Tag Archives: Indie Beer

Engine House No. 9 – Tacoma Washington

Engine House Number 9 recently started brewing sours to add to their other lineup of house beers. I visited them during a trip out to Olympic National Park because we decided to start our trip in Tacoma. I had a flight of a few of their house beers and then simply ordered a full pour of the one sour they had on tap.

Their lager was fruity and delicious with a crisp biscuit malt finish. Their two IPAs were both lovely. The house IPA was juicy and soft with notes of mango and melon. It has a light bitterness and nice creamy mouthfeel. The Donna IPA was good but a bit more acidic with notes of grass and herb hops and light caramel on the finish. The Berry Manilow sour was jammy and had tons of berry notes with a light tart finish. It was super drinkable and not particularly acidic, making it approachable to even someone who isn’t into sours.

I left with a bottle of their rhubarb sour, Flanders style red and brett saison. The rhubarb was tart and funky and quite delicious. The Flanders style is bright and fruity with a tart finish that balances nicely with biscuit malts and notes of oak. If you see Engine House Number 9 sours around they are worth picking up in bottles if you would rather not make it down to Tacoma. They are a brewpub so expect it to get quite noisy inside.

You could order food to go with your beers here as well. I got a hummus appetizer the second time I visited when I was preparing to leave the area. If you like IPAs or sours, you will find quite a bit to enjoy at Engine House No. 9 though I did not see any house brewed stouts on tap when I visited.

Top 2:
House IPA
Berry Manilow 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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Wild Barrel Brewing – San Marcos San Diego

Wild Barrel Brewing surprised me as I hadn’t heard a ton about the brewery until a short time before opening. With a brewer who used to work at stone and a keen eye for what the market wants, they launched out the gate with some IPAs, massively fruity kettle sours, and a coffee stout with barrel aged stuff to come in time. You can tell when you walk in that they spent a lot of time on the layout of the space including their choice for the acoustics because it doesn’t get as loud as many breweries do when crowded.

Wild Barrel serves tasters in larger glass to give room for aromas to come through. In the crowded San Diego brewery scene this is fairly uncommon but always welcomed. I was not really that excited when I saw three fruited Berliner Weiss style beers on the board (called here San Diego Vice) but was soon glad i tried them. San Diego breweries regularly make fruited versions of this style but often with minimal amounts of fruit. Not so here. All 3 of them, cherry, blackcurrent, and guava were massively fruity with a light tart bite on the back.

These may be the most fruit flavor I’ve had in any beer of this style, surpassing my previous favorite at Georgia based Creature Comforts. If their crowlers were available I might have left with a couple of crowlers. It is hard to pick a favorite of the three because they were all so delicious.

The two IPAs available were both in the modern style though staying away from the thick hazy style so far. The single IPA was nice and citrus forward with a light bitterness and a dry finish. The double IPA was a bit more dank and resinous with a slightly thicker body and still not a ton of bitterness. The IPAs remind me of the style brewed at Protector in many ways.

The coffee stout had notes of popcorn and coffee on the nose with a fairly thin body and a nice mix of light roast, smoke, and coffee notes. I found the coffee to be a bit more subdued than I tend to enjoy but it is a nice balanced beer.

I am looking forward to see how Wild Barrel develops over the coming months and expect I will be back again regularly to see what flavors of San Diego Vice come up next. They have excited me about a style that has generally been enjoyable but not particularly exciting for me before now.

Top 2:
Blackcurrent San Diego Vice
Cherry San Diego Vice

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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Chicago Breweries – Forbidden Root and Corridor

On a Sunday in mid-August 2017 I visited four Chicago area breweries. I focused on some that were more highly recommended than others. My first post in the series will focus on Forbidden Root and Corridor while the next post will feature Half Acre and Un Annee. Both Forbidden Root and Corridor serve brunch and Corridor was quite crowded when I visited fairly early on a Sunday.

Forbidden Root

Forbidden Root was my first visit of the day and one of the most impressive in the IPA front. When you walk in to their brewery restaurant space it is striking how beautiful the decor is. They focus heavily on beers with botanical ingredients added. I didn’t try many of those but their hazy IPAs were fantastic and I immediately see why the releases sell out as fast as they do. I only had four tasters when I visited.

