Alesmith Barrel Aged Beers for New Years Eve 2013

Even though tasting rooms can’t stay open until midnight, that doesn’t mean that they can’t have some fun celebrating the new year. Some breweries decided to celebrate when it turned 2014 in other parts of the country, while Alesmith decided to bring out some fun barrel aged beers. I have to admit I mostly went to try the Peanut Butter Cup Speedway Stout but sadly it was already sold out by the time I got there. Thankfully, there were plenty of good specialty options available to keep me satisfied.

Alesmith barrel aged options, 12/31/2013.
Alesmith barrel aged options, 12/31/2013.

Thankfully they weren’t out of the Pino Noir Barrel Aged Grand Cru, Bourbon Barrel Aged Speedway Stout (both on tap and on cask), and Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Old Numbskull. I’ve been a big fan of barrel-aged beers since the first one I tried. Until recently though, I hadn’t tried many that had been aged in wine barrels. Now I have decided that I don’t like wine barrel aged beers, though I will continue to try them when offered to see if I am proven wrong. While bourbon and whiskey barrels tend to give a nice sweet taste, wine barrels tend to give a sour taste. Unless you like sours then you might want to stick to the bourbon and whiskey barrel aged beers.

Left to right, Cask Speedway Barrel Aged, Barrel Aged Grand Cru, Barrel Aged Old Numbskull, and Barrel Aged Speedway on Tap.
Left to right, Cask Speedway Barrel Aged, Barrel Aged Grand Cru, Barrel Aged Old Numbskull, and Barrel Aged Speedway on Tap.

The wine barrel aged Grand Cru was about what I should have expected. The wine gives it a sour flavor that sadly kept me from enjoying it. Other people with me did enjoy the sour taste though. The two versions of bourbon barrel aged Speedway Stout were quite delicious. The cask was smoother and you could taste the bourbon a bit stronger. The tap had a bit more of a chocolate flavor in it. Both were quite enjoyable and should satisfy fans of the regular Speedway. The whiskey barrel aged Old Numbskull was quite delicious, and my favorite among the bunch. The whiskey flavors came through strong and were mellowed out by the beer.

I was quite glad I made it out to check out Alesmith for these special barrel-aged brews even though I missed the Peanut Buttercup Speedway Stout. Make sure you stop by your local brewery when they have some barrel aged beers but keep in mind that wine barrels tend to give the beers a sour flavor.

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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Acoustic Aleworks, Light but Hoppy

In an environment where most of the breweries serve tons of stronger beers, it is nice to have an option for more fresh hopped extra pale ales and session IPAs. Acoustic Aleworks does have an IPA called Willow Wolves but when I dropped by it was only available on cask and nitro. Because of how both cask and nitro mellow out IPAs I rarely like IPAs that way. I did quite enjoy the white IPA though. I will keep an eye out for their beers in bottles in 2014.

Acoustic Ales has a nice relaxed atmosphere resembling a jazz club. Instead of the usual plastic bar-stools, they have leather stools and low leather chairs to sit in. This is a pretty small tasting room so it might not be able to fit more than 20 or 30 people comfortably.

Acoustic Aleworks tap list as of 12/28/2013.
Acoustic Aleworks tap list as of 12/28/2013.
Acoustic Aleworks.
Acoustic Aleworks.

I only had a few tasters here because I had already enjoyed so much good beer at Modern Times just a bit earlier. I started with a taster of the white IPA and session IPAs. The Session IPA had a nice light earthy hop flavor. At 5%, it is almost a full on IPA or extra pale. The white IPA was the highlight of the night for me. While many white IPAs have been too sour for me, this one was not sour at all. It had a nice light sweetness to it as well. If this had been my only stop of the night I would have ordered a pint.

Acoustic Aleworks Dec 2013 04

Pint of cask Willow Wolves IPA and taster of double IPA.
Pint of cask Willow Wolves IPA and taster of double IPA.

My sister ordered a pint of the Willow Wolves IPA on cask. It was about what I expected from a cask IPA, too smooth for what I like. I had a hard time really distinguishing the hop flavors compared to the white IPA. The double IPA was good but again a bit too resiny/piney for my tastes. Thankfully there was enough citrus flavor to round it out.

Acoustic Aleworks seemed to me like they were trying too many things without making sure to master some solid mainstay brews. I’ll have to make it back some time to see what Willow Wolves is like on tap. I also did not have time to try anywhere near all of the beers because of the insane number of options. I expect this many beers at Green Flash but it seems a little overkill for such a new brewery.

