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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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