Radio Swan IPA is their hazy rye IPA. It was soft and creamy with a hazy yellow appearance. The beer has notes of peach and mango with a light grassy finish. I was very impressed with this and wish they had cans available. If I was to do the day over again I would have ordered more of this beer before leaving. The Ghost Tropic IIPA was a bit thicker giving it a milkshake quality. It was creamy and thick with notes of melon and peach with mild alcohol notes on the finish and minimal acidity. If I hadn’t had Radio Swan in the same visit I would have been very impressed by Ghost Tropic. Though ghost tropic didn’t have the super soft mouthfeel that makes Monkish so popular.

The King Hell cherry beer had tons of jammy cherry character combined combined with tons of winter spices and light caramel that reminded me of a Christmas beer. It wasn’t for me. The imperial stout had some light coconut and vanilla notes with tons of dark cherry and spices. In this one as well the holiday spices seemed a bit too prominent for my tastes and I would have preferred a bit less cherry malt notes, though it was well done.

Forbidden Root is a restaurant as well and has a solid menu. They do limited can releases that sell out fairly quickly. They also offer growler fills of most of their beers that they fill using a counter pressure system that keeps the growlers fresher longer.

Top 2:
Radio Swan Hazy IPA
Ghost Tropic Hazy IIPA

Corridor

Corridor is one of the other breweries popular for hazy IPAs in Chicago. They are also a restaurant like Forbidden Root and in their case you can’t order taster size unless you get one of their pre-designed flights. This meant I only tried two beers because I had to order either 10 or 16oz pours. The Pulp Hogan was the only hazy beer I got to try, and at 5% it is a bit lighter than I generally prefer for a hazy beer.

Pulp hogan had notes of pine and candied fruit with a mild bitterness. It was lacking in both the soft mouthfeel and intense hop character I expect from the style. This is also quite common with lower alcohol hazy beers even from the bigger breweries so it may be more my preferences than bad beer. Their year round IPA was an excellent modern west-coast style IPA with fruit notes and pine, tons of hop character, and a mild bitterness.

In my limited tastes I preferred Forbidden Root to Corridor but both are worth visiting for IPAs. Corridor has the benefit of offering crowelrs to go as well.

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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3 Punk Ales – Chula Vista San Diego

Thr3e Punk Ales opened in Chula Vista recently in an area that has not seen many breweries. They have a good variety of standard beer styles and are open late, sometimes up to Midnight. I thought it was on the noisy side when I stopped by on a Friday night but then Chula Vista Brewing down the street was amped up much louder.

Beer wise, only one beer was clearly to style and a few were standouts. Others defied convention and expectations in ways you might expect from a punk brewery. Rather than the double IPA packing the biggest hop kick, the hoppy pilsner was the most explosively hoppy.

The Flama Blanca Mexican Lager was delicious, fruity and crisp with a lightly sweet dry finish. It tasted exactly like I would expect a lager to taste. The Morning After Pils, a hoppy pilsner, was so hoppy I thought they might have given me the wrong beer. It had an intense mix of resin and floral hop character and a mild to medium bitter finish. Next to this, the two beers labeled as IPAs didn’t taste very hoppy.

The Rye You Trippin, rye IPA, was sweet with light rye and biscuit malt character balanced out nicely with some mild citrus hop character. By San Diego standards the hops were barely there. Similarly the Needle in the Hey, double IPA, was on the sweeter side with a caramel malt base, low bitterness, and earthy hop notes. It finished with a bitter and sweet finish that I didn’t really care for.

Coffee brown ale

The brown ale with coffee was bursting with coffee on the nose and in the taste. Tons of nutty coffee came through overpowering the base beer completely. The beer had a nice medium body and a sweet finish. I brought home a crowler of this one though I hope when I open it I won’t be up all night. The Russian Imperial Stout on nitro was a bit smoky on the nose and noticeably boozy. It had notes of cherry and dark fruit and a dry bitter finish. While a solid stout, it is significantly different than the style we typically get in San Diego.

