Most visitors to Puerto Vallarta will stay in the Hotel Zone where all the big hotels have their resorts. In those areas you are better off bringing your own beer from home if you are there for a while and want to drink something other than Corona. Make sure you read the amounts that Customs allows you to bring with you if you decide to do that.
We decided for a visit that gives us a true feel of the town and stayed in the Romantic Zone, where Los Muertos sits surrounded by other restaurants and shops. I enjoyed a flight of beers at Los Muertos and they are much better than any of the other Mexican craft beer available locally in bottles. While they don’t live up to the quality of breweries in Tijuana, Ensanada, and other parts of Mexico, they are good enough to satisfy your craving for craft beer.
The first three beers were all overly thin and lacking in flavor. The blonde was almost like water. The wheat beer was a little better with some mild citrus notes and hints of lemon. The chili beer was most likely chilis added to the blonde and the chili notes were very mild, giving it very little heat. The amber ale made with agave was more flavorful, mixing notes of caramel and honey on a soft light body with very low bitterness.
The IPA was light and soft and emphasized a mild bitterness instead of aroma in the traditional style. It is clean and easy drinking but compared to the modern style of IPAs being made it falls short. The Hop On strong ale was soft and mild with roast and mild smoke and very low bitterness. This was a standout for me compared to the rest. The stout was super smooth with mild roast and a dry finish in the traditional dry Irish stout style.
After trying a few other local bottles, I would say Los Muertos is your best bet for beer in the area. Otherwise you might as well order margaritas. They have a fairly americanized food menu so we didn’t eat there. They also sell bottles you can bring back with you to your hotel room.
In the quaint beach town of Monterey about an hour south of Santa Cruz and a nice place to stop after driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from Paso Robles you can find Alvarado Street Brewing, a spot that has been getting a lot of hype lately. After my visit, I can say it was quite well deserved. They have a large space with a spacious restaurant, some outdoor seating in front, and a beer garden in the back where you can enjoy some beers outdoors or walk up through the back to pick up some cans or crowlers to go. I didn’t do a flight of tasters while I was there because they were only doing full pours in the beer garden so I didn’t try everything on their expansive tap list. But I quite enjoyed what I tried.
I started with the Wharf Rat IPA, a balanced IPA with notes of pine and tropical fruit. The beer had a nice orange haze while not super cloudy. This was also the favorite of a friend who met us there. The Vengeful Barbarian hazy IPA pours a super cloudy yellow haze with notes of mango and pineapple and a mildly acidic finish. My mom really enjoyed this one.
My sister ordered the cherry vanilla kettle sour, a tasty mix of strong cherry flavors and mild vanilla in the back, mildly tart and very nicely done. The minesweeper IPA was my favorite, a great mix of fruit, mango, and pine with a medium bitter finish and similar orange haze to the Wharf Rat. I left with a four pack of this one though I should have gotten two because I gave two of the cans to other people and after my second can I really wanted more.
If you are already in the area of Santa Cruz for breweries, taking the trip down to Alvarado Street is worth it. Or you can sometimes find their cans around the bay area. They had a bunch of different styles inside but we decided to eat outside instead. If you are vegetarian or vegan, their vegan double double burger (modeled after In N Out) was really good and tasted almost like the real thing.
Through a friend and fellow blogger I found out about Hopsaint, which had only been open for two months before I visited. The head brewer used to work for Stone and Abigaile and the experience shines through in the lineup of beers. As my third stop for the day I tried only four tasters but we also had some of their delicious chocolate pie to go with it. They have a full restaurant as well and a number of guest beers both on tap and in bottles. I tasted the Vienna Lager, pale ale, Cacophony IPA, and experimental stout.
The Vienna Lager was a lot lighter in color than the typical yet it had a smooth dry finish with a very mild amount of hops. My friend who shared the tasters with me liked it enough to order a half pour after we finished all the tasters. The pale ale was light and crisp with a good hop punch and low malt bill with plenty of citrus and pine. I wasn’t too big on the hop profile but it was certainly well done. The Cacophony IPA was a real treat, thick, sticky, dank, and seriously fruity it had everything that I expect out of the new wave of IPAs. It fits in nicely with the recent trend away from serious bitterness in favor of hop aromas.
