Miami Breweries – J Wakefield and Wynwood Brewing

J Wakefield Brewing

Both J Wakefield and Wynwood Brewing are in the Wynwood neighborhood known for graffiti and a small distance outside of downtown Miami. If you are staying on Miami Beach it is a bit of a drive to get out to the breweries but worth it if you are serious into beer. J Wakefield had their air conditioning at full blast, making it uncomfortably cold in the tasting room and music to match the urban graffiti look of the brewery complete with pounding bass on most songs. I came for their sours and stouts and was not disappointed, though the tasters were each $3 because of the beer styles. I chose to visit Wynwood Brewing after J Wakefield based on the recommendation of the server at J Wakefield.

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Their gose was clean and crisp with notes of citrus and fruit with mild salt at the finish. One Trick Pony is a bright pink color from the various fruits and I got notes of grapefruit rind, passionfruit and ginger. This was the most tart of the bunch and was very refreshing. Phat Bottom tastes like an apple tart (the pastry) with notes of honey and caramel, though was a bit too sweet for my tastes. Hops 4 Teacher was a bit sweet with a bitter finish that lingers on the tongue. It was fairly average as far as IPAs go.

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For my second flight I went high alcohol, with each beer over 10%. Brush has an intense chocolate marshmallow nose that translates nicely on the taste and a warming finish going down. The chocolate was subtle and everything was wonderfully balanced. Too Sweet was thick and tasty but overpowered by cinnamon and other spices, reminding me of a holiday ale. Gimme S’more was a more artificial tasting version of Brush without the fudge notes and compared to Brush wasn’t as good. I finished with Upper Body Strength, a collaboration triple IPA with Trillium. The beer had a light color and masked the alcohol really well. The hops gave off tons of fruit with lots of mango and citrus notes. It was a perfectly balanced triple IPA, a rarity for the style. I probably would have bought cans if they hadn’t sold out before I got there.

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Known For:
Come for fruited berliner weisse and intense adjunct stouts.

Top 2:
One Trick Pony
Brush

Wynwood Brewing

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In some ways I may be extra harsh because I came here after J Wakefield but I was not too excited by the beers here. They are slightly more established and had a clear draw in the community with people having parties and kids running around. I started with the Magic City pale ale which smelled like overripe fruit but once I got past that it was a solid balanced pale ale with fruity hops and a mild bitterness.

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House IPA was a bit herbal with a bitter finish, very similar style to the pale, probably the same malts. I couldn’t stand the hops they used to I didn’t finish this one. Citranella was their citra hop IPA but it tasted more like a lower alcohol barleywine with its strong malt backbone. Seems like a waste of the citra hops, which were barely detectable. The imperial stout was smooth and mildly sweet with hints of caramel and vanilla and some mild smoke.

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Wynwood seems to know how to make beer but their IPAs are all far too malty and lack the intense hop aromas that make the style enjoyable. If you prefer the modern style of lower malt IPAs then you won’t like their beers all that much. I didn’t try their other styles that people seemed to be drinking a lot of, like the blonde 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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Alvarado Street Brewing Monterey California

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.
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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.
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Yes that one in the center is an IPA.
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.
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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.
Top 2: 
Minesweeper IPA
Wharf Rat 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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Faction Brewing, Alameda, Bay Area California

The Bay Area is large and can often take quite a while to get from one area to another. So while there are some amazing breweries elsewhere, there is a benefit to knowing what you can visit without going too far. My husband’s cousin and her family are in Alameda and we often stay with them while we are in the Bay Area so I visited the brewery on a lazy Sunday during my last trip. If you can’t make it out to Berkeley for Fieldwork or San Francisco for Cellarmaker, the IPAs at Faction are excellent and will satisfy most enthusiasts.

