Thr3e Punk Ales opened in Chula Vista recently in an area that has not seen many breweries. They have a good variety of standard beer styles and are open late, sometimes up to Midnight. I thought it was on the noisy side when I stopped by on a Friday night but then Chula Vista Brewing down the street was amped up much louder.
Beer wise, only one beer was clearly to style and a few were standouts. Others defied convention and expectations in ways you might expect from a punk brewery. Rather than the double IPA packing the biggest hop kick, the hoppy pilsner was the most explosively hoppy.
The Flama Blanca Mexican Lager was delicious, fruity and crisp with a lightly sweet dry finish. It tasted exactly like I would expect a lager to taste. The Morning After Pils, a hoppy pilsner, was so hoppy I thought they might have given me the wrong beer. It had an intense mix of resin and floral hop character and a mild to medium bitter finish. Next to this, the two beers labeled as IPAs didn’t taste very hoppy.
The Rye You Trippin, rye IPA, was sweet with light rye and biscuit malt character balanced out nicely with some mild citrus hop character. By San Diego standards the hops were barely there. Similarly the Needle in the Hey, double IPA, was on the sweeter side with a caramel malt base, low bitterness, and earthy hop notes. It finished with a bitter and sweet finish that I didn’t really care for.
The brown ale with coffee was bursting with coffee on the nose and in the taste. Tons of nutty coffee came through overpowering the base beer completely. The beer had a nice medium body and a sweet finish. I brought home a crowler of this one though I hope when I open it I won’t be up all night. The Russian Imperial Stout on nitro was a bit smoky on the nose and noticeably boozy. It had notes of cherry and dark fruit and a dry bitter finish. While a solid stout, it is significantly different than the style we typically get in San Diego.
Thr3e punk ales had some tasty beers on tap. If you are looking for something hoppy, stick to the hoppy pilsner. It is the closest to a West Coast style IPA.
Flama Blanca – Mexican Lager
Brick Top with Coffee
I only visited two breweries in my time up in Calgary because the more interesting part of Calgary is the nearby Banff National Park where there are two small breweries, one in Canmore and one in Banff that I’m sure are great compared to the macro beer you can find in most of the convenience stores but also nothing exceptional. Out of the two breweries I did visit in Calgary, one was fairly disappointing and the other was exceptional and quite impressive. WIld Rose Brewing is a larger brewery and sounded like they had some interesting beers but I finished about half of the total tasters because some were not for me. The smaller brewery, The Dandy Brewing, was excellent almost across the board and set my bar so high that when I went to breweries in Seattle the following day, some of the hyped breweries, while solid, didn’t live up to the same standards.
At Wild Rose I tried 8 tasters. Of those, half were tasty. The Velvet Fog was a really tasty beer of half wheat and half pilsner malt that was crisp and delicious with lots of nice notes of spice and citrus while keeping everything very balanced. This was one of the best beers of the bunch and I expect it is quite popular. The Electric Avenue was a fairly standard lager with some floral hop notes. Cowbell Kettle Sour is a tasty light alcohol sour with lots of fruit, citrus, and lime, with a strong tart finish. The lime comes on strong from the use of lime leaves. The Wraspberry ale was not very tasty at all and while it had some smooth raspberry flavor it also often tasted like cough syrup. It might be better mixed together with the kettle sour.
The Barracks Brown was also not really my thing. Brown ales in general tend to be lacking in flavor and this one was also strongly smoky. The IPA was fairly standard old-school bitter-forward IPA with a strong malt backbone. As it warmed up it exhibited some solid darnk and resinous qualities. Alberta Crude was a solid porter with a good amount of roast and some bitter chocolate. The Maibock was way too sticky sweet, exhibited notes of over ripe fruit and rasins and was quite boozy in the finish. I did not drink much of this. The other two seasonal beers, the Session Pale and Belgian Pale were both tasty versions of the style. The Session Pale has some solid galaxy hop flavors and the Belgian Pale exhibits lots of spice notes from the Belgian Yeast.
While about half of the beers were disappointing, the highlights were nicely done and would be worth a stop to try the highlights listed below if you are in the area and need some tasty beers. The Velvet Fog would be perfect to fill in a growler for you to take with you out into the mountains.
Cowbell Kettle Sour
The Dandy Brewing
More recently I have been a much bigger fan of small breweries and The Dandy was a good example of why. Though they seem to have already out grown their fairly small tasting room, the wait wasn’t terrible and the beers were delicious. I tried a taster of everything they had available and had a pint of my favorite after I finished because it was so tasty. I also enjoyed meeting with a number of locals at the bar and hearing about their experiences.
