Riip Beer Company – Huntington Beach California

Riip is located in Huntington Beach, south of Long Beach, and fills an area where I hadn’t previously visited for breweries. Though Beachwood also has a location in the area it is nice to add some new breweries there too. I visited Riip on the same day as Mumford and found Riip to be far superior and closer to what I expect from Southern California IPAs. I tried four IPAs at Riip because I had already visited a number of breweries earlier that day.

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The Dank IPA was smooth and balanced with a good citra kick and not too bitter. The Riipalicious IPA was tasty for nelson hops and not too bitter, exhibiting grapefruit and citrus notes. The Hop Citrage juicy IPA had a nice citrus kick and some orange peal notes and was nice and mildly bitter. I was ready to take a small growler of this home with me but they weren’t filling growlers. The Super Cali, their award winning IPA, was mildly bitter and nicely balanced with citrus and herbal hops. This was my least favorite mostly because of the herbal hops but it wasn’t a bad beer.

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Riip is a great brewery to stop at on your way through Huntington Beach and even better for locals in the area looking for an alternative to the classic style IPAs from Beachwood. I didn’t try any of their non-hoppy beers but they seem to have a good handle on brewing. Their spot did get a bit loud quite easily with an echo from people and music so that also contributed to me having only one flight.

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Known for: 
Come for IPAs, especially their hazy offering.

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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Mumford Brewing – Downtown Los Angeles

Mumford is located in the heart of downtown LA in between Little Tokyo and Skid Row. I found out about them because of a can that was shared with me from someone up in LA. While they have drawn crowds for beer releases in the past, I expect the can of Un-Presidential IPA was a fluke because none of the other beers were anywhere near that quality. Still, they are able to draw a good crowd with their decent hazy IPA which is enough to satisfy those who aren’t familiar with what it could taste like.

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The Pant Suit saison was super fruity with a bitter finish that overpowered it. It was quite unbalanced and I didn’t finish the taster. The Ghostwriter pale ale had some nice citrus notes with pineapple and tropical fruit but again a bitter finish that overpowered the rest of it, making it average at best. The LA Like, hazy IPA, had notes of orange and grapefruit and a cloudy orange color with mild notes of vanilla. I thought this was the best of the bunch but at the end it seemed a bit soapy. I want to hope this was just a glass that wasn’t properly rinsed. Assuming the soap was not in the beer it is a solid average hazy IPA.

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Skidrokyo Cafe on nitro is their coffee porter with vanilla. It had some intense coffee and mild roast with some sweet caramel and vanilla on the finish. It is probably the best beer on the menu and for the low alcohol range it is slightly above average for the area. It would certainly satisfy the stout fans who tag along while you enjoy the IPAs. The DTLA IPA had strong hop flavors of pine and also mildly herbal taste with a strong bitter finish. Like others it was too bitter for the hops.

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The All Caps was a solid mix of pine and citrus with a dry finish and not too bitter. I got some notes of green tea on the finish that were unexpected. After the LA Like, this is the other IPA I could drink. The East Enders double IPA was sticky sweet and fruity with notes of over ripe fruit and onion. It was both too sweet and missed the mark for the hop flavors, so I couldn’t finish the taster.

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I hope in 6 months Mumford will be able to more consistently brew solid IPAs because they had great results with the Un-Presidential IPA. Sadly, most of the IPAs I had when I visited had an off-putting bitter after-taste. I expect it was present in the hazy IPA as well just masked by the haze. For now I think most of their hype is overblown and I wouldn’t go out of my way for another visit anytime soon. For the hardcore beer fan there are better breweries in the LA area. But if you are new to IPAs their hazy IPAs should be more than good for you.
Top 2: 
LA Like
SkidRokyo on Nitro

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 of the Week – Foggy Window Double IPA from Monkish

In the beer enthusiast world, Monkish Brewing has been a known quantity for a while for their sours and farmhouse ales. Then they got access to hops and started doing hazy IPAs as limited release cans direct from the tasting room. I’ve heard stories of the crazy lines for these beers but haven’t gotten to have more than a small taste of a couple at a festival, until I stopped by on a whim and they had Foggy Window on tap.

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Foggy Window is a double IPA at a solid 8.2% alcohol but looks like a mango smoothie more than a beer. The beer is not very bitter or boozy as you can sometimes get in this style but instead creamy and tastes like mango and pineapple juice. I was hooked after I tried it and now understand why people from San Diego drive 4 hours round trip to get their hands on this beer (just not the choice to wait in line). Even having enjoyed a few phenomenal hazy beers, I was not expecting the explosion of flavor that I got here.

If you are on the fence about whether you should pick up some hazy IPAs from Monkish or try to get some on tap, do not delay. Hopefully sometime this year they will get to the point where the demand dies down a bit and I can more easily stop by for some cans.

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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Breweries in Western Michigan – Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and other areas

There are many breweries in Western Michigan. I could never visit all of them in a span of two days, nor can I give sufficient time to all the breweries I did visit. I stuck to those breweries most recommended on Beer Advocate message boards. In this post I will cover Brewery Vivant, Founders, New Holland, Arclight, Transient, and Bell’s. I didn’t try anything on tap at Arclight though so I will be posting based on the bottles of sour beer I picked up recently on my way to Transient. I also didn’t taste anything but stouts at Bell’s because I happened to visit on their All Stout’s Day.

