Tag Archives: Imperial Stout

American Solera Brewing Tulsa Oklahoma

American Solera was named best new brewery in 2016 by Ratebeer. So naturally I had to visit to try for myself. The hype is well placed. Thanks to recent changes in Oklahoma laws they can now have a tap room and serve beer. The beers are on the expensive side on tap but so good I didn’t care. This probably has something to do with local taxes. Thankfully to-go prices are very reasonable. American Solera is in an area of town by itself but people have no problems finding it. I visited twice in a row because the main other Tulsa attraction is Prairie Brewpub. Thursday was of course much less crowded than Friday, with lines out the door at times on Friday.

Beer wise, I tried most of the things on tap and a few bottles for on-site consumption. The Foeder Apricot was tart and not too acidic, pretty standard for the style. The blackberry sour was jammy and not too acidic. The beer had tons of berry flavor. I left with two bottles for myself. The Brett ESB was earthy with citrus and fruit notes and a mild tart kick. I didn’t love this one but it wasn’t bad. The barrel aged pale was tasty with tons of funk and citrus notes

The Terp Surp IPA was one of the best IPAs I’ve had in a while. Tons of hop flavor coming through with tropical fruits and melon without much bitterness. The beer is soft and juicy. I rarely bring home IPAs to San Diego but this one was worth it. The IPA is up there with Cellarmaker and Fieldwork quality. The Mocha Dilema was thick and packed with chocolate, fudge, and coffee notes. Despite the high alcohol it had very little alcohol taste. When I came back later I ordered two bottles to drink on site. The foeder golden was an excellent example of the style. Their spontaneous fermented lambic-inspired ale was true to the Belgian style and excellent with tons of funk.

Thankfully American Solera beers have been coming to San Diego on occasion but it is worth visiting them at the source to hang out with a crowd of beer enthusiasts. The tap room is laid back at times and then gets really busy on Friday nights as most places do. With excellent beers across the board there is something for everyone. The quality is high enough to warrant a visit to taste these beers on site and bring home a suitcase full of bottles and crowlers.

Top 3:
Terp Surp IPA
Mocha Dilema
Blackberry sour

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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Half Door Brewing Downtown San Diego

I had been to Half Door brewing a few times but never got around to writing a full post about them. Recently they expanded into brewing hazy IPAs and I featured them in my list of San Diego breweries making hazy IPAs. Half Door serves beer in a restaurant in Downtown San Diego where they also offer a modern take on pub grub. I visited them recently on a Sunday morning and tried a flight of tasters.

All of the IPAs I tried were of the hazy style known to some as the North East style of IPA. I started with the Hoban House. It was fruity and soft with a light acidity and low bitterness, exhibiting notes of pineapple. The Hype Machine single-hop Nelson IPA was soft with subtle grapefruit and a mild bitterness that lingers on teh back of the tongue. It is a great example of what a Nelson IPA should taste like. The Buzzwords double IPA is an intensely fruity double IPA, soft and hazy with very mild hop acidity. This stood out from the rest on the list as the best of the IPAs for the day.

I tried the IIIPA, which was an insane hop bomb with little alcohol flavor or sweetness, and mild bitterness. The only reason I didn’t like it as much as the Buzzwords IIPA is that I got some herbal notes in the IIIPA that I didn’t care for. Otherwise, it is an exceptional example of what a IIIPA should taste like. I also tried two stouts. The Coleman’s Stout is their dry Irish stout on nitro. It is dry and roasty with a smooth body and a mild floral hop kick. This is one of the beers I tried the first time I visited and it is still just as good as it was then.

The Coleman’s on Craic imperial stout with coffee was smooth and roasty with notes of chocolate and coffee excellently balanced. I slightly preferred the dry version though they are both delicious. Before leaving I got a taster of the tripel just to see how well they handle Belgian styles. It was one of the more impressive San Diego tripels, lacking in the ester notes that tend to overpower American-brewed Belgian-style beers. It had a bready malt character with some earthy malt notes and a well-attenuated finish (not too sweet). If the hazy IPAs weren’t so good I might go back for this one.

Half Door brewing is one of the few San Diego breweries, maybe the only one, that doesn’t sell bottles or growlers to go. This is due to their license and hopefully will change soon. Though I didn’t eat anything when we visited, my friends who joined me were very impressed by the food they had. Parking can be crazy around Half Door during the weekdays but it is worth visiting if you are already downtown or can park nearby and Uber in.

