Pinthouse Pizza has two locations in Austin and I visited the southern location. They have a spacious interior and a broad menu of house beers and guest beers. I stopped by for a flight of five of the most interesting beers on the menu and was quite impressed by their IPA.
The pilsner was crisp and clean with a mild hop bite. This is an excellent example of the style. The alt beer was a great mix of caramel malt and mild smoke with a clean finish. This is a style that I’m not too familiar with but every version I’ve had in Texas so far has been great. The IPA was soft and juicy haze with citrus and tropical fruit notes. The hazy IPA was up there with a lot of what is coming out of San Diego lately. I was very close to bringing home a few crowlers of this beer.
The stout was a bit unusual with prominent tart cherry flavors and some mild smoke in the back. It was almost a sour stout. Though I enjoy a good sour stout, this was simply labeled as a stout. The porter was good and roasty with a fairly dry finish, done nicely to style. Though dry it wasn’t nearly as dry as the classic dry Irish stout.
Besides the beers I tried, Pinthouse had a number of lighter alcohol options, but I did not have the capacity to try everything. If you are looking for excellent hoppy beers in Austin, Pinthouse Pizza is the place to go.
Through a friend and fellow blogger I found out about Hopsaint, which had only been open for two months before I visited. The head brewer used to work for Stone and Abigaile and the experience shines through in the lineup of beers. As my third stop for the day I tried only four tasters but we also had some of their delicious chocolate pie to go with it. They have a full restaurant as well and a number of guest beers both on tap and in bottles. I tasted the Vienna Lager, pale ale, Cacophony IPA, and experimental stout.
The Vienna Lager was a lot lighter in color than the typical yet it had a smooth dry finish with a very mild amount of hops. My friend who shared the tasters with me liked it enough to order a half pour after we finished all the tasters. The pale ale was light and crisp with a good hop punch and low malt bill with plenty of citrus and pine. I wasn’t too big on the hop profile but it was certainly well done. The Cacophony IPA was a real treat, thick, sticky, dank, and seriously fruity it had everything that I expect out of the new wave of IPAs. It fits in nicely with the recent trend away from serious bitterness in favor of hop aromas.
The experimental stout was smooth and roasty, with subtle notes of caramel, chocolate, and coffee with a dry finish. This paired delightfully well with their chocolate pie, which was also seriously impressive. Thick and rich, the pie had tons of dark chocolate without too much sweetness. Everyone agreed that pairing the pie with the stout was a perfect match. For such a young brewery, Hopsaint had an impressive lineup of beers. Unlike the other breweries in the area, they offer a full kitchen as well so you don’t have to rely on a food truck.
On a recent drive to Idyllwild I decided to go out of my way to Riverside and stop by a brewery. You may be thinking, that is not really along the way, why would you do something like that? And you’re right it is seriously out of the way but my husband wanted to stop in Riverside for something else so I figured let’s hit a brewery while we are there. I decided to stop by Wicks in part because I loved their medieval designs and names for their beers. They are a fairly large brewpub offering some solid food and a large lineup of beers. I tasted a total of 8 beers while I was there in two separate flights.
The first flight included the Paladin Pale, Battle Cry IPA, Hello Sunshine IPA, and El Robo Rye IPA. The pale was nice and fruity/juicy session IPA that was not too thin or too bitter. It is a nice and balanced, smooth beer. The Battle Cry IPA is a bit thicker and resinous with notes of grapefruit and pineapple. I really enjoyed this IPA out of all of the ones offered and picked up a 22oz bottle to go, which I enjoyed recently at home. While not as bursting with aroma in the bottle it stood up nicely to being a month and a half old. The Hello Sunshine was thicker and more bitter than the Battle Cry offering tropical fruit flavors including papaya. The El Robo Rye had a nice golden rye flavor with a slightly darker color and a strong bitter finish presenting flavors of apricot and peach. This was a nicely balanced rye beer.
The second flight included the Hellified double IPA, Morning Star coffee oatmeal stout, Jasmine Noir black ale, and Black Knight imperial porter. The Hellified double IPA was not that much stronger in alcohol than the single IPA offerings but was quite tasty with intense citrus flavors and a solid bitter kick. The Morning Star coffee oatmeal stout presented a quite mellow coffee flavor and smooth mouthfeel. This is a good stout if you like subtle flavors. The Jasmine Noir was basically a stronger version of a schwartzbier, a German style black lager. It had a light roast flavor but otherwise was very light bodied and easy drinking. I could barely taste the higher alcohol. The Black Knight was a combination of fruity and roasty with a boozy kick on the end, also not very thick. Because I am used to stouts and porters that have more intense flavors I was fairly disappointed by the tasters but looking back now they did a good job making subtle beers for the styles.
