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Arcana Brewing, Carlsbad California

In my previous post, I mentioned how close together Arcana and On the Tracks are to each other. Arcana has a much bigger selection of beers to choose from and a bigger tasting room as well. I was surprised by the beers I enjoyed here because some of them were not what I normally like.

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Arcana had so many beers on tap that I didn’t get to try them all. It was early when I stopped by and I had things to do later. I ordered a flight of six beers and then was brought some small tastes of two others. I got to try the Honey Pale, the Headbasher Wheat IPA, the Voyager English ale, the coffee Anabelle, the coffee Marley,  the Infinity Milk Stout, a special mix of two beers, and the Mead.

Taster flight at Arcana Brewing.

Taster flight at Arcana Brewing.

The first beer I tasted was the Honey Pale. I don’t normally like honey beers but this one is made with honey malts, not actual honey, so the flavor is not as intense as it is in other beers. It had the perfect amount of sweetness and went down really nice. My husband really liked this one as well. For those curious, honey malts are not simply malts flavored with honey, but a variety of malt that has a sweet flavor that is similar to honey.

Part of the tap list when I visited. Specialty beers were on a smaller board.

Part of the tap list when I visited. Specialty beers were on a smaller board.

The Headbasher Wheat IPA was also quite nice. It had a lot of tropical fruit and citrus hop flavors with a good light sweetness from the malts. The Voyager was a bit plain for me. It was mostly a heavy malt flavor with a little bit of bitterness. The coffee Anabelle was a special version of the Anabelle made for Bacon Fest the day before. By the time I got to try it though, the coffee had mostly gone. I would have liked to have tasted it the day before.

The coffee Marley was also a bit light on the coffee flavor but it had some really great caramel and vanilla flavors. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this one was barrel aged because it had an oak taste similar to many barrel aged beers. My husband finished most of this taster before I got to try more because he loved it. The Infinity Milk Stout was also quite nice. Flavors were mostly roasted malts with a light sweetness.

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Before I left, my server brought over a special mix of two beers. She combined the apple ale and a cherry beer, resulting in a nice combination of tart apple and sweet cinnamon. This would be a nice drink to have for dessert. The mead was also quite interesting. It reminded me of a sparkling white wine and would be fun to share a bottle with friends.

Considering that Arcana has only been open for a little over a year and a half, I was quite impressed by their lineup. They are working on a rye IPA for the future, which should be a nice balance to the wheat IPA. I could certainly see the honey pale becoming very popular. Have you gotten to try any of the beers from Arcana? Do you disagree with me about some of these beers? Let me know in the comments.

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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On the Tracks Brewing, Carlsbad California

In Carlsbad there are two small breweries very close together. In this post I will write about the beers at On the Tracks. In the next post I will write about Arcana Brewing.

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The two breweries are so close together that you could park in the middle of the two and walk to both without moving your car. On the Tracks has four regular beers on tap, a ginger beer, an ESB, a double IPA, and a porter made with black pepper. Though they have been open since October of 2011, the tasting room has remained small.

Taster flight at On the Rails.

Taster flight at On the Rails.

The Ginger Beer is an interesting way to do the lighter style of beer that most breweries have. The flavor is light enough that the ginger doesn’t get offensive. I mostly enjoyed the ginger beer as a palate cleanser in between the other beers. The ESB is quite balanced and has a light sweetness and a light bitterness, just as it should be.

The double IPA was very surprising because it was well-balanced and also very enjoyable. I tend to not like overly malt-heavy IPAs but this was the perfect balance of tropical fruit and citrus flavors from the hops and a light sweetness from the malts. My husband found this one to be drinkable as well.

Tap handles at On the Tracks, using those giant iron nails from train tracks.

Tap handles at On the Tracks, using those giant iron nails from train tracks.

To end things off we tried the black pepper porter. This is certainly to be a polarizing beer as the owner indicated. There is a serious back-of-throat burn that you get as soon as you take a sip, reminiscent of habanero beers. The owner said that we should get some chocolate and roasted malt flavors once we get past the pepper but my husband and I both had a hard time getting past the pepper.

