I recently went to San Francisco for a few days with my fiance. While I was there I spent some time with relatives in Fremont and Oakland. Most importantly, I got to try a number of beers from around the area. As you will see, not all of the beers I tried were from San Francisco itself, but I couldn’t resist a chance to try some beers I might not see in San Diego for a while. This will be a multiple part post starting with the beers I enjoyed in other bars in outlying areas. Then I will split into two or three posts the beers I enjoyed within the city of San Francisco itself.
One brewery I saw quite a few times represented was Drake’s Brewing from San Leandro. I didn’t get to actually visit the brewery but various beers from there were on tap at the different places I visited. The more I saw from them, the more I was glad I got to try their beers. The first day I was in town we went down for High Tea at a teahouse and after that my fiance decided to do some shopping nearby so I escaped to a small bar nearby for a pint. I was disappointed that they served beer in chilled glasses but I didn’t want to waste good beer so I didn’t send it back.
I got to try a nice local Irish Red that was typical for the style while my friend ordered a Denogginizer from Drake’s Brewing. It was too early in the day for a double IPA so I was glad I didn’t order one myself but I ended up having a good enough taste from the beer to get a good idea of the flavors. Though it looked a bit darker it was not overly malty. The beer had a nice grapefruit flavor up front and tasted almost like a double version of Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA.
After leaving this small bar, we hung out a while before heading over to Tied House in Mountain View for beer and dinner. I was excited when I saw various single hop IPAs available to let me get a good flavor profile for the hop used. I tried a small taste of the two different IPAs before settling on the Chinook Single Hop IPA.
Despite the dark color, this beer had a nice forward hop flavor. The Chinook hop gave it a good pine flavor that came through nicely. It was a solid balanced beer. After enjoying the single hop beers, I tried a few of the double IPAs available and the barleywine. I was not impressed by either of them enough for me to try more than a taster of either. I simply recall the doubles as being too malty for my tastes.
The beer selection was solid at Tied House and I was overall quite satisfied by the food. My friend indicated that this was the first place in a long time where they actually gave him extra crispy fries. I found the fish tacos quite delicious with a pineapple habanero sauce (though it was not as hot as I might have hoped). My first day in the area was a success and I wish now I had gotten more Drake’s beer than I did.
Hess has been around for a while. They started out as a nanobrewery and for a long time were one of the smallest breweries around the Mira Mesa area. Slowly but surely they expanded their reach and this year they opened a brewery in North Park. Sadly, the Mira Mesa tasting room still uses plastic cups for the tasters and they charge a premium for the chance to get your tasters in a glass. Considering that some of the smaller breweries out there use glass for their tasters it seems a bit quaint that they would stick with this route. Part of why I didn’t go back since my last visit was the plastic cups used for everything.
Beer wise, Hess has an interesting selection. They are not the place to go if you like heavy hop flavors in your beers. Today I got to try a few tasters because the selection was so large that I couldn’t possibly try everything, though I am not sure I will go back to finish out the rest. The Pumpkin Stout was interesting and I had it both on tap and on nitro. Though it has a nice creamy flavor it was not particularly impressive. There wasn’t a lot of pumpkin flavor in the beer to make it stand out from the rest of the pumpkin beers, and also not much spice flavor either. Still, as a stout it was really good even if it did not have the flavor to match its high 8% abv.
The IPA was interesting in that it wasn’t insanely malty like some and wasn’t insanely hopy either. So it was a nice balanced brew and had some solid hop flavors. Still, it did not do enough to compete with some of the better IPAs I have had recently, especially the Perseus IPA from Intergalactic. The Belgian American Pale was the standout from what I had this day. It has the sweet flavors of a Belgian beer with the added bitterness of a pale. I wasn’t about to order a pint in plastic cups though. I finished off with a taster of the Rye Imperial Stout. It had a solid stout flavor with the chocolate flavors but did not really impress me compared to other similar beers I have had recently.
Compared to some of the upstart breweries around here, I would suggest you give Hess a try if you like the Belgian flavors. Hop heads should look elsewhere for now. I probably won’t be back until they start using glasses.
I’ll be the first to admit that the Nut Brown at Alesmith is a solid beer but doesn’t really impress me. I have learned though that it is never a good idea to pass up a chance to try a barrel aged version of a beer even if you are not a big fan of the underlying beer. Most of the time this means the beer is aged in a bourbon barrel. This gives most beers a hint of bourbon flavor, and so works really well with brown ales and ambers.
I was so impressed by the flavor of this beer that I had two pints. Usually the beers I enjoy are so strong that this is not possible without stumbling out on the street but since this is only 5% I really enjoyed having two pints. The bourbon flavors are relatively mild with this one so that it does not overpower the flavor of the nut brown. If you stop by the brewery and see this available, be sure to order at least a taster so you can see if this is the beer for you.