Update: July 2015

I visited Acoustic Ales again in July 2015 to see how things had progressed since my last visit. This time they had the Willow Wolves on tap but the Run for the Hills IIPA was only available on cask. I can’t tell if the tap versions are super popular or if they are more focused on cask beers. Either way, I was glad to get to taste the willow wolves on tap.

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Though they still have a surprisingly large tap list for such a young brewery, it now makes more sense because they are actually bottling a large number of beers and their list of core beers is a whole 12 beers long. Besides the one above I also tried a cask of the Run for the Hills and a cask of the Groupie Belgian with grapefruit zest. The cask IIPA was very smooth with a nice lemon flavor. This beer was dangerously drinkable considering the high ABV. The cask of the Groupie was very nice sporting a good blend of Belgian yeast and subtle grapefruit.

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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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Modern Times Brewing, Hoppy Beers for Hop Heads

I’m going to try to eventually hit all the breweries out of my area but as you can understand with so many good breweries so close together it is hard to find motivation to make it down to other breweries. Today I went to Modern Times and Acoustic Aleworks because they are so close together. At first I wasn’t sure that I was in the right place even though I knew I had followed the directions exactly. Like many breweries, Modern Times doesn’t have much fancy signage outside. You might walk right past it if it isn’t very busy. Thankfully it is right behind a few nude bars that you see every time you drive down Rosecrans. The parking could be better but considering the area it isn’t surprising.

View of the brewery from outside.
View of the brewery from outside.

Thankfully, the brewery looks much better inside. As soon as you step foot in the door you can feel the unique vibe of the place that comes from the stacks of books under the bar, the comic books on the wall to the left, the 8-bit-inspired art on the wall to the right, and other unique decorations all around. It is unlike any other brewery I have ever visited. If it wasn’t for the few tables near the larger window in the wall it would be as dark as a speak-easy.

Wall of comic-books.
Wall of comic-books.
8-bit-inspired artwork on the wall.
8-bit-inspired artwork on the wall.

The brewery has a fairly small selection compared to some of the places I frequent, but it isn’t hurt by it. The four mainstays offer enough variety that most people should find something to enjoy and they had two seasonal offerings that rounded out the selection nicely. Though they did give me a discount because of my blog I did not learn of this until after I had already written about the beers. It was also small enough that it wouldn’t influence my writings.

I started things off with a flight of four tasters. Though the offerings at first seem typical, I can assure you they are not. They have a saison, a hoppy amber, a hoppy wheat bear, and a coffee stout. The saison is the only one that is what you might expect. I’m not typically a fan of saison beers so I can’t say if it was a good or bad one but it was more drinkable than some I have had elsewhere.

Taster flight. Saison (top left), Hoppy Amber (top right), Hoppy Wheat (bottom left), Coffee Stout (bottom right)
Taster flight. Saison (top left), Hoppy Amber (top right), Hoppy Wheat (bottom left), Coffee Stout (bottom right)
Modern Times tap list as of December 28, 2013
Modern Times tap list as of December 28, 2013

I quite enjoyed both the hoppy wheat and hoppy amber. The hoppy wheat reminded me most of a session IPA or an extra pale ale. It had a nice hop flavor up front and a mellow flavor with the lighter alcohol. This might be a good way to introduce your friends to hops. The hoppy amber most closely resembled a San Diego IPA with the up-front Nelson hop flavors. Nelson hops deliver the familiar grapefruit taste and it was quite prominent here. I left with a four-pack of 16oz cans of the hoppy amber because it was my favorite of the night. To round off the flight, we had some coffee stout, which was a nice lighter alcohol stout. Flavor wise, it was on the bitter side and was close to having a cup of iced coffee. This is not for people who prefer sweeter stouts.

Books stacked up under the bar.
Books stacked up under the bar.

I also tried the IPA, made with bread yeast, and the double IPA before I left. I wasn’t very big on the flavors of the IPA. I tasted a light bitter flavor at the front with a little pineapple behind it. The double IPA was quite drinkable but a bit too heavy on the pine/resin flavors for my tastes. It certainly is well balanced but I prefer double IPAs with more citrus flavors.

Modern Times Brewing Dec 2013 01

Modern Times is one of the first San Diego breweries to offer to fill blank growlers and sell their own growler-cozies that you can slip onto a growler from any other brewery. Eventually we should see both of these become standard but for now they are the first that I am aware of. If you like San Diego IPAs, it is worth stopping by Modern Times for some of the Blazing World hoppy amber. Look for the Blazing World in stores as well and be sure to grab some.

