Stone City is the most recommended brewery in Kingston and I was blown away by every beer I had there. They had eight beers on tap and my least favorite of the bunch would generally be a standout anywhere else. They also serve food and have seating inside and out. To prepare for the beers I ordered their large hummus plate that had so much hummus that I couldn’t eat it all, but it was fantastic.
I started with the newer specialty beers. The first flight had their English Mild, Gose, and Saison. The English Mild was soft and mellow with notes of apricot and caramel, mild vanilla, and a creamy finish from the lactose. When I got a larger pour of this later I got some notes of black tea and almonds as it warmed up. This is a great modern take on the classic style.
The gose was a creamy white/yellow color and had a fantastic mix of lime, ginger, and mild tropical fruit. The creamy mouthfeel reminded me of some of the softer hazy IPAs out there. The modern take on the style was so delicious that I predict it will spawn a whole new version of gose like the first hazy IPAs did. The saison was soft and fruity with notes of crisp pear, and a light grassy finish.
Their American wheat is like a session hoppy wheat from San Diego. The beer had tons of fruity hops on the nose and flavors of guava, pear, pineapple, and a soft creamy body with minimal bitterness. The Belgian Wheat was more classic to style with notes of spice, vanilla, and mild white cake. The other two hoppy beers were similarly soft, all in the style that I have tasted at breweries like Fieldwork or Crux. The session ale was very similar to the american wheat with notes of juicy pineapple and tangerine.
The IPA had notes of white cake, pineapple, and citrus, like eating pineapple cake. The stout was creamy and mildly sweet with notes of marshmallow, vanilla, and caramel and a mild roast at the finish. It is quite impressive for the style as well. Another thing that I liked at Stone City is that they sell growlers pre-filled after they are sterilized, purged with CO2 and capped and encourage people to bring back their growlers to be sterilized prior to filling. This is one way to get around the issue of dirty growlers.
Stone City was one of the most impressive breweries of this trip and their beers were all fantastic. I drank a bit more of the English Mild and Gose because they are very different than what I can get of a similar style out in California. I hope to make my way back there again in a few years to see how they’ve grown.
12 String was not on my list when I planned out the area but I arrived there thanks to some people I met at Selkirk Abbey. They had some excellent beers in a wide variety of styles. My very first beer in the taster flight was the passion fruit gose, one of the most balanced fruited gose beers I have had. It is balanced in that the fruit doesn’t overpower the complexity present in the base beer. The beer had a mild tart kick to it and an overall nice balance of flavors.
The Jam Session IPA was a balanced IPA with lots of fruit and citrus notes, fairly standard. The C# #5 IPA had tons of pine and fruit from the hops but a bitterness that dominated it too strongly. The Rye IPA was malty with barely noticeable citrus hops and a good rye bite, fairly average. The Double Drip Imperial Stout was thick and mildly smoky with tons of roast and coffee. My husband really enjoyed this beer and we ended up bringing a 32oz growler home with us and giving one to my uncle the following day. Really excellent beer. The electric slide Double IPA was the best of the IPAs with tons of citrus and super smooth overall.
Passion Fruit Gose
Double Drip Imperial Stout
Electric Slide Double IPA
Iron Goat came highly recommended and I thought that all of their beers were very well done. They have a large tap room that is also a restaurant and it was busy but not overly so when we visited. I had a large flight of varying styles but focusing on the sours, IPAs, and farmhouse offerings.
The Farmhouse ale was quite solid with a nice mix of spice and a good dry finish. The Rhubarb farmhouse was a tasty twist on the base beer with a good bite from the rhubarb. Both were very drinkable. The cherry sour was smooth and fruity and moderately juicy. At first it didn’t seem very sour but it got a bit tart as it warmed up. The blackberry apricot sour was my favorite of the bunch with lots of jam and a good tart finish. All the flavors blended very nicely.
The headbutt IPA was super floral and piney with a strong bitter finish. This is a great beer to order if you love pine hops in your IPAs. The Impaler double IPA was balanced with dank citrus notes from the hops and a smooth caramel malt backbone. This was also a very tasty beer.
I make a point of going to breweries on my trips directly rather than going to bars. Utah has a few restrictive laws that limit the alcohol content of beers they can serve on tap. Any beer on tap must be less than 4% alcohol and anything higher than that must be served in bottles. This severely limits the ability of breweries to do taster flights because most breweries aren’t going to want to pour taster size pours from a bottle. Though certain breweries I have visited in other states choose to do that they may be limited from the option in Utah as well. The two breweries I visited were Epic and Uinta.
