Chicago Breweries – Forbidden Root and Corridor

On a Sunday in mid-August 2017 I visited four Chicago area breweries. I focused on some that were more highly recommended than others. My first post in the series will focus on Forbidden Root and Corridor while the next post will feature Half Acre and Un Annee. Both Forbidden Root and Corridor serve brunch and Corridor was quite crowded when I visited fairly early on a Sunday.

Forbidden Root

Forbidden Root was my first visit of the day and one of the most impressive in the IPA front. When you walk in to their brewery restaurant space it is striking how beautiful the decor is. They focus heavily on beers with botanical ingredients added. I didn’t try many of those but their hazy IPAs were fantastic and I immediately see why the releases sell out as fast as they do. I only had four tasters when I visited.

Radio Swan IPA is their hazy rye IPA. It was soft and creamy with a hazy yellow appearance. The beer has notes of peach and mango with a light grassy finish. I was very impressed with this and wish they had cans available. If I was to do the day over again I would have ordered more of this beer before leaving. The Ghost Tropic IIPA was a bit thicker giving it a milkshake quality. It was creamy and thick with notes of melon and peach with mild alcohol notes on the finish and minimal acidity. If I hadn’t had Radio Swan in the same visit I would have been very impressed by Ghost Tropic. Though ghost tropic didn’t have the super soft mouthfeel that makes Monkish so popular.

The King Hell cherry beer had tons of jammy cherry character combined combined with tons of winter spices and light caramel that reminded me of a Christmas beer. It wasn’t for me. The imperial stout had some light coconut and vanilla notes with tons of dark cherry and spices. In this one as well the holiday spices seemed a bit too prominent for my tastes and I would have preferred a bit less cherry malt notes, though it was well done.

Forbidden Root is a restaurant as well and has a solid menu. They do limited can releases that sell out fairly quickly. They also offer growler fills of most of their beers that they fill using a counter pressure system that keeps the growlers fresher longer.

Top 2:
Radio Swan Hazy IPA
Ghost Tropic Hazy IIPA

Corridor

Corridor is one of the other breweries popular for hazy IPAs in Chicago. They are also a restaurant like Forbidden Root and in their case you can’t order taster size unless you get one of their pre-designed flights. This meant I only tried two beers because I had to order either 10 or 16oz pours. The Pulp Hogan was the only hazy beer I got to try, and at 5% it is a bit lighter than I generally prefer for a hazy beer.

Pulp hogan had notes of pine and candied fruit with a mild bitterness. It was lacking in both the soft mouthfeel and intense hop character I expect from the style. This is also quite common with lower alcohol hazy beers even from the bigger breweries so it may be more my preferences than bad beer. Their year round IPA was an excellent modern west-coast style IPA with fruit notes and pine, tons of hop character, and a mild bitterness.

In my limited tastes I preferred Forbidden Root to Corridor but both are worth visiting for IPAs. Corridor has the benefit of offering crowelrs to go 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.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

3 Punk Ales – Chula Vista San Diego

Thr3e Punk Ales opened in Chula Vista recently in an area that has not seen many breweries. They have a good variety of standard beer styles and are open late, sometimes up to Midnight. I thought it was on the noisy side when I stopped by on a Friday night but then Chula Vista Brewing down the street was amped up much louder.

Beer wise, only one beer was clearly to style and a few were standouts. Others defied convention and expectations in ways you might expect from a punk brewery. Rather than the double IPA packing the biggest hop kick, the hoppy pilsner was the most explosively hoppy.

The Flama Blanca Mexican Lager was delicious, fruity and crisp with a lightly sweet dry finish. It tasted exactly like I would expect a lager to taste. The Morning After Pils, a hoppy pilsner, was so hoppy I thought they might have given me the wrong beer. It had an intense mix of resin and floral hop character and a mild to medium bitter finish. Next to this, the two beers labeled as IPAs didn’t taste very hoppy.

The Rye You Trippin, rye IPA, was sweet with light rye and biscuit malt character balanced out nicely with some mild citrus hop character. By San Diego standards the hops were barely there. Similarly the Needle in the Hey, double IPA, was on the sweeter side with a caramel malt base, low bitterness, and earthy hop notes. It finished with a bitter and sweet finish that I didn’t really care for.

Coffee brown ale

The brown ale with coffee was bursting with coffee on the nose and in the taste. Tons of nutty coffee came through overpowering the base beer completely. The beer had a nice medium body and a sweet finish. I brought home a crowler of this one though I hope when I open it I won’t be up all night. The Russian Imperial Stout on nitro was a bit smoky on the nose and noticeably boozy. It had notes of cherry and dark fruit and a dry bitter finish. While a solid stout, it is significantly different than the style we typically get in San Diego.