Top 3:
Buzzwords IIPA
IIIPA
Coleman’s Dry Irish Stout

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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Quantum Brewing Revisited with New Brewer

When I first visited Quantum brewing soon after they opened, they had a decent lineup of beers with nothing better than average and a few that missed the mark. For a time they had some growing pains and the word online was that they got worse. Thankfully I never experienced that part of things. Now they have a new brewer and had a grand re-opening to let everyone know things are new. I stopped by and had four tasters and the beers are a little better than they were at the beginning, more in line with the local standards, though still not at the level of Council or Societe down the street.

The blood orange wit had tons of orange flavor with a gorgeous red-orange color. It had the flavors right but there was a flavor in the finish that should not have been there. The session IPA was light and clean with mild citrus and grassy hops without too much bitterness. This was a huge improvement over the extremely bitter session IPAs they had with the previous brewer. For a new brewer coming out with a session IPA like this is quite impressive. It is about what you would expect around San Diego.

The IPA was a bit malt-forward and while it had some apricot notes from the hops it had a heavy bready malt character. Considering it is not West Coast in style at all, it is a nicely balanced English style IPA and is well-crafted. Since most hop heads crave something either juicy or classic West Coast style this is a huge miss. I would even say that labeling this an IPA in San Diego without calling it English or Red is borderline deceptive though I know it wouldn’t sell as well if they did. The Imperial Stout was a good mix of caramel and roast with a sticky sweet finish. While it had a good balance with bitterness, I thought it was a bit too bitter for the style. Still, this was one of the better of the bunch.

Quantum retained all of the quirky names for the beers and added a bunch of fruited beers. Still, I tend to judge a brewery based on their ability to brew a beer without adding any fruit, thus my focus on their hoppy beers. The people in there drinking were enjoying the fruited options. Their session IPA is well-made but in San Diego you need to do something a bit more to stand out and the blood orange beer suggested they still need some work on their fruity beers.

Top 2:
Session IPA
Imperial Stout

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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Wren House Brewing – Phoenix Arizona

Wren House is a new brewery in the area and the quality of the beers were about what I expect from a new brewery. However, I came in with higher expectations. This is because the brewery has been hyped like crazy online. While the beers didn’t live up to the hype, Wren House is still a solid place to visit. They have a tiny location and they get loud quickly both from people talking and loud music. This, combined with beers that didn’t blow me away meant I didn’t stay very long during my visit.

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I tried four beers, their grapefruit berliner weisse, porter, unfiltered IPA, and imperial porter. The grapefruit berliner weisse was dry and bitter, primarily bitter grapefruit. with lots of carbination. I didn’t care much for this but then I am not as big on fruited berliner weisse as others. This was quite popular with others in the room. The porter was bitter and smoky with a dry finish and prominent hop character. It was almost more of a black session IPA than a porter. If they had labeled this as hoppy on the board I would have tried other styles. The bitterness is far too much for what I like in a porter.

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The IPA was a good combination of fruit and pine while not too bitter over a soft mouthfeel. There was a lingering mouthfeel that I didn’t like but that I can’t identify. It did signal to me that something was off ith the beer though. The imperial porter was the best of the bunch with notes of marshmallow, cherry, and burnt toffee. It was not too sweet or too boozy. I would have liked to have been able to try their base berliner weisse so I could judge it that way but the fruit varieties didn’t grab my interest.

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Wren House is a solid new brewery worth checking out if you are in the area but don’t expect it to live up to the hype spreading about it online. I’m unlikely to return more for the tiny loud space than anything. It is not the atmosphere where I want to sit and sip a pint.

Top 2:
Grapefruit Berliner
Imperial 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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Great Notion Brewing – Portland Oregon

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Top 3:
Old Barn Tart Saison
Juice Junior
Double Stack

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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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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Miami Breweries – J Wakefield and Wynwood Brewing

J Wakefield Brewing

Both J Wakefield and Wynwood Brewing are in the Wynwood neighborhood known for graffiti and a small distance outside of downtown Miami. If you are staying on Miami Beach it is a bit of a drive to get out to the breweries but worth it if you are serious into beer. J Wakefield had their air conditioning at full blast, making it uncomfortably cold in the tasting room and music to match the urban graffiti look of the brewery complete with pounding bass on most songs. I came for their sours and stouts and was not disappointed, though the tasters were each $3 because of the beer styles. I chose to visit Wynwood Brewing after J Wakefield based on the recommendation of the server at J Wakefield.