Uinta has a fairly large number of beers on tap despite the 4% alcohol restriction. I tried five of these and then ordered a bottle of the IPA because I couldn’t taste it on tap. The Gose was crisp and mildly tart with some light citrus notes and a light salty finish. I enjoyed the gose quite a bit. They also had a fruited version called Flamingose with pineapple added, which made the beer more cloudy with a darker yellow color. The beer was nice and fruity and had grapefruit notes and a bitter finish. The Baba black lager was smooth and light body with a mix of mild smoke and roast. I have had better black lagers but this one was not bad considering the alcohol restriction.
The Session IPA was smooth and crisp with mild citrus notes and not overly bitter. I liked it better than the Wyld Extra Pale which while smooth and balanced had a bit more malt forward character and was overall too mellow. Hop Nosh IPA makes its way down to San Diego regularly but I wanted to try it fresh from the source, even if that meant in a bottle. The IPA was super smooth and nicely balanced with a solid malt backbone without being a malt bomb. The beer had good dank hop character and hints of juice and citrus. I didn’t try the double IPA or the other stronger offerings because ordering 12 ounces of each would be quite a bit much.
I didn’t do any sort of tasting at Epic because I was more interested in their higher alcohol stouts. Though we did end up buying two bottles, one of the Oatmeal Stout, and one of the Imperial Stout, to enjoy in our hotel room. We also later shared a bottle of Big Bad Baptist at the Annex restaurant Epic has in Salt Lake City and later that evening opened a bottle of the Son of a Baptist at home since Epic beers make their way to San Diego as well.
The oatmeal stout was super smooth and delicious and scary easy to drink quickly. It had notes of marshmallows and a mild roast with a really velvety background. I found the imperial stout to be a bit too molasses forward. It had some hints of chocolate and roast under it but the molasses was overwhelming and killed it for me. The Son of a Baptist is a smooth and light bodied delicious coffee and chocolate stout that features coffee prominently with some mild bitter chocolate under it. In comparison to this, the Big Bad Baptist, aged in Bourbon Barrels was thick and sweet yet balanced perfectly without bourbon dominating too strong. Coffee and chocolate notes were both much more subdued here giving it a delicious balance.
Of the four i would soonest search out the oatmeal stout and the big bad baptist for future consumption. They are both delicious well-crafted beers.
While the two breweries listed aren’t the only ones you can visit in Salt Lake City, they are the two most prominent. If you do plan to visit either of them it might make the most sense to bring a bottle or two to your hotel room rather than drinking at the brewery because there is a fairly high markup to drink the big bad baptist at the brewery rather than taking the bottle to go. Though the brewery experience was not ideal it was a great companion to the hiking I did in the area that was quite gorgeous.
I probably wouldn’t have gotten out to visit Home Brewing Company, located next door and connected to The Homebrewer in North Park off El Cajon Boulevard, if it wasn’t for the Groupon they offered. Just like White Labs, one of San Diego’s major yeast sellers, you might not know they serve beer if you don’t regularly visit them to buy brewing supplies. But also like White Labs, they have a lineup of beers that can be educational and tasty at the same time. I found the beers at Home Brewing Company to be more approachable and generally more tasty than anything I ever tried at White Labs in my few visits there. While I understand why White Labs offers four different versions of each beer they serve, to highlight differences in yeast, their main product, I found the base recipes to be a bit lacking. Home Brewing Company does some similar variations but not as numerous and in many ways the beers they offer attempt to show what certain lesser known styles should taste like.
Though I will be describing the beers I tasted when I visited, keep in mind that the lineup of beers tends to change pretty regularly because they don’t have any core beers that you can expect to find each time you visit. The first three beers were all very similar lighter alcohol beers except the first one had a red malt and the second and third had the same pale malt but different yeasts. Other beers after that generally attempt to showcase one or another part of the underlying beer. I really enjoyed comparing the first three beers, all using the same hops, but which were different from various other changes in ingredients. The amber version had a more pronounced malt flavor while the two pale versions were both good for showcasing the hops though slightly differently. The difference between cali ale yeast and English ale yeast was subtle yet clear and it can be fun to try to distinguish on your own.
