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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On day 3 I enjoyed the morning at the local Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park. It was pretty cold but I enjoyed the sights. Just in time for lunch I headed down to Rosamunde Sausage Grill on Mission hoping to find the right sausage to go with my beer and maybe some local beers. The German vibe of the place got to me so I did not end up having anything local. One taste of the Belgium IPA from Germany, the Houblon Chouffe (9%) and I couldn’t pass up a chance to enjoy a full pour of it.
I tried a few of the local double IPAs but none of them were really doing the same for me as this Belgium IPA. I’ve had a few San Diego examples of this style of beer but I couldn’t resist trying one from the source. Surprisingly I hear that Germany has a lot more amazing beers than we typically see in the US. This was a rare opportunity to see what I was missing.
Many find the Belgium style of beer to be too sweet and don’t like the spice. This beer is the perfect answer to that with plenty of delicious citrus flavors from the hops. I enjoyed a beer sausage and a chicken habanero sausage with my beer.
My second day in the area I spent exploring San Francisco with my fiance. We first went out on the bridge to bridge tour of the bay, where we got to see the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges up close and drive near Alcatraz. Later in the evening I went out exploring and wanted to stop by Thirsty Bear Brewing but sadly they were not open. This led me to the bar across the street from our hotel where I was happy to find they had $3 pints for happy hour. This was my chance to try the Prohibition Ale from Speakeasy Ales & Lagers.
The hop flavors really make this one of my favorite ales. They add just the right amount of hops to balance out the typical malt flavors you get in an ale. I only had one here because we were off to Oakland to eat dinner with relatives and more beer to enjoy with that.
We stopped by a restaurant where we had pizza and appetizers with beer. I was glad to see a solid selection of beers on tap to choose from. My fiance went straight for the Stone Russian Imperial Stout which they served in a pint. Needless to say he only had one. I went straight for the Drake’s Brewing 1500 Pale. It had a nice light taste with some nice hop flavor. At 5.5% it was what some breweries might call an extra pale.
After that I was ready for something substantial and tried Heretic Brewing’s Evil Cousin Imperial IPA. The beer had plenty of citrus and pine flavors, nicely balanced by the right amount of malts. I was satisfied for the day with my hop fix. In Part 3 I will explore Rosamunde Sausage Grill and the beer I had on tap there. Part 4 will explore Southern Pacific Brewing. Part 5 will round it out with a visit to Rogue.
I stopped by Green Flash to taste the new Columbus Double IPA along with the Palate Wrecker. I was fortunate enough to try the Palate Wrecker last year when it was first introduced and I have to say I never got so into it then that I felt it was worth buying to take home. Green Flash has been stellar ever since they started pushing the hop envelope. The Green Bullet is one of my all-time favorite beers and the Symposium IPA really does everything I want in a good IPA.
I started with the Double Columbus because it is 8.5% compared to the 9.5% of the Palate Wrecker. I really liked the smooth balance of the Columbus. It had a nice pine flavor and some sweet hop flavors that really felt balanced and satisfying. This is a very light colored IPA and it comes through in the taste for sure. It has so much flavor that I am glad it is a bit lighter on the alcohol because I can have a few and not go crazy.
I had a taster of the cask Palate Wrecker and the draft. The Cask was quite smooth and really had a nice cedar and pine flavor. The bitterness was really mellowed out by the cask and it was quite nice. Compared to the other beers, the Palate Wrecker regular was hard to taste all the flavors. In a way I prefer Green Bullet and Double Columbus simply because the flavors of the hops are more easy to taste. I did enjoy the Palate Wrecker enough to come home with a 4 pack. In the bottle, the beer is a bit more mellow and quite pleasant.
If you got to try these beers, what did you think? Is the Palate Wrecker too much?
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.