Brewery Vivant

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Vivant is known for its Belgian style beers and the few that I tried were quite well done even if some were not to my tastes. Vivant is located inside an old funeral church and they have a gorgeous space with two large stained-glass windows. They have tons of seating and a full menu of food. I stopped in quickly for a flight. Keep in mind the tasters are on the expensive side, with prices ranging from $3 to $4. I’m not sure that I understand why they have such pricing. Thankfully, the bottles are more reasonably priced and they have cans of most of their core beers.

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Their farmhouse ale was dry with notes of white wine and some mild peach with minimal spice character. It is a very well-done saison. The maelstrom stout is bitter and smoky with some mild roast and hints of burnt caramel. It has a creamy finish and if you give it some time to warm up and for your palate to adjust to the initial shock it is a fantastic beer. The Verdun Biere de Garde has notes of dark fruit with a mildly sweet finish. It wasn’t as dry as I expected but I enjoyed it enough and the beer was nicely balanced. The Liquid Crystal Belgian IPA was intensely floral with a fruity base malt similar to the Verdun. I wasn’t a fan of the mix of flavors and it was not my hop profile but it is a well-made beer.

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Their stone fruit sour was excellent with some intense brett on the nose and a puckering tart at the finish that gives way to sweet peach and nectarine. I left with two bottles of this for myself and another for a friend. It is worth checking ahead to see if the brewery has any sours because they are excellent. The barrel aged stout on raspberries was a shock at first with a mix of flavors I haven’t experienced before. I’m not sure I like the blend of bourbon and raspberry. To me this is almost a sour and not something I would recommend for someone who is mostly into sweeter stouts. The raspberry comes on as mildly tart and overpowers the bourbon. If you like sweeter stouts you should go to Founders or New Holland instead.

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Top 2:
Farm House Saison
Stone Fruit Sour

Founders

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Compared to the spacious area of Vivant, which is already a good size as breweries go, Founders is massive. While they do have some people taking orders from the tables, you can also line up and order beer or food directly from the counter, which is faster. They also have a water bottle filling station near the restrooms to make it easy to hydrate. Because of the huge space, Founders has live music and we were blessed by some bluegrass during our time there. I’m not sure why the groups seemed to only play one song and then switch but I wasn’t complaining because despite being bluegrass they had a ton of bass in the music. Come with ear plugs if you like a quiet brewery experience, especially on weekends.

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I tried a couple of their IPAs and a couple of stouts but we didn’t have a ton of tasters because they didn’t have many stouts on tap and I wasn’t a huge fan of the IPAs. The harvest IPA was a fantastic mix of resin and grapefruit and nicely balanced with a mild sweetness and bitterness. I got some notes of fresh grapes at the back. The Beer City IPA was quite old school with a prominent bitterness and tons of pine. It was well-made but not my favorite hop profile.

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The Rubaeus was a tasty raspberry ale, jammy and not too sweet with the right blend of amber malts to support the berries while giving it some additional fruit notes. The watermelon gose was sweet and mildly tart with a great balance of flavors. It wasn’t too salty and is probably the first really good watermelon beer I’ve had. My husband went up to order the nitro breakfast stout and backwoods bastard tasters but the server heard him to order a pint of breakfast stout. Though he hadn’t been in love with breakfast stout before, he really loved it on nitro. I got an intense nutty coffee with a smooth mild chocolate. The nitro made it extra special.

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I had tried the regular dirty bastard before and really liked the flavors of the base beer. The backwoods bastard has a ton of caramel and bourbon and is super smooth. I passed this up in the stores before based on the price of a four pack but now I might consider buying some because it is so good. It is quite easy to spend a full day at Founders if you are staying in town longer. How long you want to stay depends on what sorts of beers they have and your preference. I would recommend Founders more for their stouts though the Harvest IPA was excellent too.

Top 3:
Breakfast stout on nitro
Watermelon gose
Harvest IPA

New Holland

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I almost skipped visiting New Holland because we already got their new coconut rum dragon’s milk in San Diego. It was worth a stop to try a few other variants of their beer. The Down Dogger, a hoppy wild Belgian golden was fruity with lots of spice from the Belgian yeast and super dry but it wasn’t sour, funky, or hoppy. It was a fairly standard beer. The Harvest 2, a fresh hop pale, was bitter and malt forward with some notes of grape. It didn’t stick out at all or suggest from the flavors that the hops were fresh. The Vanilla Chai Dragon’s Milk had tons of cinnamon and clove with mild vanilla. To me the spice overpowered the rest of the beer too much. I didn’t really care for it. The Brewer’s Select Dragon’s Milk, a slightly stronger version of the regular, was smooth with notes of vanilla but the alcohol came out a little too hot on the finish.