The other beers in my tasting were each unique, ranging from a hoppy brown ale that at times tasted like chocolate and at times orange to a Belgian style stout, a gose, an alt beer, and an imperial stout. Out of these the gose was both the most interesting of the bunch and one of the more interesting variations of the style I have had locally. Simultaneously mildly salty and super fruity I got notes of pear and doughy malts in a delicious combination. The alt beer was also impressive with a smooth malt flavor that had notes of tasty caramel. The tasting notes provided with each beer are detailed and on point and would provide a nice basis for someone new to tasting to learn the various flavors a beer can have.
Home Brewing Company is also extremely minimalist in decor because it is not meant to be a full on brewery. There is no board listing all the beers on tap and the bar doesn’t attempt to showcase some exotic tree. There isn’t much room for a lot of people to hang out but the few standing tables make great places to discuss the differences in the beer. They are also right in the heart of North Park’s growing brewery scene and so easy to stop at on your way to Belching Beaver or Fall Brewing. You shouldn’t feel you need to try everything but it is worth stopping by regularly to see what new styles you can discover or what differences of ingredients you can learn. You may even end up feeling inspired to brew your own.
This is part 2 of my Bend Oregon breweries coverage. Part 1 included Boneyard Brewing and Crux Fermentaion Project. In Part 2 here I explore the rest of the breweries I visited in Bend.
I only visited Riverbend brewing because of a recommendation by the server who helped us at Crux. I asked for her suggestion for best IPAs besides Crux and Boneyard and she said we should visit Riverbend. It wasn’t on the must-visit list but I am glad we stopped by. I did seven tasters there, Hydrostatic IPA, Organized Love IPA, Katatonic double IPA, Chains Required IPA, Barrel Aged Katatonic, Boots and Flannels black lager and Equinox IPA.
The Hydrostatic IPA was super smooth and delicious with prominent orange flavors and a fairly solid malt backbone. The Organized Love was fantastic, super balanced with citrus and mello pine and amazingly smooth. This could easily stand up to the single IPAs from Boneyard or Crux. Katatonic double IPA was more balanced and strong with a super dank, sticky, sweet finish. It was a bit malty for my tastes but I really liked the barrel aged version which had a nice sour finish and light vanilla from the oak.
The Chains Required IPA was also super smooth and light body with a juicy finish with subtle lemon. Equinox IPA was smooth and fruity with a good balance of rye and smooth malts. Boots and Flannels was a smoky black lager with a tart finish that was also quite tasty. I took these tasters quite slow as it was the last stop but I was wishing later that I had found their Organized Love IPA at a growler station around town or that I had filled some while I was there. It was really that good. This is a great brewery to add to the list if you have more time.
Top 2 Riverbend Brewing
Organized Love IPA
Katatonic Double IPA
On our second day we started the day at Silvermoon where I wish I hadn’t tried so many of the IPAs because the IPA 97 was the main one I enjoyed. The others weren’t bad but they weren’t that fantastic. I tried the Hob Nob IPA, IPA 97, Turning Point IPA, Southern Exposure IPA, Tart of Gold, Porter, Stout, and the Bone Crusher Double Red Ale. The Hob Nob was smooth and balanced with a bitter finish. It is an easy beer to drink. IPA 97 had a massive lemon and pineapple flavor and was probably the freshest that day. This is their flagship and I can see why. I brought back a six pack for some friends at home.
The Turning Point IPA was smooth with lemon flavors and a crisp dry finish while not too bitter. Southern Exposure was also smooth and light with a crisp bitter finish and a bit more citrus from the southern hops. Both of these were drinkable but a little low on the hop flavors for my tastes. The Tart of Gold was a smooth sour, not too tart, with guava and bitter grapefruit flavors. It was a solid first effort. I have had worse from small breweries but it was fairly average and probably wouldn’t satisfy those who really like sours.
The porter was super tasty with lots of roast and a smooth finish. The stout was even better with thicker mouthfeel and some bitter chocolate on the finish along with some additional bitter hops to finish it out. I could have drank a bit more of either of these if I wasn’t planning on hitting more breweries. The bartender told me I had to try the Bone Crusher if I like hops and I was very impressed. I would say it is more of a double IPA that happens to have a solid malt backbone. The fruity hops take center stage here and balance nicely with the caramel malt backbone. This and IPA 97 are worth tasting though if you are going to a lot of breweries I would just stick to those two.