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Their gose was clean and crisp with notes of citrus and fruit with mild salt at the finish. One Trick Pony is a bright pink color from the various fruits and I got notes of grapefruit rind, passionfruit and ginger. This was the most tart of the bunch and was very refreshing. Phat Bottom tastes like an apple tart (the pastry) with notes of honey and caramel, though was a bit too sweet for my tastes. Hops 4 Teacher was a bit sweet with a bitter finish that lingers on the tongue. It was fairly average as far as IPAs go.

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For my second flight I went high alcohol, with each beer over 10%. Brush has an intense chocolate marshmallow nose that translates nicely on the taste and a warming finish going down. The chocolate was subtle and everything was wonderfully balanced. Too Sweet was thick and tasty but overpowered by cinnamon and other spices, reminding me of a holiday ale. Gimme S’more was a more artificial tasting version of Brush without the fudge notes and compared to Brush wasn’t as good. I finished with Upper Body Strength, a collaboration triple IPA with Trillium. The beer had a light color and masked the alcohol really well. The hops gave off tons of fruit with lots of mango and citrus notes. It was a perfectly balanced triple IPA, a rarity for the style. I probably would have bought cans if they hadn’t sold out before I got there.

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Known For:
Come for fruited berliner weisse and intense adjunct stouts.

Top 2:
One Trick Pony
Brush

Wynwood Brewing

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In some ways I may be extra harsh because I came here after J Wakefield but I was not too excited by the beers here. They are slightly more established and had a clear draw in the community with people having parties and kids running around. I started with the Magic City pale ale which smelled like overripe fruit but once I got past that it was a solid balanced pale ale with fruity hops and a mild bitterness.

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House IPA was a bit herbal with a bitter finish, very similar style to the pale, probably the same malts. I couldn’t stand the hops they used to I didn’t finish this one. Citranella was their citra hop IPA but it tasted more like a lower alcohol barleywine with its strong malt backbone. Seems like a waste of the citra hops, which were barely detectable. The imperial stout was smooth and mildly sweet with hints of caramel and vanilla and some mild smoke.

Wynwood Brewing 02

Wynwood seems to know how to make beer but their IPAs are all far too malty and lack the intense hop aromas that make the style enjoyable. If you prefer the modern style of lower malt IPAs then you won’t like their beers all that much. I didn’t try their other styles that people seemed to be drinking a lot of, like the blonde ale.

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 Western Michigan – Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and other areas

There are many breweries in Western Michigan. I could never visit all of them in a span of two days, nor can I give sufficient time to all the breweries I did visit. I stuck to those breweries most recommended on Beer Advocate message boards. In this post I will cover Brewery Vivant, Founders, New Holland, Arclight, Transient, and Bell’s. I didn’t try anything on tap at Arclight though so I will be posting based on the bottles of sour beer I picked up recently on my way to Transient. I also didn’t taste anything but stouts at Bell’s because I happened to visit on their All Stout’s Day.

Brewery Vivant

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Vivant is known for its Belgian style beers and the few that I tried were quite well done even if some were not to my tastes. Vivant is located inside an old funeral church and they have a gorgeous space with two large stained-glass windows. They have tons of seating and a full menu of food. I stopped in quickly for a flight. Keep in mind the tasters are on the expensive side, with prices ranging from $3 to $4. I’m not sure that I understand why they have such pricing. Thankfully, the bottles are more reasonably priced and they have cans of most of their core beers.

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Their farmhouse ale was dry with notes of white wine and some mild peach with minimal spice character. It is a very well-done saison. The maelstrom stout is bitter and smoky with some mild roast and hints of burnt caramel. It has a creamy finish and if you give it some time to warm up and for your palate to adjust to the initial shock it is a fantastic beer. The Verdun Biere de Garde has notes of dark fruit with a mildly sweet finish. It wasn’t as dry as I expected but I enjoyed it enough and the beer was nicely balanced. The Liquid Crystal Belgian IPA was intensely floral with a fruity base malt similar to the Verdun. I wasn’t a fan of the mix of flavors and it was not my hop profile but it is a well-made beer.