On the Tracks has some solid beers and would be worth stopping in once if you are in the area. Plus, you can easily hit Arcana in the same trip, where you will also find some different beers. Have you gotten out to On the Rails? Do you like their beers? Let me know in the comments.

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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Live Blogging on Twitter

One of the interesting things about the Beer Bloggers’ Conference was getting us to write about beers as we taste them. But for those of you who weren’t following along on Twitter, lets take a look at how this looked to someone following the feed.

One thing I enjoy doing is comparing a beer on tap vs the bottle. Even though I had already tried the Citra Session from Green Flash, I hadn’t had it in the bottle.

I say that the flavors are balanced here because so many sours to me are a little too intensely sour.

I found it a bit hard to jump between styles as you can see from the two tweets about pilsners. The lack of consistency between beers shared made it hard to truly try everything.

The Lost Abbey Deliverance was an amazingly delicious beer. It combined two different styles of beers and had one of them aged in bourbon barrels. If you want a chance to drink those bourbon-barrel-aged beers at home this might be worth the extra high price.

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I have been asking the servers at Rough Draft for quite some time when six packs of the session IPA would come out so this was very exciting for me.

The Mexican Hot Chocolate style stout really tasted very different than all the other stouts Stone has put out so far. Stone brought this for us in their modern-looking growlers you can now get at the tasting room. This collaboration beer will be available in 22oz bottles in stores starting September 8, 2014.

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We were blessed with so many breweries showing off their bourbon barrel aged beers. I have seen this becoming popular lately but I am not sure that you can easily go back to more subtly flavored beers after something so strong.

If you enjoyed my post about live blogging, consider following me on Twitter where you can see all the photos I take on Instagram and possibly catch my next live blogging attempt.

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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Beer Roundup Round 2 – Beer Bloggers’ Conference 2014

I’ve written elsewhere about the general experience of visiting the Beer Bloggers’ Conference (BBC) and may go into more detail later about certain aspects of the conference. But I know one thing that many of my readers want to know is, did I try any interesting beers while I was there? The answer is a resounding yes, thanks to many breweries bringing a solid lineup of beers. Though this is not anywhere near all the beers I got to try at the conference, after a certain point your palate becomes shot to the point that you are not going to be able to pick out individual flavors.

Belching Beaver – Rabid Beaver Rye IPA
Rabid Beaver is so light in color that you might wonder where the rye is. The beer has a strong citrus hop flavor at the front with some spicy rye in the background. This one reminded me of the Helm’s Brewing Company Wicked as Sin Rye IPA. Though Wicked as Sin is a bit darker, they both have a nice blend of hop and rye.

Goose Island Licorice Stout
I really enjoyed this beer for the same reason that many licorice fans will probably hate it. You can’t really taste the licorice. As a stout, the beer was very smooth and I found the licorice mostly in the background behind more prominent plum malt flavors.

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New English Brewing – Humbly Legit IPA
I’ve written about this one before but it helps to revisit a beer occasionally. Compared to the Rabid Beaver, this one was certainly much more dry and bitter. A very enjoyable IPA.

Hess Solis Occasus IPA
I don’t remember being a fan of this the last time but it always helps to give a beer another try. Served in a can, the Hess IPA poured a nice light color and had plenty of pine hop flavor and a strong bitterness. The interesting thing about the Solis Occasus IPA is that the brewery is very open about changing the recipe for each batch as a way of experimenting with different varieties of hops. This is all the more reason that you should keep trying the Solis Occasus even if you don’t like it the first time.

Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA
A black IPA is another way of saying you added hops to a stout. In this case, the Wookey Jack is solidly smoky and has some caramel malt flavors that balance well with some spicy rye. Everything is balanced out nicely by the addition of the hops, which I couldn’t really taste, but gave it a solid level of bitterness.

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Firestone Walker Double DBA
More recently, Firestone Walker has been releasing a number of special barrel-aged beers. I reviewed an earlier beer in this lineup called Stickee Monkee. The Double DBA starts with a double version of the double barrel ale and includes aging in oak barrels and later a year in a bourbon barrel. I really loved the caramel malt flavors and the boozy bourbon I tasted. The sweet flavors combined and reminded me of roasted coconut. This one was even more impressive than Stickee Monkee.