The experimental stout was smooth and roasty, with subtle notes of caramel, chocolate, and coffee with a dry finish. This paired delightfully well with their chocolate pie, which was also seriously impressive. Thick and rich, the pie had tons of dark chocolate without too much sweetness. Everyone agreed that pairing the pie with the stout was a perfect match. For such a young brewery, Hopsaint had an impressive lineup of beers. Unlike the other breweries in the area, they offer a full kitchen as well so you don’t have to rely on a food truck.
On a recent drive to Idyllwild I decided to go out of my way to Riverside and stop by a brewery. You may be thinking, that is not really along the way, why would you do something like that? And you’re right it is seriously out of the way but my husband wanted to stop in Riverside for something else so I figured let’s hit a brewery while we are there. I decided to stop by Wicks in part because I loved their medieval designs and names for their beers. They are a fairly large brewpub offering some solid food and a large lineup of beers. I tasted a total of 8 beers while I was there in two separate flights.
The first flight included the Paladin Pale, Battle Cry IPA, Hello Sunshine IPA, and El Robo Rye IPA. The pale was nice and fruity/juicy session IPA that was not too thin or too bitter. It is a nice and balanced, smooth beer. The Battle Cry IPA is a bit thicker and resinous with notes of grapefruit and pineapple. I really enjoyed this IPA out of all of the ones offered and picked up a 22oz bottle to go, which I enjoyed recently at home. While not as bursting with aroma in the bottle it stood up nicely to being a month and a half old. The Hello Sunshine was thicker and more bitter than the Battle Cry offering tropical fruit flavors including papaya. The El Robo Rye had a nice golden rye flavor with a slightly darker color and a strong bitter finish presenting flavors of apricot and peach. This was a nicely balanced rye beer.
The second flight included the Hellified double IPA, Morning Star coffee oatmeal stout, Jasmine Noir black ale, and Black Knight imperial porter. The Hellified double IPA was not that much stronger in alcohol than the single IPA offerings but was quite tasty with intense citrus flavors and a solid bitter kick. The Morning Star coffee oatmeal stout presented a quite mellow coffee flavor and smooth mouthfeel. This is a good stout if you like subtle flavors. The Jasmine Noir was basically a stronger version of a schwartzbier, a German style black lager. It had a light roast flavor but otherwise was very light bodied and easy drinking. I could barely taste the higher alcohol. The Black Knight was a combination of fruity and roasty with a boozy kick on the end, also not very thick. Because I am used to stouts and porters that have more intense flavors I was fairly disappointed by the tasters but looking back now they did a good job making subtle beers for the styles.
I enjoyed the food I had at Wicks and especially enjoyed the IPAs. They are worth hitting if you are in the area and are looking for your West Coast style IPA kick. If you are a fan of dark beers, don’t expect anything exploding with flavors but you will find some smooth and drinkable beers.
At the beginning of my recent trip I spent a few days in Washington DC. There was one brewery I could visit within the city itself but it was so out of the way without a car I skipped it (The brewery is called DC Brau). I was beginning to think I wouldn’t visit any breweries and then I realized that dogfish head has a few different brewpubs within a quick train ride from the city. I visited the closest Virginia pub and ordered a flight followed by some other specialty beers. Because I visited a brewpub I is not surprising that they only had one flight to choose from and a very expensive specialty flight option.
I stuck with the core beer flight. This meant I got to taste the wheat, 60 minute ipa, 90 minute ipa, Indian brown, raisin d’etre, and pumpkin ale. My husband also ordered a goblet of the chicory stout because it was not included in the flight. I also tasted the choc lobster in a pricy $10 goblet. The wheat was well done and to style offering plenty of added spices and Belgian yeast. The 60 minute was a light color and light body ipa with a mild citrus kick and some resinous hops that finished nicely with a light bitterness. It was miles different fresh from the source than anything I’ve had in a bottle.