The English Pale was the most juicy English style ale I have ever had and was super fruity with tons of apricot from the hops and some smooth caramel malts at the back. My husband even liked this one and he rarely likes anything besides stouts. The Oyster Stout was smooth with a nice mix of caramel and roast, a solid stout, though not as complex as the Alberta Crude at Wild Rose. The Hawkeye Pierce single hop pale was super juicy and not bitter with notes of grapefruit and melon. This and the English Pale were favorites for me and many of the other people around as well.
The saison was nice and earthy with fruity notes and tons of flavor for the low alcohol. The Fusion Extra Pale was nice with floral hops that balanced nicely with peach and melon. The English Summer Ale is an interesting companion to the English Pale, really smooth with notes of floral hops and hints of peach. The TZE IPA was the most bitter of the bunch but had some light citrus kick to it. It is a solid IPA as well.
Everything at The Dandy was tasty with the highlights below that were extra impressive. They clearly have learned the modern way of making delicious juicy hoppy beers and just to make clean flavorful beers. I’m excited to see what they come up with in the future and I can see they will make some great things.
Hawkeye Pierce Single Hop Pale
English Summer Ale
Only a few miles from The Rare Barrel is Fieldwork, another fairly new brewery in the area. Fieldwork is similar to Cellarmaker though they have a few different styles on tap that I didn’t see at Cellarmaker. Their hoppy beers are similar to Cellarmaker in that they are mostly low on the malts and focus on the hop aroma. They also serve a number of solid dark beers, and have a great atmosphere at the tasting room.
I tasted a total of 10 beers while I was there. The first flight contained the Farmhouse Wheat, Citra Weisse, Hanging Valley grapefruit saison, Daypack Pale, Morning Time (on nitro), and Chocolate Milk. The second flight included the Burning Daylight IPA, Delta Hoppy Red, Misfit Stream IPA, and Storm Surge double IPA. There were a couple of beers I didn’t taste when I was there because the price of the taster was higher than I wanted to spend (the bourbon barrel aged imperial stout was $5 for a taster).
The Farmhouse Wheat was a crisp saison with belgian spices and a super light color and body. I found it had a strangely silky mouthfeel and was more thin than the average saison. It didn’t taste like any saison I’ve had before, though it was still a solid saison. By contrast the Citra Weisse berliner weisse had a seriously off-putting vinegar taste in the back end accompanied by a lemon kick from the hops and light amount of salt. Though this may be to style I had a hard time finishing the taster, though I did ultimately finish it. The grapefruit saison was thicker than the Farmhouse Wheat and had a nice grapefruit finish. Though I thought it was better than the first two, it had a bit of a soapy after taste/mouthfeel.
The Daypack Pale ale was a really nice low malt bill pale ale with a citrus/herbal hop character. It was so light that I might have confused it for one of the saisons if I wasn’t smelling the hops. This is a very solid pale ale and gave me a good taste for the delicious IPAs to come later. The Morning Time coffee stout on Nitro had a nice nutty coffee flavor, though slightly acidic. It was nice and light body and very smooth on nitro. This was a very nice beer though it got overshadowed by the Chocolate Milk. Chocolate Milk was a smooth brown ale with a delicious milk chocolate flavor and a light body. I loved how it wasn’t too sweet. I might have left with a liter growler of this one if I had an extra blank growler with me but I didn’t want to buy another screw top growler and that was all they offered.
The Burning Daylight IPA was a light color IPA with a smooth citrus and herbal hop profile with a nice bready malt background. A nice solid IPA. The Delta hoppy red was an interesting mix between floral hops and coffee, with a medium bitterness and smooth caramel malts on the back end. Everything mixed together nicely and made for a solid red ale.
The Misfit Stream IPA was deliciously fruity with bright pineapple and juicy melon. This IPA was quite smooth and lightly sweet, one of my favorite of the bunch. I might have gotten a growler of this one as well, though I already filled my blank growler at Cellarmaker. I did end up getting a half pour of it though after I was done. The Storm Surge double IPA was quite resiny though initially I found that it was a bit too boozy/syrupy. It had a solid thick mouthfeel and the flavors got more complex as it warmed up, developing a nice citrus hop flavor. Though not as impressive as Dank Williams from Cellarmaker it was still quite good for the style.
With the move towards lighter malt bills on hoppy beers, Fieldwork manages to give a unique spin on their IPAs when compared to Cellarmaker. They have some nice outdoor seating areas and plenty of seating inside, while the tasting room doesn’t echo so much that it is impossible to speak. I was surprised that they used larger glasses for their tasters, perhaps for giving people full amount of aroma. Even if you don’t like hoppy beers, it is worth heading out to Fieldwork to taste the Chocolate Milk, one of the most delicious brown ales I have tasted.
