Great Notion is a young Portland Brewery that has gained a huge following thanks to their embrace of quite a few beer trends including juicy IPAs and big adjunct stouts. When I visited on a Sunday they had a decent crowd upon opening because they also serve food and many people were there for brunch. They offer a few of their beers on any given day in crowlers that you can bring home with you. I had a flight of the seven beers they had on tap and was overall quite impressed.
The Old Barn tart saison was a light amber color with an excellent balance of citrus notes and a mild tart finish. It was an excellent beer for the style. The Blueberry Muffin takes a style of saison that tends to taste like white cake and adds blueberries. The flavors blend together wonderfully so that it really tastes like you are drinking a blueberry muffin. If you are in the mood for something sweeter, but not overly sweet, this one is for you.
On the IPA side, I had the Grass Roots, a dank IPA with mild herbal finish and notes of grass. Though ordinarily I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of the hop profile the flavors were balanced and it worked quite well. The Juice Junior was the hazy IPA of the day and it had a super soft body and tons of melon and sweet tropical fruits without much bitterness. After these, the Black Math, black IPA didn’t stand a chance, despite being well done. It had notes of smoke, toasted marshmallow, and bitter chocolate with a light bitter finish. This was a well done black IPA but I much preferred to drink the others on my flight.
The double stack imperial stout with maple and coffee came on strong with tons of coffee and maple with a smooth lactose sweetness that didn’t overpower the rest of it. I can see why this one is so popular. I finished with Stacks of Coconut, their imperial stout with coconut. It was pure liquid coconut, a total coconut bomb with hints of vanilla on the finish. Like double stack, it was just the right amount of lactose to support the beer.
For IPAs and Imperial Stouts in Portland, Great Notion rocketed to the top of my list in this short visit. I hope to return soon. Keep in mind that since it is a restaurant it has a fairly high amount of ambient noise and the seating at the bar is fairly limited.
Old Barn Tart Saison
In the quaint beach town of Monterey about an hour south of Santa Cruz and a nice place to stop after driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from Paso Robles you can find Alvarado Street Brewing, a spot that has been getting a lot of hype lately. After my visit, I can say it was quite well deserved. They have a large space with a spacious restaurant, some outdoor seating in front, and a beer garden in the back where you can enjoy some beers outdoors or walk up through the back to pick up some cans or crowlers to go. I didn’t do a flight of tasters while I was there because they were only doing full pours in the beer garden so I didn’t try everything on their expansive tap list. But I quite enjoyed what I tried.
I started with the Wharf Rat IPA, a balanced IPA with notes of pine and tropical fruit. The beer had a nice orange haze while not super cloudy. This was also the favorite of a friend who met us there. The Vengeful Barbarian hazy IPA pours a super cloudy yellow haze with notes of mango and pineapple and a mildly acidic finish. My mom really enjoyed this one.
My sister ordered the cherry vanilla kettle sour, a tasty mix of strong cherry flavors and mild vanilla in the back, mildly tart and very nicely done. The minesweeper IPA was my favorite, a great mix of fruit, mango, and pine with a medium bitter finish and similar orange haze to the Wharf Rat. I left with a four pack of this one though I should have gotten two because I gave two of the cans to other people and after my second can I really wanted more.
If you are already in the area of Santa Cruz for breweries, taking the trip down to Alvarado Street is worth it. Or you can sometimes find their cans around the bay area. They had a bunch of different styles inside but we decided to eat outside instead. If you are vegetarian or vegan, their vegan double double burger (modeled after In N Out) was really good and tasted almost like the real thing.
Riip is located in Huntington Beach, south of Long Beach, and fills an area where I hadn’t previously visited for breweries. Though Beachwood also has a location in the area it is nice to add some new breweries there too. I visited Riip on the same day as Mumford and found Riip to be far superior and closer to what I expect from Southern California IPAs. I tried four IPAs at Riip because I had already visited a number of breweries earlier that day.
The Dank IPA was smooth and balanced with a good citra kick and not too bitter. The Riipalicious IPA was tasty for nelson hops and not too bitter, exhibiting grapefruit and citrus notes. The Hop Citrage juicy IPA had a nice citrus kick and some orange peal notes and was nice and mildly bitter. I was ready to take a small growler of this home with me but they weren’t filling growlers. The Super Cali, their award winning IPA, was mildly bitter and nicely balanced with citrus and herbal hops. This was my least favorite mostly because of the herbal hops but it wasn’t a bad beer.