Stout on nitro

Thr3e punk ales had some tasty beers on tap. If you are looking for something hoppy, stick to the hoppy pilsner. It is the closest to a West Coast style IPA.

Top 2:
Flama Blanca – Mexican Lager
Brick Top with Coffee

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.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Stone City Ales – Kingston Ontario Canada

Stone City is the most recommended brewery in Kingston and I was blown away by every beer I had there. They had eight beers on tap and my least favorite of the bunch would generally be a standout anywhere else. They also serve food and have seating inside and out. To prepare for the beers I ordered their large hummus plate that had so much hummus that I couldn’t eat it all, but it was fantastic.

I started with the newer specialty beers. The first flight had their English Mild, Gose, and Saison. The English Mild was soft and mellow with notes of apricot and caramel, mild vanilla, and a creamy finish from the lactose. When I got a larger pour of this later I got some notes of black tea and almonds as it warmed up. This is a great modern take on the classic style.

The gose was a creamy white/yellow color and had a fantastic mix of lime, ginger, and mild tropical fruit. The creamy mouthfeel reminded me of some of the softer hazy IPAs out there. The modern take on the style was so delicious that I predict it will spawn a whole new version of gose like the first hazy IPAs did. The saison was soft and fruity with notes of crisp pear, and a light grassy finish.

Their American wheat is like a session hoppy wheat from San Diego. The beer had tons of fruity hops on the nose and flavors of guava, pear, pineapple, and a soft creamy body with minimal bitterness. The Belgian Wheat was more classic to style with notes of spice, vanilla, and mild white cake. The other two hoppy beers were similarly soft, all in the style that I have tasted at breweries like Fieldwork or Crux. The session ale was very similar to the american wheat with notes of juicy pineapple and tangerine.

The IPA had notes of white cake, pineapple, and citrus, like eating pineapple cake. The stout was creamy and mildly sweet with notes of marshmallow, vanilla, and caramel and a mild roast at the finish. It is quite impressive for the style as well. Another thing that I liked at Stone City is that they sell growlers pre-filled after they are sterilized, purged with CO2 and capped and encourage people to bring back their growlers to be sterilized prior to filling. This is one way to get around the issue of dirty growlers.

Full pour of the gose
Full pour of English Mild.

Stone City was one of the most impressive breweries of this trip and their beers were all fantastic. I drank a bit more of the English Mild and Gose because they are very different than what I can get of a similar style out in California. I hope to make my way back there again in a few years to see how they’ve grown.

Top 3:
English Mild
Gose
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.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Wavelength Brewing Company – Vista San Diego Revisited with New Brewer

I had written Wavelength off and was waiting for a good excuse to return when it was reported that an ex-Belching Beaver brewer had taken over the reins. They had a great space so this was the perfect chance for me to return and see if they improved. I tried all the beers on the board though one of the things I liked was that they no longer had such a huge list of beers. Instead, the new brewer was focusing on some key styles until he can get things dialed in.

The Octave Orange wheat ale was a good clean wheat beer, lightly fruity and with a good clean finish with light spice. The Golden Note blonde ale was fruity and crisp with a nice dry finish. It was a bit thinner than the wheat and had a nice subtle hop kick on the finish. The Aprikose apricot Berliner had a nice earthy malt character from the base that blended nicely with light tart kick and mild apricot notes. I was impressed because the apricot didn’t overpower the base beer. The beer also had a good medium body.

The Hop Squash hazy IPA was not particularly hazy but has a nice orange/gold turbidity. It showcased intense tropical fruit on the nose. The beer had a nice soft body with tropical fruit and mild pine. Though not hazy it is a tasty soft modern IPA with minimal bitterness and a fruity finish. This is also miles better than their IPAs used to be. The Off Kilter scotch ale was quite delicious with notes of caramel and molasses, a light bitter bite, and mild burnt toffee notes on the finish. It also had some nice mild dark fruit character. It is a really excellent scotch ale, lightly sweet and super smooth body. It is likely to satisfy those who only drink stouts.

Adophis barleywine was the only beer on tap from the old brewer. It showcased notes of dark fruit and biscuit malt base with spice and floral character from the hops with a strong bitter bite. It was more hop forward for a barleywine than I generally prefer but still tasty. It is refreshing to see a shorter tap list here than the huge number they had on tap the last time. The IPA is a huge improvement over the various IPAs brewed previously and the scotch ale and berliner stand out as my favorites. Wavelength now has a quality of beers that should allow them to compete with their neighbors, including the popular Mother Earth brewing.

