Pacific Brewing Company a Solid Start for a New Brewery

I like to keep up with new breweries when they open. Thankfully, with Pacific Brewing they announced their grand opening on Facebook so I was able to check it out on the first day. There was a solid crowd for a new brewery and yet parking wasn’t an issue. Pacific Brewing presented a solid lineup that will serve as a good baseline as they expand into different styles of beers.

Pacific Brewing 01

I started with a flight and added an additional taster so that I could taste all of the beers in one go. They offer a blonde, pale ale, IPA, strong ale, and rye double IPA. The blonde was a solid version of the classic style without much variation. It is up there with some of the best San Diego blondes. The pale ale is more towards the English style and has many similarities to the ESB style. The pale ale presents many caramel flavors on the front with a light hop flavor on the back end.

Left to right, Blonde, Pale, IPA, Strong Ale, Rye IPA.
Left to right, Blonde, Pale, IPA, Strong Ale, Rye IPA.

The IPA has a powerful citrus nose. The flavors are heavy on citrus and pine, in line with other San Diego IPAs. I would estimate this beer has around 70 IBUs so it is fairly bitter. I really enjoyed the IPA and ended up with a pint after all the tasters. The strong ale is almost 8% and yet is very drinkable. The flavors are primarily in the sweet caramel range such that it might satisfy some who are mostly fans of porters and stouts.

Pacific Brewing 02

The double IPA is a little low on the alcohol compared to some you might see in San Diego but not short on flavor. At 8% it isn’t that much stronger in alcohol than the IPA but the rye gives it a unique flavor. The rye manages to be mellow enough that it doesn’t overpower the hops. Most of the hop flavors are more on the back end and the citrus and tropical fruit flavors mix well with the rye.

Pacific Brewing has a similar feel to other small breweries inside though the wood used for the bar sets them apart with some distinct colors. Fans of hoppy beers will find a lot to love in the IPA and the Rye Double IPA. Fans of sweeter malt beers will enjoy the pale ale and strong ale. If the strong ale isn’t enough, you can always head next door to 2 Kids for some chocolate stout. I look forward to trying the different styles of beer that Pacific Brewing comes up with in the future.

UPDATE: Pacific Brewing recently released a stout due to the large demand. I stopped by on June 1, 2014 to try the “Simmer Down Stout” and thought it was solid. The stout is a dry chocolate stout that isn’t as sweet or as thick as the stout at 2Kids. It should satisfy my husband though I haven’t yet brought him by to try 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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Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA

The word stochasticity sounds like something my dad would make up. It turns out it actually has a scientific meaning, one that Stone decided to use to explain a new series of experimental beers. If I am understanding the explanation on Wikipedia, something that is stochastic is so random that you can only predict what is next using probability. Stone calls this series an “unpredictable series of beers, where exotic notions, ingredients, and ideas coalesce.”

To start this series of unpredictable beers we are given Grapefruit Slam. Hop heads should be well familiar with the grapefruit flavors that come from some of the most common hops used in San Diego IPAs. A number of delicious IPAs put grapefruit flavors at the forefront of the hop profile. To give a truly knock-down strong grapefruit flavor to this beer, Stone added grapefruit peel to the final beer. This gives it a flavor unlike anything you’ve had before.

Grapefruit Slam in front of an orange tree.
Grapefruit Slam in front of an orange tree.

At 8.2%, this beer was already pretty bitter before any grapefruit was added. The addition of grapefruit gives it a powerful punch and a sneaky aftertaste that will excite most hop-heads. Though I don’t particularly care for fresh grapefruit, thankfully this doesn’t get as insane as some Japanese and Filipino beers that I reviewed earlier. It is still a San Diego Double IPA at heart and should satisfy Stone fans who stumble upon it when searching for the latest version of Enjoy By. I happened to buy a few bottles of this beer when I realized I couldn’t find any Enjoy By 4.20.14.

