Tag Archives: coffee stout

Fort Lauderdale Breweries – Funky Buddha and LauderAle

Funky Buddha

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There are two locations for Funky Buddha, their large brewery with a traditional tasting room, and their hookah lounge, which is only open in the evenings. I visited the brewery. They have a large indoor space with plenty of tables and a lengthy bar. There is also outdoor seating for those who don’t mind drinking in the heat, though it isn’t the best setting to sit and sip their stouts. I started with their strong stouts, which are some of their most popular.

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The Maple Bacon porter was smooth and creamy with just the right amount of maple and fantastic balance. Often maple beers have far too much maple but this was nice and subtle. I didn’t taste much bacon or coffee though, and the beer was a bit on the sweet side for me but one of the best out of their stouts. The I’m So Excited coffee stout was also super sweet with tons of lactose and some mild coffee and caramel. I’m used to coffee stouts with strong coffee kick and didn’t get that here.

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Nikolai imperial stout had tons of dark cherry notes with a super sweet boozy finish. Jitterbug is their white stout with coffee and it tastes like most of the same style with tons of lactose and strong coffee. I’m not normally a fan of naughty sauce from Noble Aleworks so if you like that style of beer, this one is for you. Though I am well used to stouts being sweet, I found many of the offerings in my first flight at Funky Buddha to be a bit sweeter than my preference.

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For my second flight I went to their lighter stuff. The passion fruit berliner weisse had an intense passion fruit flavor with a mildly tart finish, a fantastic beer. The Hop Gun IPA had floral hop notes over a soft and creamy body that makes it really easy to drink. It finished with a mild lemon character.

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The Double IPA was a similar style but with more fruity hop notes and notes of honey at the finish. I preferred the fruity hops and had a full pour of this after the flight. The Nib Smuggler was a perfectly balanced mix of marshmallow and subtle lactose with a bitter chocolate finish. The more subtle lactose made for a delightful creamy beer.

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Top 3:
Passionfruit Berliner
Double IPA
NIB Smuggler

LauderAle

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After Funky Buddha I went to LauderAle, a location that is about 15 minutes drive south. They have a beautiful outdoor space that was full of people playing games with their beer. Their indoor space gets just the right amount of light from outside and they keep it at a comfortable cool temperature. I had a flight of four beers.

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The blonde with habanero and pineapple was delightful. The pineapple flavor was strong and sweet and backed up by just the lightest heat from the habanero. Even with all that fruit character, it still retained its light body and went down really smooth. I had three pints of this after the flight. The Coffee Porter had some mild roast and subtle vanilla mixed with coffee and spice at the finish. I thought the flavors were all too subtle, though it was easy drinking.

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The Rauch was smooth and smoky though the smoke was mild for the style. There was some light fruit under the smoke but like the porter, it felt a little too mild overall. The barrel aged coffee porter was creamy and had tons of vanilla with a mild bourbon finish. This was an excellent beer and much more flavorful than its base.  Though you probably won’t read much about LauderAle outside of Florida, I found their tasting room to be a great spot to visit with a solid lineup of beer.

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Top 2:
Pineapple Habanero Blonde
BBA C Porter

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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Breweries in Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin, Karben 4, Vintage, Raised Grain, Good City, Black Husky,

I normally get my information about which breweries to hit in a city from Beeradvocate and Ratebeer forums. This sometimes works out wonderfully, when locals give a list of tons of places that I have to pick the cream of the crop from. Other times this is not so great when there aren’t a lot of well-recommended breweries in an area. In that case I may miss a few places or skip over local favorites entirely based on the opinions of people on a message board. Sadly in Madison, Wisconsin this meant I didn’t make the trek out to New Glarus (45 minutes outside of town) and didn’t visit Vintage brewing because I didn’t ask my friend for recommendations. Thankfully I got some crowlers from Vintage because my friend shared the wealth.

Karben 4 came highly recommended in Madison and I agree with the praise. Out of the Milwaukee breweries, Raised Grain was a clear winner though the locals indicated that they are still in somewhat early stages.

Karben 4

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Karben 4 was the most recommended brewery out of all the Madison breweries and so it was my first stop, and turned out to be my only stop. I had a number of tasters and almost everything was excellent. They have a medium-sized tasting room with a kitchen and tons of variety.

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I started with the Champagne Tortoise English mild style ale and was immediately impressed by the clean beer bursting with flavor. The beer was smooth and fruity and lightly sweet, without any noticeable bitterness. The Tokyo Sauna pale ale was bitter and mildly soapy/herbal with a smooth malt finish. I didn’t care for the hops in this one. The Nightcall smoked porter was smooth and balanced with tons of chocolate and caramel and a mild smoke on the finish.

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The Fantasy Factory IPA was fruity with tons of citrus and a smooth malt backbone that was balanced by resinous hops. It was a solid IPA. Lady Luck imperial red was fantastic. I was glad to find an imperial red that wasn’t hopped to intense bitterness. The beer had tons of caramel and dark fruit with a mild roast at the finish. I could easily order more of this quite regularly if I was a local. Dragon Flute pale ale had tons of bright fruit showcasing tangerine and pineapple over a low malt bill and mild bitterness. I finished with the Idiot Farm double IPA, a delicious sticky sweet double IPA with tons of citrus and a balanced malt-backbone.