Top 2:
Apricot Berliner
Scotch Ale

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.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Breweries in Prince Edward County – County Road, Barley Days, Prince Eddy’s, and Parsons

My second set of breweries in outer Ontario Canada were all in Prince Edward County area, a small island known for its many wineries in part due to its unique terroir.

County Road Brewing

Immediately on walking up to County Road it had the feel of an upscale farmhouse restaurant with lots of wood in the decor yet open areas letting in plenty of natural light. I got to speak with the brewer while I was there and learned that they had recently shifted their focus more toward Belgian styles and farmhouse ales after discovering their water was better suited for this style of beer. From what I tasted while I was there, this seems to be quite true.

I started with their petite saison. It was dry and balanced with light spice character, earthy apricot notes, and grapefruit hops, with a mild bitter finish. I love how they took the classic style and gave it a hop kick that works well with the style. The standard saison is more true to style with notes of cracked pepper, light puckering tartness and a dry finish.

The pale ale was bitter and piney with a mild malt backbone. The gose was light and crisp with notes of lime and mild salt and a lightly tart finish. The version with added cherry was deliciously fruity and brought out the notes of lime even more prominent. The cherries also gave it a bright red color.

The biere de mars had a dry banana bread flavor with mild grapefruit, caramel, and light tart finish. I enjoyed this one a lot because it is a style I don’t see at breweries very often. The malts didn’t overpower the rest of the beer.

These statements are all about the quality of what I had on tap the day I visited. Sadly, the bottle of saison I brought back home from the brewery didn’t have the same classic style or level of attenuation, though things in the bottle are always unpredictable. The Biere de Miel was still great in the bottle and had a nice balance even if it tended to be a bit more sour than what I had on tap.

Top 3:
Biere de Mars
Cherry Gose
Petite Saison

Barley Days Brewing

Barley Days has a good medium-sized tasting room inside with air conditioning and a nice outdoor seating area. I wasn’t very glad when I saw that they chilled all of their glasses prior to serving. This kept me from getting the full flavor from some of the beers because they weren’t warming up very fast. Still the beers were quite good so it would be worth picking up some to take home and serve in your own glasses.

Their indoor voice European pale was to me a pure classic west coast style pale ale with mild herbal hops, tons of melon and citrus hops, and a mild bitterness and minimal malt notes. Their loyalist lager was crisp and fruity with a nice lager character. The harvest gold was dry and mildly fruity with some biscuit malt notes, perfectly to style.

Their dark ale had some light roast and a dark brown color with mild English hop character, overall very balanced. I also tasted some of my friend’s raspberry hibiscus beer that was delightfully balanced with strong hibiscus and raspberry and a mild tart finish. Though I didn’t expect much from this brewery I was very impressed overall with the quality of the beers. Sadly the owner didn’t care that I was disappointed about the chilled glasses.

Top 2:
Indoor Voice hoppy pale
Raspberry Hibiscus

Prince Eddy’s


Prince Eddy’s has only been open for a short time but they had a solid lineup available and I tried 5 of their beers. Though they are newly opened, they have a good sized tasting room and plenty of seating. Their pale ale was creamy and minimally bitter with a light malt base though not a ton of hop aroma. Their IPA had low alcohol for the style but a nice soft body with juicy pine and citrus character and lots of flavor for 5%.

The white IPA has more of an herbal balance to it that overpowered it and gave it a strong bitter finish of puckering grapefruit. The Belgian yeast seemed to overpower the rest of the beer a bit too much. The stout was tasty with mild lactose and plenty of roast and caramel, nicely to style. Their cream ale is more English style or as my friend called it Canadian style cream ale. It was soft with notes of vanilla and light sweetness. I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would.

For such a new brewery they were quite impressive and hopefully will grow nicely. The IPA and cream ale will both help them to attract a following.

Parsons Brewery


Parsons is one of the more established we visited and they had a huge number of taps in their mid-sized restaurant. Their rye pale was good and balanced but a little more bitter than I prefer, drinkable but nothing great. The coffee stout was mildly bitter and roasty with a dry finish. The coffee was very minimal and should have been stronger.

The Vortex Double IPA was classic English style and far too sweet and heavy on the malts, overpowering the hops. I didn’t care for this one. The two barrel aged beers I had were not very good. Though I found out later that they use a fairly low alcohol base beer, which gave both of them a really thin body.

