyone present could tell you we were there mostly for the opportunity to chat about hops with someone in the industry. As many enthusiasts already figured out, one of the big problems facing the industry going forward is the massive increase in demand for certain varieties of hops. This means that citra and mosaic hops are becoming so much in demand that it is impossible for smaller breweries to get them.

Consumers can demand beers made with these delicious hops (that among other things deliver some delicious citrus flavors that San Diego beer fans have grown to love) but there simply isn’t enough of either hop being grown to keep up with demand. Part of this comes from a sad reality of hop growing. In order to increase production to keep up with demand there needs to be some serious increase in funding, and the money just isn’t there.

And as the amount of money involved becomes much larger, the length of contracts required before someone can buy hops becomes that much longer. Though five years ago the thought of a five year contract for hops seemed unthinkable, it is now a requirement especially if a brewery wants to keep some consistency and the hop growers want to know that they are going to be able to get the return on investment that makes expansion possible.

Aside from funding, another thing keeping hop capacity from growing as fast as the hop heads might like comes down to certain requirements before a piece of land can be good for growing. Aside from finding the right place to grow as far as climate and quality of soil, growers have to worry about being within an hour’s drive of some cold storage facility. Just as heat can harm a hoppy beer and take away that bite, so too heat can harm the hop oils while they are still present in the buds, leaving the grower with a product that is much harder to move. And of course building a cold storage facility large enough to keep everything and keeping that running is not cheap.

It is also not as easy to get those hops out to brewers in the form of wet hops or whole cone hops. This is because while that form of hops provides some fantastic intense flavors, they also are not able to survive long voyages. Thus, when hops are going to be transported from Washington State, where many of the hops are grown, to east coast cities like New York City the most practical way of doing that is by processing the hops into pellets. The same thing is true for hops shipped overseas. When hops are transported in large boats across the water, the best way to make sure they survive the voyage is to process the hops into pellets. This if why pellets still remain the most common way of purchasing hops.

So with demand growing for certain varieties of hops, what is a likely prediction for the future? Most of the small breweries are not going to be able to get their hands on some of the more popular varieties. Hopefully this will lead to some experimentation in the sorts of flavors present in the beers as brewers try to make West Coast Style beers without some of the now common and expected hops. I expect some of the brewers will do just fine and will find ways to make interesting styles of IPAs with common varieties hops that hop-heads have otherwise gotten tired of. Maybe this will lead to some experimentation with the type of malts used such that things don’t all taste like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

I also expect that it will be hard for smaller breweries to get their hands on large quantities of certain hops over the long term. The longer contracts are expensive and there is only so much to go around. So once they brew a fantastic beer with certain varieties of hops, without a contract in place that beer won’t taste exactly the same the next time. I am already seeing this around San Diego with smaller breweries IPAs varying from batch to batch due to supply. This makes it hard to consistently order the same beer from a smaller brewery if the small variations in hop variety change your enjoyment.

I’ve realized recently that while I love hoppy beers, I don’t love every single variety. There are a lot of flavors of hops that I love, the citrus, tropical fruit, and occasionally the floral, and other flavors that I like sometimes and other times can’t stand. Though in some ways that is part of the fun of exploring beers and IPAs in particular. It is fun to learn to talk specifically about flavors you like so you can ask the bartender how a specific batch is and make a decision based on that without having to try a sample.

And for the beer drinkers who can’t stand hoppy beers, don’t expect that they are going to disappear at any time but you might appreciate the experimentation in flavors other than hops that we may see out of this. It is always great when a small brewery makes a beer that showcases the unique flavors of rye in just the right balance. Others are waiting for an explosion of wild yeast flavors that have yet to become mainstream in San Diego but that enthusiasts have been enjoying for years. Scarcity of certain varieties and increase in cost may help push those trends to the mainstream more quickly as well.

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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Stone Delicious IPA 2

Some delightful new beers available from Stone, Modern Times, and Alesmith

Part of what I love about this blog is being able to give people some idea what to expect with some new brew they might not be familiar with. Two of these are not completely new, but they are newly bottled recently and might be new to some people. The beers I am going to discuss today are Stone’s new Delicious IPA, which seems to have been flying off the shelves, Modern Times’ City of the Sun IPA, newly bottled, and the 2015 version of My Bloody Valentine from Alesmith.