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Their stone fruit sour was excellent with some intense brett on the nose and a puckering tart at the finish that gives way to sweet peach and nectarine. I left with two bottles of this for myself and another for a friend. It is worth checking ahead to see if the brewery has any sours because they are excellent. The barrel aged stout on raspberries was a shock at first with a mix of flavors I haven’t experienced before. I’m not sure I like the blend of bourbon and raspberry. To me this is almost a sour and not something I would recommend for someone who is mostly into sweeter stouts. The raspberry comes on as mildly tart and overpowers the bourbon. If you like sweeter stouts you should go to Founders or New Holland instead.

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Top 2:
Farm House Saison
Stone Fruit Sour

Founders

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Compared to the spacious area of Vivant, which is already a good size as breweries go, Founders is massive. While they do have some people taking orders from the tables, you can also line up and order beer or food directly from the counter, which is faster. They also have a water bottle filling station near the restrooms to make it easy to hydrate. Because of the huge space, Founders has live music and we were blessed by some bluegrass during our time there. I’m not sure why the groups seemed to only play one song and then switch but I wasn’t complaining because despite being bluegrass they had a ton of bass in the music. Come with ear plugs if you like a quiet brewery experience, especially on weekends.

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I tried a couple of their IPAs and a couple of stouts but we didn’t have a ton of tasters because they didn’t have many stouts on tap and I wasn’t a huge fan of the IPAs. The harvest IPA was a fantastic mix of resin and grapefruit and nicely balanced with a mild sweetness and bitterness. I got some notes of fresh grapes at the back. The Beer City IPA was quite old school with a prominent bitterness and tons of pine. It was well-made but not my favorite hop profile.

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The Rubaeus was a tasty raspberry ale, jammy and not too sweet with the right blend of amber malts to support the berries while giving it some additional fruit notes. The watermelon gose was sweet and mildly tart with a great balance of flavors. It wasn’t too salty and is probably the first really good watermelon beer I’ve had. My husband went up to order the nitro breakfast stout and backwoods bastard tasters but the server heard him to order a pint of breakfast stout. Though he hadn’t been in love with breakfast stout before, he really loved it on nitro. I got an intense nutty coffee with a smooth mild chocolate. The nitro made it extra special.

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I had tried the regular dirty bastard before and really liked the flavors of the base beer. The backwoods bastard has a ton of caramel and bourbon and is super smooth. I passed this up in the stores before based on the price of a four pack but now I might consider buying some because it is so good. It is quite easy to spend a full day at Founders if you are staying in town longer. How long you want to stay depends on what sorts of beers they have and your preference. I would recommend Founders more for their stouts though the Harvest IPA was excellent too.

Top 3:
Breakfast stout on nitro
Watermelon gose
Harvest IPA

New Holland

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I almost skipped visiting New Holland because we already got their new coconut rum dragon’s milk in San Diego. It was worth a stop to try a few other variants of their beer. The Down Dogger, a hoppy wild Belgian golden was fruity with lots of spice from the Belgian yeast and super dry but it wasn’t sour, funky, or hoppy. It was a fairly standard beer. The Harvest 2, a fresh hop pale, was bitter and malt forward with some notes of grape. It didn’t stick out at all or suggest from the flavors that the hops were fresh. The Vanilla Chai Dragon’s Milk had tons of cinnamon and clove with mild vanilla. To me the spice overpowered the rest of the beer too much. I didn’t really care for it. The Brewer’s Select Dragon’s Milk, a slightly stronger version of the regular, was smooth with notes of vanilla but the alcohol came out a little too hot on the finish.

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Comparatively, the coconut rum version, released this year, is much better. It has tons of coconut flavor and a mild rum note at the back. I’ve been enjoying these bottles for a couple of weeks at home prior to visiting. I’ve also had the regular Dragon’s Milk in the past and thought the standard was more balanced than the Brewer’s Select version. The few beers I tasted at New Holland tell me that it is worth sticking to variations of Dragon’s Milk and having other beer styles at other breweries in the area. Since you can find Dragon’s Milk in four packs as far out as the West Coast (we started receiving them in San Diego) I would recommend grabbing some bottles to enjoy at home instead.