Top 2 at Silvermoon Brewing
Hop 97 IPA
Bone Crusher Double Red IPA
I have written about Deschutes in the past and I always found their IPAs to be a bit too malt forward, which was the case here again though I had to try the fresh squeezed again to see if I was missing something. It is also worth coming by the original pub for some unique offerings that are not available elsewhere, which is what I focused on. My husband really enjoyed the stout float he ordered as well. I had four tasters here, the fresh squeezed IPA, Smoked Gose, Horseridge IPA, and Rue de Bond Saison.
Fresh Squeezed is balanced and showcases citrus hops but the malts are a little too forward for my tastes and it still tastes too traditional for me. I really liked the Horseridge IPA though. The malt balance works so much better with the English hops making for a smooth IPA that showcases the hops strongly. If you are going to Deschutes for hops this is the one to try. The smoked gose was really delicious and balanced. The underlying gose has a nice citrus bite and the smoke is subtle enough that it doesn’t overpower the rest. The Rue de Bond Saison is quite tasty and showcases banana with herbal notes for a super tasty saison. I brought a growler home but sadly it wasn’t sealed right and was oxidized when I got home.
Deschutes is best to visit for their delicious porter and stouts and you can buy a lot of the barrel aged versions of their Abyss at the brewery. If you are used to the more traditional Northwest style of IPA then you will enjoy their IPAs, otherwise you might want to skip it in favor of other local places that have taken a more modern style to their IPAs.
Out of the three in this post I found Riverbend to be the most impressive. Their IPAs were mostly fantastic.
In Part 1 of my Tampa breweries coverage I discussed breweries in downtown Tampa area. In this second part I venture out into the Tampa Bay area and explore some highly-rated breweries out there.
Seventh Sun Brewing
Seventh Sun is considered by some to be the best brewery in the Tampa Bay area and from the few I visited I would agree. They have a nice open tasting room with a good variety of beers available. I tried the session IPA, saison de soleil, Intergalactic Pale, Bierre de Pommes, Double IPA, Imperial Porter, and Blackberry Saison. The Session IPA was well-named because it was seriously bitter with a dry finish, sporting lemon and tangerine notes. I thought the bitterness was a bit heavy here for what it was but it still is a tasty beer and seemed popular around the tasting room. The Intergalactic Pale is a galaxy hop pale ale but I found again it to be too bitter for such a light beer such that I didn’t get a ton of the fruity flavors from the galaxy hops. It was tasty but I have had much more impressive versions of this type of beer from Tijuana breweries and of course Alpine.
The saison de soleil was a delicious dry earthy saison with mild pepper and medium funk and more medium body than the cider. I really enjoyed the play of flavors here and found it balanced really nicely, making a great farmhouse ale. Biere de Pommes is described as a Saison brewed with apples so it is not a full cider and you can tell it has a great mix from the flavors dancing carefully between saison and cider with a funky, dry, and earthy finish. The apple flavors blended really well with the typical saison flavors. The Blackberry Saison was really juicy and balanced with a good mix of cherry and blackberry and a nice balance such that it wasn’t too tart or too sweet but just right. I considered filling a growler of this but instead went for the double IPA though it was a close call.
The Double IPA was super impressive. I almost didn’t order it after trying the session IPAs but it was highly recommended and wow! It is surprisingly balanced for the high alcohol, 10%, and tastes unlike any double IPA I have had. Flavors burst with grapefruit and mango in a way reminiscent of Keene Idea from Alpine or Wallaby Hunter from Pacific Brewing. Though it reminded me of a few other beers it was still quite unique. I ended with the super delicious imperial porter that balanced caramel, mild smoke, and a mild amount of bitter coffee quite nicely. It is a bit sweet on the finish and quite thick. Another very impressive beer.
Though the saisons were a highlight I was also blown away by the fantastic double IPA and imperial porter at seventh sun. If I was back in the area I would certainly stop by to see what is brewing and get more of that delicious double IPA. I was glad to see that they purged their growlers with CO2 before filling so I should enjoy the double IPA at home as well.