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Since I didn’t get the scoop on other local breweries while I was there I might have just gone back to Karben 4 for more because of their impressive lineup. Though I didn’t like all the hoppy beers, they had two that were quite excellent. And one of the ones I didn’t like may have just been an old keg.

Top 4:
Champagne Tortoise English Mild
Lady Luck Imperial Red
Dragon Flute Pale
Idiot Farm Double IPA

Vintage Brewing

Though I didn’t visit Vintage Brewing I did get to try four different beers thanks to a friend. It helps that they have a crowler machine so the beers stayed fresh over a few days.

The oaked pale was a fantastic smooth blend of a malt-forward IPA and a smooth oak bite at the finish. The oak removed any intense bitterness and the beer was quite popular among a group of people at a party who generally don’t like IPAs. The Toy Boat Toy Boat double IPA was deliciously fruity with a smooth balanced malt backbone of English malts. Hops came on strong with tons of sweet melon notes. I would love to visit the brewery the next time I am in town.

Raised Grain Brewing

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Raised Grain is a ways to the west of Downtown Milwaukee but well worth the drive. I tried a number of different beers from them and almost everything was excellent. They have a nice medium-sized tap room with plenty of bar seating and a number of tables. They had sports on their TVs and you could tell the locals have become regulars.

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The Naked Threesome was a delicious fruity pale ale with tons of grapefruit and a sticky caramel malt backbone. The Anniversary Stout was nutty with tons of vanilla and a smooth finish. Quite the tasty beer. The porter was an interesting mix of spice, cherry, mild smoke, and some burnt caramel notes. I found the cherry to be a bit much for my tastes though. The coffee stout on tap was delicious with tons of nutty coffee on the nose and the taste and a mild caramel finish. This was quite an excellent coffee stout.

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Before I left, the bartender offered a smaller pour of their staple imperial red IPA. It was deliciously balanced with tons of citrus and pine from the hops and some mild caramel and bread notes from the malts. With so many red IPAs being total malt bombs this was quite refreshing. The scotch ale was smooth and fruity wish some mild oak at the finish.

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Top 2:
Coffee Stout
Paradox Imperial Red IPA

Good City Brewing

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Despite the name, I found only half of the four tasters I ordered here to be drinkable. They started out strong with a mosaic pale that had tons of tropical fruit and hints of mango without significant malts or bitterness. The session IPA was bursting with papaya and creamy malt backbone with a crisp dry finish. If the rest of the beers were as good I would be praising them along side Raised Grain. Sadly, the next two were not very good.

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The Pale Lager had some notes of peaches and cherry with some quite prominent alcohol taste and a strong bitter finish. Though there was some mango in the finish as well, the bitterness and strong alcohol flavor killed it for me. Similarly, the double IPA had strong flavors of onion and a sticky sweet malt backbone. Though it had some fruity hop notes on the nose I got none of it in the taste. I was even more surprised to see that the brewery charged me just under $4 for the taster of this double IPA and almost $3 for each of the two IPAs. If I had noticed the $4 taster price on the board I would have passed it up out of principle. Charging twice as much for a pint as they do for a taster is ridiculous and hurts visitors who aren’t interested in ordering a full pint.

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Though I didn’t care for the second half of my flight, the first two beers were quite impressive and show that the brewer knows how to work with hops and can get the right flavors from them at least some of the time. I will give the brewery the benefit of the doubt and assume that they messed up with the double IPA though I question selling a beer so clearly off the mark. Still, paying $12 for essentially one pint of beer just because they are in tasters is a poor way to treat customers who aren’t going to buy a pint until they have had a few tasters.

Top 2:
Mosaic Pale
Session IPA

Black Husky Brewing

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Black Husky doesn’t offer typical 4oz tasters but instead 7oz tasters, which makes their pricing slightly more reasonable even if they still annoyingly price things essentially against the people who order anything but a full pour. Visitors aren’t going to order full pints of things if they are visiting multiple breweries in a single day. It just doesn’t make sense. So because of their large tasters I went with essentially half pours of their two IPAs.

The IPA with Citra was smooth and presented tons of tropical fruit notes from the hops. The IPA with mosaic had tons of bitter grapefruit with hints of lime in the finish. Both IPAs were made well though they were noticeably quite similar in the malt behind them. I would have tried more beers there but the styles available didn’t pique my interest.

Black Husky has a very nice theme going and some relaxing seating in the tasting room. Sadly, the tasting room also got quite loud even when it wasn’t completely full. This didn’t make me want to stay very long. They are worth dropping by if you are craving a good IPA because the two IPAs I tried were nicely done.

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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Boulder Colorado Breweries – Odd 13 and Avery

On my trip to Denver I made the drive up to Boulder area to visit Avery and in the process stopped by Odd 13 first to try the beers that never get distributed to San Diego.

Odd 13

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Odd 13 just celebrated three years and from my visit they seem to focus primarily on kettle sours and IPAs. They have a solid size tap room in an area six miles east of Boulder where the cell reception was terrible and the wi-fi unreliable. I started with some sours and moved my way on to a few IPAs.

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Amacron kettle sour was nice with citrus notes and mild hop character. The Durazndor kettle sour with peaches and apricots was nice and mildly acidic with a good amount of fruit character. This was my favorite of the three sours so I was glad they had cans available. The Vincent Van Couch was another kettle sour with tons of fruit notes from the sour mash. The Buzzin Cuzzin coffee stout was nice and mellow with smooth coffee character that balanced nicely with mild chocolate.