I enjoyed the food I had at Wicks and especially enjoyed the IPAs. They are worth hitting if you are in the area and are looking for your West Coast style IPA kick. If you are a fan of dark beers, don’t expect anything exploding with flavors but you will find some smooth and drinkable beers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
3 Floyds has become such a cult following that most of their popular offerings that are bottled are sold out within a few days once they are made available. The coveted zombie dust and double ipa bottles disappear as quickly as cans of heady topper. Though you may be able to find some double IPA at nearby liquor stores they aren’t stored cold and the ones I found were too old to pick up. Going to the brewpub on a weekend will end up with a wait of at least 40 minutes. It is worth the wait to get a seat because fresh zombie dust from the source is delightful as are the other offerings.
Though I had heard that 3 Floyds plays death metal at the brewery it is not all death metal all the time. They cycle between metal and punk rock and other fun songs. The scream vocals mostly blend in so they aren’t much worse than the average music at a brewery or bar. While I was at 3 Floyds I didn’t get to try very many beers because they don’t offer taster flights and I didn’t want to get seriously wasted trying 10 ounces of each of the double IPAs. (It is a brew pub atmosphere because they serve food as well so I understand the lack of taster flights. I heard great things about their food but I didn’t end up ordering any while I was there). I had an 8oz of Zombie Dust, my husband had a Moloko Stout on nitro, and I had a Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker double IPA and finally a Chevalier blueberry sour.
After hearing tons of hype for Zombie Dust it is hard to be impressed but I knew with the first sip that this was a fantastic beer that is very much worth all the hype. It was extremely light body and bursting with hop flavors of both citrus and tropical fruit (primarily pineapple). It is deceptively sessionable considering it is 6% and feels much lighter than that. The bitterness was very mild, coming across just enough to let you know the hops are present.
The Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker double IPA was delicious from the first sip. It pours a delightfully hazy yellow orange with a powerful golden hop flavor and just the right amount of sweetness. Many beers in similar style become syrupy but there is none of that here. Though it has a solid bitterness I didn’t feel it wrecking my palate. The beer ended nicely with some stone fruit and peach flavors. It was overall a very impressive double IPA.
I didn’t drink much of my husband’s Maloko stout on nitro but from what I had it was a well-crafted stout with a solid chocolate flavor and very creamy. This one also hides its alcohol extremely well and I wouldn’t have known it was 8% except for the very mild booze on the back end. I ended with the Chevalier blueberry sour. This was a properly sour beer, just short of puckering. It is certainly an acidic sour but it blends with plenty of blueberry flavor at the back end. Considering everyone talks about Three Floyds for their hoppy beers and imperial stouts I was surprised by how fantastic this sour was.
Overall, I would certainly visit 3 Floyds again if I am in the area on a weekday so that I can load up on some awesome fresh from the brewery beers and have some more pints of delicious fresh from the brewery beers. If you are visiting Chicago for a few days it is worth the 45 minute drive and nearly hour wait for some of the best hoppy beers around. Hopefully next time I will be able to get my husband to drive me like he did this time because those double IPAs are fantastic.
If you come by the brewery to buy some Zombie Dust in bottles make sure you go during the week and check the web site for what to-go beers are available the day you go because they rarely last into the weekend. Also after having a fairly disappointing six pack at a nearby store I highly suggest that you not buy any if you can’t find it at the brewery. The stores nearby have very little in refrigeration so the double IPAs they stock are not likely to represent the same delicious quality. Also bring along a cooler or store the beers inside the air conditioning of your car on your drive back to your hotel room.
Though still in their soft opening phase currently, South Park Brewing seems to be off to a good start. Sadly, when I visited they were out of a few beers so they only had three on tap, but I did get to try their IPA, double IPA, and oyster stout. Still, what they had was a good start for such a young brewery.
South Park Brewing started out in a larger space than the average new brewery and serves food as well. I was tempted by the variety of fish options and ice cream though I did not partake because I was heading to eat after. Next time I head down there I will certainly try one of them. They also have a fairly large indoor area that has plenty of seating both inside and out front by the street.
Beer wise, they had a few guest beers as well in case someone isn’t a fan of their house beers. I started with the IPA, a 100% Simcoe hop IPA, that delivered the San Diego style of beer with plenty of tropical fruit and citrus and a mild bitterness. The double iPA was a bit heavier and a bit more boozy. It had some spice flavors reminiscent of a saison, though overall it was a bit too heavy for me given the flavors.
Finally, the oyster stout was a solid offering with a bit of caramel and roasted malts, though too salty for me. I was hoping to also try their saison but it had run out before I visited. With a solid IPA so early on I expect South Park Brewing will do some good things once they have a grand opening at some point in the future. For now it is worth dropping in if you are in the area. They are right next door to Hamilton’s Tavern. Maybe next time I will try some of the ice cream.
Bagby Brewing Company drew in local craft beer lovers from the very beginning thanks to head brewer Jeff Bagby’s history brewing with Pizza Port for 6 years and brewing many award winning beers. He is well known both among brewers and locals as a brewer with talent who knows what a good beer should taste like.
With that in mind, when I visited Bagby I had high expectations, which generally leads to disappointment but not this time. Thankfully, there were many impressive beers available such that I can say it is worth the drive up to Oceanside. All of the beers I tried packed in a lot of flavor and really let all the different ingredients complement each other.