Stout on nitro

Thr3e punk ales had some tasty beers on tap. If you are looking for something hoppy, stick to the hoppy pilsner. It is the closest to a West Coast style IPA.

Top 2:
Flama Blanca – Mexican Lager
Brick Top with Coffee

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Stone City Ales – Kingston Ontario Canada

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.

Full pour of the gose
Full pour of English Mild.

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.

Top 3:
English Mild
Gose
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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Wavelength Brewing Company – Vista San Diego Revisited with New Brewer

I had written Wavelength off and was waiting for a good excuse to return when it was reported that an ex-Belching Beaver brewer had taken over the reins. They had a great space so this was the perfect chance for me to return and see if they improved. I tried all the beers on the board though one of the things I liked was that they no longer had such a huge list of beers. Instead, the new brewer was focusing on some key styles until he can get things dialed in.

The Octave Orange wheat ale was a good clean wheat beer, lightly fruity and with a good clean finish with light spice. The Golden Note blonde ale was fruity and crisp with a nice dry finish. It was a bit thinner than the wheat and had a nice subtle hop kick on the finish. The Aprikose apricot Berliner had a nice earthy malt character from the base that blended nicely with light tart kick and mild apricot notes. I was impressed because the apricot didn’t overpower the base beer. The beer also had a good medium body.

The Hop Squash hazy IPA was not particularly hazy but has a nice orange/gold turbidity. It showcased intense tropical fruit on the nose. The beer had a nice soft body with tropical fruit and mild pine. Though not hazy it is a tasty soft modern IPA with minimal bitterness and a fruity finish. This is also miles better than their IPAs used to be. The Off Kilter scotch ale was quite delicious with notes of caramel and molasses, a light bitter bite, and mild burnt toffee notes on the finish. It also had some nice mild dark fruit character. It is a really excellent scotch ale, lightly sweet and super smooth body. It is likely to satisfy those who only drink stouts.

Adophis barleywine was the only beer on tap from the old brewer. It showcased notes of dark fruit and biscuit malt base with spice and floral character from the hops with a strong bitter bite. It was more hop forward for a barleywine than I generally prefer but still tasty. It is refreshing to see a shorter tap list here than the huge number they had on tap the last time. The IPA is a huge improvement over the various IPAs brewed previously and the scotch ale and berliner stand out as my favorites. Wavelength now has a quality of beers that should allow them to compete with their neighbors, including the popular Mother Earth brewing.

Top 2:
Apricot Berliner
Scotch 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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Circle 9 Brewing – Clairemont San Diego

I visited Circle 9 for their grand opening. Despite the satanic reference on their logo the tasting room is bright and open. Unlike other satanic-themed breweries they don’t play heavy metal or have a dark tasting room. I tried all the beers they had available for their grand opening and they impressed with a few of them. Some others may need a bit of tweaking to fall in line with local tastes.

Their lager is made with rice and it is obvious from the sweetness. Though it has a nice clean finish it lacks any noticeable hop character and is nothing memorable. The session IPA was crisp and dry with notes of citrus and marijuana with a soft body and low bitterness. I don’t find it much of a session beer with almost 6% alcohol but it is a very impressive beer. I ended up ordering a full pour of this.

The IPA and double IPA were both fairly malt-forward. The IPA was on the sweeter side and hops were fairly mild with a hint of pine and minimal bitterness. The double IPA, in contrast, was strongly bitter with intense herbal character though it was not overly sweet like the IPA.

The imperial stout on nitro had an intense roast and notes of burnt caramel with a bitter finish. I preferred the flavors of the base imperial stout over the barrel aged version. The barrel-aged imperial stout was strongly bourbon forward though also fairly thin with some mild fudge notes. I don’t know if they blended this down or if they didn’t spent much time in the barrels but it didn’t have the same intensity of flavor people expect from local barrel-aged beers.

Session IPA full pour.

For a new brewery, Circle 9 is off to a great start. I am surprised that a brewery that made a point of being inspired by the lagers in Czech Republic their choice of styles for grand opening is a bit unusual with a rice lager and a bunch of ales. Still, they made a delicious session IPA and imperial stout and have a great space that they can expand into and hopefully brew a classic Czech pilsner in the future.

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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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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