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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Lagunitas Brewing Company, Huge Hop Flavors

Outside craft beer fanatics, Lagunitas is probably more well-known than Russian River because their beers are widely distributed in Southern California. I decided to not get tasters of some of the more commonly available beers while I was there so that I could try some newer ones.

Lagunitas is also a brewpub, meaning it is open earlier in the day, and the crowds can get pretty crazy. Since we got there a little bit later and had already eaten, it wasn’t too crazy to find a spot at the bar. The outside seating area surprised me because it looks like you are visiting a ranch, complete with sandy floor and picnic tables.

Outdoor Seating Area
Outdoor Seating Area

I ordered a taster flight of Nelson IPA, Maximus Double IPA, SF Beer Week Double IPA, and Hop Stoopid. Of the four, Maximus and Nelson were my favorites. The Nelson IPA has all the grapefruit flavors you might expect from the Nelson hops. Some sweeter flavors recognizable from the regular IPA on the back end round it out nicely.

Taster Flight, A knockout punch of hops.
Taster Flight, A knockout punch of hops.

The Maximus Double IPA has plenty of tropical fruit flavors on the front end combined with some more earthy hop flavors on the back. The San Francisco Beer Week Double IPA is made with Nelson, Mosaic, and Hop 366. The beer had a slight soapy flavor combined with the citrus flavors from the other hops. Heavy pine flavor comes in the back from the Hop 366. I probably would have enjoyed this one a little more without the Hop 366.

Lagunitas 02

I ended it with the Hop Stoopid. It was so strong that it became thick and syrupy. The flavors leaned heavily towards the tropical fruits. I recognize the style here but it isn’t for me. Lagunitas is such a big brewery that you are likely to find most of their core beers all throughout California and many other states. It was nice to finally stop in for a visit but I don’t think I’ll be back. Like Stone, I can get most of the best beers in bottles almost everywhere I look.

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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Russian River Brewing Company, The Legend

Best known for its Blind Pig IPA, Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger, I had to stop by the brewery to try some beers. Because I was going to Lagunitas on the way back I only tried a few half pints while I was here and the single hop pales were my favorite.
Russian River 06
Before I get to the beers, I should note that this is a brewpub, not a pure brewery and tasting room. When you arrive there it is pretty obvious that the zoning wouldn’t permit a barebones brewery. Being a brewpub means you can stop by earlier in the day for a pint because they are open for lunch. However, this also means that it gets crowded pretty fast and seats don’t clear out very quickly.
Even though my husband and I arrived at around 1:30PM, the lunch crowd was still hanging around. The service was pretty slow, though with only a few bartenders pouring beer this wasn’t surprising. We ended up ordering their version of a works pizza. It was quite tasty and very greasy. The other thing keeping everyone around was the insane taster flight that would take even seasoned brewery nuts quite some time to finish with friends (19 tasters!)
Insane Taster Flight
Insane Taster Flight
I started with Row 2 Hill 56, a single hop simcoe pale ale and Hop 2 It, a pale ale made exclusively with Hop 366. I love single hop pales because I get to really understand the flavors of individual hops. Simcoe is used pretty commonly in IPAs. The lemon and pine flavors come through nicely in this one. Hop 366 is a new experimental hop related to the warrior hop. It was much more earthy with a hint of tropical fruit on the back.
Two Single Hop Pales.
Two Single Hop Pales.
I moved on to Blind Pig IPA, one that has been listed on numerous “Best IPA” lists. It certainly had a nice balance to it but was far too heavy on the pine/earthy flavors for my taste. Though there was some strong grapefruit taste in the background, it was still pretty overpowered by the other hops. It is certainly a good IPA but not my favorite hop profile.
My favorite hop profile comes through a lot more with Pliny the Elder, a fairly widely distributed double IPA. I’ve had Pliny the Elder a few times on tap in San Diego at various bars. Finding it in bottles is not so easy. Even at the brewery, they limit the number of bottles you can purchase of both Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder.
 Russian River 05
Pliny the Younger has much of the same hop profile as Pliny the Elder but is a Triple IPA. I am a bit disappointed that Russian River decided to make Pliny the Younger a once a year special release because this leads to long lines wherever it appears. Flavor wise, you will get much of the same beer from Stone’s Enjoy By series, Green Flash’s Green Bullet, and Saint Archer’s Double IPA. I waited in line for Pliny the Younger last year and it was delicious but I probably won’t wait in line for it again.
In all, I found Russian River to be insanely crowded (very similar to visiting Stone Brewing) and not hugely worth the trip. It is a shame that they don’t widely distribute bottles of their famous beers because there is enough demand from the craft beer drinkers around the country for 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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Stone Go To IPA is Everything I’d Hoped For, Tons of Hops in 4.5% Beer