Have you tried any of these beers listed here? If so, what do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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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Beer Bloggers Conference Live Coverage This Weekend

The Beer Bloggers Conference is a yearly event in which bloggers come together from all over the country (there is a separate one in Europe) to discuss ways to better reach our audience and meet with some of the big breweries. This year’s happens to be in San Diego, which means I don’t have to pay for airfare or hotels in order to join everyone. Among other things, I will get a chance to be a part of a special dinner at Karl Strauss and a separate special dinner at Stone.

Because we now have so many ways to provide real-time updates throughout the day, I will be posting what I can on various social media platforms directly from the event. If you are interested in seeing things in real time you will be able to find my posts on the following sites:

Instagram –  as sdhopaddict

Twitter – @pdmcguirelaw

Facebook – facebook.com/sdhopaddict (If all things work out well, then Instagram photos should post to this page)

Expect to see the majority of the posts on Friday August 22nd in the afternoon and evening with even more posts to come on Saturday August 23rd, which will be an all-day extravaganza.

If you aren’t interested in learning about the conference in real time, don’t worry! I will be providing more in-depth coverage of the event once it is all over, bringing together some of the most interesting real-time updates as well as some additional details about what I got to experience. And yes plenty of the coverage will be about the different beers I get to taste.

 

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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Large selection of taps at BCB Tasting Room.

Craft Beer in Tijuana?

Craft beer in Tijuana? You’re kidding right? I couldn’t believe it either. After all, many San Diego residents have a hard time believing that a trip to Mexico is safe let alone that it could be fun. But I set out just to see if it was possible and happened to taste some solid Mexican craft beers (cerveza artesanal) in the process.

Like any area that is still in the early stages of the craft beer revolution, you aren’t going to find craft beer in your average bar. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you went on a trip to Tijuana and never realized that there was an option for exploring craft beer (minus some of those billboards around town advertising a craft beer festival I happened to see).

If you are still with me, you might be wondering where you can have some decent beer in Tijuana. From my brief amount of research before going I found two places to try local craft beers. While at one of them I met someone who visits regularly and suggested another location I didn’t get to visit. Don’t expect to visit many local breweries but you will find two craft beer bars and one small local brewery that runs a brewpub.

Places to visit
Cervecería Tijuana
Fundadores 2951-b, Juárez, 22150 Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
A local brewery focusing on European styles of beer like you might find at Gordon Biersch. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the lineup but then all the beers are 100% malt.
The brewery is open starting at 1PM during the week and offers taster flights as well as serving food.

Taster flight at Cervezeria Tijuana.

Taster flight at Cerveceria Tijuana.

BCB Tasting Room
Orizaba 3003-E5, Fracc. Neidhard, Tijuana, México
BCB resembles the big brewpubs in San Diego such as Toronado. BCB has 30 taps and sells individual tasters as well as full pints. They also have a solid lineup of food, though because it was mostly Americanized I didn’t order any of it. Pints are anywhere from 45 pesos (just under $4) up to over 100 pesos (around $7). If you can’t find a good local Mexican beer to try you will find that they have a great selection of beers from the USA including a number of major IPAs and even more in bottles and cans.

Large selection of taps at BCB Tasting Room.

Large selection of taps at BCB Tasting Room.

Baja Artesanal
Boulevard de las Américas 22429 (Boulevard Aguacaliente), Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
I didn’t get to visit this location but I met someone at BCB who highly rated this place as having a great selection.

Impressive local cerveza I got to try
The first time I visited BCB I went straight for some local (read: Mexican) IPAs and I had some solid ones.

Cucapa Run Away IPA
This IPA offered some solid dark malt flavors and was quite bitter.

Fauna Lycan Lupus IPA
This IPA had some powerful citrus flavors and was strongly bitter. I was quite impressed by the balance of flavors here and ended up buying a pint.