Top 3 Seventh Sun
Saison de Soleil
Less than a mile from 7th Sun is Dunedin Brewing, a brewery with a nice medieval feel that serves food. They had a few delicious stouts leftover from a takeover and so I didn’t taste any of their core beers in part because I was planning on hitting two more breweries after this. I tried the oak aged mundofobock, cherry cholate stout, coffee stout, and Fruits of Leisure fruited sour. The Cherry Chocolate Stout was delicious and nicely balanced with a smooth mix of cherry and chocolate and a sweet finish. With a light body you could easily have two pints of this and love it. Looking forward to popping my crowler later. The Coffee Stout was a nice balance of coffee and chocolate with medium body but it could have used more coffee or roast. A solid beer but got overshadowed by some others.
The Oak Aged Mundofobock was a beast and the base stout has plenty of thick delicious plum and molasses. The oak comes on strong but not overpowering leaving a mildly acidic finish. This was a beast of a beer and really quite tasty. My husband really liked it. The fruits of leisure was honestly disappointing. Though it had a nice balance of fruits and a dry finish none of the fruits came through prominent and it didn’t do anything fantastic. Overall the combination of things I tried at Dunedin was enough to make me want to try it again if I happen to be in the area. I loved the vibe and the beers. Though rating a brewery on specialties isn’t my typical style I just couldn’t pass up the delicious options.
Top 2 Dunedin Brewing
Cherry Chocolate Stout
Oak Aged Mundofobock
From everything I heard Rapp has a rabid following for their sours and I can see why. Though they are on the mild side (not puckering at all) they are delicious and most everything else was awesome too. I tried the gose, gratezer (accidentally, due to the numbers they use to order), a Polish style smoked ale, chocolate cherry hazelnut stout, double IPA, Berliner Weisse, and sour with pilsner malts. The Gose is their most popular and award winning and I can see why. It has a flavor almost like lemonade with tons of flavor and a smooth finish. The polish smoked ale was surprisingly tasty for a beer I accidentally ordered. It had a mellow smoke and light body but went back easy thanks to low carbonation.
The chocolate cherry hazelnut porter was really awesome and balanced with medium body and had a nice sweet cherry finish with a slight nutty flavor from the hazelnuts. Chocolate was very subdued and in the background. The Double IPA was a total malt bomb and overly sweet with some fruity tropical hops. I did not finish the taster. The Berliner Weisse was surprisingly strong for the style though it hid it really nicely with a super light body and dry finish. The sour with pilsner malts was really delicious with plenty of fruit that balanced with the sweet malt finish and a mild tart kick. I liked this the best of the bunch and left with a growler fill. Overall Rapp is a great little brewery that does a ton of experimental styles but most impressed me with their sours. I wouldn’t get an IPA there unless you want a malt bomb though.
Top 2 Rapp Brewing
Pilsner Malt Sour
Though I was very excited to visit Cycle because of the good things I heard I found it to be a fairly underwhelming experience mostly because they don’t serve tasters so you instead can do half pints only. Apparently the bartenders think it is too much work to do taster flights but don’t mind giving you splashes of everything. Totally strange. So I only tasted two beers and they were good but nothing that screamed to be brought home with me. The IPA was dry and citrus forward with a heavy bitter finish with floral hops and some pine. I thought the bitterness was too much and didn’t get enough hop aromas from it. A pretty standard IPA but nothing special. The Brett Saison was quite tasty with an earthy malt flavor, a dry finish and medium funk. It hit all the right notes for a saison. If you are visiting for longer or aren’t so much into flights you might enjoy Cycle a little more but I was underwhelmed. I had better beers from each style at the other breweries. Though it is hard to follow Seventh Sun and Rapp.
As you can see from above, Rapp and Seventh Sun were the two most impressive breweries in my second day around Tampa. Both hit it out of the park with delicious beers that would make me come back the next time I am in the area.
Any town like Tampa with the reputation of Cigar City and the breweries that have sprouted around its success can be exciting and sometimes awesome. I had a great experience overall and some solid beers from the seven breweries I visited in two days with at least two really tasty beers from each brewery I visited of the ones I tasted. In order to visit so many breweries in 2 days I had to limit myself in the number of tasters to the ones that sounded the most exciting, so I may have missed something awesome on tap and if so that is always sad.
Side Note – I visited Tampa prior to Cigar City’s sale to Oskar Blues. Though I probably would have visited Cigar City anyway even after the sale because thankfully it was not to AB InBev.