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For the IPAs, I finished with the Double Dry Hopped Super Fan. The beer had some nice citrus and herbal hoppy notes though the bitter finish didn’t jibe with the juicy style. The Hopperella was nice and smooth with notes of peach and vanilla. Both beers have the distinctive hazy unfiltered look and are tasty versions of the juicy style.

Top 2:
Durazndor peach sour
Hopperella hazy IPA

Avery

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Avery is one of the larger breweries in the area, only surpassed by New Belgium for wide distribution of their beers. Though I’ve had most of their core beers before I wanted to visit the brewery directly to try them from the source. They have a massive two floor restaurant with plenty of seating and bar space for people to enjoy beers plus some outdoor seating as well. My husband enjoyed their always delicious brown ale that I used to buy quite regularly a few years back and their tasty stout. I stuck to their IPAs and finished with a brewery-exclusive sour.

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Their single IPA is a perfect example of the classic West Coast style of IPA with tons of dankness and citrus notes and a dry finish. The Double IPA is fruity and sweet with notes of peach and a nice thick malt base that balances it out perfectly. The double dry hopped maharaja was fantastic to have fresh at the source finally. It is super smooth and does a great job hiding its 10% alcohol. I finished with the Terpshicore sour made with wine grapes and aged in wine barrels. The beer looks like a nice full-bodied red wine and is nice and jammy with fruity notes from the brett and a mild acidic finish. Though $6 a taster I savored every sip and would order more again for sure.

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Avery has a wide variety of styles available from pilsner through to stouts and stronger IPAs, barley wines, and barrel aged beers including intense stouts and sours. It is hard to imagine someone not finding something to enjoy among the large tap list. They also had a handfull of tap room exclusives that make it worth the trip.

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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Burning Beard Brewing – Impressive New Brewery With Delicious IPAs

In San Diego most new breweries aren’t going to get very far without an IPA unless they focus exclusively on sours and wild ales. Burning Beard has been open for a few months and has already attracted a large following thanks to a solid lineup of hoppy beers and a punk vibe that comes through in the beer names, the logo, and the music played at the tasting room. Located in a small industrial area just outside the center of El Cajon, and not too far from the 52 freeway, on a busy day you will likely find yourself parking on the street but once inside you are greeted by the smiles of the various beertenders who all know their beers and are led by Shannon Lynnette, whose involvement as tasting room manager instantly signals to her friend and fans that the beers are going to be awesome. Many locals know her from her time at Alesmith.

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Side note and disclaimer: I was not charged for the eight tasters that I will discuss in this post thanks to the awesome hospitality of Shannon and the newest member of her team. However, I will be giving them the same treatment as I would any other brewery. I have not been in any way obligated to give them a positive review.

Tap list when I visited the brewery on June 16, 2016.
Tap list when I visited the brewery on June 16, 2016.

This was actually my second visit to the brewery, after I made the drive out a month earlier only to realize my cold left me unable to smell and thus unable to experience the hops they pull off so well. Though I couldn’t experience their beers that day, trusting Shannon’s recommendations and a super fresh IPA I came home with a crowler (32 ounce can to go) of their Hopmata IPA. A few days later, when my senses had returned, I opened the crowler and posted on Instagram, “Delicious IPA with tangerine notes and super sticky and dank, very impressive IPA.” At the time when I opened the crowler the beer had been only on tap for four days and the freshness was noticeable. Some responded to my post on Facebook and indicated that they preferred the Dankness Visible IPA and I can see why and will explain below now that I have tried it.

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On this most recent trip I stuck mostly to the hoppy beers with the exception of the saison and the imperial stout. The coffee stout they have was out at the moment, which was the beer my husband preferred when we stopped by the first time. I tasted the pilsner, rye pale, ESB, Circle of Hops pale ale, saison, Dankness Visible IPA, Hopmata IPA, and Insoc imperial stout. Starting a tasting with a pilsner I have rarely experienced one so flavorful and delicious. To me there are two things that set apart a good pilsner, one is the clean pilsner malt and the other is the right amount of hop character to balance it out. This had both with notes of fruit and floral hops that balanced nicely with the slightly sweet pilsner malts. I later ended up ordering a pint of this beer before I left.

First four tasters, all delicious light hoppy beers.
First four tasters, all delicious light hoppy beers.

The rye pale was a solid pale with notes of tangerine, lemon, and melon from the hops and a nice mild bitterness on the end. The ESB was super smooth and delicious with a great caramel malt backbone and a light apricot hop flavor that is detectable but stays back to avoid overpowering the rest. There are a handful of local breweries that have impressed me with their ESBs but Burning Beard joins the group. It is no surprise to me that this beer recently won first place at a beer festival. Circle of Hops is the more traditional pale of the bunch, offering a chewy malt backbone and with hops primarily providing bitterness with some dank and sticky character coming in at the end. Of these first four, the pilsner and ESB stood out for me though many people around were really digging the Circle of Hops.

The saison is super fruity with notes of banana, pineapple, and ripe tropical fruit with just a light funk behind it all. The beer had none of the traditional pepper or earthy notes that can sometimes make a saison. Before I describe the two IPAs I should note that the Dankness visible was noticeably the fresher of the two so that gave it an edge at the time. Both IPAs have distinct hop profiles that may appeal to different people. The Dankness Visible is super dank and has lots of pine and resin notes. I really enjoyed the balance of flavors here and the hops were strong and in your face without making the beer too bitter. The Hopmata IPA is more fruity and sticky with notes of mango and tropical fruit and a slight wheat malt flavor to it. This one was a bit more bitter of the two but still a very tasty IPA.

