Tag Archives: IPA

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.

Wren House 01

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.

Wren House 03

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.

Wren House 02

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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Los Muertos Brewing – Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Most visitors to Puerto Vallarta will stay in the Hotel Zone where all the big hotels have their resorts. In those areas you are better off bringing your own beer from home if you are there for a while and want to drink something other than Corona. Make sure you read the amounts that Customs allows you to bring with you if you decide to do that.

Los Muertos 01

We decided for a visit that gives us a true feel of the town and stayed in the Romantic Zone, where Los Muertos sits surrounded by other restaurants and shops. I enjoyed a flight of beers at Los Muertos and they are much better than any of the other Mexican craft beer available locally in bottles. While they don’t live up to the quality of breweries in Tijuana, Ensanada, and other parts of Mexico, they are good enough to satisfy your craving for craft beer.

Los Muertos 03

The first three beers were all overly thin and lacking in flavor. The blonde was almost like water. The wheat beer was a little better with some mild citrus notes and hints of lemon. The chili beer was most likely chilis added to the blonde and the chili notes were very mild, giving it very little heat. The amber ale made with agave was more flavorful, mixing notes of caramel and honey on a soft light body with very low bitterness.

Los Muertos 02

The IPA was light and soft and emphasized a mild bitterness instead of aroma in the traditional style. It is clean and easy drinking but compared to the modern style of IPAs being made it falls short. The Hop On strong ale was soft and mild with roast and mild smoke and very low bitterness. This was a standout for me compared to the rest. The stout was super smooth with mild roast and a dry finish in the traditional dry Irish stout style.

After trying a few other local bottles, I would say Los Muertos is your best bet for beer in the area. Otherwise you might as well order margaritas. They have a fairly americanized food menu so we didn’t eat there. They also sell bottles you can bring back with you to your hotel room.

Top 3:
Hop On strong ale
Stout
Amber 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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Good Beer Company and Cismontane Brewing Santa Ana California

The Good Beer Company

Despite the completely generic name, The Good Beer Company is anything but generic. I had heard great things about them prior to visiting from those who love sour and wild ales, though like many breweries experimenting with the style, having a flight of tasters can get quite expensive. I decided to stick to one full beer and ordered an apricot sour they had on tap. It was tart and dry with a strong apricot kick and a high overall acidity. I found the beer to be solidly above average.

Good Beer Company 01

I could tell that the brewery makes things in small batches and the tap list changes fairly regularly. Everything on tap was either a farmhouse ale, a wild ale, or a sour. Tasters range from $2 to $4 and so it made more sense to order a full pour of the apricot beer. They are in an old brick building and the place gets quite loud. In a future trip I hope to try some more of their varied offerings but what I tasted suggests that they are on the right track.

Good Beer Company 02

Known for:
This is a place to visit if you enjoy farmhouse ales, wild ales, or sours.

Cismontane Brewing

Cismontane Brewing 01

Located in the heart of Santa Ana it is easy to overlook Cismontane despite having been open for five years now due to its proximity to fan favorites in Anaheim. However, the short distance can take a long time to travel during peak hours making Cismontane a great stop if you are staying in Santa Ana since it is close to John Wayne airport. I had a flight of five tasters and overall it was solidly average. While beer geeks driving down from LA or up from San Diego may not always stop here, it is a good spot for locals.

Cismontane Brewing 03

The CA Lager was smooth and clean with notes of caramel and fruit, a great rendition of the style. The Rye IPA was a mix of floral and pine on the nose and sticky and dank mouthfeel. It is a well-balanced IPA and not too bitter. The Sour Brown anniversary ale was a perfect balance of caramel and citrus tartness and true to style. The porter was strong on the dark fruit notes with tons of cherry and mild molasses. It wasn’t really my thing. The imperial stout on nitro was excellent with tons of roast and caramel with mild smoke, though also a bit dry, thus not so sweet.

Cismontane Brewing 02

Top 2:
California Lager
Sour Brown

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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Breakside Brewing Portland Oregon