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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Victory at Sea Day 2013

I sadly didn’t get to try all the special beers Ballast Point had available this year for Victory at Sea Day. I did get to try the beers last year and liked some and disliked others. Because the crowd was so insane last year I decided to stop by the brewery a little later than I might have otherwise. This meant that by the time I got there they were out of all of the special flavors except for one. In the end it wasn’t a complete waste of a trip though because I got to try two awesome barrel aged beers.

Devil's Share Victory at Sea (Left), Bourbon Barrel Aged Black Marlin Porter (right)
Devil’s Share Victory at Sea (Left), Bourbon Barrel Aged Black Marlin Porter (right)

What is this about different flights I missed? Ballast Point had ten different flavors of Victory at Sea available for tasting today and you had to buy one of two flights of five beers (or both). Since I hate huge crowds more than I love good beer, I chickened out and came by later, after they had already sold out. [I would have noticed that they were out of flights if I had checked Facebook but I didn’t have time to drive down to the other locations anyway.]

So the two beers I did have were both quite delicious and worth stopping by. As you might expect from a lighter beer, the Bourbon Barrel Aged Black Marlin Porter had some heavy bourbon flavor coming through that almost overpowered the underlying beer completely. It had a great heavy aroma of bourbon on the nose and went down smooth. The Devil’s Share Victory at Sea in Oak barrels was the highlight of the day for me. I could tell which was which because the Victory at Sea had some nice coffee aromas on the nose. The beer is so strong that the oak and Devil’s Share Whiskey flavors are much more subtle. It has the same delightful thick coffee flavors you might expect and some delicious whiskey flavors as well. I went back for a second taster because it was so good.

Did you get to try some of the flights at Victory at Sea day? What was your favorite?

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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Craft Beer Lover’s Wedding

Tomorrow (December 20, 2013) I will be getting married to a man. My husband was a bit slow to come around to enjoying craft beer but now enjoys a good stout and porter. If it had been up to me, the reception would be just beer, but he and others convinced me to have some snacking food. Though my selections aren’t perfect I had to keep in mind the varying tastes of my guests because not all of them love the bitter sting of an IPA. So I thought I’d share with everyone the beers I chose for the wedding.

Wedding Beer
Wedding Beer

San Diego beer drinkers will recognize that most of the beer here is from San Diego breweries. First off, two ballast point brewer’s selections. These multi-packs first became available this year and help satisfy guests who like a good pale ale and amber while including one of San Diego’s top IPAs, the Sculpin. Big Eye IPA is also solid and rounds out the pack. From Stone, another San Diego Brewery, I have six 22oz bottles of the 2013 Vanilla Bean Smoked Porter. This is for my husband and anyone else who prefers a good porter. Those same people might also appreciate the Full Suit Belgian Brown from Karl Strauss, one of the bigger San Diego breweries. Also from Karl Strauss is their Tower 10 IPA, a favorite of mine that looks like it was freshly released. To top it all off, I have two (though only one pictured here) of the delightful New Belgium Folly Pack 2013 (as I reviewed in my earlier post). This set is nice because it has some lighter seasonal brews and some IPA and even a Double IPA (the strongest beer of the night).

This gives us a total of 108 12oz bottles of beer and 6 22oz bottles of beer. Assuming 30 out of our 40 guests drink beer, that is about 3 or 4 drinks per person.

[NOTE: I purposefully did not get a bunch of Green Bullet or other beers over 9% because I want to be able to enjoy myself without going overboard. I also purposefully did not buy a bunch of growlers or a keg. It is better to have a variety than to assume that everyone will love my favorite IPA.

If you happen to notice that the boxes are empty, you are correct. The beers are all chilling in the fridge so I don’t have to put them on ice.]

What beers would you have at your wedding? 

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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Peak Brewing Organic IPA

I like to buy things at Trader Joe’s fairly often. I can’t resist a 6-pack of IPA for less than $10, so I had to try the Peak Brewing Company Organic IPA, brewed all the way out in Maine. I must have gone through three six packs in the last month of this stuff because it is so good. At $7.99 for a 6-pack, you can’t beat it. Most local breweries tend to charge more than $10 for a 6-pack of their IPA.

Peak Organic IPA

The beer pours a nice amber color and yet has the hop flavors at the front. Initially it tasted very similar to a Stone IPA but a little heavier on the hops, though I haven’t had much Stone IPA lately. For the price, you can’t go wrong with this one and it is worth picking up if you see it at your local Trader Joe’s. It has quite a pleasant flavor and should be something you can share with your friends.

