Second Chance Beer Company – Rancho Bernardo San Diego

Second Chance is one of the newest breweries to open in San Diego, and only the third in the small area of Rancho Bernardo, joining Abnormal Brewing and a recent addition to Karl Strauss. The head brewer spent 15 years brewing at Rock Bottom brewery locally before going out on his own. The tasting room is just off Caramel Mountain Road, a quick hop for me, and easy to find. There is plenty of space inside, with many different tables set up for people to sit and/or stand while enjoying their beers. I tasted everything that was available on October 24, 2015 except for the blonde ale. I started with a flight of the English Brown, Red IPA, IPA, and Toasted Porter. I finished with the two specialty beers, the mocha porter and coffee IPA. Tasters are a little expensive, with the specialty beers a whole $3 a taster, but the beers are overall solid.

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My taster flight.
My taster flight.

The English Brown pours a dark amber colored brown. It is very smooth and roasty with a nice dry finish. It has a medium amount of English hops there as well along with some caramel malts, giving it an overall balanced flavor. The Red IPA was quite hop forward, and medium bitter. The hops present grapefruit and apricot with a bitter aftertaste. The beer has a nice clear amber color and malts aren’t overpowering. I found the bitterness a little too strong for my tastes, though it has a nice caramel malt at the back.

The two specialty beer tasters.
The two specialty beer tasters.

The IPA had a nice fruity mango and peach on the nose, nice golden yellow color. Mango and peach come through nicely on the taste without too much bitter. This is more mellow than the Red IPA and fits right in with other local San Diego IPAs. The Toasted Porter had a creamy head and pours really dark. This porter has a nice roasty flavor with a mild coffee blended in nicely.

Second Chance 03

The Coffee IPA had a mellow coffee flavor that blends nicely with the IPA. I assume it is the same underlying IPA as they had on before. I can still taste the peach and mango from the IPA with it. Though I wouldn’t have thought the flavors would go together they really do. The Mocha Porter has a strong coffee and chocolate flavor but it isn’t particularly balanced. The beer is a little too bitter and doesn’t have much sweetness or roasty. I prefer the regular Toasted porter to this one.

Tables and couches near the entrance for people to lounge.
Tables and couches near the entrance for people to lounge.

I was impressed by the size of the tasting room and the quality of the beers when visiting Second Chance. They are still early in their operation so they have a ways to go before they get to their full potential. The brewery has a nice open area with plenty of seating and tables for people to set the beers and hang out. They also have a few couches in the front area. There is no air conditioning so it could get hot if it is a really hot day but the brewery generally has nice ventilation when they open both the front and side doors. I will certainly keep up with their progress as they grow to see what they do next.

Large open area for people to hang out and enjoy some beer.
Large open area for people to hang out and enjoy some beer.

Top 2:
IPA
Coffee IPA

Update November 2015: I visited Second Chance Brewing again on November 28, 2015 because I heard they had a few new beers. I was able to taste their double IPA and imperial stout that were not previously available.  Both were very impressive.

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The double IPA was thick and tasty with a juicy mango/tropical fruit flavor. The imperial oatmeal stout was available on nitro and was a nice mix of roasty flavors, a hint of bitter chocolate, and caramel. It is great to see that they continue to come up with new beers. I hope the double IPA will stick around as a core beer.

 

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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Icelandic Craft Beer in Reykjavik

Before traveling to Iceland I had heard that the food and drinks were both quite expensive. One thing to keep in mind though is that they don’t expect you to tip so it is not too bad. One reason the craft beers are more expensive is the alcohol tax that is higher on higher alcohol beers. So the double ipa and imperial stout are served in 200 ml pours at most places.

Iceland - Craft Beer - 06

I visited all 3 bars on my list inside Reykjavik. Mikkeller was the most expensive as to be expected. Sometimes it was 1400ikr for a 200ml pour or about $12. Mikkeller does not serve local beers but Norwegian beers and other imports. The selection is nice and at least given the price they are used to giving you a splash to taste a few before buying. Ironically I ended up ordering a beer from the US because they had recently finished a tap takeover featuring breweries from the Midwest.

Iceland - Craft Beer - 05

Other bars serving local beers were more reasonable depending on what you bought. Two Reykjavik bars focus on serving the beers of two Icelandic craft breweries. So while you can’t visit the breweries directly you can order flights (though they are so expensive I would suggest sticking with the pints). Microbar primarily serves beers from Gaedingur brewing and they had a very delicious west coast style ipa that very much hit the spot. This one was 1200IKR for a pint, which is about $9.50

West Coast style IPA from Gaedingur. Really good example of the style.
West Coast style IPA from Gaedingur. Really good example of the style.