Cigar City Brewing Company
Sometimes the biggest breweries are great but are missing the charm of the other places, whether from the crowds or just the massive selection on tap. I couldn’t possibly try everything at Cigar City so I focused on the hoppy beers, a sour, and dark beers. I tried the Invasion Pale, Jai Alai IPA, Tropical IPA, India Style Porter, Juniper Aged Sour, and a big collaboration imperial stout. I found the Invasion Pale to be much better overall than the two IPAs. It is a super tropical light-bodied beer with a low malt bill and medium bitterness sporting flavors of mango and tangerine. I loved this one so much I left with two six packs and would have likely ordered a pint if I had more time to hang.
In comparison, the Jai Alai IPA was fairly disappointing. I’ve enjoyed it before on tap in other parts of Florida but I found it a bit too sweet, sticky, and heavy with more malt balance than I expected. It is a solid IPA for sure and nicely dank balanced with some carmel malts but it wasn’t as delightful as the pale ale. The tropical IPA was well-balanced with a chewy bread finish and a solid bitterness. It was nice and tropical but I again found the malts a little too overpowering and the hops just weren’t bursting out as they could have.
The India Style Porter was massively smoky and bitter with mild notes of caramel. While well-crafted, it was just too much smoke for my tastes and I didn’t drink much. In comparison the collaboration imperial stout on tap was much more complex and balanced with everything including chocolate, smoke, molasses, licorice, cherry, plum, and other flavors all blending together in a super thick and chewy stout. Though I don’t know that I would want to grab a bottle of it I very much respected the complex flavors and my husband was very impressed. Finally, the Juniper Sour was really not my thing. My husband described it as under-ripe fruit with an off-putting finish. Others described it as a gin bomb because Juniper is often used in gin. I just couldn’t point out any of the flavors or finish it and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
There were a ton of other beers I didn’t get to try including the pilsner that is apparently so popular they have to limit how much people can buy, but with a huge crowd and after the generally underwhelming IPAs I didn’t feel drawn to order a second flight. I was most impressed by the pale ale and will be enjoying that at home for a while because I left with two six-packs.
Cigar City Top 2:
Collaboration Imperial Stout
Angry Chair Brewing
I immediately found the atmosphere at Angry Chair more inviting than Cigar City with a smaller size, slightly smaller crowd, and some great locals to chat with about the area and beers. I skipped the hoppy beers here because everyone was raving about the two heavy stouts and I had one more to go for the night. Plus after a massive Cuban sandwich earlier I didn’t want to go overboard. But everything I tried at Angry Chair was really impressive. I tried the gose, raspberry berliner weisse, German Chocolate Cake, and Tiramissu Stout.
The gose was crisp and refreshing with very mild tartness and a little salt with a solid balance of yeast flavors. The raspberry berliner weisse was really fruity and not too tart with a dry finish and a delightful pink color. I considered getting a growler of the raspberry but they weren’t doing fills. The Cerman Chocolate Cake was a massive delicious mix of chocolate and intense coconut. The coconut lingers a little bit on the finish, just enough to balance out the chocolate. The tiramissu stout was really thick and a little too sweet for my tastes. While it had a nice intense coffee start the end was like sheet cake frosting a little too heavy and it coated the mouth, unbalancing the whole thing.
Angry Chair has a nice small tasting room with a great local presence and a nice set of taps. If you like stouts or sours this is a must-visit in the area. I was also glad that this and many local breweries didn’t treat the gose and berliner weisse beers as super special and still only charged $2 a taster.
Angry Chair Top 2:
German Chocolate Cake
Raspberry Beliner Weisse
Coppertail was the last brewery in Tampa proper I visited but there are plenty more to come in Day 2 that I visited in the surrounding areas. Coppertail is in a large building and slightly bigger overall than Cigar City. I tried a number of beers there but I almost left a bit early because of the massively loud music playing. I tried the gose, berliner weisse, sour session IPA, Free Dive IPA, and Unholy Belgian Tripel. The gose was crisp and refreshing with a nice citrusy finish and a pilsner malt finish. I really liked the flavor of this one. The Berliner weisse was a little lighter in body with less flavor than the gose so I would suggest people go with the gose. It didn’t have much that stood out about it.