The chicory stout was nicely balanced with a light smoke and light coffee flavors that blend nicely with some bitter chocolate. It is surprisingly light body and almost looks like a brown ale. This was a beer I didn’t expect to enjoy from the description but really liked. My husband was satisfied as well. The 90 minute was very fresh and surprisingly different even from the somewhat fresh bottles I had bought in DC. It is a combination of resinous hops and a syrupy honey like thick body that finishes with a boozy after taste. If I didn’t have two more bottles of the 90 minute in my hotel room I would have ordered a pint fresh right there.
The Indian brown had a nice sweet caramel back from brown sugar added with roasted malts and heavy hop bitterness. This was great most bitter of the bunch. The raisin d’etre is a strong dark Belgian made with beet sugar and green raisins added. The raisins left a strong after taste that lingers heavily and I did not particularly enjoy. My husband finished the taster and liked it surprisingly.
The pumpkin ale was mostly a light ale with a ton of spice added. It was easy to drink but didn’t have any particular quality to recommend it. I tend to prefer pumpkin ales with higher alcohol so they have more sweetness to balance the spice. Finally the choc lobster sounded like a good idea when they described it but neither of us was particularly impressed. It is a beer made with chocolate, basil, and lobster added. The basil and chocolate together gave it a cinnamon taste and it ends with a light salty taste. I much prefer the chicory stout to this. Though it improved somewhat when it warmed up it didn’t have the complex flavors I would expect for such an expensive beer. If all you ever had from dogfish head was in a bottle on the west coast you should absolutely check out the brewery if you are in the area. I enjoyed the IPAs so much that if I find them fresh in town I will probably buy some more.
While in Chicago I visited Revolution Brewing based on a recommendation from a friend. I wanted to visit the taproom but it was closed for a wedding. Sadly the brewpub gets very crowded and they don’t have much space for people who are just there for a few beers. It was also very loud and difficult to have a conversation. Thankfully they do allow you to order five ounce tasters, even if the service away from the bar is quite slow.
While at Revolution Brewing I tried their Anti-Hero IPA, Zyclhops, Rise (stout), and Eugene (porter). I thought the Anti-Hero IPA was a solid IPA offering a nice medium body with citrus, tropical fruits, and resin. It was a bit sticky sweet but overall a solid IPA. In comparison the Zyclhops was a double kolsch IPA with a heavy boozy after taste with a lot of noticeable alcohol. The hops came in with a lot of pine but it otherwise didn’t have much resemblance to an IPA. I did not finish the taster.
The Rise stout was quite bitter and smoky and not particularly smooth. This one also had quite a bit of pine flavor. As someone who likes stouts to be more roasty and smooth this one wasn’t hitting the spot for me. My husband wasn’t particularly impressed either. The Eugene porter was better, giving a nice mix of chocolate and dark fruit and a smoother overall flavor. It was closer to what I expect from the style.
Overall two of the four beers were enjoyable although the other two were so off-putting that I didn’t end up ordering extra tasters. The other reason I didn’t order more tasters was the slow service and my plan to visit another brewery later that day. Perhaps the specialty IPAs they had on the menu would have been more my style but I wasn’t feeling like staying longer. If you are planning on visiting Revolution I suggest that you go to their tap room if you can because the brewpub gets very crowded and is better for people going to eat.
3 Floyds has become such a cult following that most of their popular offerings that are bottled are sold out within a few days once they are made available. The coveted zombie dust and double ipa bottles disappear as quickly as cans of heady topper. Though you may be able to find some double IPA at nearby liquor stores they aren’t stored cold and the ones I found were too old to pick up. Going to the brewpub on a weekend will end up with a wait of at least 40 minutes. It is worth the wait to get a seat because fresh zombie dust from the source is delightful as are the other offerings.