Just down the street is Skúli craft bar, another local bar, this one primarily serving beers from Borg but also offering other guest taps as well. When I visited there my husband and I together had a delicious imperial stout (brewed by Borg), milk stout (from Mikkeller), and saison (also from Borg). The saison was nice and crisp herbal and fruity with thyme added. It had a light honey flavor on the back. This reminded me of some of my favorite saisons brewed in the United States and really hit the spot. Prices here made me appreciate the prices at Mikkeller in Bangkok. Needless to say I didn’t drink a ton of beer while I was there because of the prices.

Look for this awesome sign outside when trying to find Skuli.
Look for this awesome sign outside when trying to find Skuli.
Tap list from when I visited Skuli Craft Bar.
Tap list from when I visited Skuli Craft Bar.
The delicious saison I had on tap.
The delicious saison I had on tap.

I would absolutely suggest anyone who visits Reykjavik go to both Microbar and Skúli craft depending on the style you like. They are both very close to each other. Google knows where Microbar is but gets the location of Skúli a bit wrong. The best way to get to Skúli from Microbar is to go out the south entrance and turn right, then look to your left for the Skúli sign. Visiting these bars is also the best way for someone to try some beers from the smaller breweries without leaving Reykjavik. Elsewhere you will find plenty of mass produced lagers and occasionally beers from Einstok, one of the larger Icelandic craft breweries, including their toasted porter, white ale, and pale ale. Ironically it is probably cheaper to buy Einstok beers in the stores in the US but it is still nice to order a few while in Iceland. The pale ale was nice and lightly bitter, featuring plenty of English style hops.

Einstok beers we ordered at a local cafe. Only the pale was on tap.
Einstok beers we ordered at a local cafe. Only the pale was on tap.

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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Border X Brewing – Barrio Logan San Diego

Border X originally opened in Otay Mesa, very close to the border with Mexico. The beers are still brewed at that location but more recently they opened a satellite tasting room in Barrio Logan, closer to Downtown San Diego. I visited the Barrio Logan location recently to try their beers. I didn’t get to taste the popular Blood Saison because they ran out but I did get to taste the Hefeweisen, Abuelos pale ale, Abuelita’s chocolate stout, Horchata golden stout, and a coffee oatmeal stout they brewed in collaboration with Groundswell Brewing.

Border X 04

The hefeweisen was a nice cloudy yellow with a light citrus kick that blended nicely with banana and pineapple. Though it was largely to style, their version was a nice change to the typical, and very refreshing. The Abuelos pale ale was a solid fruity English style pale with figs added. The beer was lightly bitter and very smooth. This was the only hoppy beer available when I visited, so it might not be the best destination for hop heads looking for West Coast style brews.

Border X 02

The Abuelita’s chocolate stout had a deliciously smooth oatmeal stout body and bright chocolate flavors on the front. I found it less bitter than most stouts. The beer has a light vanilla on the back. The chocolate flavors were also very different than you see in most local brews because it uses the Mexican style of chocolate usually used in the chocolate drinks available in Tijuana and elsewhere. It reminded me of some of the better of such drinks I have experienced in Tijuana. This is certainly a standout beer that they brew.

Border X 03

The Horchata golden stout isn’t boozy at all despite being 10%. It could easily be confused with ordinary horchata. The beer was very smooth and sweet with the right amount of rice, vanilla, and cinnamon. The brewers create an extract of the vanilla and cinnamon themselves that gives it authentic and not fake-tasting flavors. The coffee oatmeal stout brewed with groundswell was a nice smooth oatmeal stout with light coffee in the back. It was very nicely balanced, though I slightly prefer the chocolate stout.

Border X 01

Though Border X isn’t a place to visit for hoppy beers because they didn’t have an IPA they are brewing some awesome stouts and word on the streets is the Blood Saison is also really good. Both the chocolate and horchata stouts were very impressive. I hope to visit them in the future to see how things are going. The tasting room in Barrio Logan has a similar feel to places I have visited in Tijuana with plenty of Mexican imagery on the walls.

Top 2:
Abuelita’s chocolate stout
Horchata golden stout

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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Dogfish Head Brewpub Falls Church Virginia

At the beginning of my recent trip I spent a few days in Washington DC. There was one brewery I could visit within the city itself but it was so out of the way without a car I skipped it (The brewery is called DC Brau). I was beginning to think I wouldn’t visit any breweries and then I realized that dogfish head has a few different brewpubs within a quick train ride from the city. I visited the closest Virginia pub and ordered a flight followed by some other specialty beers. Because I visited a brewpub I is not surprising that they only had one flight to choose from and a very expensive specialty flight option.