Second set of tasters.
Second set of tasters.

The Insoc imperial stout is primarily bitter and roasty with notes of dark fruit dominating. I tend to prefer more chocolate or coffee notes in my imperial stouts and more sweetness so I wasn’t too big on this. My husband, who also prefers more chocolate and coffee in his stouts wasn’t huge on this one either. It is clearly well made but not the type of stout I would order much of. After tasting my 8 tasterts and sipping on a pint of the pilsner, I was ready to head back home so I picked up a crowler of the Dankness visible to have in a few days. I don’t usually do a lot of growler fills with breweries but I can see myself stopping by when I’m in the area fairly regularly to bring home some of their delicious IPAs. It is nice to see a small brewery offering crowler fills since you don’t have to worry about bringing your growler with you to stop by for beer to go.

Delicious pilsner in their pint glass.
Delicious pilsner in their pint glass.

I should also note that while I really enjoy Burning Beard, they are most impressive for their hoppy beers. They do have a few tasty Belgian style offerings as well as the stouts and are working on some sours so that eventually they will truly have something for everyone. For a brewery that has been open only a few short months they clearly fill a void for the locals in the area who filled up the place as early as 4PM on a Thursday. The place does have quite an echo so when it is crowded it can be difficult to hear the music under the roar of all the talking but it doesn’t get so loud to make it uncomfortable and they do have a section of outdoor seating if it gets to be a problem. They also regularly have food trucks during the evenings so keep an eye on their Facebook page to see if a food truck interests you.

Top 4:
Dankness Visible
Pilsner
ESB
Hopmata 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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Mikkeller Brewing – New San Diego Location

I visited Mikkeller’s San Diego location twice to cover the majority of the beers. They are such a big name that I wanted to try as much as possible. In total I tried 11 different beers. Mikkeller took over the old Alesmith location and is brewing beer with one of the Alesmith Brewers. They gave the Alesmith tasting room a change in look including tons of wacky artwork of the sort that Mikkeller has on their bottles.
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Mikkeller Brewing 02
To start with, I tried the two lightest beers. The Berliner Weisse was really nice beer that is lightly tart with notes of fruit and citrus. The Saison SD is also quite fruity with some mild funk, notes of banana and peach, and a solid earthy back end. Both of these were quite good. The Sparks pale ale is solidly balanced pale with notes of peach and other fruits with a medium bitter finish. The Waves IPA is super sticky and dank with overripe tropical fruit notes dominating but it is not overly bitter.
Berliner Weisse and Saison.
Berliner Weisse and Saison.
Sparks and Waves.
Sparks and Waves.
The Brett IPA is super fruity and is a nice balance of funk and citrus hops. This and Waves were my two favorite hoppy beers. Brett IPAs are hard to get right kinda like Belgian IPAs because of the strong flavor the yeast imparts so I always try to recognize one that is done right. The Spells double IPA to me tasted like a double version of Sparks. It was similarly balanced with a nice bitter finish and some citrus hop flavor at the finish. Sparks and Spells aren’t bad per say but a bit less hop aroma forward compared to the Waves.
Double IPA and Brett IPA.
Double IPA and Brett IPA.
Hop Geek Breakfast is one of the most popular beers from Mikkeller and I thought it was solid but not fantastic. It is smooth and roasty with a bitter coffee finish and a mild sticky sweetness under. The coffee could have come on stronger though. Hop Geek Breakfast is a highly hopped version of the previous one. While the balance was there and the citrus and pine go well with the roast I would still prefer the Waves IPA over this. Flat White Beer Geek adds lactose and is the sweetest of the bunch. It balanced nicely between sweetness and coffee.
Dark beers.
Dark beers.
The NY Verden Old Ale is thick and fruity with notes of cherry and mild smoke and a sweet finish. The Imperial Stout was thick and a mix of bitter chocolate and light smoke. I noticed a lot of the stouts had a similar mild smoke flavor to them that to me was a little off-putting. While I found the flat white too sweet, everyone else who I know really liked it the most of the stouts. Mikkeller opened up out of the gate with a large tap list thanks to having a ton of recipes that have already been perfected. There is a little something for everyone on tap.  Though I wasn’t huge on beer geek breakfast initially I am confident that they will get the recipe dialed in shortly and I will come to love it.
Top 2:
Waves IPA
Brett 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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Sante Adarius Rustic Ales and New Bohemia – San Jose California

The San Francisco Bay Area is a large place and visitors often travel as far north as Santa Rosa to visit Russian River or as far south as Santa Cruz to visit Sante Adarius Rustic Ales or SARA for short. I chose to fly into San Jose for this brewery visit so that I had a fairly short drive down to Santa Cruz, or the neighborhood of Capitola where SARA is located. I also visited a newer brewery known as New Bohemia Brewing a short distance away. Both breweries complement each other nicely.