Though I had heard that 3 Floyds plays death metal at the brewery it is not all death metal all the time. They cycle between metal and punk rock and other fun songs. The scream vocals mostly blend in so they aren’t much worse than the average music at a brewery or bar. While I was at 3 Floyds I didn’t get to try very many beers because they don’t offer taster flights and I didn’t want to get seriously wasted trying 10 ounces of each of the double IPAs. (It is a brew pub atmosphere because they serve food as well so I understand the lack of taster flights. I heard great things about their food but I didn’t end up ordering any while I was there). I had an 8oz of Zombie Dust, my husband had a Moloko Stout on nitro, and I had a Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker double IPA and finally a Chevalier blueberry sour.
After hearing tons of hype for Zombie Dust it is hard to be impressed but I knew with the first sip that this was a fantastic beer that is very much worth all the hype. It was extremely light body and bursting with hop flavors of both citrus and tropical fruit (primarily pineapple). It is deceptively sessionable considering it is 6% and feels much lighter than that. The bitterness was very mild, coming across just enough to let you know the hops are present.
The Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker double IPA was delicious from the first sip. It pours a delightfully hazy yellow orange with a powerful golden hop flavor and just the right amount of sweetness. Many beers in similar style become syrupy but there is none of that here. Though it has a solid bitterness I didn’t feel it wrecking my palate. The beer ended nicely with some stone fruit and peach flavors. It was overall a very impressive double IPA.
I didn’t drink much of my husband’s Maloko stout on nitro but from what I had it was a well-crafted stout with a solid chocolate flavor and very creamy. This one also hides its alcohol extremely well and I wouldn’t have known it was 8% except for the very mild booze on the back end. I ended with the Chevalier blueberry sour. This was a properly sour beer, just short of puckering. It is certainly an acidic sour but it blends with plenty of blueberry flavor at the back end. Considering everyone talks about Three Floyds for their hoppy beers and imperial stouts I was surprised by how fantastic this sour was.
Overall, I would certainly visit 3 Floyds again if I am in the area on a weekday so that I can load up on some awesome fresh from the brewery beers and have some more pints of delicious fresh from the brewery beers. If you are visiting Chicago for a few days it is worth the 45 minute drive and nearly hour wait for some of the best hoppy beers around. Hopefully next time I will be able to get my husband to drive me like he did this time because those double IPAs are fantastic.
If you come by the brewery to buy some Zombie Dust in bottles make sure you go during the week and check the web site for what to-go beers are available the day you go because they rarely last into the weekend. Also after having a fairly disappointing six pack at a nearby store I highly suggest that you not buy any if you can’t find it at the brewery. The stores nearby have very little in refrigeration so the double IPAs they stock are not likely to represent the same delicious quality. Also bring along a cooler or store the beers inside the air conditioning of your car on your drive back to your hotel room.
The various breweries in Los Angeles County are so spread out that it can sometimes seem like they are in different cities. On my recent trip to LA I drove out to Simi Valley to visit a friend and we decided to meet at Ladyface for an early snack and a few beers. Being early in the day and planning on visiting a few other places later I decided to stick to the four archival ales available. I tried the Barrel Aged Porter with Sour Cherry, Dérailleur Bière de Garde, Verrückt Weizen sour Weizenbock, and 5th Anniversary Ale Belgian dark strong ale aged in red wine barrels.
I started with the Bière de Garde. I found it quite nice with some mild funk, mild sour, and dark fruit flavors all smoothed out nicely by the oak barrels. Though I am not familiar enough with the style to say how well this represents the style I thought it was quite good. Next came the cherry porter, which I was not expecting to like much at all but thanks to the mild amount of cherry I found it pretty drinkable. The mild cherry blended nicely with the roasted malt flavors from the underlying porter, giving it a nice balanced flavor.