I hope all my readers in the United States had a wonderful Thanksgiving day yesterday. It isn’t Thanksgiving without beer so I was ready with two growlers from some local breweries to share with my family. I had a 32oz growler of Intergalactic Perseus IPA, which by this point many of my family thought tasted like Sculpin (a huge compliment). It was interesting to taste the way the flavor changed since it was fresh a month ago or so. I also opened a bottle of Rough Draft Eraser IPA after the Perseus, which followed nicely. For dessert, I had a 32oz growler of Rough Draft Stout, just what my friends love. They were glad that I thought of them to bring some of their favorite beer fresh.
For Black Friday many of my local breweries had special beers available but they weren’t open very early so I decided instead to reward myself for my restraint yesterday and open a bottle of Stone Punishment I had waiting in the wine fridge (now beer fridge). The less chilled temperatures were perfect for this beer to let out the amazing flavors and heat.
I’m interested to hear what you had to celebrate and give thanks this year. Let me know in the comments.
I stopped by Intergalactic Brewing today to try out one of their new brews tapped just in time for Thanksgiving. I couldn’t resist the thought of an imperial pilsner. I can’t remember ever seeing one before intergalactic announced the Stellar Collision. This 8.8% monster hits hard with sweet apricot flavors and comes through with the rye at the end. Though it isn’t very dark it has a lot in common with more malt heavy double ipas. I delighted in the taster but I’m not so sure I could drink a pint of it.
The triple ipa is an enormous 11.5%. That’s no Moon Ipa explodes with grapefruit flavor. It rivals the Green Bullet though is slightly more malty. It is easily one of the best beers I have tasted from intergalactic and possibly the strongest ipa I’ve ever tasted. You never know how long new beers will last at intergalactic so stop by to give these a try before they are gone.
Some people might spend their Sundays watching sports. I prefer to seek out new breweries. A quick google search alerted me to one nearby that I hadn’t tried so I couldn’t help but stop by. 2Kids has only been open for a few months but already they have a solid selection of beers.
As you can see, the tasting room is pretty barebones and there aren’t many places to sit. Tasters are served in plastic cups though if you order a pint, they are served in glass. If you are tired of the stronger beers that everyone brews in San Diego, this is a nice place to stop in for something that you can drink all day.
UPDATE: Tasters are now served in glasses.
For a 3.1% session, the Ordinary Bitter is not bad. I found both the Ordinary Bitter and the Cream Ale to be a bit too light for my tastes. The California Common was my second favorite of the day. It is a nice smooth amber lager with nice caramel flavors. The IPA was a bit on the malty side for my tastes but it might satisfy those who find the average San Diego IPA to be too heavy on the hops.
UPDATE: The latest batch of the Obligatory IPA has stepped up the IBU and changed the recipe a bit. It is still primarily a malty IPA, because that is the “American IPA” style but it has a bit more hop flavor than it used to.
The chocolate stout was rich and flavorful. It impressed me the most of all the beers here. Because of how much cocoa goes into the beer, it costs a bit more but it is well worth it. It has just the right amount of alcohol for something you could drink for an afternoon. The chocolate flavors come forward nice and strong. The Saison is a solid representation of the style, though a bit on the darker side. It didn’t really wow me but if you like the plum and apricot flavors in your beer it might be just your thing.
Considering what I’ve had at a few other brewery launches, 2Kids is off to an impressive start. I look forward to seeing what they come up with in the future. If you stop in, make sure you try the stout.
UPDATE: The new Belgian IPA is pretty solid, with plenty of sweetness from the Belgian yeast and some nice citrus flavors from the hops.
At an intense 11.2%, this is the kind of beer you have to sip, unless you want to wake up on the floor. I was able to get this lovely beer on tap a week ago and thought it was a bit too malty on tap. Thankfully, the version in the bottle has that nice hop kick that makes it so enjoyable. Make no mistake, this is a very malty beer but also quite hoppy. I look forward to the release each year and this year’s batch is quite impressive.
Keep this away from your friends who don’t appreciate bitter brews unless you can stand their wrath when they can’t believe you would serve them something this bitter. Though something that devious would be necessary to make you a proper double bastard yourself. My fiance learned pretty quick to sniff a beer before tasting it so he wouldn’t touch this, though I might not risk his wrath by putting it in front of him either. The caramel flavors are given a nice intensity by the hops. This is highly recommended to hop heads and strong beer addicts.
I live so close to Green Flash that I only stop in when there is a food truck I am interested in. I can pick up most of my favorite beers at the store so that is good enough for me. Tonight I stopped by Green Flash to taste the food from God Save the Cuisine and I was glad I did. While I was there, I figured I would re-visit some of the regular beers in taster format. The photos are a bit darker than usual because it was night and I hate flash.