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There were so many beers on the board that there was no way I was going to try them all at $2.50 a taster (fairly standard these days). But most of what I tried was quite impressive. I started with the Southern Aroma pilsner, SAPA (pale ale with South African hops), Penske File pale, Norcal Beer Geek IPA, and Cafe Latte. I then got tasters of NZ IIPA, Blitzen IIIPA, Hop Soup IIPA, and the Oatmeal Stout.

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The Southern Aroma was an excellent pilsner with a clean dry finish and mild citrus kick. The SAPA had tons of pine and resin with a bitter finish and hints of orange peel. The Penske File had a strong bitter grapefruit kick with hints of pineapple behind that. Norcal Beer Geeks IPA was my favorite of the day. Super smooth and balanced it has notes of pine and resin with some citrus and a mellow bitterness. This is a more classic style IPA but done very nicely.

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Cafe Late was a bit strange tasting because it was an older batch but it is also made with cold brew coffee rather than adding coffee beans to the beer. I would recommend trying a splash before ordering a full pint. The oatmeal stout was excellent with a medium body and tons of roast with a smooth mouthfeel. The NZ IIPA was thick and dry without being overly bitter or sweet and tons of fruit notes from the hops. Other double and triple IPAs were similarly well-crafted. The hop soup had more resin and pine notes with a hint of grapefruit and floral notes behind it. Blitzen was a dangerously easy drinking beer for the alcohol and had nice notes of citrus and pine.

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While they aren’t yet doing the juicy hazy IPAs you can get at Cellarmaker and Fieldwork, the beers at Faction I tasted were all nicely done and would be plenty to satisfy most hop heads. They have a very unique location out on an old navy hard with high ceilings and a large outdoor seating area and a separately large indoor seating area behind the large tasting room. It has quite an echo and the tasting room gets loud with only a few loud people. I brought a growler of the Norcal Beer Geek IPA to share when I left and my husband’s cousin’s husband really enjoyed it. Hopefully he will return regularly now that he knows what to order.

Faction Brewing 02

Known for:
Come for their wide selection of IPAs. Try the Norcal Beer Geek, my favorite of the bunch.

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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10 San Diego Breweries Making Great Hazy IPAs in 2017

The Haze Craze is here to stay and is just going to grow bigger in the coming months. While a few Los Angeles area breweries have been getting a lot of attention for the style, I want to focus this post on where you can find the haze in San Diego. I hope to do new posts throughout the year as this information changes rapidly.

1) Modern Times Brewing

(Sports Arena and North Park)
The brewery is doing monthly can releases you can pre-order online or buy direct from the source starting the release day party. Most of these beers show up on tap at the tasting room prior to release so you can figure out which ones you like best. Word on the street is the Modern Times hazy IPA cans hit the sweet spot after two weeks.

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Photo by Mike Lindeblad

2) Pure Project

(Miramar)
Pure Project releases small batches of hazy beers at their tasting room on tap and does small batch can releases. People report the first canned IPA release the hops faded quickly and the beer sold out same day.

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3) Mikkeller San Diego

(Miramar)
Mikkeller is doing regular small batch can releases and have already announced that they expect to do a number of hazy releases throughout the year.

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4) Council Brewing

(Clairemont)
Though Council has only done one hazy can release so far, a collaboration with Alvarado Street Brewing, they already have a great reputation among hop heads. I expect we will see more hazy can releases throughout the year. They may decide to stick with the sour hazy IPAs like their first release, which would help them differentiate from the rest.

Photo from Councils official Facebook Page.
Photo from Councils official Facebook Page.

5) Coronado Brewing

(Coronado)
Though not released in small batches at the tasting room, Coronado recently released their North Island IPA, their attempt at the style. I haven’t tried it but I heard great things from fellow enthusiasts. This one is in bottles as opposed to cans.

Breweries with hazy IPAs on tap only

6) Abnormal Beer Company

(Rancho Bernardo)
Abnormal has released an astounding number of IPAs over the short time they have been open. In 2016 they released New Money, their hazy IPA and it disappeared quickly from every bar that had it on tap.