The sour session IPA was a really interesting different flavor with powerful grapefruit kick at the front and a mild tart finish. All 3 of the “sours” were highly carbonated and tasty. The Free Dive IPA was a solid balanced IPA with tons of citrus and grapefruit and a medium bitterness. I preferred it to the Jai Alai as it felt the malts were more subdued. The Unholy Belgian Tripel is a super hoppy version of the classic style. It could easily be described as a Belgian style Double IPA. Everything balanced nicely with the American hops taking center stage and balancing nicely with the sweeter finish and Belgian yeast. I really savored that taster.
Coppertail Brewing Top 2:
Unholy Belgian Tripel
Out of the three breweries I visited on my first day the one I found most welcoming was Angry Chair. Not only did they have some very tasty beers they were the quietest of the bunch. They have a very neighborhood feel and don’t try to turn the tasting room into a bar.
Come back next week for my post on Day 2 of my Tampa experience, where I visited other breweries in the Tampa Bay area.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dry Stout with Coffee
Occasionally I have need to update a post on a brewery that has changed significantly since the last time I posted. Back when I visited Toolbox it didn’t seem very likely that the entire core of their beer would change so drastically. But brewers are people too and disagreements occur that lead them to move on to other breweries, as was the case when one of the head brewers from Toolbox left. I don’t intend to get into the specifics of what happened as that is none of my business but I do want to explore for you the big differences in the types of beer available at Toolbox. For those interested you can read my original Toolbox post. I have updated it with a note to indicate that the information is outdated.
You may recall previously that Tart X was the basis for many of the fruited sours that were available at Toolbox. This seriously tart base beer made for some quite tart fruited sours. Now the brewery appears to focus on a few different types of beers, Berliner Weisse, Gose, and barrel aged sours. I didn’t try everything on the menu in my recent visit because at $3 to $5 per taster depending on what you were ordering that could get quite expensive. But I could easily tell that trying the gose, berliner weisse, and barrel-aged sour they had on was an important part of understanding their new direction.
I tried five different beers on my latest visit, Free Range Lettuce, Funky Wit, Cumcumberliner, Life Gose On, and Bramble on Rose. The Grass Fed Lettuce is described as a dry-hopped sour pale ale with amarillo, galaxy, and hallertau blanc hops. However, I found it lacked both the flavors of the three hops and the sour kick I expected. It was a quite funky pale ale with really mellow hops and a bitter finish. Perhaps I missed it when it was first put on but hop heads won’t find anything exciting here. The Funky Wit is a twist on the traditional Belgian Wit with the addition of the Brett yeast. In this case the wild yeast gives the beer a very slight funk and a bit of bright fruit notes. Otherwise the beer has a nice high carbonation with light spice and a mild sweetness at the end. Quite a delicious beer and quite different in flavor from typical local versions.
The Cucumberliner is a Berliner Weisse with cucumber, 18 pounds per barrel to be exact. I found the beer to be a delicious mix of tart and intense cucumber flavor. It had a bit of a mouth puckering effect and a nice hint of citrus at the finish from the underlying beer. This was one of my favorites of the day and I left with a bottle that is thankfully reasonably priced at $8 for 16 ounces compared to other sours. The Life Gose On is described as a tart wheat ale with coriander and sea salt. I found it mildly salty yet balanced with a mild tartness and light citrus notes. I think the saltiness was what kept me from getting the citrus gose they had in bottles at the tasting room but I look forward to trying other varieties. As you can see on the beer board two of their other beers were fruit varieties of the berliner weisse. I did not try these in my visit.
I ended with the Bramble on Rose, a barrel aged wild ale with local blackberries. I found it to be absolutely delicious and I was glad I went straight for a full pour the first time. It was bursting with blackberry flavor and had a nice light sour that balanced with a nice light sweetness. The barrel really gave the beer a nice smooth finish. Probably the closest comparison I could make with this beer is the Cascade Blackberry Sour I had recently, quite high praise as Cascade has been brewing this style of beer for many years. I left with a bottle of this beer despite the $22 price tag because they indicated the bottles were going fast and I felt myself wanting more after I finished the first glass. You probably won’t find this beer available when you visit but if you do see a barrel-aged variety you should absolutely try it. Hopefully over time the amount brewed in each batch will increase.
One other thing to note here is the absence of the IPA and Stout that Toolbox brewed before. If you happen to visit with a friend who doesn’t like sours, I hope you are visiting multiple breweries in your trip as there are plenty of great breweries in the area that brew fantastic IPAs and Stouts. Now that I have become familiar with the world of sour beers I think it is fantastic that they have gone all in with sours and decided to no longer brew an IPA. After all they are surrounded by many great breweries that do the IPA properly.