Sante Adarius

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SARA is a cult favorite for their sours and farmhouse ales, many of which are bottled and released exclusively from the taproom. I happened to visit when they were releasing bottles of Lady in Grey and they also had bottles available of their Farmhouse Noir, a dark sour. I tried a number of different beers over two separate visits including the Chavez porter, Lady in Grey, Anais saison, Vanilla Joe, and 831 IPA. The Chavez porter is a very smooth and delicious beer with hints of vanilla and chocolate with a mild roast at the finish. This is the base beer for many of their adjunct versions including Vanilla Joe, made with vanilla and coffee. The Vanilla Joe was a delicious mix of coffee and vanilla and so popular that it was no longer available when I returned for my second visit. This was also my husband’s favorite beer.

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The Lady in Grey is a delicious complex oaked blonde with a dry finish and bright fruit notes. I enjoyed this one and picked up a few bottles for myself and a few friends back home. The Anais is a super fruity saison with mild funk and an earthy finish. The 831 IPA is quite fruity with darnk pine at the finish. I found the IPA to be overly bitter at the finish, not from hops but from something else. This is an issue they have identified and should be fixing for future batches. I also got to try the Farmhouse Noir thanks to a kind regular who bought a bottle for us to share. I had already purchased some to bring home but it was not available on tap. Famhouse Noir was a delicious dark sour with just the right amount of tart finish and lots of fruit and mild vinegar. I look forward to exploring the flavors of this beer more when I open the bottle I brought back with me.

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On the two different days I visited SARA had quite a few people even as early as 12PM. The first day I visited was a Saturday which also happened to be a bottle release day so people were lining up for bottles and hanging around for beers. When I stopped by the next day there were no lines and the crowd was a little smaller but still respectable. There is plenty of seating available for people to hang around for a while. Flights are not available but they serve everything in half pours or full pours and the servers do a great job of explaining the beer styles prior to ordering something.

Top 2:
Vanilla Joe
Anais

New Bohemia

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As SARA attempts to re-create the Farmhouse styles from Belgium, New Bohemia puts a lot of effort into creating German style pilsner, heffeweizen, and Vienna lager. I tried the pilsner, IPA, Mole Stout, Double Duchess coffee porter, and black IPA on nitro. The pilsner is super clean and delicious with a medium body and light German hop kick to balance out the bready pilsner malt. I passed on the heffeweizen because it is the Bavarian style which I don’t particularly like (tending to taste of banana and cloves).

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The IPA was super smooth and juicy with notes of tangerine and melon, with a nice amber color. This is in line with the modern style of IPAs with lower bitterness and more hop aromas and was very impressive. The mole stout was deliciously balanced with the coffee, chocolate, and chilies all blending together perfectly. The chocolate and chilies trade off at the finish and the beer is smooth all the way through. The Double Duchess coffee porter is thick and delicious with tons of coffee flavor and a mildly sweet finish. The black IPA is served on nitro and it does a great job of mellowing the hops further while offering a super smooth finish. The hops are given a chance to shine and like the IPA it isn’t overly bitter.

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Delicious pilsner.
Delicious pilsner.

For a new brewery I was quite impressed by the delicious beers offered at New Bohemia, though the brewer has a ton of experience at other places prior to opening up his own brewery. There is a little something for everyone here and the large number of stouts available was quite nice to see. We originally stopped by for a flight of four tasters but returned later for more because they ran out of the Vanilla Joe at SARA so we had to have more Double Duchess instead. That is how delicious it was.

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Top 2:
Double Duchess
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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Arizona Breweries Part 2 – More Phoenix Area Breweries

In Part 1 of this two part post I wrote about Prison Hill Brewing in Yuma and three Phoenix area breweries, Papago, Fate, and Goldwater. In this post I include the remaining 3 breweries from my visit, Huss, Arizona Wilderness, and Beer Research Institute.

Huss Brewing Company

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In typical brewery style, Huss is tucked away in an industrial park and has a fairly small tasting room though with a decent amount of seating. They only serve their house beers but they have quite a lineup such that I didn’t taste everything, especially because this was my fourth stop for the day! I tried the Southern Hussy peach ale, Husstler milk stout, Peanut Butter Husstler, That’ll Do IPA and Grapefruit IPA. The Southern Hussy is a delicious barrel-aged peach ale lightly tart and very strong peach flavors that were balanced out nicely by the oak.

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The Husstler Milk Stout is a fairly light body milk stout, not too sweet and very smooth. I liked it but the Peanut Butter version was much better, with a good amount of nutty flavor and mild chocolate. I filled a growler of this one to take home and it was quite delicious 5 days later. The IPA was very nicely done with good balance and solid bitterness. The flavors were mostly on the citrus and fruit side. The grapefruit version was even better, with a nice blend from the added grapefruit.

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Top 2 from Huss:
Southern Hussy
PB Husstler

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company
AZ Wilderness is one of the more hyped breweries I visited. They brew a lot of different beers all the time so the lineup changes quite regularly aside from their IPA which is always available. They have a large restaurant with parking that fills up quickly and a lot of people hanging out in the tasting room area were just waiting for their table. Thankfully they cleared out quickly so I had plenty of room to hang out and do a few flights. They have delightful hardwood all around, including a huge piece for the bar and smaller logs for holding your flights.

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I did two separate flights for a total of 10 tasters while I was there. The first flight included a berliner weisse, saison, oak aged bitter, Dekopa Belgian pale ale and milk stout. The second flight included the coffee stout, peanut brittle ale, Big Eye Rye double IPA, Refuge IPA, and Biere de Wassail Belgian Christmas ale. The Berliner Weisse was quite well done just as you would expect with a nice light fruity flavor, very mild tartness, high carbonation, and a light hop flavor. I recommended it to quite a few people at the bar when they asked for something light when the bartender for some reason didn’t think that it was a good idea. Most liked it.