7) Resident Brewing

(Downtown San Diego)
Resident released a hazy galaxy hop IPA in 2016 and followed it with other delicious hazy offerings. So far they have only been available on tap.

My additional pour of the delicious Chasing Galaxy IPA.
My additional pour of the delicious Chasing Galaxy IPA.

8) Half Door Brewing

(Downtown San Diego)
Despite opening in the style of a traditional Irish Pub, Half Door hasn’t wasted any time experimenting with other styles. Though I haven’t tried their hazy IPAs, word around town is that they are just as good as Resident.

9) Burgeon Beer Company

(Carlsbad)
This small brewery barely had a grand opening but already when I visited they had some excellent hazy IPAs. I expect more to come this year as word gets out.

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10) Burning Beard

(El Cajon)
Burning Beard is known mostly for their traditionally balanced IPAs but they have been experimenting with hazy IPAs and they released a couple of small batch hazy IPAs in 2016 that were quite popular. With how delicious their core IPAs are, you can’t go wrong with anything from them.

Photo from Burning Beards official Facebook Page.
Photo from Burning Beards official Facebook Page.

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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Two new Breweries in Carlsbad – Culver and Burgeon

Culver Beer Company

Culver Beer Company has a fairly large tap list and a few solid beers though I felt they missed the mark on the IPAs. Thankfully, some other beers they had were solid. I had six tasters in total during my visit. They have a good sized tasting room with plenty of areas to sit. When I read that they were in Carlsbad I assumed they would be right off the 5 freeway but they are actually a bit more inland. Still, they are not too difficult to get to from the freeway. Another thing to keep in mind for both Culver and Burgeon is that the cell signal is quite weak at both. Burgeon had issues with their wi-fi when I visited but Culver had a solid wi-fi.

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The Pilsner was fruity and floral with a mild bitterness though I found the bitter finish was a little too strong for the style. The amber lager had some nice fruit notes including some cherry and an herbal/pepper finish from the hops. It had a nice clean finish and was a solid start for a beer of this style. The hoppy saison was a nice balance of fruity hops and spices with a medium body and mild bitterness.

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The vanilla stout smelled nice with an intense vanilla on the nose but when I actually tasted it, it tasted a bit off, with a strange bitter finish. I am not sure what was up with this but it didn’t taste like a stout. The Street Walker IPA was floral and intensely bitter with a fruity finish including some banana. It is a decent IPA if you don’t mind intense floral hops. The True Hero IIPA was grassy with hints of pine but was a bit off on the finish. I asked the brewer about it and they said they had a power outage during brewing that prevented it from finishing properly. I hope that is all that happened.

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Culver isn’t making bad beer such that I would say you shouldn’t ever visit them, but they are not making anything that is worth seeking out if you don’t live nearby or crave a well-done lager.

Top 2:
Amber Lager
Hoppy Saison

Burgeon Beer Company

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I went to Burgeon Beer Company directly after Culver Beer Company. They are pretty close by and have an even larger tasting room. The tap list was smaller at Burgeon and so I only ordered four tasters. The milk stout was tasty and presented a nice roast character with a creamy finish. The pale ale is a nice balance of crisp pine and grapefruit with a medium bitterness and an overall good balance.

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The IPA was a nice hazy orange color and had excellent fruit character with notes of tangerine and tropical fruit. The double IPA was lighter in color but similarly hazy with hints of pineapple, vanilla, and grapefruit. Both the single and double IPA had a nice acidic finish. I was quite impressed by everything at Burgeon and if I lived in the area I would be there regularly for their hazy IPAs.

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Top 2:
IPA
Double IPA

Out of the two, I would recommend Burgeon for those who are into hoppy beers especially hazy IPAs though Culver is doing some solid lagers and has an interesting variety of beer styles to choose from. I expect Burgeon will do great things in the coming year.

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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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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Exploring San Diego's Craft Breweries