I’ve been saying for a while that we need a good Session IPA in six packs. Stone Go To IPA hits all the right notes and was released just as the Session IPA demand has gotten fairly large.

I’ve been hooked on Modern Times Fortunate Islands because it was available in four packs of 16oz cans. Then Lagunitas recently released their Session IPA.

Unlike a few other Session IPA beers, Stone Go to IPA is not a good introduction for the IPA hater. Through a technique they call hop-bursting, which sounds like double-dry-hopping on steroids, they cram as much hop flavor into the beer as they possibly can. In true Stone fashion, this is not a beer for everyone. It is more heavy on the citrus hops than the Lagunitas variety, which makes it more my style. Still there is something refreshing about the Fortunate Islands because it only uses a few varieties of hops.

I haven’t yet compared it side by side with the Fortunate Islands but I can see myself returning to this much more than the ordinary Stone IPA or Pale Ale, both of which I consider to be a bit too malty for my tastes. If you haven’t yet gotten over the insanely strong double IPAs you will consider this a sissy 4.5% that should be reserved for the weak. It will be here when you get that craving for IPA at 1PM on a Sunday and don’t want to be weighed down by a 7% IPA.

Paul McGuire

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

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Craft Beer in The Philippines, Still too Young to Predict

If Japanese craft beer is young, Philippines craft beer is still an infant. At most I could find there are maybe two or three craft breweries in existence in The Philippines. Where Japan has a number of bars in Tokyo alone serving craft beer there are only a few in Manila and zero in Cebu where we visited. Cebu was surprising because of the number of wine shops where you could get good quality French wine for reasonable prices. For the most part if you want beer in The Philippines I hope you like San Miguel (the local brand of beer primarily represented by a pilsner).

My main goal in Manila was a place called Global Beer Exchange where they serve a number of western beers on tap and have some Filipino beers in bottles. I also visited a place called Burgers and Brewskies where they had some highly satisfying burgers and one Filipino beer on tap. Both places also had some Japanese craft beer in bottles and other craft beer selections from around the world. I didn’t go inside but there was a place called Draft in Manila where they largely serve foreign craft beer selections.

The most well known brewery in The Philippines is called Katipunan. I briefly tried their IPA at Burgers and Brewskies but didn’t order a pint after that because it was pretty boring. I was surprised that it was an IPA based on the flavor. It tasted mostly like an amber and didn’t have a very strong hop flavor to it. Later my husband tried their porter at Global Beer Exchange. He thought it was good but largely forgettable compared to the porters and stouts in the US. It didn’t have the same strong coffee or chocolate flavors typically found in the US.

I got to try an extra hopped pale ale from Fat Payly’s, a brewery in The Philippines. It had a similar extra strong grapefruit flavor to one I tried in Japan but much stronger. I wasn’t able to enjoy this one at all. It might be a favorite of yours though if you really do like fresh grapefruit. This is nothing like the nelson hop that is typically associated with grapefruit flavor. It was way too much for me and I reacted similarly to how my husband does when he tastes any IPA.