This post has been updated now to reflect some changes that took place in May of 2015. Update is at the bottom.
The area around Alesmith, Green Flash, and the new Ballast Point is increasingly becoming crowded. Recently added in that area is a new brewery called 32 North. The owner partnered up with a brewer who previously brewed for Karl Strauss and White Labs and opened up with a nice-looking tasting room and a solid selection of beers to start. The Karl Strauss influence is especially noticeable in the peanut butter cup porter and imperial stout, both very similar to Karl Strauss’ offerings of the same style.
One thing that sets this brewery apart from many of the places around the area is its operating hours. They are open every day from Noon to 10PM. For a while most breweries closed on Mondays and many also close on Tuesdays. Plus this is one of the few that remains open until 10PM. Also impressive is the lineup of beers to start. I didn’t get to try everything in my first visit but I came back the next day to try the other three. I always like to see a brewery that focuses on a few core beers.
The four core beers are a 3.8% berliner weisse, a 5.5% pale ale, a strong 7.5% IPA, and a 6% coffee milk stout. Also on tap when I visited on October 28, 2014 was a 4.5% toasted coconut English mild, 6.3% rye pale ale, a 5.5% peanut butter cup porter, and a 10.5% imperial stout.
The berliner weisse is an interesting light-bodied beer that is quite tart. It really isn’t my thing but I was glad to see something from a wheat beer that is a bit different than the usual. Since there has been some mention of future sours in the works, I expect this would be the basis for those sours. The pale ale is quite tasty with a lot of peach and citrus flavors going on. It is lightly malty, which sets it apart from many of the malt bomb pale ales around.
The rye pale ale was a little strange tasting to me. It had plenty of the rye flavors but the hops used didn’t seem to mix properly, giving it a really herbal flavor. There is some room to tweak this one, maybe with a different type of hops. Especially when comparing this to something like Aurora from Modern Times there is a way to go. The IPA was solidly flavorful and bitter. It boasted plenty of tropical fruit and citrus and a powerful bitterness. This is a great start and a solid beer to have as a core.
The peanut butter cup porter was very similar to the Karl Strauss one and had a good mix of nutty flavors and sweetness. The milk stout had some solid coffee flavors and a little more sweetness than I typically prefer but that is balanced by some roasted malt flavors. I would personally prefer a little more pronounced coffee but then I did try it after the imperial stout, mostly because I didn’t realize the milk stout had coffee in it until I chatted with the bartender. The toasted coconut mild was especially tasty on nitro. The mild underlying beer takes on the flavor of the coconut really nicely, giving it a strong lightly sweet coconut taste.
The Imperial Stout is very similar to the fantastic Karl Strauss Imperial Stout sporting plenty of coffee and chocolate flavors. 32 North uses fresh roasted local coffee from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters in both the imperial stout and the milk stout, and it tastes great.
With a spacious amount of seating inside and a good set of core beers, 32 North is off to a great start and seems poised for great things. The initial lineup seems to indicate a recognition of the demand in the local market where a solid IPA and solid imperial stout are both essential.
Update May 23, 2015:
I hadn’t visited 32 North in a while so I thought I would drop in to see how they are doing and I was surprised by the lack of core beers on tap and the number of sours available. I had dropped by previously to try some of their fruit flavored berliner weisse beers before but found that they were way too tart for me before. This time when I dropped in the tap list was pretty sparse but they had a Black Currant Berliner Weisse, a Passion Fruit American Sour, and a key lime gose.
I got a taster of each of the three sours on tap to see how they were. I started with the Black Currant Landfall, which was my favorite of the three. It had a nice blend of sweet and sour with a bit of citrus tart flavor and sweeter berry. The Key Lime Gose was pretty much like drinking limeaid. It was interesting for sure but surprisingly not very tart and mildly sweet. Finally the passion fruit had a nice wild flavor going with a mild passion fruit flavor and very little tart going on. I think both the key lime and passion fruit could be a bit more tart while the black currant was the right balance.
As for how regularly we will see the core beers around, it seems that they are doing smaller batches now and many of them don’t stay on very long. Hopefully these sours will continue to become a main thing for them because it is nice to have someone so close by doing sours.