I had tasted each of these beers before but it always helps to give them a fresh look after all the beers I’ve had since then. All four impressed me and later I added a taster of the Serrano Double Stout to round out the evening. I found the Imperial IPA to be nice and refreshing. It is best to compare it to the Le Freak. While both beers have characteristics of both Belgian style beers and IPAs, the Imperial IPA is more on the IPA side and Le Freak more on the Belgian side. Both have great flavor though the Le Freak is a little bit sweeter. Grand Cru has a lot of that Belgian flavor as well though it is more on the darker side. Grand Cru and Le Freak were both favorites of mine at different times. Last fall when they first put out the Grand Cru I was hooked on it for months.
I then went for the Green Bullet, which I have been a huge fan of from the start. This Tripple IPA is really hoppy and just blows you away with the pine flavors. It is in my top five beers of all time and is a true achievement for Green Flash. The Serrano Double Stout was decent but not very spicy. Though I do enjoy the double stout on occasion, the Serrano flavors were not particularly strong here, nor was the beer very spicy.
To go with these beers, I ordered the smoked salmon flatbread sandwich and my mom ordered the lamb. Both were quite tasty although the lamb was a bit more spicy than we expected. The salmon had some bitter greens in there, perhaps even arugula. The capers and cream cheese rounded out the salmon nicely, giving it a fantastic flavor. I will certainly be trying this food truck again soon.
You really have to compare both beers at once to get the full idea about how interesting they are. Punishment is slightly hotter than I had from those Habanero Sculpin and Ghost Pepper Dorado at Ballast Point. The beer flavors are much better with this though because the underlying beer is so strong. The flavors of the peppers are quite strong and come at you really nicely. Under it you can barely taste the barrel aged flavors and the nice thick flavors of the beer. These beers are both brewed with Habaneros, Nagas, and Moruga chilis. Each of these is so hot that few people would eat it raw.
Compared to Punishment, Crime is only slightly less hot. Even though Crime is not as hot as Punishment, it is still quite hot on its own. If Punishment is a 6/10 heat (when compared to hot sauces and curry), Crime is a 5/10. Crime is made with the same peppers as Punishment and the pepper flavors are there just as strong. At $17 per bottle, I don’t recommend you buy a bottle unless the idea of beer that sets your mouth on fire excites you, though I would not have any problem taking some from a friend who couldn’t stand the heat. To get the most heat, make sure you let it warm up a little bit when you drink it. I noticed a decent increase in heat when I let the Crime warm up while drinking it.
For those who don’t need heat, there is a Southern Charred variety that doesn’t have any peppers. I haven’t tried it but I expect it has many of the same barrel aged flavors and can be enjoyed for the full flavor. While I won’t be buying any more bottles after this, my friend is hooked and will probably end up going through at least five bottles of Punishment.
I had visited Saint Archer once before and was impressed by the IPA but not so much that I was compelled to return to have more. Fast forward a few months and I noticed some San Diego Beer week specialties on tap so I had to return and brought with me a few friends to share. This time I got to taste the IPA, double IPA, and the Stout both on cask and on tap.
I was once again quite impressed by the IPA. It has all the qualities I love in a solid IPA without the heavy malts that sometimes make good IPAs un-drinkable. It is a little lighter than most people in San Diego might be used to from an IPA but it has a full body and is quite good. The double IPA is only a few percentages stronger and has a nice lighter appearance, meaning it is also not a malty beer. The flavors are very similar to Green Bullet from Green Flash though a few percentages lighter.
The American Stout was interesting because it was not the typical heavy chocolate or heavy coffee flavors you might expect from a stout in San Diego. It has a bit of hops added to it that gives it a bitterness that counters a lot of the sweetness you typically taste in stouts and porters. The hop flavors are light enough that they might not offend hop-haters out there but mild enough that they don’t reach the level of the Sublimely Self Righteous from Stone. The cask version of the stout was a little more creamy but because the underlying stout was not as sweet it did not impress me as much as other stouts on cask.
Saint Archer has a nice seating area with bar stools and tables with plenty of room for a lot of people to hang out.
Update October 2014
Saint Archer has been brewing a lot of great beers since I last visited them. Most recently, they won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for their white ale. I visited them for a few tasters on October 6, 2014 and had a taste of the pale ale and the white ale along with a black lager.
The white ale is a very nice Belgian ale with citrus and spice aromas and flavors. It has a very light body but is quite tasty. The pale ale batch on tap was barely a week old and I could taste some nice crisp citrus and pine flavors. the pale ale was just what I wanted. The black lager was a bit light on the body and mostly had flavors of roasted malts. Hopefully future batches will be a bit more heavy.
Saint Archer sells six packs of the pale ale, blonde, IPA, and white ale. They also sell 22oz bottles of all four plus the double IPA and coffee brown. They make sure to sell the freshest bottles and cans at the tasting room so stop in for a six pack the next time you are in the mood.