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New Holland’s various locations are restaurants and they tend to get crowded quickly. The location in Grand Rapids had such an insane wait that we decided to stop in Holland on our way south to visit the original brewery. Since we already ate at Founders, we only had a little dessert at New Holland to go with the stouts.

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Known for:
Known mostly for their popular barrel aged imperial stout called Dragon’s Milk and the different variations.

Transient Artisan Ales

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Transient is a very young brewery but has developed a ravenous following from the nearby areas for its release of juicy North East style IPAs in cans as well as the different variations of sours. It is quite a drive to get to Transient either from Grand Rapids or Chicago, and will likely take you over an hour either way. Coming from Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo you can stop by another brewery along the way called Arclight. I stopped there briefly for a few sours they were releasing but they had plenty of other beers available on tap. Considering all the fantastic stouts at Founder’s and Bell’s I might still recommend coming out to Transient for their Buckley light chocolate stout.

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I started with the Cromulent pale ale. It was juicy with notes of orange peel and peach with tons of hops and not a lot of bitterness. It is a very respectable juicy pale. I had a small growler of this beer at home the next day and it was still quite good. The pineapple salarium is tasty pineapple, not too acidic, mildly tart, and a dry finish. It reminded me of the Beatitude series of beers from San Diego’s Council Brewing. Bottles were already sold out when I got there. The Indoorsman brett pale ale had a strong woody bite with an herbal finish and some mild bready malts and peaches at the finish. I couldn’t get over the lingering bitterness at the finish and did not finish the taster.

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The Henry porter was smooth and smoky with a ton of burnt caramel. Though this one was a bit shocking at first once I adjusted and it warmed up the beer had more caramel and I enjoyed it better. The Double Barrel Obelus was super smooth with notes of honey, peaches, and a mild buttery finish from the American oak. It is a fantastic complex beer that I enjoyed so much I left with two bottles. The Buckley light is pure liquid dark chocolate and creamy smooth. This is an excellent chocolate stout and worth seeking out.

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Top 2:
Double Barrel Obelus oak aged saison
Buckley Light chocolate imperial stout

Bell’s Brewing

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Despite Google showing multiple locations for this brewery, they have only one location that is split into a general store and a cafe. The brewery itself is not open to visit or drink in a tasting room. I visited on the day when they had All Stout’s Day, which meant all but two of the taps at the brewery were replaced by stouts. Thus, I won’t be including any commentary on how good their IPAs or other styles are.

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I started with the java stout. It has mild smoke and tons of coffee roast, a very easy-drinking beer. I had two varieties of their expedition stout, one of their flagship brews. The 2014 and 2015 were not all that different but both were fantastic. The beer has tons of caramel and roast and a nice thick body.

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The whiskey aged expedition stout was super smooth with a creamy mouthfeel and a strong but not overpowering or hot whiskey. The black note on tap had some nice notes of chocolate and fudge when compared to the whiskey expedition. The whiskey aged 30th anniversary had tons of fudge and cinnamon with some mild vanilla on the finish. The barrel aged dagger stout had tons of vanilla and espresso with a super smooth finish. All of the barrel aged stouts on tap were fantastic but the barrel aged 30th anniversary and barrel aged dagger stout were my two standouts. With such strong beers it gets difficult to give more detailed descriptions after a while.

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Known for:
Intense stouts and barrel aged variants, also some old school IPAs that are quite popular.

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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Reno Area Breweries Part 1 – Brasserie St James, Brewer’s Cabinet, Fifty FIfty Brewing

Brasserie St James

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Brasserie St James is the only brewery in Reno I had heard about prior to visiting. Even that was by accident. I happened to see one of their beers on tap at a Chinese Dim Sum restaurant in San Diego and assumed it was from Belgium until I googled it. St. James is a brewery and a restaurant and finding seats in the restaurant area can be quite difficult. Thankfully they have a bar area that is open seating and some outdoor seating upstairs that is also open. I started with a flight of almost all their core beers and finished with two more beers before leaving.