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Comparatively, the coconut rum version, released this year, is much better. It has tons of coconut flavor and a mild rum note at the back. I’ve been enjoying these bottles for a couple of weeks at home prior to visiting. I’ve also had the regular Dragon’s Milk in the past and thought the standard was more balanced than the Brewer’s Select version. The few beers I tasted at New Holland tell me that it is worth sticking to variations of Dragon’s Milk and having other beer styles at other breweries in the area. Since you can find Dragon’s Milk in four packs as far out as the West Coast (we started receiving them in San Diego) I would recommend grabbing some bottles to enjoy at home instead.

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New Holland’s various locations are restaurants and they tend to get crowded quickly. The location in Grand Rapids had such an insane wait that we decided to stop in Holland on our way south to visit the original brewery. Since we already ate at Founders, we only had a little dessert at New Holland to go with the stouts.

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Known for:
Known mostly for their popular barrel aged imperial stout called Dragon’s Milk and the different variations.

Transient Artisan Ales

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Transient is a very young brewery but has developed a ravenous following from the nearby areas for its release of juicy North East style IPAs in cans as well as the different variations of sours. It is quite a drive to get to Transient either from Grand Rapids or Chicago, and will likely take you over an hour either way. Coming from Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo you can stop by another brewery along the way called Arclight. I stopped there briefly for a few sours they were releasing but they had plenty of other beers available on tap. Considering all the fantastic stouts at Founder’s and Bell’s I might still recommend coming out to Transient for their Buckley light chocolate stout.

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I started with the Cromulent pale ale. It was juicy with notes of orange peel and peach with tons of hops and not a lot of bitterness. It is a very respectable juicy pale. I had a small growler of this beer at home the next day and it was still quite good. The pineapple salarium is tasty pineapple, not too acidic, mildly tart, and a dry finish. It reminded me of the Beatitude series of beers from San Diego’s Council Brewing. Bottles were already sold out when I got there. The Indoorsman brett pale ale had a strong woody bite with an herbal finish and some mild bready malts and peaches at the finish. I couldn’t get over the lingering bitterness at the finish and did not finish the taster.

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The Henry porter was smooth and smoky with a ton of burnt caramel. Though this one was a bit shocking at first once I adjusted and it warmed up the beer had more caramel and I enjoyed it better. The Double Barrel Obelus was super smooth with notes of honey, peaches, and a mild buttery finish from the American oak. It is a fantastic complex beer that I enjoyed so much I left with two bottles. The Buckley light is pure liquid dark chocolate and creamy smooth. This is an excellent chocolate stout and worth seeking out.

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Top 2:
Double Barrel Obelus oak aged saison
Buckley Light chocolate imperial stout

Bell’s Brewing

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Despite Google showing multiple locations for this brewery, they have only one location that is split into a general store and a cafe. The brewery itself is not open to visit or drink in a tasting room. I visited on the day when they had All Stout’s Day, which meant all but two of the taps at the brewery were replaced by stouts. Thus, I won’t be including any commentary on how good their IPAs or other styles are.

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I started with the java stout. It has mild smoke and tons of coffee roast, a very easy-drinking beer. I had two varieties of their expedition stout, one of their flagship brews. The 2014 and 2015 were not all that different but both were fantastic. The beer has tons of caramel and roast and a nice thick body.

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The whiskey aged expedition stout was super smooth with a creamy mouthfeel and a strong but not overpowering or hot whiskey. The black note on tap had some nice notes of chocolate and fudge when compared to the whiskey expedition. The whiskey aged 30th anniversary had tons of fudge and cinnamon with some mild vanilla on the finish. The barrel aged dagger stout had tons of vanilla and espresso with a super smooth finish. All of the barrel aged stouts on tap were fantastic but the barrel aged 30th anniversary and barrel aged dagger stout were my two standouts. With such strong beers it gets difficult to give more detailed descriptions after a while.

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Known for:
Intense stouts and barrel aged variants, also some old school IPAs that are quite popular.

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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Reno Area Breweries Part 2 – IMBIB, Pigeon Head, and Under the Rose

IMBIB Brewing

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The brewery that came most highly recommended on Beeradvocate was IMBIB so I went there with high expectations. They had a massive tap list of almost 20 beers so with the altitude of Reno I wasn’t about to try everything. I decided to focus on the sours since they had five on tap and one on the cask. Though I didn’t like all of the sours, two stood out as really delicious and I left with crowlers of those.

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The Foeder Squared was funky and acidic with some apricot notes and a mild tart apple flavor common among lambics. The flavors were good but the beer was a bit too subtle for me. Abiogenesis was my favorite of the bunch, a wine aged dark saison, it had a cloudy brown color and flavors of mild caramel and smooth malt mellowed out by the oak and a mildly acidic finish.

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The boysenberry with brett had a dark red color with mild tart and good lightly acidic berry notes. It was a satisfying fruited sour and I left with a crowler of this as well. I wasn’t a fan of the IMBIB and Alibi collaboration beer. It was fruity and bitter and had some other flavors I couldn’t identify. The Pinot de Garde, which I assume from the name was a wine aged biere de garde was also not my thing and seemed like it may have gone bad sitting in a cask for too long.