As you can see they had way more beers than I could try in one visit. Plus this was my fourth stop of the day.

The Legend, aged in bourbon barrels, was super hot with a strong alcohol bite and very thin body. There was minimal roast or sweetness with a smoky dry finish. The scotch aged version was even less interesting and was a pure mouthful of peat and smoke that overpowered the base beer.

Parsons was the least interesting of the day for me though perhaps i ordered the wrong things. Lots of their hoppy beers were too old-school for me.

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.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Twisted Horn Mead and Cider – Vista, San Diego

Twisted Horn has a beautiful tasting room where you can try a variety of meads and ciders, many containing fruit or other adjuncts that make them interesting. Tastes are served in 2oz pours, allowing people to try a number of them without drinking too much alcohol. The meads are all around 9% alcohol and the ciders tend to hover around 5%. I tried four meads and five ciders while I was there and found quite a number of delicious ones.

The meads I tried included various flavorings of cranberry, vanilla, blueberry, and coffee. They were all quite delicious and presented subtle flavors that blended nicely with the sweet honey base. Of the four I really enjoyed the one with blueberry for its mild tartness and acidity. I also enjoyed the cranberry one for the light tart kick it gave.

While I enjoyed the meads, the ciders had more intense fruit flavor and impressed me the most. Of the ciders I tried the plain dry cider, cherry, peach and ginger, raspberry, and strawberry with hot peppers. Though I was hesitant at first the strawberry was my favorite of the bunch with strong sweet strawberry notes and some mild heat in the back. I also really enjoyed the raspberry. Though I didn’t get much chocolate from it, it had a strong flavor of raspberry and light tart finish. The cherry was a bit more subtle but still had a nice tart finish.

I enjoyed everything I tasted at Twisted Horn and recommend coming for a visit. I would have brought some home in a growler except I didn’t think to bring a 1 liter flip top growler from home and I try not to buy new growlers. If you have a 1 liter growler at home bring one with you to fill. Most people who I saw while I was there left with growlers to bring home. Twisted Horn is also very close to Toolbox so you could visit both in one trip quite easily though you may want to spend all your time at Twisted Horn after you try their delicious cider.

Favorites:
Embers – Cider with strawberry and hot peppers
Midnight Sun – Cider with raspberry and chocolate
Blue Cloak – Mead with blueberry juice
Blushing Maiden – Mead with cranberry

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.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Outer Ontario Breweries 5 Paddles, Man Antler, and Williams Street

5 Paddles Brewery

5 Paddles is a small brewery that had only a few beers on tap and I decided to go with the ones that were most interesting to me since I was planning to hit a lot of breweries. I tried the West Coast IPA, Imperial Stout, and Cream Ale.

The IPA was one of the more drinkable beers made with Sorachi ace hops. Though I generally don’t like the flavor of the hops, it was a good mix of citrus and mild herbal character of bitter gourd. The beer had a light malt backbone and mild bitterness. The Imperial Stout was quite tasty with notes of marshmallow and roast with a sweet finish and minimal detectable alcohol. The cream ale was hazy and tasted more like a wheat ale with bright notes of citrus. While tasty, it wasn’t to style or what I expected.

5 Paddles is a small brewery that had solid beers. The 3 I tried were all done well and show that they have great brewers.

Man Antler

Even smaller than 5 Paddles, Man Antler is in an old abandoned building and run by a very young brewmaster. I only got to taste two beers there and they were both IPAs. The NE IPA was to me more of a west coast style pale ale because it wasn’t hazy. It had tons of fruity character from the hops and was quite tasty. The session IPA was also great though a bit thinner body and with more bitterness and pine with a crisp dry finish. Both beers were excellent.

When I visited they only had IPAs though other styles are in the works.

Williams Street Brewery

Williams Street is located in a small strip mall type area and has a good sized tasting room with bar seating and plenty of other seating. I did a flight of four beers when I visited.

The mango pale was a crisp pale ale with notes of candied mango and not overly sweet. I expected more fresh mango flavor but it was very good. The blonde was fruity and crisp with a mild hop kick and easy to drink. I brought a six-pack of cans of this with me to hang out on the lake and it was great for sharing while floating on the lake.

The Belgian table beer originally tasted and smelled like dijon mustard to me. Though as it warmed up it tasted more like stone fruit, I wasn’t a fan of the beer overall. The mustard notes never completely left it. The pale ale had a mild biscuit malt character with a base bitterness and mild fruit hops, a solid pale ale.