First up is the Stone Delicious IPA. This new brew is unique in a number of ways. Firstly, it is stronger than the typical Stone IPA, all the way up to a whopping 7.7%. (regular Stone IPA is 6.9%). It is also lighter on the malts and lighter on the bitterness, really focusing on the more delicate hop flavors, including some lemon. It also was brewed in a way that makes it officially gluten reduced.

Stone Delicious IPA

To see just how good this one was, I had to compare it side by side to the original Stone IPA. The first two I compared really did have a stark difference. The Stone IPA was satisfyingly bitter while the Delicious IPA had a lighter citrus flavor supported by some nice juicy flavors. Though the second Delicious IPA I opened was a bit more bitter, so not every single one you get in that six-pack is going to taste as delicate. I would be interested to see if this really converts any new hop-heads but it will certainly satisfy those of us who already exist.

Next up is the City of the Sun IPA from Modern Times. This is the first in a series of bottle releases of IPAs that were previously available only at the tasting room. So if the name sounds familiar, you might have tasted it before on tap. If you had, you will remember just how much this is a delicious burst of flavor. Rest assured those flavors are still very much present in this beer and it will satisfy in the bottle. The only one that might have been better was that delicious fresh-hopped version I got to taste. Still, if you are into IPAs, this one should not be passed up. Also keep an eye out for the upcoming seasonal IPAs from Modern Times to be released throughout the year, including a return of the delicious Rye IPA Aurora later.

City of the Sun 2015

Finally we have the Alesmith My Bloody Valentine, a delicious darker hoppy beer meant to satisfy those who can’t seem to find love come Valentine’s Day in February. This is very similar to the Evil Dead Red that Alesmith puts out in October for Halloween. My Bloody Valentine has some roasted malts with a little chocolate and a nice floral/citrus hop bite. Despite the darker color this is not one for your friends who only drink stouts. My husband would dump this out if I made him taste it and then I might have to celebrate Valentine’s alone.

My Bloody Valentine 2015

 

Bottom line, if you like IPAs, don’t miss these new delicious offerings from Stone and Modern Times. And if you enjoy more complicated black IPA style beers, try the Bloody Valentine.

 

 

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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Legacy Brewing 01

Legacy Brewing – New Taproom and Kitchen in Miramar

I had read many great things about Legacy Brewing long before I got to try their beers. With the original location up in Oceanside I was not in a rush to make the drive. Thankfully they opened a restaurant and tap room right next door to Saint Archer Brewing, much closer to my house. On two separate visits I was able to try most of their beers and overall I found that the flavors were unique among the San Diego breweries, including some IPAs that are delicious while breaking the west coast style mold.  [The official grand opening for this Legacy location is January 10th 2015 but they have been pouring for a little bit now]
Legacy Brewing 01
The nut brown was really smooth and roasty. It was light body but very tasty. This is one beer I could have a few pints of easily. The porter had nice chocolate and coffee flavors that very mellow all blended together nicely with the caramel flavors. This one was also super smooth.

 

The pale ale was intensely floral with flavors mostly around lavender. There is a certain line at which a beer starts to taste like perfume and this one comes close but stays on the enjoyable side of that line. For a pale this flavor was very unique among San Diego beers. I probably would have a hard time finishing a pint of this though.

 

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The Oktoberfest beer was a nice representation of the style, very good and smooth. The sleigh wreck ale was a seasonal beer on tap when I visited. It was a nice smooth ale with just a little bit of spice and plenty of roasted malt flavors. The milk stout was nice mostly because it was not too sweet like many can get. However, it didn’t really have any standout flavors that made me want to drink more of it. The Irish red showed some good malt flavors in a smooth and a little mellow beer.