Breakside also came highly recommended for my latest Portland trip. Most of the beers I had when I visited were solid but it is hard to follow something like Great Notion. They didn’t have any of their sours on tap, though I did bring a few home with me so I finish with some information about those sours. I had six tasters, mostly a mix of hoppy beers and stouts.
Breakside 01
The pilsner was quite good with a good mix of spice and fruit and a mild bitterness at the finish. The Breakside IPA was a good balance of pine and fruity notes, a nice modern take on the Pacific Northwest style of IPA. I preferred this over the Wanderlust IPA, which was more dry and had strong notes of citrus with a mild bitter finish. Though part of that might be that they call Wanderlust “West Coast style” and I think they slightly missed the mark here.
Breakside 03
I was very excited to try their salted caramel stout but I found it to be smoky and quite mildly sweet with minimal caramel. The bourbon barrel aged salted caramel had a thicker body and a solid bourbon finish with a good amount of sweetness and some mild salt. This was the highlight of the stouts for sure. The Breakside Stout had some notes of caramel and roast but it was overpowered by a strong bitter finish that I didn’t care for.
Breakside 02
From what I had on tap I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to visit Breakside for stouts, though they are doing a good job with the modern hoppy beer styles. They also have a restaurant so the place was full of brunch crowds as well when we visited on an early Sunday afternoon.
I came home with a brett pale ale and dark sour. Both were quite good for the style and I’m glad I picked them up. The dark sour was especially nice and smooth without being overly tart.
Top 2:
Breakside IPA
Bourbon Barrel Aged Salted Caramel 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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Midnight Jack Brewing – Oceanside, San Diego

Midnight Jack 01

Midnight Jack Brewing is in the inland portion of Oceanside or, as some might say, the valley. They have quite the large number of beers on tap. They have a large indoor space with plenty of seating. When I started, I tasted their helles, saison, IPA, porter, and stout on nitro. The helles was fruity and had a nice kick to it, a solid beer for the style though lacking the lager character that makes a few local breweries stand out. Still it was one of the better beers from my visit.

Midnight Jack 02

The saison was completely infected with acetaldehyde and tasted like astringent apple juice. I brought this to the brewer’s attention (who happened to also be pouring the beers) and once he tasted he agreed and pulled the keg. Surprisingly this is not a common response at smaller breweries so I respect his integrity. I was told that other kegs from the same batch were quite popular and sold fast so I want to give him the benefit of the doubt that this beer is normally really good and something happened with this keg.

The Lucky 7 IPA had some mild fruit but intensely harsh bitter finish that made it un-drinkable. It didn’t have much aroma or resinous hops to balance out the bitterness. The porter was smooth and roasty with notes of coffee and chocolate, while mildly sweet at the finish. I really enjoyed this one, probably the best of the bunch. They also had a version available that is blended with half cold brew coffee brewed in house. My friend ordered that version and really enjoyed it. The chocolate stout had some strong fruity alcohol notes and was quite thin, overall it didn’t taste like a stout.

Midnight Jack 03

I was ready to leave it at this point and not try anything more but when I went up to close out my tab, the brewer suggested he wouldn’t charge me because I wasn’t satisfied. I respect that and accepted that. Then, when he came to tell me I was right about the saison, I figured I would try a few more of his IPAs so he poured me tasters of the session IPA, Vermont style IPA, and 3Cs IPA.

Midnight Jack 04

The session IPA was crisp and smooth with strong grassy hops. I asked the brewer whether he dry hopped this one and he said he didn’t. It is an interesting take on the session IPA though the grassy hop character is not something I’m used to locally. The Vermont style IPA was not representative of the style. It was a darker red-orange hazy color that is unusual and despite using plenty of mosaic, citra, and amarillo it didn’t taste like it at all. It had a salty finish that I haven’t experienced with this kind of beer before. I ended with the 3C IPA that he describes as his West Coast style IPA. It was bitter and mildly piny and had a dry finish but it didn’t taste anything like a west cost style IPA to me. Then again I’m not generally a fan of piney IPAs.

The brewer at Midnight Jack clearly knows what he is doing. The porter was fantastic and the helles was quite good. Sadly he still needs some time to get the IPAs dialed in to meet with local standards.

Top 2:
Porter
Helles

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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Boxing Bear and Bosque Brewing Albuquerque New Mexico

Boxing Bear

Albuquerque Breweries 05

Boxing Bear recently won some awards for their overall quality and it shows in the beers I tried. They have a nice roomy tasting room with plenty of seating. While they are a bit further out from central Albuquerque, they are worth the trip. Their pilsner was chewy and floral with a good crisp finish, one of the better pilsners of my trip. While it isn’t up to my favorites in San Diego, it is above average and very impressive. Their IPA was balanced and dank with a mild bitter finish. While it didn’t have a ton of aroma, the balance of flavors made it very drinkable.

Albuquerque Breweries 07

I only tried the cider because of a friend’s request and it was quite fantastic, sporting mild apple sweetness and a crisp dry finish. Hopefully one day the brewery will be able to put this in six packs and grab the local college crowd that is now drinking Angry Orchard (owned by AB InBev). The chocolate milk stout was roasty and mildly sweet with notes of coffee. A solid milk stout, true to style. The Vanta Black was creamy and thick, mildly sweet with hints of licorrice and a dry finish. I didn’t much care for the liccorice notes but my husband enjoyed this one a lot. The slap happy double IPA was herbal and strongly bitter with mild fruit notes. I didn’t care for the herbal hops but it was a fairly average double IPA. I would recommend sticking with heir single IPA.