Bagby Brewing Company has a large facility, much larger than you would expect with a newer brewery. A big focus there is on the food, which I didn’t get to try in this visit. But there are also two large floors with two bars both pouring the full array of beers. Considering the drive up to Oceanside and the number of house beers available it would be difficult to try all the beers in one trip and safely drive back so I only got to taste seven of their beers. However, hopefully at some point I will update this review to include some guest reviews of the rest until I can get back to try what is left.
I started off my time with the wet hop extra pale on nitro. As usual, the nitro really mellowed out the beer so this is not a sipper. Despite the light body, there were some intense pine flavors that were very enjoyable. Next up was the rye pale ale. Rye beers are very difficult to do right and many in this style get the balance of flavors all wrong. Thankfully, this hits all the right notes. It has a solid spicy bite from the rye that balances nicely with mild bitterness and caramel flavors.
The strong pale is a whopping 6.4% and the higher alcohol adds some additional sweetness to balance out the malts. Hop flavors came through mostly in the way of floral hops. Next I tried the IPA. This is a very powerful beer that manages to bring out all the signature West Coast style grapefruit and citrus while balancing that with caramel malts. This is a great example of how you make a balanced IPA without knocking people over the head with the malts.
After the IPA, the double IPA was certainly on the sweet side but it had plenty of tropical fruit flavor, primarily pineapple to balance it out. I had a hard time believing that this was a 10% beer because it really hid the alcohol very well. After the hoppy beers I went on to some of the stronger dark beers. The American Stout is a strong 7.7% and really blended together the flavors nicely. It had plenty of thick caramel and coffee flavors countered by a mild smoky flavor. Finally, I tried the scotch ale, an 8.4% dark beer that packed in tons of flavor. I really enjoyed the mix of dark fruit and nutty coffee for a satisfying beer.
Though most of the beers were very good, I was especially impressed by the rye pale, IPA, and American Stout. I wasn’t the only one enjoying the rye pale as I could hear other people around the bar area talking about how much they enjoyed that one.
Though I didn’t get to try any of the food I have heard great things about it. So if you are looking to try out a new brewery, I suggest you make a day of it and visit Bagby for lunch followed by some beer. And if you like to enjoy the sun, there is some outdoor seating available upstairs. Just be careful you don’t let your beers sit in the sun.
Best known for its Blind Pig IPA, Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger, I had to stop by the brewery to try some beers. Because I was going to Lagunitas on the way back I only tried a few half pints while I was here and the single hop pales were my favorite.
Before I get to the beers, I should note that this is a brewpub, not a pure brewery and tasting room. When you arrive there it is pretty obvious that the zoning wouldn’t permit a barebones brewery. Being a brewpub means you can stop by earlier in the day for a pint because they are open for lunch. However, this also means that it gets crowded pretty fast and seats don’t clear out very quickly.
Even though my husband and I arrived at around 1:30PM, the lunch crowd was still hanging around. The service was pretty slow, though with only a few bartenders pouring beer this wasn’t surprising. We ended up ordering their version of a works pizza. It was quite tasty and very greasy. The other thing keeping everyone around was the insane taster flight that would take even seasoned brewery nuts quite some time to finish with friends (19 tasters!)
I started with Row 2 Hill 56, a single hop simcoe pale ale and Hop 2 It, a pale ale made exclusively with Hop 366. I love single hop pales because I get to really understand the flavors of individual hops. Simcoe is used pretty commonly in IPAs. The lemon and pine flavors come through nicely in this one. Hop 366 is a new experimental hop related to the warrior hop. It was much more earthy with a hint of tropical fruit on the back.
I moved on to Blind Pig IPA, one that has been listed on numerous “Best IPA” lists. It certainly had a nice balance to it but was far too heavy on the pine/earthy flavors for my taste. Though there was some strong grapefruit taste in the background, it was still pretty overpowered by the other hops. It is certainly a good IPA but not my favorite hop profile.
My favorite hop profile comes through a lot more with Pliny the Elder, a fairly widely distributed double IPA. I’ve had Pliny the Elder a few times on tap in San Diego at various bars. Finding it in bottles is not so easy. Even at the brewery, they limit the number of bottles you can purchase of both Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder.
Pliny the Younger has much of the same hop profile as Pliny the Elder but is a Triple IPA. I am a bit disappointed that Russian River decided to make Pliny the Younger a once a year special release because this leads to long lines wherever it appears. Flavor wise, you will get much of the same beer from Stone’s Enjoy By series, Green Flash’s Green Bullet, and Saint Archer’s Double IPA. I waited in line for Pliny the Younger last year and it was delicious but I probably won’t wait in line for it again.
In all, I found Russian River to be insanely crowded (very similar to visiting Stone Brewing) and not hugely worth the trip. It is a shame that they don’t widely distribute bottles of their famous beers because there is enough demand from the craft beer drinkers around the country for it.