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I also tried the oatmeal stout and maibock before leaving. The oatmeal stout was standard to style, dry and not super roasty. The maibock was clean and fruity with a prominent malt base. I really enjoyed this one. While I could have come back the following day to try more, I decided to leave it at what I did try. I would recommend stopping by IMBIB if you like sours.

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Top 2:
Abiogenesis – wine barrel aged dark saison
boysenberry brett sour

Pigeon Head Brewing

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I would not have stopped at Pigeon Head if I hadn’t been recommended it by the brewer at IMBIB. They focus mostly on lagers and had a nice variety of beers on tap. I also appreciated that they charged only $6 for a taster flight of six beers. I wish more breweries could price tasters so reasonable.

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The black lager was creamy and clean with a mild caramel flavor and a light body. I enjoyed this more than the black lager (schwartzbier at Brasserie St. James). The oktoberfest beer was smooth and clean with a dry finish. The pilsner was quite good, crisp and clean and very easy drinking. The IPL had tons of pine and herbal hop notes that balanced nicely with the bready malts.

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The ginger peach brett saison was my favorite of the bunch. The ginger was subtle and the beer was clean and fruity with a mild peach taste in the finish. I left with a crowler of this one. The Nevada Brown was smooth with mellow coffee and roast, overall very easy drinking. I came back the next day and had a glass of their red rye lager. It was a delicious beer and hid its alcohol very well. The rye balanced wonderfully with the malts.

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Pigeon Head was my favorite brewery from the trip and has a nice small tasting room with plenty of seating both indoor and out. They fill growlers and crowlers of almost everything. The bartender indicated that they will be doing more sour and wild beers in the future so keep an eye on them.

Top 2:
Red rye lager
ginger peach saison

Under the Rose

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Under the Rose was recommended by my friend who lives in the area but not so much by the local I met in the brewery the first evening. I wouldn’t say much was truly bad but none of the beers were more than average and with so many other choices, I wouldn’t return.

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The berliner weisse was fruity and dry and mildly tart, done well to style. The sour saison was mildly tart with some citrus notes and a mild rye kick. The aged porter has some intense whiskey flavors that blend nicely with dark fruit notes. It is better than a lot of the other lighter alcohol bba beers I have had.

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The wine aged belgian had tons of spice but also an intense floral/herbal kick that was almost soapy. There was a sweet cake taste in the malts but very little oak or wine character I could detect. The pale ale was pretty standard mix of pine and fruity hops while not being too malty or too bitter. The IPA was more of the same just stronger and a little more bitter. Both the pale and IPA were fairly old school.

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Top 2:
Aged porter
Pale 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.

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Reno Area Breweries Part 1 – Brasserie St James, Brewer’s Cabinet, Fifty FIfty Brewing

Brasserie St James

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Brasserie St James is the only brewery in Reno I had heard about prior to visiting. Even that was by accident. I happened to see one of their beers on tap at a Chinese Dim Sum restaurant in San Diego and assumed it was from Belgium until I googled it. St. James is a brewery and a restaurant and finding seats in the restaurant area can be quite difficult. Thankfully they have a bar area that is open seating and some outdoor seating upstairs that is also open. I started with a flight of almost all their core beers and finished with two more beers before leaving.

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The schwarzbier was smooth and creamy and a good mix of caramel and dark fruit. Like the classic beers of this style you could easily down one after another. The red farmhouse was spice forward with a dry bitter finish. It was a solid beer but I preferred some of the others. The Tripel was mildly sweet with a flavor reminiscent of a white cake and a good dry finish. This is one of the better American tripels I have tasted, coming closer to the dry beers of the style as they are brewed in Belgium.

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The saison was effervescent and super dry with notes of lemon and some earthy malt notes. I quite enjoyed this one and left with two bottles to bring home. The brett saison, known as 1904, was very similar to the saison with a little more fruit notes. It seemed based on the bottle prices that it is a better deal to enjoy this beer on tap. The double IPA was smooth with tons of grapefruit and pine at the start but a strong floral hop finish that I didn’t care for. This one I didn’t finish.

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The Peach 1904, was tasty with the peach adding some mild acidity in the finish. The peach flavor was relatively subtle. The quad was dark and thick with some of the same cake flavor I noticed in the tripel. Also like the tripel, I was glad that the quad wasn’t overly sweet.

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While a good place to stop in if you like saisons, I wasn’t a big fan of the atmosphere inside. It got noisy quickly and often crowded. Thankfully it was a cold night so the outdoor seating wasn’t full and it was quiet out there. I found the bottles of sours to be quite expensive at $30 for a brewery that doesn’t have a lot of hype behind it. Thankfully the saisons were a more reasonable $12 for a bottle. I have enjoyed one at home already and liked how it was in the bottle.

Top 2:
Saison
Brett Saison

 

Brewer’s Cabinet

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While I was at Brasserie St. James, one of the locals recommended I visit The Brewer’s Cabinet. And since the other breweries I had on my list in town were no longer open as it was getting late I decided to head there next. This post will also include some specifics about beers I had at the same location two days later.