Dogfish Head 01

I stuck with the core beer flight. This meant I got to taste the wheat, 60 minute ipa, 90 minute ipa, Indian brown, raisin d’etre, and pumpkin ale. My husband also ordered a goblet of the chicory stout because it was not included in the flight. I also tasted the choc lobster in a pricy $10 goblet. The wheat was well done and to style offering plenty of added spices and Belgian yeast. The 60 minute was a light color and light body ipa with a mild citrus kick and some resinous hops that finished nicely with a light bitterness. It was miles different fresh from the source than anything I’ve had in a bottle.

Dogfish Head 04

The chicory stout was nicely balanced with a light smoke and light coffee flavors that blend nicely with some bitter chocolate. It is surprisingly light body and almost looks like a brown ale. This was a beer I didn’t expect to enjoy from the description but really liked. My husband was satisfied as well. The 90 minute was very fresh and surprisingly different even from the somewhat fresh bottles I had bought in DC. It is a combination of resinous hops and a syrupy honey like thick body that finishes with a boozy after taste. If I didn’t have two more bottles of the 90 minute in my hotel room I would have ordered a pint fresh right there.

Dogfish Head 05

The Indian brown had a nice sweet caramel back from brown sugar added with roasted malts and heavy hop bitterness. This was great most bitter of the bunch. The raisin d’etre is a strong dark Belgian made with beet sugar and green raisins added. The raisins left a strong after taste that lingers heavily and I did not particularly enjoy. My husband finished the taster and liked it surprisingly.

Dogfish Head 02

The pumpkin ale was mostly a light ale with a ton of spice added. It was easy to drink but didn’t have any particular quality to recommend it. I tend to prefer pumpkin ales with higher alcohol so they have more sweetness to balance the spice. Finally the choc lobster sounded like a good idea when they described it but neither of us was particularly impressed. It is a beer made with chocolate, basil, and lobster added. The basil and chocolate together gave it a cinnamon taste and it ends with a light salty taste. I much prefer the chicory stout to this. Though it improved somewhat when it warmed up it didn’t have the complex flavors I would expect for such an expensive beer. If all you ever had from dogfish head was in a bottle on the west coast you should absolutely check out the brewery if you are in the area. I enjoyed the IPAs so much that if I find them fresh in town I will probably buy some more.

Dogfish Head 03

Top 3
90 minute
60 minute
Chicory stout

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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Solemn Oath Brewing – Naperville Illinois

Solemn Oath showed up on the list of breweries to visit outside Chicago proper when I was looking for a place to go and I always prefer tasting rooms whenever possible. Thankfully one of my hotels during the trip was close to Solemn Oath so it was easy to drop in for a few tasters. This visit was after going to Penrose brewing earlier that day, and the only things that interested me on the menu were the IPAs, the Oktoberfest and barrel aged stout. I got tasters of the Belgian IPA, IPA, Oktoberfest, and bourbon barrel aged stout.

Chicago - Solemn Oath 04

I started with the Oktoberfest and was surprised by the massive amount of hop bitterness. Typically this style is made with zero hops so the existence of hops at all is a huge departure from the style. This would have been fine if the hops balanced with the rest of the beer but they stood out and gave the whole beer a powerfully bitter taste and a strong bitter after-taste.

Chicago - Solemn Oath 02

The IPA had a lot of grapefruit flavor from the hops and overall seemed to be solidly balanced. Though it was also quite bitter, the hop flavors didn’t clash as much with the malts. It seemed like the same hops were used between all 3 (oktoberfest, IPA, and Belgian IPA). The Belgian IPA was also quite bitter and any spice from the Belgian yeast was overpowered by the same grapefruit hops and powerful bitterness. In all 3 of these brews it seemed the focus was on bitterness over aroma and they missed some areas where they could have really shined.

Chicago - Solemn Oath 03

I ended with the bourbon barrel aged stout. This was an instant hit among my friend and my husband who both love dark beers. From what I got to taste of that one it had a nice full body and some solid sweetness along with the bourbon flavor but to me it seemed a little too sweet overall and not dry enough. Still, it was more impressive than the other before it.

Before I left I did get to taste some of the lighter offerings from the brewery thanks to some people near me who let me taste the pale ale. The lighter offerings seemed to be much more balanced than anything I tasted, so perhaps the brewer was experimenting with a certain variety of hops that wasn’t planned to result in so much bitterness. Those same people mentioned that Solemn Oath makes new beers regularly so the specific beers I tasted when I dropped by may not be the same ones you find if you come to visit.

Top 2:
Bourbon barrel aged stout
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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Exploring San Diego's Craft Breweries