 

One of my favorite beers of the evening was the hellfire ipa. Though it is one of the more well balanced IPAs out of San Diego, the malts did not overpower the hops, and gave it a nice body. Having had this in the bottle before it was even more delicious on tap. This ipa is bursting with citrus and tropical fruit flavors. When compared to the hellfire the hop off ipa makes a nice contrast. It showed a very interesting flavor combination with plum flavors on the back end and almost candy sweet. Herbal hops balance it with a solid bitterness. This is the beer for those who want something different from the citrus and pine that have become so common.

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Then came the emancipation hoplimation double ipa. It had a very refreshing combination of flavors. Thankfully it was not as sweet as the hop off and has a nice bright orange and peach flavor going. Though it claims a high bitterness I didn’t th ink it tasted as bitter as it says. This one was also quite good. The Scotch ale delivered a flavorful set of roasted malt flavors that were balanced with a light sweetness. I really enjoyed this one. Finally the Czarface imperial stout delivered something also a bit different. The coffee flavors were mellow and the major flavor was closer to the sweet caramel and raisins. The flavors all balanced nicely giving it an overall heavy mouthfeel.

Through it all I was most impressed by the hellfire IPA and the emancipation hoplimation double IPA along with the Czarface imperial stout. The lighter beers were all smooth and easy drinking and should satisfy people looking for a good brown ale.
This location is fairly small and took over a sports bar that used to be in the building. It still retains the sports bar feel and shows games on the TVs regularly. It also has a decent lineup of food, though I haven’t gotten to tasting very much. The wings I had there were very tasty though the pricing seems a little high for what you get. A previous version of this post indicated that Woody’s is a better deal. However after trying some of their dinner entrees tonight I think Legacy is the better deal.
The prices for all the different sandwiches includes a side of home cut fries. This is probably one of the first places I’ve been where a side of fries that comes with your sandwich is actually a good size (read small). Too many places overload you with giant portions of bland fries that need sauce to spice them up. Here, you get simply a good size portion of delicious home cut fries and delicious sandwiches.
As far as my burger, I ordered the spicy burger and got a deliciously juicy medium patty, nice and salty, with fresh cut serrano chilies, guacamole, some of the best looking tomatoes I’ve ever had on a burger, and some of those fresh cut fries on the side. It might be slightly cheaper at woody’s for the same thing but their fries come in huge portions and aren’t very good. In the same group my husband got the duck confit sandwich, which he said was amazing, and my mom got the meatloaf, which was juicy and delicious.
I’m also hoping that over time they will start to sell bottles of fresh beer at this location because the IPA deserves to be as fresh as possible. There is plenty of time for them to grow and for them to attract visitors from the nearby restaurants and breweries.

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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Malahat Spirits 01

Malahat Spirits – Rum and eventually Whiskey

Before I tried the spirits at Ballast Point, I was not really sure I would see many interesting flavors from small distillers. Thankfully, Ballast Point has by now shown that they can make a quality gin and other liquors that are far more interesting than the usual flavors. They also infuse their vodka with other flavors, though I haven’t tried those.
Malahat Spirits 01

Malahat opened about 3 months ago (around early October, 2014) and already they have created some flavors that shattered my expectations for rum and craft spirits in general. Before I visited Malahat, I was not particularly excited by rum. Though the Ballast Point rum was solid, the flavors presented at Malahat were at a whole different level. (Note: Ballast Point did not have a spiced rum when I did the tasting though they have released one since then.)

2014

When you stop by for a tasting you pay $15 for a glass (a small logo shot glass) and six small quarter ounce pours of their spirits. I asked how this will work for repeat visitors and was told that for now they will sell you another glass, though at some point I hope they figure out a way to charge for just the tasting. I will try to return in three to six months to see how the aged rum is going. When I stopped by on December 6, 2014 for a tasting they had the regular white rum, spiced rum, ginger rum, iced tea rum, aged rum, and a choice between a moonshine (in the early stages for an eventual whiskey) and candy-cane rum.