Misfit Stream IPA
Burning Daylight IPA
Artifex is not a brewery I expect a lot of people in San Diego will visit with the same regularity as others simply because of the long distance to get out there. A good 30 minute drive north of Bagby Brewing, it is best visited on your way north to LA or on your way south. In this visit I happened to drive up to Orange County unexpectedly and was able to drive past Artifex on my way south for a few tasters. They have a typical tasting room that is a mile or so from the freeway and easy to find. They also fill blank growlers if you happen to have one with you. When I visited I tasted the Brown Ale, Milk Stout, pale ale, AHAB IPA, Coconut Black IPA, No Name IPA, and Double IPA.
The brown ale was a nice medium brown in color almost dark amber and had mild flavors of caramel and English hops. The overall beer was quite tasty and easy to drink. The milk stout had a mild smoky flavor and a sticky aftertaste. The lactose was used sparingly so it did not have an intense sweetness that is typical with the style. It is a solid and tasty stout. The pale ale has a nice golden color and mixes tropical fruit and citrus with a medium bitter kick. The pale is a good example of the newer style of pale and will satisfy hop heads.
The AHAB IPA is their most popular offering and it had a nice combination of herbal and fruity hops. The beer is nice and light on the malts in the West Coast style. The Black IPA with coconut was quite delicious with an intense coconut flavor that mixes nicely with citrus hops without giving it too much bitterness. When I dropped by later for a growler of the same beer, the coconut had faded a little, leaving a more balanced mix of flavors, with the hops coming through a little more. This is still a beer primarily for hop heads.
The No Name IPA had a nice intense citrus hop flavor and light malt bill. This is a seriously tasty IPA with a nice light pine and citrus hop kick while not being too bitter. There was a hint of garlic on the aftertaste but nothing that took away from my enjoyment. Finally, the double IPA was quite thick, resiny, and slightly boozy. It is a good thick beer and one you would not down very fast. The boozy kick at the back was a little much for me but it is a solid double.
For a brewery that had their first anniversary in August of 2015, Artifex is brewing some delicious beers. It helps that the brewers used to brew for Pizza Port, a place well known for their delicious IPAs. For now the owners are often seen around the brewery and you will encounter a number of locals who probably come by regularly. They have food trucks most days though I happened to drop by the one day of the week when they didn’t have one. If you need a place to stop on your way through San Clemente, you should absolutely stop by Artifex.
Black IPA with Coconut
No Name IPA
San Diego Beer Week has been around for a few years now. Many other cities do similar things where they have special events for the week. Some people in San Diego think the whole idea is silly because we have fantastic beer available all year round. Still, I found the events to be interesting enough that I am glad to have taken part. All these special events can get quite expensive but even more so if you go to all the bigger festivals and pay for a round trip on Uber. Thankfully I was able to get someone to be the designated driver for most days so that I didn’t drive under the influence.
Day 1 – Alpine and Green Flash Takeover at O’Brien’s Pub
Day 1 of San Diego Beer Week 2015 started at O’Brien’s pub, a place I returned multiple times during the week because it is the closest bar that had special things going on. For Alpine and Green Flash takeover night they brought a bunch of Green Flash Cellar 3 beers as well as many delicious Alpine IPAs. Having recently visited Alpine to taste HFS IPA, I split a pitcher of this fantastic IPA with a friend, though I ended up giving him 2/3 of my second glass because I got him a Flanders Drive from Cellear 3 and he didn’t like it. My husband later joined us and had a glass of Odin’s Raven imperial stout from Alpine that I helped him with. I was surprised they poured this in a pint because it is so strong.
Day 2 – Sour Day at O’Brien’s Pub
I showed up around 2PM at O’Brien’s Pub for their sour beer takeover. At $4 a taster, or $24 for 6 5oz tasters it was an expensive visit (one that would be repeated later in the week) but the beers were quite delicious and I was able to sip them for a while. This is also normal price for sours anywhere you find them. I had the delicious Almanac Valley of the Heart’s Delight (an apricot sour), Karl Strauss Wild Ride, Russian River Supplication (a sour made with cherries and aged in wine barrels) Manzanita Brewing 5th Anniversary (their first ever wild ale), and The Bruery’s Oude Tarte (2013). All of them were quite tasty but I especially liked the Valley of the Heart’s Delight. Both Karl Strauss and Manzanita’s offerings were well-done and tasted like proper sours. The atmosphere at the sour day was nice and calm so I was able to chat with people outside and at some point read without a noisy crowd. I stuck to these five tasters so that I could drive home safely.