 

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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New Belgium Folly Pack 2013 with Double IPA

Breweries love releasing different selections of beers depending on the season as if I change what I drink based on the season. Some would suggest that IPAs are summer beers although thankfully IPAs have been showing up in winter selections lately. For a few years I have been looking forward to each new selection of winter beers from New Belgium for a few reasons. One, I tend to buy so many IPAs I never have anything around to drink that is lighter in alcohol. Two, they brew some great beers and I usually enjoy most of the selections. Though I am a bit disappointed that the Belgium IPA is not included anymore this year, the new double IPA more than makes up for it. This is primarily a review of the double IPA although I will also briefly review some of the other inclusions. 

New Belgium Rampant Double IPA.
New Belgium Rampant Double IPA.
Though a bit on the darker side this doesn’t have the insane malt flavors that plague many of the imperials. It has a nice mix of peach and floral flavors. At 8.5% it is the right amount of alcohol to satisfy the hop craving without knocking you out. This beer comes with some of their IPA, Belgium Red, winter lager, and fat tire. Each of the beers has a unique taste, unlike some Sam Adams boxes where you might have a hard time telling one beer from another. It is understandable that you have to buy some of the lighter beers to get the IPAs because the IPAs are so expensive to produce. The winter ale and fat tire are both tasty for what they are. If you can find the Folly Pack in stores for around $12 for a 12pack, do yourself a favor and pick one up. 

 

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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Green Flash Holiday Marketplace 2013

I had the pleasure of exploring Green Flash’s Holiday Marketplace in 2012. It was pretty small and not a lot of people showed up but I found some interesting things. This year I even got one of my friends who doesn’t drink to come along so she could do some Christmas shopping. Everyone loved it and Green Flash even had some special new beers to go along with it.

I was surprised when I got there because typically you enter the brewery through an ordinary sized door. However, the marketplace itself was in an area few regulars ever venture into, unless you like to take tours. When I was walking up to the front we actually entered through one of the big warehouse doors that was wide open, leading right into the first few vendors. Right as I walked in I saw one vendor selling hot sauce, and I was glad I stopped. There were many great tasting sauces on display but I was especially glad to see a Trinidad Moruga sauce that I could sample. I went home with a bottle and really loved it.

View of the tasting room from the marketplace.
View of the tasting room from the marketplace.
A few specialty beers that were available on tap.
A few specialty beers that were available on tap.

To start with, I had an 8oz pour of the barrel aged white IPA. On paper this sounded lovely until the bartender told me that this beer is actually aged in white wine barrels. OK, i thought, barrel aged is always good so let’s give it a try. At first I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor but by the time I was done with the 8oz pour I was not impressed. I expect people who enjoy a good white wine will like this one a lot more than I did. [When I drink wine I tend to go for red wine]. The white wine flavor really overpowered any hop flavors that might have been present before aging.

White IPA in an 8oz glass.
White IPA in an 8oz glass.

After some shopping and finishing this one I went back for an 8oz of the Belgian IPA. I always enjoyed the Le Freak, a heavier Belgian style IPA so I figured this one would be great as well. I found myself largely unimpressed. The flavor was a bit too bitter for what I expected and the hop flavors were not very prominent at all. I ended up giving most of my 8oz to my mom, who loved it.

8oz Belgian IPA.
8oz Belgian IPA.

I went back to the bar once again and went straight for a favorite of mine. I ordered a pint of the Symposium IPA. The Symposium IPA was released earlier this year as part of Green Flash’s Hop Odyssey series. Though it started out very light when it was first released, I found the color a little darker and the flavor a little more malty. I quite enjoyed the pine flavors at the front and a nice peach/grape flavor on the back end to round it out.

Pint of the Symposium IPA.
Pint of the Symposium IPA.

Before leaving, I had a 13oz of the Double Columbus IPA, one I wrote about in a previous blog. I was glad to see that the various merchants were set up inside this year because things got a bit cold last year when everyone was set up out in the parking lot. They also decided to end things a little bit earlier this year, perhaps to avoid any complaints of cold. I quite enjoyed the little booth Green Flash had set up to sell off merchandise from earlier in the year, including old T-shirts and glasses at a discount. You can see this in the first picture above. I picked up a few smaller Green Bullet glasses at a discount that I will use in the future when I crack open some stronger brews.