Malahat Spirits 10

The white rum was quite sweet and mixes nicely with the flavor of the alcohol. Though I wouldn’t drink it by itself, it serves as a good baseline that explains how the other flavors are so tasty. This rum is pure molasses and it really comes through. Next I tried the spiced rum. Instantly upon smelling it I was blown away. This rum both smells and tastes amazing. It has such a delicious flavor that combines vanilla and cinnamon with other more subtle spices. Once I can find a bottle I don’t expect to go back to any previous rums. Though the iced tea one was so good that I might stick to that once the bottles are released.

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Next was the ginger rum. I was surprised here as well by how mellow the flavor was. Most of the ginger we get in the supermarkets in San Diego is quite spicy and intense. The ginger here gives it a nice sweet flavor with a little citrus. Next up was the iced tea rum. The flavor sounds amazing and it really is. If you are a fan of black tea, especially strong black tea, this one will blow you away. It is so sweet that if you sipped it alone you would have plenty of tea flavors and sweetness that you wouldn’t need to add anything else. The sweetness of the underlying white rum really comes through here.

Malahat Spirits 05

Before leaving, we also got to taste the barrel aged 9 month. This specific version is aged in California cabernet barrels. It was really smooth, though being pulled straight from the barrel and served at 125 proof I had a difficult time picking out the flavors. I am excited to see what this tastes like when it hits the year mark. Finally, I tried the moonshine (or as they call it, almost whiskey). I have never been a big fan of clear alcohol and this one didn’t do much for me. However, I expect it will be quite nice one it has been aged properly in barrels.

Malahat Spirits 03

If you don’t consider yourself a fan of liquor in general or rum in particular you might just find yourself converted into a huge fan after tasting what Malahat serves. I ran straight to BevMo to get me some spiced rum after doing a tasting and the only one they had on the shelves was the white rum. I will certainly be back to see how things develop over the years. I expect Malahat may soon find an explosion of popularity once word spreads and people try their delicious rums.

Note: If you do happen to buy their rum you might notice something tastes a little different than how it was in the tasting. After a second taste I notice there is some mint in the batch they bottled that I didn’t taste at the tasting. I can’t say for sure that it was removed from the other batch because you had so little to taste before but it makes the bottle a little less enjoyable. I still enjoy sipping it but the mint puts it from amazing to really good.

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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Prague Beer 02

Beer in Prague, a Delicious Surprise

In Prague, I visited two breweries, one of them that has been brewing since 1499. I also found some interesting craft beers at a restaurant including a double IPA and an imperial stout. I avoided visiting any breweries that only make a pilsner but I was quite impressed by the rest of the beers I tried.

St. Norbert brewing offered only three beers but each one was quite delicious. They served an amber ale, black ale, and an IPA. The amber was so smooth and delicious that I now have a new standard by which to judge San Diego ambers. The black lager was surprisingly smooth and quite a tasty beer that my husband enjoyed as well. This is a style of beer that I hope a San Diego brewery will explore properly soon. I’ve had a few black lagers but most of them were much higher in alcohol. The IPA was quite tasty and again well-balanced. Still I liked the malts used enough that it did not bother me being so balanced.

Prague Beer 01 Prague Beer 02

The next day I went to U Fleku, a brewery that has been open since 1499 and only serves a single black lager. The black lager was also quite smooth and really made me wonder why we don’t see more of this style in he states. Because they only serve one beer, they go around the tables with a tray of beer and offer them to whoever is sitting there and mark a paper at your table to keep track of how much you drank.

U Fleku Black Lager

U Fleku Black Lager

I could have just stuck to U Fleku for the rest of my trip and been satisfied, but I knew there were some stronger beers around so I had to search them out. I was going to visit one bar to get my fix but they were not serving any food and I happened to stop by when I was really needing some food. Thankfully, the restaurant I visited had a few nice selections, including a double IPA, and an imperial stout.

Prague Beer 04 Prague Beer 05

The double IPA was very much in the style of the previous IPAs I had in my trip. I actually started to grow fond of this balanced IPA flavor. The Imperial stout was unexpectedly strong with a heavy flavor of peat. It was a combination of a strong Scotch, and some licorice flavor. Thankfully the peat did not get too much and I really enjoyed this one. I would recommend that you drink plenty of black lager if you make your way to Prague, especially if you don’t really like pilsners.

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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