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The schwarzbier was smooth and creamy and a good mix of caramel and dark fruit. Like the classic beers of this style you could easily down one after another. The red farmhouse was spice forward with a dry bitter finish. It was a solid beer but I preferred some of the others. The Tripel was mildly sweet with a flavor reminiscent of a white cake and a good dry finish. This is one of the better American tripels I have tasted, coming closer to the dry beers of the style as they are brewed in Belgium.

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The saison was effervescent and super dry with notes of lemon and some earthy malt notes. I quite enjoyed this one and left with two bottles to bring home. The brett saison, known as 1904, was very similar to the saison with a little more fruit notes. It seemed based on the bottle prices that it is a better deal to enjoy this beer on tap. The double IPA was smooth with tons of grapefruit and pine at the start but a strong floral hop finish that I didn’t care for. This one I didn’t finish.

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The Peach 1904, was tasty with the peach adding some mild acidity in the finish. The peach flavor was relatively subtle. The quad was dark and thick with some of the same cake flavor I noticed in the tripel. Also like the tripel, I was glad that the quad wasn’t overly sweet.

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While a good place to stop in if you like saisons, I wasn’t a big fan of the atmosphere inside. It got noisy quickly and often crowded. Thankfully it was a cold night so the outdoor seating wasn’t full and it was quiet out there. I found the bottles of sours to be quite expensive at $30 for a brewery that doesn’t have a lot of hype behind it. Thankfully the saisons were a more reasonable $12 for a bottle. I have enjoyed one at home already and liked how it was in the bottle.

Top 2:
Saison
Brett Saison

 

Brewer’s Cabinet

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While I was at Brasserie St. James, one of the locals recommended I visit The Brewer’s Cabinet. And since the other breweries I had on my list in town were no longer open as it was getting late I decided to head there next. This post will also include some specifics about beers I had at the same location two days later.

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My first visit was at night and it was crowded still. I immediately ordered the double IPA based on the description of the hops included. My husband ordered the imperial stout with coffee. The double IPA was bitter and balanced with some resinous hops and a bit of juicy melon. It was a tasty double IPA for sure. To go with the coffee stout my husband ordered the bread pudding. It was a fantastic dessert but so big that you would want to share with a friend. The coffee stout was smooth and creamy with a mild yet prominent coffee flavor. Though I would have preferred it to be stronger alcohol, it was plenty to satisfy my husband.

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Two days later, I came back to try some of their other offerings. I wasn’t big on the hop flavors of the first few I tasted and I ended up ordering the heff, which was a hazy bright yellow with notes of vanilla, citrus, and mild banana. It was an excellent beer. The pale ale was also fantastic, balanced amber color and a good mix of mild pine and fruity hops.

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Brewer’s Cabinet stood out as one of the better breweries from my visit and I would quickly return if I was in town again. They also have a full kitchen so they are open late.

Top 3:
Wit
Tahoe Pale
Coffee imperial stout

Fifty Fifty Brewing

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Though not in Reno and instead 30 minutes drive to the west in Truckee, I stopped by Fifty Fifty brewing hoping to try some of their popular barrel aged stout on tap. Sadly, the Eclipse beers were not on tap and at $30 a bottle I wasn’t going to buy some blind. I did enjoy the core beers I tried on tap though.

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The saison was tasty with tons of herbs, spice, and mild fruit notes. The session IPA was a nice mix of grapefruit and a rye spice kick, excellent balance and not overly bitter. This is one of the more impressive session IPAs I have had lately. The brown ale had a nice medium body and a good mix of roast and espresso. This is one of the few brown ales I like.

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The porter had a nice medium body and tons of roast and espresso notes. I preferred this over the imperial stout. The imperial stout has tons of burnt caramel and a strong bitter finish, almost smoky. This is the base beer for their Eclipse barrel aged series but I didn’t care for it on its own. While they had one oaked beer on tap, it wasn’t one of the series I wanted to try so I left after the initial flight to move on to more Reno breweries.

Top 2:
Session IPA
Porter

Because I visited so many breweries in this trip, I split the write-up into two posts. Part 2 will conclude with the rest of the Reno breweries I visited.

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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Spokeane Area Breweries, Twelve String and Iron Goat

12 String Brewing

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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.

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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.

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Top 3:
Passion Fruit Gose
Double Drip Imperial Stout
Electric Slide Double IPA

Iron Goat

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.

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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.

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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.

Top 2:
Blackberry Apricot Sour
Impaler 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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