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My first visit was at night and it was crowded still. I immediately ordered the double IPA based on the description of the hops included. My husband ordered the imperial stout with coffee. The double IPA was bitter and balanced with some resinous hops and a bit of juicy melon. It was a tasty double IPA for sure. To go with the coffee stout my husband ordered the bread pudding. It was a fantastic dessert but so big that you would want to share with a friend. The coffee stout was smooth and creamy with a mild yet prominent coffee flavor. Though I would have preferred it to be stronger alcohol, it was plenty to satisfy my husband.

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Two days later, I came back to try some of their other offerings. I wasn’t big on the hop flavors of the first few I tasted and I ended up ordering the heff, which was a hazy bright yellow with notes of vanilla, citrus, and mild banana. It was an excellent beer. The pale ale was also fantastic, balanced amber color and a good mix of mild pine and fruity hops.

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Brewer’s Cabinet stood out as one of the better breweries from my visit and I would quickly return if I was in town again. They also have a full kitchen so they are open late.

Top 3:
Wit
Tahoe Pale
Coffee imperial stout

Fifty Fifty Brewing

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Though not in Reno and instead 30 minutes drive to the west in Truckee, I stopped by Fifty Fifty brewing hoping to try some of their popular barrel aged stout on tap. Sadly, the Eclipse beers were not on tap and at $30 a bottle I wasn’t going to buy some blind. I did enjoy the core beers I tried on tap though.

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The saison was tasty with tons of herbs, spice, and mild fruit notes. The session IPA was a nice mix of grapefruit and a rye spice kick, excellent balance and not overly bitter. This is one of the more impressive session IPAs I have had lately. The brown ale had a nice medium body and a good mix of roast and espresso. This is one of the few brown ales I like.

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The porter had a nice medium body and tons of roast and espresso notes. I preferred this over the imperial stout. The imperial stout has tons of burnt caramel and a strong bitter finish, almost smoky. This is the base beer for their Eclipse barrel aged series but I didn’t care for it on its own. While they had one oaked beer on tap, it wasn’t one of the series I wanted to try so I left after the initial flight to move on to more Reno breweries.

Top 2:
Session IPA
Porter

Because I visited so many breweries in this trip, I split the write-up into two posts. Part 2 will conclude with the rest of the Reno breweries I visited.

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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Breweries in Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin, Karben 4, Vintage, Raised Grain, Good City, Black Husky,

I normally get my information about which breweries to hit in a city from Beeradvocate and Ratebeer forums. This sometimes works out wonderfully, when locals give a list of tons of places that I have to pick the cream of the crop from. Other times this is not so great when there aren’t a lot of well-recommended breweries in an area. In that case I may miss a few places or skip over local favorites entirely based on the opinions of people on a message board. Sadly in Madison, Wisconsin this meant I didn’t make the trek out to New Glarus (45 minutes outside of town) and didn’t visit Vintage brewing because I didn’t ask my friend for recommendations. Thankfully I got some crowlers from Vintage because my friend shared the wealth.

Karben 4 came highly recommended in Madison and I agree with the praise. Out of the Milwaukee breweries, Raised Grain was a clear winner though the locals indicated that they are still in somewhat early stages.

Karben 4

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Karben 4 was the most recommended brewery out of all the Madison breweries and so it was my first stop, and turned out to be my only stop. I had a number of tasters and almost everything was excellent. They have a medium-sized tasting room with a kitchen and tons of variety.

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I started with the Champagne Tortoise English mild style ale and was immediately impressed by the clean beer bursting with flavor. The beer was smooth and fruity and lightly sweet, without any noticeable bitterness. The Tokyo Sauna pale ale was bitter and mildly soapy/herbal with a smooth malt finish. I didn’t care for the hops in this one. The Nightcall smoked porter was smooth and balanced with tons of chocolate and caramel and a mild smoke on the finish.

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The Fantasy Factory IPA was fruity with tons of citrus and a smooth malt backbone that was balanced by resinous hops. It was a solid IPA. Lady Luck imperial red was fantastic. I was glad to find an imperial red that wasn’t hopped to intense bitterness. The beer had tons of caramel and dark fruit with a mild roast at the finish. I could easily order more of this quite regularly if I was a local. Dragon Flute pale ale had tons of bright fruit showcasing tangerine and pineapple over a low malt bill and mild bitterness. I finished with the Idiot Farm double IPA, a delicious sticky sweet double IPA with tons of citrus and a balanced malt-backbone.

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Since I didn’t get the scoop on other local breweries while I was there I might have just gone back to Karben 4 for more because of their impressive lineup. Though I didn’t like all the hoppy beers, they had two that were quite excellent. And one of the ones I didn’t like may have just been an old keg.

Top 4:
Champagne Tortoise English Mild
Lady Luck Imperial Red
Dragon Flute Pale
Idiot Farm Double IPA

Vintage Brewing

Though I didn’t visit Vintage Brewing I did get to try four different beers thanks to a friend. It helps that they have a crowler machine so the beers stayed fresh over a few days.