Riip is a great brewery to stop at on your way through Huntington Beach and even better for locals in the area looking for an alternative to the classic style IPAs from Beachwood. I didn’t try any of their non-hoppy beers but they seem to have a good handle on brewing. Their spot did get a bit loud quite easily with an echo from people and music so that also contributed to me having only one flight.
Come for IPAs, especially their hazy offering.
Mumford is located in the heart of downtown LA in between Little Tokyo and Skid Row. I found out about them because of a can that was shared with me from someone up in LA. While they have drawn crowds for beer releases in the past, I expect the can of Un-Presidential IPA was a fluke because none of the other beers were anywhere near that quality. Still, they are able to draw a good crowd with their decent hazy IPA which is enough to satisfy those who aren’t familiar with what it could taste like.
The Pant Suit saison was super fruity with a bitter finish that overpowered it. It was quite unbalanced and I didn’t finish the taster. The Ghostwriter pale ale had some nice citrus notes with pineapple and tropical fruit but again a bitter finish that overpowered the rest of it, making it average at best. The LA Like, hazy IPA, had notes of orange and grapefruit and a cloudy orange color with mild notes of vanilla. I thought this was the best of the bunch but at the end it seemed a bit soapy. I want to hope this was just a glass that wasn’t properly rinsed. Assuming the soap was not in the beer it is a solid average hazy IPA.
Skidrokyo Cafe on nitro is their coffee porter with vanilla. It had some intense coffee and mild roast with some sweet caramel and vanilla on the finish. It is probably the best beer on the menu and for the low alcohol range it is slightly above average for the area. It would certainly satisfy the stout fans who tag along while you enjoy the IPAs. The DTLA IPA had strong hop flavors of pine and also mildly herbal taste with a strong bitter finish. Like others it was too bitter for the hops.
The All Caps was a solid mix of pine and citrus with a dry finish and not too bitter. I got some notes of green tea on the finish that were unexpected. After the LA Like, this is the other IPA I could drink. The East Enders double IPA was sticky sweet and fruity with notes of over ripe fruit and onion. It was both too sweet and missed the mark for the hop flavors, so I couldn’t finish the taster.
I hope in 6 months Mumford will be able to more consistently brew solid IPAs because they had great results with the Un-Presidential IPA. Sadly, most of the IPAs I had when I visited had an off-putting bitter after-taste. I expect it was present in the hazy IPA as well just masked by the haze. For now I think most of their hype is overblown and I wouldn’t go out of my way for another visit anytime soon. For the hardcore beer fan there are better breweries in the LA area. But if you are new to IPAs their hazy IPAs should be more than good for you. Top 2:
SkidRokyo on Nitro
Resident Brewing hasn’t gotten a ton of buzz that I have seen around town in part because of their location in the heart of downtown. They are located inside The Local, a bar that recently had a face lift to modernize its previously dark dive bar style interior. They have a solid lineup of beers and are a great addition to the downtown brewery scene. Keep in mind though that later in the evenings the connected bar tends to have very loud music so if that is not your thing, you should try to visit it closer to when they open.
The gose was crisp, dry, refreshing, and not too salty. Though I have had more complex gose, this one is very enjoyable. The saison was fruity and dry with hints of white wine, a solid beer. The oatmeal stout was smooth with notes of chocolate, mild roast and smoke on a medium body. This is a very solid oatmeal stout. The loud mouth hoppy amber was intensely piney and floral with a strong bitter finish. I was given beer from the end of the keg so it may have been better when first tapped. It is quite a malty beer so I would not recommend this compared to the IPAs on tap.
Pio Pico Pale was fruity and exploding with grapefruit over a light malt bill with a nice dry finish. It is one of the more flavorful pale ales I have had in San Diego. The Chasing Galaxy was a delicious hazy IPA with tons of juice and a dry finish. I haven’t yet had a lot of the local hazy beers but this one comes close to many of the excellent ones I have had from elsewhere. The Citra IPA was nice and crisp though seemed to be lacking in the aroma department. It may have simply been on tap for a bit too long and lost its strong aromas.
For a brewery that I hadn’t heard any buzz about prior to visiting, I was quite impressed by the beers at Resident. They had many other beers on tap as well that I didn’t try because I wanted to stick to the styles that sounded interesting to me. You can see some barrels in the brew house so expect to see some barrel aged beers in the future. I wasn’t told what is aging in them.