Day 3 – Award Winning Coffee Beers at Pizza Port Ocean Beach
In the mid-afternoon on Sunday my husband and I visited Pizza Port Ocean Beach for their award winning coffee beer day, which included their own recent bronze winning Bacon and Eggs coffee stout, Beachwood Brewing’s recent silver winning Pablo Escobeer (a Colombian coffee stout on nitro) and New English Brewing’s recent gold winning Zumbar imperial coffee and chocolate stout. I had a pint of the Bacon and Eggs for the first time that day and it was really delicious, giving me plenty of smooth nutty coffee that also had a nice caffeine bite. My husband really enjoyed the Beachwood offering on nitro as well. Then I ordered a glass of the 18th Anniversary from Firestone Walker (most likely a hold over from a previous barrel-aged event). This was a fantastic beer, blending a variety of different barrel aged beers. We also enjoyed a slice of the brunch pizza that they had along with the beers and it paired really nicely with the coffee stouts.
On our way back we stopped by Alesmith for their barrel aged beer day, which meant a flight of Beer Geek Speedway, Jamaican Blue Mountain Speedway, Velvet, and Bourbon Barrel Aged Speedway. I had heard mixed things about the Beer Geek Speedway in the past but I thought it was quite tasty. Jamaican Blue Mountain was tasting smooth as usual. And of course Velvet is the most smooth of the bunch. I’m still surprised by how fast the bottles sold out when it was put on sale but it is a delicious beer. Velvet is a bourbon barrel aged version of Jamaican Blue Mountain with vanilla added.
Day 4 – Imperial Stout Release at Duck Foot Brewing and GreenFlash 13th Anniversary Beer Release
I visited Duck Foot to start off my Monday for their new Ukrainian Imperial Stout release. The beer had a delicious caramel kick with some dark chocolate notes despite not having any adjuncts added. After our first sip of the taster, we ordered an 8 ounce to share as well. They also released a raspberry version later in the week but I didn’t get around to try that. They also filled six barrels that previously held Heaven Hill Bourbon with this beer for a future barrel-aged release. Based on the delicious base beer, I am very excited to see how this turns out.
Green Flash released their Handshake IPA as their 13th Anniversary beer. This is a collaboration IPA with Alpine. The beer is a smooth IPA with a strong grapefruit flavor. I was glad to see a few other Alpine beers available as well on tap, including HFS, Bad Boy, Hop Box, and their Ales for ALS IPA. I had an 8 ounce of the HFS and an 8 ounce of the ALS IPA. Both were delicious. I really liked the light flavors of the ALS IPA and the solid grapefruit flavor.
Day 5 – Beer and Cheese Pairing at The Winesellar and Brasserie
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this beer and cheese pairing but it turned out to be a mini beer festival of sorts. They had a medium-sized room with five breweries and one meadery and two more breweries outside. In all they had Iron Fist, Port Brewing/Lost Abbey, Saint Archer, New English, Golden Coast Mead, Helms, Duck Foot, and Helix. Each of them was pouring four ounce pours of two different beers in a wine glass we got at the beginning. They also had cheese at each of the different stations that you could grab to eat with crackers to go with your beers.
Some of the highlights of this event for me were the Double IPA from Duck Foot, tasting really fresh that evening, Iron Fist’s Saison, New English Zumbar imperial stout, and the sour mead from Golden Coast Mead. Some friends chose to boycott Saint Archer because of their recent sale to Miller/Coors but I like their coffee brown ale so I had a little of that. The only downside to the event was that they didn’t have much bread available. Some fresh bread showed up a few times during the event but it disappeared so fast I didn’t get much. This was a great little intimate event and I was able to try some interesting cheese and beer pairings.
Day 6 – Fieldwork Takeover at O’Brien’s and Modern Times Takeover at Regent’s Pizzeria
Fieldwork brewing is a relatively new brewery up in Berkeley that was started by some brewers who formerly brewed for Modern Times. I got to visit them recently (my blog post will be coming up soon) and was impressed by their beers so I was glad to have another chance to try their beers locally. I was surprised when I noticed that a good number of the beers were different than the selection they had when I visited the brewery only a short time ago. I don’t know if they brew especially small batches but I really enjoyed the beers I had. I ordered a pint of the Shoreline IPA and a pint of the Gray Wolf double IPA. My husband joined me later and ordered a pint of the Morning Time Coffee Stout.