The oaked pale was a fantastic smooth blend of a malt-forward IPA and a smooth oak bite at the finish. The oak removed any intense bitterness and the beer was quite popular among a group of people at a party who generally don’t like IPAs. The Toy Boat Toy Boat double IPA was deliciously fruity with a smooth balanced malt backbone of English malts. Hops came on strong with tons of sweet melon notes. I would love to visit the brewery the next time I am in town.

Raised Grain Brewing

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Raised Grain is a ways to the west of Downtown Milwaukee but well worth the drive. I tried a number of different beers from them and almost everything was excellent. They have a nice medium-sized tap room with plenty of bar seating and a number of tables. They had sports on their TVs and you could tell the locals have become regulars.

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The Naked Threesome was a delicious fruity pale ale with tons of grapefruit and a sticky caramel malt backbone. The Anniversary Stout was nutty with tons of vanilla and a smooth finish. Quite the tasty beer. The porter was an interesting mix of spice, cherry, mild smoke, and some burnt caramel notes. I found the cherry to be a bit much for my tastes though. The coffee stout on tap was delicious with tons of nutty coffee on the nose and the taste and a mild caramel finish. This was quite an excellent coffee stout.

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Before I left, the bartender offered a smaller pour of their staple imperial red IPA. It was deliciously balanced with tons of citrus and pine from the hops and some mild caramel and bread notes from the malts. With so many red IPAs being total malt bombs this was quite refreshing. The scotch ale was smooth and fruity wish some mild oak at the finish.

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Top 2:
Coffee Stout
Paradox Imperial Red IPA

Good City Brewing

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Despite the name, I found only half of the four tasters I ordered here to be drinkable. They started out strong with a mosaic pale that had tons of tropical fruit and hints of mango without significant malts or bitterness. The session IPA was bursting with papaya and creamy malt backbone with a crisp dry finish. If the rest of the beers were as good I would be praising them along side Raised Grain. Sadly, the next two were not very good.

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The Pale Lager had some notes of peaches and cherry with some quite prominent alcohol taste and a strong bitter finish. Though there was some mango in the finish as well, the bitterness and strong alcohol flavor killed it for me. Similarly, the double IPA had strong flavors of onion and a sticky sweet malt backbone. Though it had some fruity hop notes on the nose I got none of it in the taste. I was even more surprised to see that the brewery charged me just under $4 for the taster of this double IPA and almost $3 for each of the two IPAs. If I had noticed the $4 taster price on the board I would have passed it up out of principle. Charging twice as much for a pint as they do for a taster is ridiculous and hurts visitors who aren’t interested in ordering a full pint.

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Though I didn’t care for the second half of my flight, the first two beers were quite impressive and show that the brewer knows how to work with hops and can get the right flavors from them at least some of the time. I will give the brewery the benefit of the doubt and assume that they messed up with the double IPA though I question selling a beer so clearly off the mark. Still, paying $12 for essentially one pint of beer just because they are in tasters is a poor way to treat customers who aren’t going to buy a pint until they have had a few tasters.

Top 2:
Mosaic Pale
Session IPA

Black Husky Brewing

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Black Husky doesn’t offer typical 4oz tasters but instead 7oz tasters, which makes their pricing slightly more reasonable even if they still annoyingly price things essentially against the people who order anything but a full pour. Visitors aren’t going to order full pints of things if they are visiting multiple breweries in a single day. It just doesn’t make sense. So because of their large tasters I went with essentially half pours of their two IPAs.

The IPA with Citra was smooth and presented tons of tropical fruit notes from the hops. The IPA with mosaic had tons of bitter grapefruit with hints of lime in the finish. Both IPAs were made well though they were noticeably quite similar in the malt behind them. I would have tried more beers there but the styles available didn’t pique my interest.

Black Husky has a very nice theme going and some relaxing seating in the tasting room. Sadly, the tasting room also got quite loud even when it wasn’t completely full. This didn’t make me want to stay very long. They are worth dropping by if you are craving a good IPA because the two IPAs I tried were nicely done.

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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Northern Idaho Breweries, Selkirk Abbey, Post Falls Brewing, Daft Badger, Slate Creek, and Mad Bomber

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Selkirk has been brewing Belgian style ales in their location in Post Falls since 2011 though I hadn’t even heard about them when I was in the area a few years back. Now that I have visited, I’m not that surprised that they aren’t insanely hyped up. The beers don’t taste like any of the Belgian brews I have had in the past either from Belgium or American brewers. I did quite enjoy their Belgian IPA though.

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The Deacon Belgian style pale ale was smooth and malty with lots of fruit and mild spice and some bready malts. While it was a solid beer I found it to be far too heavy on the malts for my tastes. The St. Stephen saison was similarly malty and the first amber saison I have had (besides Biere de Garde style beers). It was quite thick with tons of fruit and very sweet. Again, I found this one to be a bit too malty for the style. The black saison was tasty with a dry finish and some nice mix of coffee, plum, and mild smoke notes.