Arizona Beer 24

Arizona Beer 25

The Saison was a delightful peach/orange color and had a good combination of fruity flavors primarily peach with a nice sticky finish. It had just the right amount of saison funk and not a ton of intense spice as you sometimes get. The Oak Aged Bitter is a traditional English style bitter aged in oak barrels. It was quite mild with flavors of coffee and light earthy hops. It was smoothed out nicely by the oak without getting too much intense wood character. The DeKopa Belgian Pale did not taste right to me at all. At least one person confirmed what I tasted while others thought it tasted much different and more typical floral hops with Belgian yeast. To me it had a scent of mildew with flavor of sweaty socks. I even asked the bartender if it was supposed to smell how it did and he confirmed it was. I also had a similar (though not as extreme) experience with Cantillon Grand Cru so if you find similar flavors in that then avoid this. My best suggestion is to ask for a splash before ordering much in case you experience this similarly.

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The Milk Stout was good and smooth on nitro with a nice mild smoky flavor and hints of caramel. Very drinkable and delicious. The Coffee Stout was similarly smooth and mild with a nice nutty coffee taste, also very nice. The peanut brittle ale was quite sweet with lots of lactose flavors and a smooth peanut butter flavor. It was quite tasty. The Refuge IPA is a really crisp IPA that to me tasted like fresh cut apples. It had a lot of flavor without a high malt bill and a good medium bitterness that didn’t overpower. The Big Eye Rye is a fantastic sticky dank double IPA bursting with fruity guava and tropical fruit. While a little more bitter than the Refuge it wasn’t overly bitter and I quite liked it.

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The Biere de Wassail is a Belgian style Christmas ale. As such I was not surprised that it had quite a lot of spice flavor, high alcohol, and was essentially a fruity version of a Belgian Dark Strong. It was quite sticky sweet and very strong reminiscent of apple pie. I was satisfied by a taster of this but many people were ordering full pours and loving it. Everything I tried at AZ Wilderness was delicious with the exception of the Belgian Pale listed above. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the way they brewed it but there are certain flavors that certain palates taste differently. Some people taste certain stouts as if they have soy sauce, and I apparently taste certain types of Belgian yeast as if they are mildew.

Top 3 from AZ Wilderness:
Big Eye Rye
Refuge IPA
Saison
Beer Research Institute
My last stop of the trip was Beer Research Institute. Though I did stop at Alpine for a bottle pickup and growler fill on the way back I did not do tasters there so I consider this my last stop. Beer Research Institute is surprisingly located in a strip mall. They look like any small strip mall restaurant from the outside and they serve food. We ended up only eating their bread pudding, which was absolutely delicious. I tasted 6 beers while I was there in one flight, Morning Sex coffee porter, Dark Side imperial stout, Intergalactic saison, Street Cred black IPA, Mjango Unchained mango imperial IPA, and Lolli Belgian Tripel.

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The Morning Sex coffee stout was slightly sweeter and more balanced than the AZ Wilderness version and had a nice caramel malt background. This is one of the favorites of the guys at AZ Wilderness and I can see why. The Dark Side imperial stout is fruity and slightly sweet with mild smoky and roasty flavors. The Intergalactic saison was a nicely balanced beer with fruity tastes of grapefruit and pineapple and a mild funk. I really enjoyed this one. The Street Cred black IPA was roasty and fairly bitter with fruity hops that are almost hidden under the silky caramel dark malts. I expect a lot more roast and bitterness from my black IPA and I found the hops didn’t really work with the underlying beer too well.

Arizona Beer 30

Arizona Beer 31

The Mjango Unchained was a super delicious mango double IPA with a sweet mango flavor and very light bitterness. It hid its alcohol really well. My husband actually thought it was pretty good and he hates IPAs. I wish I could have filled a growler with this one. The Lolli was quite sweet and fruity and closer to a tripel than the Belgian Blonde they claim it is on the menu. It has some mild spice on the back from the Belgian yeast. It is solid for a tripel but I was more in the mood for a blonde at the time.

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I really like the setup at Beer Research Institute and they are brewing some solid beers for such a young brewery. I understand the limited growler fill options because they seem to be brewing on a very small system. I didn’t try any food other than the dessert but they seemed to be quite popular for what they had.

Top 2 Beer Research Beers:
Morning Sex coffee stout,
Mjango Unchained mango Double 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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Fall Brewing Company – Young San Diego Brewery that is Quite Impressive

There are a ton of breweries opening all the time and it can be hard for new ones to stick out among the crowd. That is unless they start out making beers as impressive as those from Fall. Fall is probably one of the most hyped up young breweries lately and I figured I would walk away disappointed but found myself really impressed by a lot of what I tasted. I tried two flights while I was there. My first full flight included the Interpretive Dance Session IPA, Jazz Hands Berliner Weisse, English Pale, Spirit of 77 IPA, and Green Hat IPA. I ended with three dark beers including the ever popular 2AM Bike Ride, Apocalypse Pony, and Fall & Oats.