Next came the 5th Anniversary ale aged in wine barrels. It had a mild tart flavor from the wine barrels with some smooth dark flavors and mild sour cherry. This was surprisingly mellow considering the wine barrels it was aged in. Finally, I tried the Verrückt Weizen, a sour Weizenbock. This beer has won a few awards for the style. Though only mildly tart it puckered the mouth a bit. The tart flavors mixed nicely with dark fruit and malts. This was the most tart of the bunch though still not as tart as some I have tasted.
Some time I would like to come back and try some of the core beers they have available but I was glad I tried all of the archival ales this time around. Lady Face is a ways north of Downtown LA so it is an extra drive to get out there. If you are in the area, it is one you should hit for sure.
Though still in their soft opening phase currently, South Park Brewing seems to be off to a good start. Sadly, when I visited they were out of a few beers so they only had three on tap, but I did get to try their IPA, double IPA, and oyster stout. Still, what they had was a good start for such a young brewery.
South Park Brewing started out in a larger space than the average new brewery and serves food as well. I was tempted by the variety of fish options and ice cream though I did not partake because I was heading to eat after. Next time I head down there I will certainly try one of them. They also have a fairly large indoor area that has plenty of seating both inside and out front by the street.
Beer wise, they had a few guest beers as well in case someone isn’t a fan of their house beers. I started with the IPA, a 100% Simcoe hop IPA, that delivered the San Diego style of beer with plenty of tropical fruit and citrus and a mild bitterness. The double iPA was a bit heavier and a bit more boozy. It had some spice flavors reminiscent of a saison, though overall it was a bit too heavy for me given the flavors.
Finally, the oyster stout was a solid offering with a bit of caramel and roasted malts, though too salty for me. I was hoping to also try their saison but it had run out before I visited. With a solid IPA so early on I expect South Park Brewing will do some good things once they have a grand opening at some point in the future. For now it is worth dropping in if you are in the area. They are right next door to Hamilton’s Tavern. Maybe next time I will try some of the ice cream.
My third and final Torrance area brewery during my recent visit was Phantom Carriage. Phantom Carriage is located in Carson, slightly between Torrance and Long Beach but close enough to Torrance area to make it a natural next stop for the day. It just so happened that they were celebrating their grand opening that day so how could I not stop in!? After getting my IPA fix at Smog City and my Belgian fix at Monkish I was ready for some sours. Many Southern California breweries that make sours focus on fruit sours (beer with fruit added) but Phantom Carriage had wild ales and sours on tap, in the form of both dark and light varieties.
I started with a flight of the Muis wild ale (a sort of brett blonde ale), Old Muis aged wild ale, and Bergman sour ale. The Muis was a solid beer with plenty of tropical fruit and light hoppy flavor with a mild amount of tart flavors. The beer was overall quite enjoyable. The Old Muis, which was an aged version was quite a lot more tart and had a light flavor of bourbon or whiskey.
The Bergman was very light and not very sour or tart and had a light fruit flavor and light sweetness. Compared to the others it didn’t taste like much. Subtle beers are hard to enjoy when others are such knockouts. As you can see in the pictures below, Phantom Carriage uses a unique style of taster glass that gives you a good chance to enjoy the aromas of the beers.
Second flight I tasted the Rathrbone dark sour, Lugosi barrel aged sour, and Dolores dark farmhouse ale. The Rathbone was a flavorful beer that was much more tart than the Bergman with plenty of good dark fruit flavors and a nice overall tartness. The Lugosi was quite tart and that did a good job to balance out the flavors of the barrel that gave it a nice boozy flavor.
The dolores was quite smoky and had plenty of roasted malt flavors and a little bit of dark fruit. Though on its own it had a strong smoke flavor it was great when compared to the others.
Overall, I was quite impressed by the beers at Phantom Carriage to start and look forward to what they will do in the future. Their tasting room is fairly large with enough room to handle a good number of people. They also have some food they serve as well, a rarity for new breweries. If you live in the area and like horror movies they also have a small theater where they will be playing horror movie classics. I couldn’t tell if this is going to be something they do all the time or only certain scheduled events. I will certainly be stopping in the next time I am in the area to see how things are progressing.