Everything I tasted was fairly low alcohol at Williams Street. They had a delicious blonde ale and the pale ale was quite nice 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.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Circle 9 Brewing – Clairemont San Diego

I visited Circle 9 for their grand opening. Despite the satanic reference on their logo the tasting room is bright and open. Unlike other satanic-themed breweries they don’t play heavy metal or have a dark tasting room. I tried all the beers they had available for their grand opening and they impressed with a few of them. Some others may need a bit of tweaking to fall in line with local tastes.

Their lager is made with rice and it is obvious from the sweetness. Though it has a nice clean finish it lacks any noticeable hop character and is nothing memorable. The session IPA was crisp and dry with notes of citrus and marijuana with a soft body and low bitterness. I don’t find it much of a session beer with almost 6% alcohol but it is a very impressive beer. I ended up ordering a full pour of this.

The IPA and double IPA were both fairly malt-forward. The IPA was on the sweeter side and hops were fairly mild with a hint of pine and minimal bitterness. The double IPA, in contrast, was strongly bitter with intense herbal character though it was not overly sweet like the IPA.

The imperial stout on nitro had an intense roast and notes of burnt caramel with a bitter finish. I preferred the flavors of the base imperial stout over the barrel aged version. The barrel-aged imperial stout was strongly bourbon forward though also fairly thin with some mild fudge notes. I don’t know if they blended this down or if they didn’t spent much time in the barrels but it didn’t have the same intensity of flavor people expect from local barrel-aged beers.

Session IPA full pour.

For a new brewery, Circle 9 is off to a great start. I am surprised that a brewery that made a point of being inspired by the lagers in Czech Republic their choice of styles for grand opening is a bit unusual with a rice lager and a bunch of ales. Still, they made a delicious session IPA and imperial stout and have a great space that they can expand into and hopefully brew a classic Czech pilsner in the future.

Top 2:
Session IPA
Imperial 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.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Toronto Breweries Part 2 – Radical Road, Halo, and Burdock

Radical Road Brewery

I would have liked to visit Left Field before visiting Radical Road but Left Field closed at 9PM and I took a train just a little bit too late back from Kingston. Radical Road is a darker brewery that normally has a kitchen and feels like a bar. Though on Tuesdays when I visited they also have live music because the kitchen is closed. I tried five beers and they were overall very good.

The California Common had a light biscuit malt base with fruity apricot notes and a clean finish. This would be easy to have a few pints of. The Yugu Pale was crisp and lightly tart with lemon and tangerine notes that give it a light bite. I left with a few cans of this because I thought my host would enjoy it and she did.

The Canadian special bitter was lower malt than the standard ESB. Hops came through strong iwth notes of citrus, herbs, flowers, and peach. It had a light bitter bite at the end. The Brett IPA had subtle earthy brett funk that came on more as fruit. The hops came through with notes of resin and grapefruit with a soft light bitterness. The Cucumber Kolsch had a light sweet cucumber flavor with mild mint at the back. I ended up ordering a full pour of this one and the mint came through a little more as it warmed up but never overpowered it.

Top 2:
Cucumber Kolsch
Yuzu Pale

Radical Road had some nice modern takes on classic styles and they use adjuncts in a way that compliment the flavors of the beer instead of overpowering them. Grab the Yuzu Pale in cans for enjoyment at home.

Halo Brewery

Halo was my first stop on my last day because they opened at 3PM and others didn’t open until 5PM. They are on the Northwest side of town and the tasting room has good air conditioning. They serve their tasters in 8oz glasses giving them room for head and aromas to shine through.

The Dry Hopped Gose had notes of tart citrus on the nose. I got lots of puckering bitter grapefruit with light salt and herbal bite on the finish. A delicious beer. The brett saison had an intense funky brett nose. I tasted lots of earthy funk that blended nicely with caramel and apricots with some mild alcohol warmth. As it warmed I tasted some light banana pudding with hints of vanilla.

The New Zealand pale ale was soft and juicy with mild acid. It was bursting with hop flavors of mango, papaya and light candied apricot. This is an excellent example of the style. The apricot tart saison was also quite soft, thick, and juicy with tons of apricot puree character and light lemon on the finish. Though it smelled like it would be very tart it was mildly acidic. Though still quite the small operation Halo had a great lineup. The prices were a little higher than some other places but the beer was high enough quality to justify it.