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The Guilt, coffee porter, was very mild in the coffee department and dominated by dark fruit and overripe fruit on the finish. Though I wasn’t a fan of the beer on tap I did buy some bottles of the wine barrel aged version because it seems like it should be more to my tastes. The wine barrel version was absolutely phenomenal and I’m glad I bought two bottles to take home.

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The huckleberry wheat ale was smooth and not too sweet with just the right amount of berry taste in the finish. The Belgian IPA was quite different than any other I have had yet quite delicious. It is also malty but more balanced than the others with some nice citrus and grapefruit hops to balance the bread and fruit malt notes. The beer has a nice dank finish. I also got a bottle of Imperial Quad that I opened some time later at home and I was quite impressed with that one as well.

If you come in expecting dry, effervescent Belgian style beers like most are used to, you will be disappointed. However, if you are interested in exploring a more malt-forward style of Belgian beer and are in the area it might be worth stopping by Selkirk to see if they have some bottles of their barrel aged beers.

Slate Creek Brewing

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I stopped very briefly at Slate Creek because they had run out of the beer my Uncle recommended them most for, the black IPA. The three beers I tried were all well-brewed though fairly standard to style. The Nose Nectar pale ale was fairly standard fruity and dry pale ale. The IPA is a fairly standard old-school North West IPA with a good balance and prominent pine hops. The stout was tasty with notes of chocolate and a smoky finish.

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Though we went back to Spokane area after Slate Creek, I decided to group the Northern Idaho breweries in one post so next up is Post Falls Brewing.

Post Falls Brewing

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We went to Post Falls Brewing before lunch so I didn’t hit any of their beers too hard. I feel bad for the other breweries that we stopped here first because other breweries couldn’t compete with their fantastic IPAs. The MacGuyver IPA was balanced but bursting with tons of citrus hops. This is the first time I have had mosaic hops showcased on a beer that is so malty but done well enough that I really enjoyed it.

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The Double IPA was fairly malty as well but had a nice balance of mild booze kick and tons of melon flavor from the hops with a nice bitter finish. There were other IPAs on tap as well which are worth trying depending on your hop preference. I skipped a few that were listed with hops I don’t normally care for.

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The milk stout was quite nice with tons of roast and marshmallow notes. The imperial stout was a bit too bitter and smoky for me. It was also dominated by lots of dark fruit malts with a dry finish. I didn’t finish this one. The coffee pale was smooth and had nice mellow coffee. A solid beer. I was quite impressed with the IPAs at Post Falls Brewing and would certainly return if I end up in the area again.

Known For:
Come for the IPAs. They are nicely balanced and avoid being malt bombs.

Daft Badger Brewing

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This is one of those breweries that I hesitate to post about because it is hard to believe that so many of the beers served were as difficult to finish as the ones I was served. It was quite the popular place with tons of people eating their house BBQ but almost everything on my flight was a mess in one way or another.

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The Summer’s Envy, touted as a citra hop beer was completely lacking in aroma and was pure malt and bitterness. The double IPA was a malt bomb with a strong boozy kick and very mild notes of dankness and fruits. The imperial stout was intensely dark fruit and boozy on the finish. Huckleberry beer was fairly average with some berry notes that were a little on the syrup side. The scotch ale was almost to average but again it was far too much dark fruit and not enough roast.

Mad Bomber

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Despite hearing average things from my uncle before visiting, I had to go to Mad Bomber because of their logo and slogan “Make Beers not Bombs.” I was surprised by a lineup of some of the most restrained hoppy beers i have tasted, all of which were quite well made.

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The blonde was clean and crisp and mildly fruity. The pale ale was nice and balanced with tons of grass and pine and a very mild bitterness. The stout was bitter with molasses and roast, and a nice overall balance. The Fatman IPA was fruity with tons of peach notes from the hops and nicely balanced and smooth.

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Classified black IPA was tasty with tons of roast, some smoke, and mild bitterness. The XM20X was a bit more fruity and the most bitter of the bunch with nice fruity hops. I remarked to the bartender that this is the least aggressive hop character I have encountered from a brewery in quite some time. It is refreshing to taste such delicate hop flavors without being knocked over the head with bitterness. The only disappointing thing was that they didn’t have any shirts saying “Make beer not bombs.”

Come for:
Excellently balanced IPAs that are restrained on bitterness and overall clean beers.

Out of the four breweries in the area, I would recommend you visit Post Falls Brewing and Mad Bomber. They are both excellent breweries and plenty to satisfy you if you happen to be in the area visiting friends and family.

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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Spokeane Area Breweries, Twelve String and Iron Goat

12 String Brewing

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12 String was not on my list when I planned out the area but I arrived there thanks to some people I met at Selkirk Abbey. They had some excellent beers in a wide variety of styles. My very first beer in the taster flight was the passion fruit gose, one of the most balanced fruited gose beers I have had. It is balanced in that the fruit doesn’t overpower the complexity present in the base beer. The beer had a mild tart kick to it and an overall nice balance of flavors.