Insurgente Lupuloosa IPA
A solid bitter IPA with a strong grapefruit flavor it almost seemed to kill my ability to taste other beers even though it is about as bitter as the Fauna.

Monastika Libertina Belgian Strong Ale
A Belgian strong ale at 9%, this offered a great balance of flavors with a little hop kick that worked nicely with the Belgian yeast flavors. It had some delicious apricot flavors. I was very impressed by this one.

Noble IPA (Anaheim, CA)
This IPA is not from Mexico but since I haven’t gotten up to visit Noble yet I had to take this chance to try it on tap. This was a deliciously satisfying IPA with tropical fruit and citrus flavors and a good amount of mosaic hop flavors.

Overall, I was quire impressed by the availability of craft beer in Tijuana and would certainly be able to get my IPA fix if I ever go down for a longer visit.

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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Beer Roundup Round One Cropped

Beer Roundup – Round One

In this first in a new series of posts I like to call beer roundups, I will explore some of the interesting beers that I have tasted over the past week or two. The beers featured here will primarily be ones that you can purchase in the store in 22oz bottles or six-packs. My hope is to provide you with some helpful advice about whether you should pick up that interesting beer in front of you enticing you with its unique (or boring) design. After all, it is better to drink from the comfort of your home so you don’t get a DUI.

This beer roundup series is part of my effort to explore different ways of writing for the audience here. Some people like the format of quick short posts about what I am drinking. If this is you, please follow me on Facebook. Others prefer to read a more lengthy explanation of what was good. Most of these beers showed up on my Facebook page at some point. By gathering multiple reviews into a single post I can make sure everyone has access to the same content even if they don’t want to use Facebook.

This beer roundup will examine the following beers: Pizza Port Brewing* Sessionable IPA, Ska Brewing Modus Hoperandi IPA, Modern Times Brewing Phalanx IPA, and Ballast Point’s Bavarian Hopped Double IPA (on tap only).

*Pizza Port Brewing should not be confused with Port Brewing/Lost Abbey. The two are distinct breweries both making fresh beer throughout San Diego. It is understandably a little confusing because the logos do look very similar.

Pizza Port Brewing Sessionable IPA
I was not very excited by the look of this beer so I might have avoided picking it up if I hadn’t been recommended it by someone working at BevMo. Session IPAs are all the rage now and this one fits in nicely with others in the same style. At a mild 4.5% it is perfect for your  first beer on a Sunday and yet it has plenty of fantastic hop flavors like I have come to expect. This one is heavy on the citrus side and has a medium bitterness. I especially like that it was released in six-packs of pint cans because I am really starting to like these pint cans. This has many similar hops to the Fortunate Islands Hoppy Wheat from Modern Times and satisfies me just as much. This is a great one to turn to if you can’t find any Fortunate Islands.

Pizza Port SIPA (left), Modus Hoperandi (right)

Pizza Port SIPA (left), Modus Hoperandi (right)

 

Ska Brewing Modus Hoperandi IPA
I wasn’t familiar with this brewery at all before I saw this beer in the store but who can resist the design of this can? Gangsters, FBI lingo, and bountiful green hop buds call out to me like none other I have seen. This IPA has plenty of strong citrus and pine flavors with a smooth caramel malt backing. I really liked how well the caramel malts worked with the hops featured here. Though I typically don’t like darker maltier IPAs, the malt flavors are subtle enough that they don’t overpower the rest of it. Modus Hoperandi is sold in six-packs of 12-ounce cans. I might have a new favorite here.

Modern Times Brewing Phalanx IPA
The Phalanx IPA is originally only available at the brewery and most likely you will have to go there to get a bottle. I stopped by so that I could give it a taste before I bought some and ended up leaving without any bottles to take home. That isn’t to say that the beer is bad, it just didn’t hit the flavors I crave so much. This is an IPA that grows on you because it doesn’t immediately attack you with potent hops. It shares some dank characteristics with the Modern Times Blazing World (one of my favorites) but focuses the hop flavors more heavily on flavors described by the brewery as juicy. This juicy flavor comes through as a sort of extra sweet ripe melon. The hops in here taste like they are related to the ones Stone used in the recent Unapologetic IPA.