Top 2:
NZ Pale
Apricot Tart Saison

Burdock Brewery

Burdock is a large restaurant that feels more like a bar than a brewery but the beers I had were quite good. Because they are more of a bar they don’t open until 5PM. They have a large list of archive bottles available to drink on site and occasionally will discount one to a special price.

I started with their session ale. It had a base of sweet malt with some very mild citrus and herbal hops. It needed more hops to balance out the sweet malt base but it was solidly average. The brett farmhouse was fruity and balanced with mild funk from the brett. It was soft and hazy with mild biscuit malt and toffee character. The Double IPA was very impressive and had minimal alcohol character for 7.5%. The malts came in nicely as fluffy biscuit or white cake. Hops were very subdued as well probably because of using lupulin powder.

The Farmhouse saison was dry with bright wheat and mild earthy funk and light ripe banana. A nice delicate beer. The blackcurrant saison I purchased in a 375ml bottle. It poured a light purple color and had bright berry notes on the nose. Mild lacto sour blended nicely with berries and tons of carbonation and a light body. It was a very impressive beer though I would not have paid the full price for on site consumption if it wasn’t discounted.

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.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Stop Trying to Create National IPA Brands

As craft breweries become larger, there is a temptation to grow their brands and distribute beers into all 50 states. The problem is that at a certain scale quality drops off and beers deteriorate in shipping or on the shelf. Even if the quality is still there, because the batches are so huge, it is rare to taste a beer at peak freshness.

The best example for people in the West Coast is Dogfish Head. They brew some amazing IPAs and 60 minute IPA is delightful when fresh at the source. By the time it reaches San Diego it tastes like a malty mess. The difference is night and day. Not only is it disappointing to those who know what it can taste like but it may give people the wrong impression of what the beer tastes like. I had assumed the talk of it being amazing was all hype until I visited the brewery directly.

Or consider Maui Brewing. Their West Coast style IPA is crisp and delicious at the source but once it is shipped across the ocean it loses its kick. I didn’t expect much during my recent visit but at the source their IPA was excellent.  The same thing can be said for Lagunitas, Green Flash, New Belgium, Stone, and Sierra Nevada. Now that Lagunitas is owned by Heinekin, you find it on tap in bars across the country. But it is hard to keep the quality when you are brewing massive batches of IPA. The difference is also quite noticeable with Alpine beers that are now brewed in large batches at Green Flash. While they are fantastic when fresh and on tap they are brewed in such large quantities that it may sit in kegs or bottles for months after brewing.

Admittedly, some of the larger breweries are attempting to improve the quality and freshness of their beers in areas far from their home town by opening new breweries in other parts of the country. Stone, Sierra Nevada, Green Flash, New Belgium, and Ballast Point have all either opened or are in the process of opening new locations. Green Flash, Stone, and Ballast Point have opened spots in Virginia. Sierra Nevada and New Belgium have opened in North Carolina. Stone also opened a brewery in Berlin, Germany. Green Flash is also opening a brewery in Nebraska. Some could say that this makes them more regional but they are still making beers in massive batches.

For a while Alpine kept things small and quantities were limited. I lamented the difficulty of finding the beers at the time and the lack of six-packs. I wondered why people regularly drove to the source to buy the beers by the case. You can now buy Alpine beer in the grocery store in six-packs but it often lacks that explosive hop kick that made it worth seeking out. A similar thing can be said for Toppling Goliath where in an effort to meet demand they started contract-brewing with a Florida brewery to distribute outside of their local Iowa market. Fans agree that it isn’t close to the stuff brewed out of the brewery in Iowa. I have yet to taste the beers myself but I will be visiting the brewery in November.

Together, these breweries teach us a lesson about the importance of focusing on your region and growing within reason while keeping the quality the same. As the craft-brew explosion continues, there is room for a lot of regional leaders in beer. But do we really need IPAs from Founders and Bells distributed to the West Coast? Does the East Coast need Green Flash, Ballast Point, and other West Coast brands? They may draw interest initially but then that interest wanes and they get lost in the sea of local options. As big breweries focus more on growth and less on quality they lose the quality that brought visitors to seek the beer out at the source.

Independence is important in many ways but ultimately large craft breweries abandon quality in their search for ever-growing profits and lose some of the spark that made craft beer exciting. As more and more breweries are bought out things will only get worse. Up-and-coming breweries should focus on serving a region and not allow the search for expanding profits to leave behind the quality beer that brought them a following in the first place. The trend of limited-release cans direct from the brewery is a good response to this, but larger breweries are so big the limited releases are just peanuts to them.

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.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Exploring San Diego's Craft Breweries