Fall Brewing Company 01

The Interpretive Dance session IPA was surprisingly potent with tons of hop flavor and high bitterness despite a seriously low 3.5% alcohol. It was a solid mix of tropical fruit and citrus with a seriously bitter finish. The Jazz Hands berliner weisse was crisp and delicious with a mild fruity/tart flavor. It also was surprisingly flavorful for a low 3.5% alcohol. This was one of the more flavorful local versions of the style I have had. The English Pale primarily has a lot of apricot flavor with some mild earthy hops and a crisp sweet finish. It didn’t overwhelm with the malts and was overall a very nicely balanced drinkable beer.

Fall Brewing Company 02

First full flight.
First full flight.

Both the Spirit of 77 and Green Hat IPAs were fantastically balanced and delicious. They were both quite similar in many ways, both having a sticky icky sweetness and both not too overwhelmed by the malts. The 77 IPA was fruity with a piney finish and a little more malt balance. The Green Hat tended more towards the juicy guava and pineapple flavors and was overall deliciously fruity. Neither tasted much like any IPA I have had before while they both were excellent examples of the style. After all the hype for 2AM Bike Ride, I wasn’t too excited by it. It was a very smooth light-body stout with intense bitter coffee and a subtle vanilla in the back. It seemed to lack a complexity or roasted malt flavor that I love so much in the style.

Last set of beers, all stouts.
Last set of beers, all stouts.

The Apocalypse Pony has a strong vanilla flavor with a mellow coffee finish. Again I found the body lacking here and the vanilla was a little too overpowering for me. The Fall & Oats was quite fruity and the fruit was so sweet I almost thought it was vanilla at first. Like the other two I tried, it was lacking the thicker mouthfeel I love in my stouts and didn’t have the chewy oat character I normally love. Despite the stouts being mostly underwhelming for me, I recognize that they are quite popular among other groups. 2AM Bike Ride is a big hit with many of the local beer fans. Still, the two IPAs were so delicious and showed a real skill with blending hop flavors that I don’t see often with young breweries. If you haven’t gotten around to visiting Fall, you should do so soon.

The brewery has a nice wide open space.
The brewery has a nice wide open space.

Top 3:
Green Hat IPA
Spirit of 77 IPA
English Pale

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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Pure Project – A Fantastic New Addition to a Crowded Miramar Brewery Scene

I visit a LOT of breweries in any given year and some of the new breweries come out of the gate a little less than ready but that is not the case for Pure Project. With a full 12 taps of beer to choose from on the grand opening day and a wide variety of styles to suit all palates they delivered one of the most impressive local launches of a brewery in quite some time. Out of the 10 beers I tasted and shared with a friend, five were very impressive and the other five were solid. We both left pleasantly surprised by the quality of beers available and excited to see what they have in store going forward. A few of the launch beers would make really good core beers that I hope don’t change very much going forward.

Massive tap list when I visited.
Massive tap list when I visited.

I tried the Gose with grapefruit, the cream ale with orange and vanilla, saison with hibiscus and honey, rye pale ale, dry stout with coffee, IPA, brett IPA, Double IPA, imperial porter, and Belgian Quad with coconut. The Gose had an interesting mix of funk and subtle grapefruit. It was quite effervescent and mildly citrus, a solid Gose though I hope future versions will have more pronounced fruit. The cream ale did a fantastic job of making a creamsicle, vanilla orange popsicle, with a great mix of orange and vanilla and a really smooth mouth feel. The beer wasn’t too sweet and I could see myself drinking much more of it on another visit.

First two tasters.
First two tasters.

The saison was a nice balance of hibiscus and honey without getting too sweet. It finishes lightly sweet and a bit dry. A solid saison. The Milagro dry stout with coffee and vanilla was quite smooth thanks to the nitro with plenty of prominent coffee and a light body. The vanilla was quite subtle but the overall beer was very satisfying. We preferred it over the imperial stout because it was a bit more flavorful. The Rye Pale was so good that we thought they had to have made a mistake and given us the IPA instead. They managed to squeeze a ton of hop flavor and aroma into a light 5.5% beer with tons of tropical fruit, pineapple, and citrus without much bitterness. When we actually got the IPA to compare we could see the difference. I came back a few days later with some friends and ordered the pale again. The alcohol percentage is more evident when you start with it but it is still quite delicious.

Second set of tasters.
Second set of tasters.

The IPA was a more bitter and dry finishing beer than the pale though it lacked the burst of hop flavor that made the pale so delicious. It is a solid IPA but compared to the pale and double IPA it just didn’t stand out. The Brett IPA was fantastically balanced between a good citrus hop kick and some fruity Brett yeast. The beer has a subtle grapefruit flavor as well.

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The Double IPA comes on strong with a serious bitter grapefruit flavor and a surprising lack of sweetness and detectable alcohol for a 9.3% double IPA. It is a very impressive double IPA. The imperial porter was a super smooth nitro pour with some fruity malt character and not much roasted malt kick or body to it. It went down easy but lacked the flavor of the coffee porter. The Belgian quad has a fantastic coconut nose and it comes through very strong in the taste. At first all I tasted was coconut and a surprisingly smooth beer for 10.8%. Over time as it warmed up the coconut faded a little, letting me taste the base beer, which was still very tasty.

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I got to speak with the brewer while I was there and he mentioned that he has quite a few sours in the pipeline that he hopes to present in the coming months. I look forward to returning to try the sours but also to see what he does with hops because it is very rare that the pale at a brewery is more impressive than the IPA. Pure Project joins a crowded market both in San Diego and along Miramar Road but it will be one I will return to regularly.