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The Jam Session IPA was a balanced IPA with lots of fruit and citrus notes, fairly standard. The C# #5 IPA had tons of pine and fruit from the hops but a bitterness that dominated it too strongly. The Rye IPA was malty with barely noticeable citrus hops and a good rye bite, fairly average. The Double Drip Imperial Stout was thick and mildly smoky with tons of roast and coffee. My husband really enjoyed this beer and we ended up bringing a 32oz growler home with us and giving one to my uncle the following day. Really excellent beer. The electric slide Double IPA was the best of the IPAs with tons of citrus and super smooth overall.

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Top 3:
Passion Fruit Gose
Double Drip Imperial Stout
Electric Slide Double IPA

Iron Goat

Iron Goat came highly recommended and I thought that all of their beers were very well done. They have a large tap room that is also a restaurant and it was busy but not overly so when we visited. I had a large flight of varying styles but focusing on the sours, IPAs, and farmhouse offerings.

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The Farmhouse ale was quite solid with a nice mix of spice and a good dry finish. The Rhubarb farmhouse was a tasty twist on the base beer with a good bite from the rhubarb. Both were very drinkable. The cherry sour was smooth and fruity and moderately juicy. At first it didn’t seem very sour but it got a bit tart as it warmed up. The blackberry apricot sour was my favorite of the bunch with lots of jam and a good tart finish. All the flavors blended very nicely.

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The headbutt IPA was super floral and piney with a strong bitter finish. This is a great beer to order if you love pine hops in your IPAs. The Impaler double IPA was balanced with dank citrus notes from the hops and a smooth caramel malt backbone. This was also a very tasty beer.

Top 2:
Blackberry Apricot Sour
Impaler Double 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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Thunderhawk Alements Miramar Area San Diego

Thunder Hawk has been in the planning stages for many months before finally opening in the crowded Miramar area of San Diego, which already houses over 10 breweries. Some would argue that it is growing too fast for the demand, and we will soon see if all the breweries can survive. Thunderhawk came in with a lineup of beers that are different from the usual style for the area. They aren’t following the trends but are instead making beer in a classic style.

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When I first visited the brewery in the first week of November, 2016 they had only four beers on tap because they have been selling their beer faster than they can brew it. On tap were an ESB, two pale ales, and a saison. The saison is also usually available in a version made with local pine needles. They also brew a popular double IPA and dopplebock. None of those beers were available at that time which is a good sign for them. An earlier version of their menu suggests that they consider the pale ales to be “West Coast Style.” I disagree with that but that doesn’t mean they are bad beers.

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One of the pale ales is made with more typical piney hops. The other is made with mosaic and citra, both known for their fruity and citrus character. Both beers were classic style with a balanced malt backbone and an underlying bitterness. I didn’t think the mosaic and citra beer tasted like I expect from either of those hops but it was dank, balanced, and clean. The Westworld pale, the piney of the two, was a bit herbal but still similarly balanced, dank, and not too bitter. These beers don’t have the same flavors everyone else around town is chasing with the juicy IPA craze but this gives them a longer shelf life and the flavors will stick around longer.

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The ESB initially was not a beer I could be very positive about. I got a lot of notes of overripe fruit from it and not much apricot or caramel like I would expect from the style. A friend of my mom’s who joined us at the brewery that evening was a huge fan of this beer though. She enjoyed it more than any of the other beers and didn’t taste the same flavors as strongly. Thankfully this seems to have been an issue with that batch and newer batches have come out much better as described below.

Great outdoor seating area for the warmer months.
Great outdoor seating area for the warmer months.

The oak aged saison was my favorite of the evening. With both ginger and honey I was worried that either of the two flavors would overpower the rest of the beer. Thankfully, everything was perfectly balanced with the ginger sitting in the back and the honey adding just the right amount of body to the beer. The oak gave it a fantastic smooth finish.

I came back a week later and their Dunkel was on along with their vanilla stout. The Overture dunkelweisen was smooth and balanced with notes of caramel and burnt toffee, an impressive beer and one of the few San Diego versions of the style I can drink. The Rise of Zemunda stout had tons of vanilla with some mild chocolate. It was very flavorful for a low alcohol stout.

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For my third visit before this post, I stopped by November 23 and tried their ESB wet hopped with Brewer’s Gold hops, regular ESB to compare, and the Punt Gun IPA. The Wet Hopped ESB was very tasty and had a nice mix of caramel malts, mild hops, and some mild coffee notes in the finish. This was so much better than my experience with the regular ESB that I asked for a splash to compare and the overripe fruits I had a problem with earlier were all gone. Their ESB is now a very enjoyable beer. The Punt Gun IPA has a ton of followers online but I hadn’t been able to taste it until today. I can see why. It is a really clean balanced IPA with notes of mango, apricot, an,d other tropical fruits with a mildly sweet finish.

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Thunderhawk has a gorgeous interior with lots of wood accents and a beautiful outdoor space that help set it apart from the rest of the breweries in the area and will go a long way towards bringing more people inside. Based on my repeated visits, i expect any issues I had with early batches will be remedied shortly. The excellent beers I have tried show me that the brewer will soon dial in any beers that aren’t quite there yet.

Top 2:
Punt Gun IPA
Dunkelweisen

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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Exploring San Diego's Craft Breweries