The Shoreline IPA was quite delicious and had many of the same flavors they described on the board, including citrus and jack fruit. The Gray Wolf double IPA was brewed with Nelson and Hallertau hops and it had a perfect fruity and citrus blend with a surprisingly low bitterness and delicious finish. My husband was satisfied with his Morning Time Coffee Stout. Modern Times brought a ton of beers to Regent’s Pizzeria and I only ordered their Monster’s Park Imperial Stout. It was good and thick with plenty of coffee and chocolate flavors. I was glad to see the massive beer selection at the place in person and will hope to visit them soon to see how the pizza is.
Day 7 – Speedway Grand Prix
The Speedway Grand Prix is something that I have done every year since I tried it the last time they had it at O’Brien’s. Each year they have 12 varieties of Speedway Stout available in 3 separate 2oz flights. I tend to go share with my mom and my neighbor because we each enjoy different flavors and so everyone enjoys what they have. Each year they also ask you to rate your favorite flavors so that they can see what was best received and possibly make that one again in larger quantities. Because the list of the different beers is available below along with my ratings I won’t go into all of the different beers, except for a few that really stood out.
I quite enjoyed the Triple Hammerhead, a coffee explosion of flavor that had a nice bitter after taste. It has a smooth espresso kick. I also really liked the Butterfinger flavor, with the right mix of peanut butter and caramel while not being overwhelming sweet. Peanut Butter and Jelly was really nice with Raspberries added that gave it just the right amount of sweet kick to balance the nuts. The hazelnut was also very smooth and had a nice addition of chocolate that balanced it out. Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and Sour Cherry were my two other favorites. I was surprised by how much the Oatmeal Raisin reminded me of the cookie.
There were also a few special versions of Speedway on tap, including a Pu-Erh tea variety and a separate Autumn blend that didn’t have as overpowering maple flavor as the other maple one. The Pu-Erh was so good I could barely distinguish it from other coffee varieties. The beer has some inherent coffee flavors that are still there without coffee added. They also had Reforged on tap, their anniversary blend of various bourbon barrel aged beers. Others reported that they had different specialty beers if you went on Wednesday or Friday instead. It was really a fantastic experience.
Day 8 – Barrel aged Beer Day at O’Briens
I returned to O’Briens for the last time to have some big barrel aged beers. I tried a number of barrel aged beers but I should have stuck with the ones from more well-known breweries because I was not very impressed by the barrel aged old ale from Widmer and Cigar City or the Rye Ale Sierra Nevada brewed for O’Brien’s 20th anniversary. Both were a bit lighter in body and lacking in the punch of some of the others. What I really did enjoy was the Uncle Jacob’s Stout (a 16.9% bourbon barrel aged beer from Avery Brewing) and Firestone Walker’s Parabola (a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout). If I go to a similar event in the future I would get more Firestone Walker offerings and some Lost Abbey stuff.
Day 9 – Bourbon Barrel Aged Day at New English
New English decided that rather than simply barrel aging their Zumbar imperial stout, they also put their brown ale in bourbon barrels. For this event they had five varieties of brown ale aged in bourbon barrels plus some other things and their Zumbar Imperial Stout aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. Though they had flights available I decided to only try three of the varieties since I had done so many flights this week already. The Heaven Hill aged Brown Ale had a really nice bourbon flavor, a little less sweet than the Woodford Reserve varieties. In comparison the 2013 Woodford Reserve aged version was a lot sweeter and more smooth though it lacked the same bourbon kick. The Heaven Hill aged Zumbar was absolutely delicious. The beer was silky smooth and the bourbon really accented the coffee and chocolate flavors of the beer. It came close to some of the better barrel aged beers the previous day, though it was not as high in alcohol as either of my favorites. I was overall quite impressed by the different ones I tried and very much look forward to having more of that Heaven Hill aged brown ale in the future.
Day 10 – Coffee, Donuts, and Stout at Benchmark Brewing
After the festivities of previous days, I wanted to keep things light. Thankfully Benchmark expected this and planned their second annual coffee, donuts, and stout. They offered a flight with tasters of their oatmeal stout and imperial stout plus a cold brew coffee on nitro and coffee infused versions of the oatmeal stout and imperial stout on cask. This was just the right amount to share with two others while enjoying the donuts they had along with it. Though I don’t regularly eat donuts, I really liked their peanut butter version and the coconut one. Both of the coffee added casks were delicious. They also paired really well with the beers. I preferred the imperial stout version but my neighbor liked the more subtle flavors of the coffee in the oatmeal stout.
I had a really great time with all of these events this week, though I will be taking a few days off to let my body recover after all that. It is hard to pick a favorite event but I think the best few events I visited were the barrel aged beer day at O’Briens, Speedway Grand Prix, and the Barrel Aged day at New English. What can I say? I love the imperial stouts.