Top 4:
Coconut Quad
Double IPA
Rye Pale
Dry Stout with Coffee

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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A Visit to Dallas: Deep Ellum, Brain Dead, and Community Brewing

I visited Dallas recently and went to a few breweries. Because I didn’t get to do flights at two of my three locations I decided to write about all three breweries in one long post. First stop was Deep Ellum brewing, in a neighborhood that many of the locals I met around there said is their favorite neighborhood. It was very nice when we were there because we parked the rental car once and walked from Deep Ellum Brewing to Brain Dead Brewing and then had BBQ at Pecan Lodge, all without having to move the car. Then my husband drove me on to Community Brewing.

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Tap list at Deep Ellum when I visited.
Tap list at Deep Ellum when I visited.

Deep Ellum Brewing has a fairly large indoor tasting room and around equal amount of space outside in the back. The tasting room has a very modern feel like any big tasting room in San Diego although they don’t allow visitors to order flights on Saturdays. I could see why, because they were quite busy and perhaps they didn’t want to have to deal with washing all the taster glasses when they have such a large crowd. Because I couldn’t order tasters, I went for their deal of 3 pints and keep the pint glass for $15. I tried the house IPA, sour blonde, and barrel aged coffee ale.

Deep Ellum IPA.
Deep Ellum IPA.
Sour Blonde.
Sour Blonde.

The Deep Ellum IPA is very balanced and the malts support the earthy hops nicely, making it very easy drinking despite being 7%. It isn’t particularly bitter and hides the alcohol very well. This is neither a crazy malt bomb, all bitter and no aroma, nor a beer that focuses primarily on hop aromas. One thing I expect is that the beer ages well and that is always helpful. The sour blonde was mildly tart and quite tasty. I mostly tasted notes of passion fruit and lemon. Everything balanced nicely and made for an easy drinking sour blonde. The barrel aged coffee ale was just over 7% and had a nice mix of vanilla from the barrel, mild spices, and nutty coffee. It had just the right amount of thickness so that it wasn’t watery but also wasn’t thick like an imperial stout. I would have liked to have tried some of their other hop-forward offerings but from what I tasted, I found Deep Ellum to be quite impressive. They also offer cans and bottles of a few of the beers.

Barrel aged coffee ale.
Barrel aged coffee ale.

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My next stop was Brain Dead Brewing. I did not have this on my list prior to my visit but the best way to find out where to go next is to ask the people who sit near you at one brewery because the locals often know of places that may not have gotten popular outside of the area. Brain Dead was offering flights so I was able to try a few more beers at this stop. Brain Dead is a brewpub and has their own food available. It seemed like many of the people around me were enjoying the food. In typical brewpub fashion, the flight available was already set. I tasted the blonde, red ale, English IPA, stout, and wild ale. The blonde was light and crisp with a mild hop bitterness and subtle hints of a Saison on the back from the yeast.

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Braindead Tap List Part 1.
Brain Dead Tap List Part 1.
Brain Dead tap list part 2.
Brain Dead tap list part 2.

The red ale had a caramel malt background with hop kick with flavors of citrus and pine and a bitter finish. I had a hard time finishing this one because I thought that the flavors didn’t blend together all too well. The English IPA had a nice apricot flavor from the hops at the front without much bitterness. It ended with a mild citrus hop kick. The flavors worked really nicely, making a nice mild yet flavorful IPA. The stout was medium bitter and smoky with a fairly light body. It was a fairly standard stout but well done. My favorite was the wild ale, bursting with flavors of mango and peach. The beer wasn’t very funky or tart, just light, crisp, and fruity. If I wasn’t going to one more stop and quite hungry by that time I would have ordered a full pour of this one.

Brain Dead flight.
Brain Dead flight.
Inside of Brain Dead.
Inside of Brain Dead.

My last stop was Community Brewing, where I hung out in possibly the biggest tasting room I have ever been in. Not only is the room fairly large in floor space, it has quite high ceilings. At this point I was not interested in doing more tasters and because I saw the highly rated Bourbon Barrel Aged Legion on tap I went straight for a full pour of that. I had to request a glass to avoid getting this served in a plastic cup. While I sipped this thick delicious beer I watched people playing corn hole and groups of people cheering at the various games shown on large projected screens on the wall. The beer itself was thick and sweet with vanilla from the barrels and a smoky after taste. The beer also had flavors of coffee and chocolate that blended nicely. Though it was not as impressive as Firestone Walker’s similar offerings, it is a great example of a tasty bourbon barrel aged beer and well worth seeking out.

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Barrel aged Legion
Barrel aged Legion
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The massive tasting room at Community Brewing.

Though not a brewery, I also visited Bishop Cider Company in the Bishop Arts District while I was in Dallas. I wasn’t expecting to visit them but they were right next to my second BBQ spot of the visit, Lockhart Smoke House. They had a fairly broad range of ciders on tap. I almost left without tasting much but then the bartender suggested I try the dry-hopped cider, hopped with Amarillo and Simcoe hops. The taste I had was delicious so I ordered a larger pour. The cider worked nicely as a base to the familiar hop flavors, adding some mild tart backing to typically citrus-flavored hops. It was the perfect drink for that time of my trip. If you are a big cider fan, it is worth checking out Bishop Cider Company in Dallas.

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Dallas Breweries 19

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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