In general good luck finding local beer in The Philippines and if you do stay far away. I suggest either learning to like San Miguel (local mass-produced pilsner) or drinking wine or nothing at all.

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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Craft Beer in Japan, My Adventures and Failures

My exploration of Japanese craft beer was mostly a failure. In total I tried three Japanese IPAs and beers from a total of four different Japanese breweries. I visited only one brewery. I didn’t have the patience to search for the craft beer bars even though I knew exactly where they are. This is because getting around Tokyo can be a huge pain. In the end I drank more sake than beer in Japan and I would suggest you do the same.

I’m not sure the exact age of craft beer in Japan but it is clear that it is still very young or at least hasn’t gotten to be very popular. Most bars still heavily feature the big beer brands that you have probably seen in the United States (Asahi and Kirin). Like big beer brands around the world they are in the pilsner style. Though they aren’t bad, they are a bit boring for the IPA fan (me) or the stout and porter fan (my husband). Every restaurant that serves alcohol has plenty of Asahi, Kirin, and Sake.

The first full day in Japan I got to visit a small brewery on Tokyo Bay called T.Y. Harbor Brewery. This brewery is on a small island on Tokyo Bay that you have to take a few train lines to get to from either side. It is located at 〒140-0002 Tokyo, Shinagawa, Higashishinagawa, 2−1−3. They are open for lunch and dinner and if you arrive in between meals they will only serve you beer (perfectly fine for us). They are small enough that I got to speak with one of the owners there a little bit.

T.Y. Harbor Brewery Taps.
T.Y. Harbor Brewery Taps.

4oz tasters are not available like you might find in the USA so I only got to try the IPA and a small taste of a beer made with cherry blossoms. My husband got to try an Imperial Stout. The IPA was a different flavor than I typically expect in San Diego. It tends towards the tropical fruit and caramel malts, giving it a light sweetness. It was probably the best IPA I tried in Japan. Hy husband described the stout as having lots of coffee and roasted malts flavors.

T.Y. Harbor IPA.
T.Y. Harbor IPA.

The beers here cost about 800 yen (around $8) for 420ml. 500ml would be a pint but they compensate for the fact that the head of the beer typically means you don’t get a full pint of beer. From what I read online this is similar to the price at other major craft beer bars in Japan. Before I left I got to try a seasonal beer brewed with cherry blossoms. It was light on alcohol and color with a nice cherry flavor and some flavors similar to drinking tea.

I also got to buy an IPA from a convenience store somewhere. It was an IPA from Aooni brewing in Japan. It tasted like it was on the lighter end and seemed to have the same tropical fruit hops as the one from T.Y. Harbor Brewery above.

Aooni IPA can.
Aooni IPA can.

I then had another Japanese IPA I bought when I was in Manila, Philippines. It was an Imperial IPA from Baird Beer called Surugu Bay. It had a flavor heavy towards the malts and possibly rye with some seriously strong grapefruit flavor. It seemed different from the Nelson hops you typically taste and more like eating actual grapefruit (including the part of the flavor I could never enjoy).

Surugu Bay Imperial IPA.
Baird Beer Surugu Bay Imperial IPA.

Also at one point in The Philippines I found beer from Kiuchi brewing. I tried an interesting 7% beer made from Red Rice that had a nice fruity flavor without a strong alcohol taste. As far as I could tell the brewery didn’t make any IPA that I found.

If you do decide to visit Japan to try local craft breweries, I would suggest venturing outside of Tokyo. Hopefully Tokyo’s confusing street configuration doesn’t exist as much once you leave Tokyo. I didn’t ever get outside of Tokyo except when I was at Narita airport. Otherwise, I would try taking a taxi to one of the bars if you get confused. I don’t know how well the drivers know their way around but it isn’t too expensive for short trips that it might be worth it.

For most casual craft beer fans who can appreciate good sake, I would suggest you instead enjoy Japan’s rich selections of sake and possibly some single malt whiskey (though they are very expensive).

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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