Bottles of Phalanx at the brewery.

Bottles of Phalanx at the brewery.

Ballast Point’s Bavarian Hopped Double IPA
The Bavarian Hopped Double IPA is only available at the Little Italy Ballast Point location in San Diego and probably won’t stay on tap for long with the unique flavors it displays. When I stopped by the brewery for a taste I was immediately struck by how sweet and flavorful this beer was without any significant bitter flavors. I would place the IBUs of this beer somewhere around 40 if not lower (which puts it about as bitter as the Fortunate Islands by Modern Times). Most of the flavors I noticed reminded me of ripe tropical fruit. This might be the double IPA to get your friends to try if they are scared of the bitter hop-bombs that have become regular around San Diego.

Tasters at Ballast Point. Bavarian Hopped Double IPA is on the left.

Tasters at Ballast Point. Bavarian Hopped Double IPA is on the left.

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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w00tstout 2.0 pours dark black.

Stone Brewing W00tstout 2.0 a Standout Stout

It seems like Stone puts out a special beer every month. Though they have a lot of really tasty mainstay beers available, they put a lot of effort into crafting interesting beers to change the perception of what can be done. Imperial stouts are delicious, and stone has a really good one with their Imperial Russian Stout. However, with the w00tstout 2.0 they decided to take things a little further. 

w00tstout 2.0 pours dark black.

w00tstout 2.0 pours dark black.

The w00tstout 2.0 is the second version of this delicious beer. This stout pours thick and black and offers 13% alcohol. It mainly smells like sweet bourbon and caramel. When you taste it, it has a lot of these same flavors. The bourbon and caramel are balanced nicely so neither one overpowers the other. There is also a distinct flavor of burnt sugar that you might recognize if you are a fan of creme brulee.
w00tstout 2.0 bottle closeup.

w00tstout 2.0 bottle closeup.

I tend to not focus too much while I am tasting the beer on what the bottle says though later I checked and it claimed there were some flavors of chocolate. I didn’t notice much chocolate in this beer. I was quite satisfied with w00tstout 2.0. Despite its high alcohol content it is not particularly boozy and has delicious sweet flavors. Keep in mind that this is not a beer that presents heavy chocolate or coffee flavors so if you prefer that in your stouts you should look elsewhere.

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 Unapologetic IPA – Pure IPA Goodness

When Stone announces a new IPA I jump at the chance to try it. While it may sometimes seem as if there are enough IPAs out there, breweries always manage to find some unique way to explore the style. For this specific brew, Stone decided to explore some new varieties of hops to give this beer some flavors that you probably have not experienced before in an IPA. I know I had a difficult time describing this beer.

Unapologetic IPA

As you can see, this beer pours a nice golden color very similar to the Enjoy By line from Stone and the Green Bullet from Green Flash. The aromas do not linger very long but if you give it a nice sniff right away or after a little shake you will notice some bright tropical fruit and melon aromas. Many of these same flavors come through nicely in the beer itself, with delicious flavors that remind me of ripe fruit. To me it tastes like the sweetest cantaloupe you’ve ever tasted with some hints of ripe peach and pineapple. Though this is a lightly sweet brew, it is not too much. The sweetness is nicely balanced with a medium level of bitterness.

I had to wait until I opened my second bottle of this stuff to give it a rating because the flavors were so new and different. When I opened the first bottle I did a short video explaining my thoughts on this beer and as you can see below I was a bit at a loss for words. In the end this is a very satisfying IPA that explores flavors I hadn’t tasted before in an IPA. Pick up a bottle if you see it and see what I mean. Did you taste any different flavors than the ones I described in here? Let me know in the comments.

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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Vancouver Beers 12

Main Street Brewing – Vancouver BC

Main Street brewing has been around even less than Brassneck. They opened in June of this year so they had only been open a month when i stopped by. 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. Considering the how short this brewery has been open, it was quite impressive. I hope they stick around.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post indicated that the brewery was older than Brassneck but they were in fact opened more recently. Thanks to Mike for commenting and clearing that up.

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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