Albuquerque Breweries 06

Top 2:
IPA
Cider

Bosque brewing

Albuquerque Breweries 08

Bosque has a kitchen connected to their tasting room, located in a strip mall. They keep the indoor quite dark with the use of a number of shades, which is great, until someone opens a door and the bright outside light comes in. Their lager was super light body with some mild fruity hops. It was good but could have been better with just a bit more body and more malt character. The scotch ale was strongly boozy with notes of dark fruit. I would have liked it more if it was more restrained or more roasty. As is, it was fairly average.

Albuquerque Breweries 10

The IPA was soft and fruity and not too bitter with some notes of perfumy hops. This was their best of the bunch, a good balanced IPA. The milk stout had notes of caramel and mild lactose sweetness with a creamy body on nitro. A solid milk stout, true to style. The Imperial Stout was intensely bitter, hoppy, and dry. I didn’t enjoy it either as a black IPA or an imperial stout. It didn’t have the aromas necessary to make a good black IPA or the roast character for a good stout. I especially would recommend staying away from this brewery if you don’t like hoppy beers. Their Elephants on Parade fruit beer was a nice mix of cranberry, raspberry, and grapefruit with tasty fruit character and not really tart.

Albuquerque Breweries 09

Bosque had a few solid beers and is worth a stop if you are in the area. I liked the food selection they offered but we went in between meals so I didn’t try anything.

Top 2:
IPA
Milk 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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Eppig Brewing North Park San Diego

Eppig Brewing is a new brewery that takes advantage of a space that was designed to allow three breweries to open next door to one another. They have a small space just off El Cajon Blvd that can easily get packed. They have a large number of beers on tap so it was impossible to try everything in one visit.

Eppig Brewing 05

I started with the lagers because I heard that they were quite good. My first flight consisted of their Schwartz (dark lager), Zwickel (unfiltered pilsner), Festbier (imperial wheat), and Berliner Weisse (tart wheat beer). My second flight consisted of Factory of Dreams IPA, 10:15 to Denver IPA, Double IPA, and their stout with coffee. Of the two I much preferred the first flight.

Eppig Brewing 04

Eppig Brewing 03

Eppig Brewing 02

The Schwartz was smooth and roasty with mild smoke, a good version of the style and better than most San Diego attempts I have had. The Zwickel had a nice medium body and a mix of fruity and floral hops. Though well made the floral hops were a bit too much for me and not my favorite hop profile. I didn’t really care for the fest beer, which has a dry citrus finish but is also too harsh at the end. It was a popular beer with others while I was there but not for me. The berliner weisse was a good mix of grapefruit and lemon notes with a bitter dry finish while not too tart. They had two fruit options of this as well but I stuck to the regular.

Eppig Brewing 06

On the IPA front, I encountered some of the harshest most overpowering bitter IPAs in all of San Diego. Both the Factory of Dreams IPA and the double IPA were extremely bitter with very little aroma to speak of. According to the brewer, the double IPA is made with tons of simcoe, a hop I don’t care for generally, but rather than being too much pine aroma, they both shared a strong bitterness that lingered at the back of the throat.

While the 10:15 to Denver was more drinkable and had hints of grapefruit it was still too bitter. I didn’t finish either of these beers. I had a chat with the brewer about the harsh bitterness and as usual was told “they are IPAs, they are supposed to be bitter.” I ended with the stout with coffee that I found to be average with tons of roast and a bitterness that lingered on the tongue.

Eppig is a new brewery and I’m glad to see them come out of the gate with solid lagers and fruited berliner weisse style beers. Not every brewery needs to brew IPAs but if you are coming to North Park go elsewhere for your IPAs. The fruited berliner weisse beers were quite popular as well, but I stuck with the base. Hopefully I will be updating this article in a few months to indicate that they have improved the IPAs to something more in line with their neighbors at North Park Brewing.

Top 2:
Zwickel (unfiltered pilsner)
Schwartz (dark lager)

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

Funky Buddha 01

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.

Funky Buddha 06

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.

Funky Buddha 05

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.

Funky Buddha 08

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.

Funky Buddha 09

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.

Funky Buddha 04

Top 3:
Passionfruit Berliner
Double IPA
NIB Smuggler

LauderAle

LauderAle 01

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.

LauderAle 02

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.

LauderAle 04

LauderAle 03

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.

LauderAle 05

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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