Green Flash Holiday 2013 06

To end this, I wanted to give a shout out to one of the merchants I met there who was selling little stickers to put on your glasses. Pictured above is a glass with two stickers they gave me, hunk for myself and stud muffin for my soon to be husband. I think this is a great idea if you have a party and a ton of friends who might get glasses confused.

I found the Holiday Marketplace to be overall a lot of fun this year. We had vendors selling a ton of different things, including candy, jewelry, hot sauce, knit items, and even things you could buy for people in third world countries. Sure there were quite a few booths selling beer-related items as well but that should be expected at a brewery. We also got our pictures taken with Santa, though those won’t be available right away.

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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San Francisco Adventures Part 5 – Rogue

On Day 4 in San Francisco I wanted to explore Chinatown. Little did I know it was not going to entertain me for very long. It didn’t help that it was quite cold in the Downtown area because there was no sun coming through to warm me up. I finally hit noon just as I made it to Rogue just in time to warm up with some beer and lunch. Though Rogue is an Oregon based brewery originally, I don’t have an Oregon trip planned anytime soon and the other choices were a bit out of the way. I was glad I stopped in because I had previously thought of Rogue as not so good based on the beers that made their way down to San Diego. Now I am going to keep an eye out for some more beers.

Rogue Brewing 01

Just the night before some of the people I was hanging out with suggested I check out Rogue. Once I realized how close it was to Chinatown compared to the other breweries in the area I decided it was worth a shot. I ended up spending two hours here chatting with people and enjoying the food and beer.

Some beer tasters to start with.
Some beer tasters to start with.

I started off with a few tasters of beers I normally might not expect to like. Yellow Snow was not particularly interesting, nor was the dry hopped red ale. I didn’t get many notes down for either. The Red IPA was quite nice with a caramel flavor from the malts and a decent amount of hop flavors to balance it out. The Chocolate Stout was the exact opposite of the bitter brew I had at Southern Pacific the day before. It had a lovely sweet chocolate flavor that I quite enjoyed. Rather than ordering a pint of that though, I went for the Black Lager.

Dirtoir Black Lager.
Dirtoir Black Lager.

Rogue had an interesting selection of beers from their farm series, beers that were all brewed from materials they grew on their own farm. The black lager was one of these beers. It was quite tasty and would have been hard to distinguish from a lightly smoked porter. I took my time drinking this beer while I enjoyed the cheese bread and then a bowl of chili. I’m excited to see more of what Rogue makes another time and possibly in a store down in San Diego.

I hope you enjoyed my four part series on San Francisco breweries. I hope to continue the series as I take other trips.

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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San Francisco Adventures Part 4 – Southern Pacific Brewing

After leaving Rosamunde Sausage Grill I went straight to Southern Pacific Brewing. I wasn’t sure I was in the right place at first because I walked right past the brewery, not noticing the sign until I turned around confused. I ordered a flight of all seven of the mainstay beers and ended up with a small taste of two others before I was through. Needless to say, I didn’t have much more that evening.

View of the brewery from outside.
View of the brewery from outside.
Indoor seating area.
Indoor seating area.

Thankfully there were some heaters around the place because I had been a bit cold most of the day until then. The beer wasn’t helping me warm up either. When I ordered the flight, I was quite impressed by some of the lighter options. If I wasn’t tasting some of the stronger stuff I might have ordered a pint of the lager.

Initial Taster Flight.
Initial Taster Flight.
Tap List.
Tap List.

The lager had a lot of what you might expect in the flavor with a little bit of a buttery flavor. It is rare for me to see lager beers brewed by locals but this one was so fresh it was quite delicious. The hefeweizen was also quite good, even though it wasn’t as impressive as the lager. It had some nice citrus flavors to finish it off. The blonde was closer to an extra pale than anything else. From the scent I was almost convinced it might have been some pale ale instead. It had a nice green tea finish.

The porter happened to be tapped fresh in the middle and just in time to taste before I tried the IPA. It was a nice bitter porter that might not impress porter fans who prefer something a bit more sweet. The IPA was nice and balanced with some pine flavors up front. The extra IPA was a bit higher on the malts, with a bit of a caramel after taste. The amber was a bit stronger than the usual for its style and had a nice flavor at a little over 6%. The American Strong had a nice mellow caramel apple flavor to it, though a bit on the sweet side. I got to try a small taste of the Winter Warmer that was a bourbon barrel aged version of the strong. The bourbon barrel really helped the flavor and gave it a nice finish.

Overall I was quite impressed by the beers and wish I could have gone there on a day by itself. The IPAs didn’t taste like I expect in San Diego but they were quite nice.

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