Tag Archives: Oatmeal Stout

Faction Brewing, Alameda, Bay Area California

The Bay Area is large and can often take quite a while to get from one area to another. So while there are some amazing breweries elsewhere, there is a benefit to knowing what you can visit without going too far. My husband’s cousin and her family are in Alameda and we often stay with them while we are in the Bay Area so I visited the brewery on a lazy Sunday during my last trip. If you can’t make it out to Berkeley for Fieldwork or San Francisco for Cellarmaker, the IPAs at Faction are excellent and will satisfy most enthusiasts.

Faction Brewing 04

Faction Brewing 03

There were so many beers on the board that there was no way I was going to try them all at $2.50 a taster (fairly standard these days). But most of what I tried was quite impressive. I started with the Southern Aroma pilsner, SAPA (pale ale with South African hops), Penske File pale, Norcal Beer Geek IPA, and Cafe Latte. I then got tasters of NZ IIPA, Blitzen IIIPA, Hop Soup IIPA, and the Oatmeal Stout.

Faction Brewing 05

The Southern Aroma was an excellent pilsner with a clean dry finish and mild citrus kick. The SAPA had tons of pine and resin with a bitter finish and hints of orange peel. The Penske File had a strong bitter grapefruit kick with hints of pineapple behind that. Norcal Beer Geeks IPA was my favorite of the day. Super smooth and balanced it has notes of pine and resin with some citrus and a mellow bitterness. This is a more classic style IPA but done very nicely.

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Cafe Late was a bit strange tasting because it was an older batch but it is also made with cold brew coffee rather than adding coffee beans to the beer. I would recommend trying a splash before ordering a full pint. The oatmeal stout was excellent with a medium body and tons of roast with a smooth mouthfeel. The NZ IIPA was thick and dry without being overly bitter or sweet and tons of fruit notes from the hops. Other double and triple IPAs were similarly well-crafted. The hop soup had more resin and pine notes with a hint of grapefruit and floral notes behind it. Blitzen was a dangerously easy drinking beer for the alcohol and had nice notes of citrus and pine.

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While they aren’t yet doing the juicy hazy IPAs you can get at Cellarmaker and Fieldwork, the beers at Faction I tasted were all nicely done and would be plenty to satisfy most hop heads. They have a very unique location out on an old navy hard with high ceilings and a large outdoor seating area and a separately large indoor seating area behind the large tasting room. It has quite an echo and the tasting room gets loud with only a few loud people. I brought a growler of the Norcal Beer Geek IPA to share when I left and my husband’s cousin’s husband really enjoyed it. Hopefully he will return regularly now that he knows what to order.

Faction Brewing 02

Known for:
Come for their wide selection of IPAs. Try the Norcal Beer Geek, my favorite of the bunch.

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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32 North Brewing Revisited Again, Second Change of Brewers

Covering breweries can require a lot of attention paid because brewers don’t always stay with the brewery for various reasons. I can’t speak to many of the reasons behind many of the notorious local shifts of brewers and I wouldn’t want to share the details even if I could. For 32 North, this meant they started with a brewer who came out of the gate with some excellent beer and then after a few months went on to open a different brewery, which is the quite-popular Bitter Brothers. Then another brewer was brought in to replace him and didn’t last as long as many expected. Some say he went back to the East Coast because he wasn’t a fit for the local scene. I could see this as a plausible explanation considering his version of the Best Coast IPA was too malty for local tastes.

32 North Revisited 01

Now with their 2nd anniversary coming up, I visited 32 North again, giving their new brewer, Nick Ceniceros, formerly the head brewer for Fall Brewing, a chance to dial in the recipes on the different system. The changes from a year ago to now are drastic and show a clearer understanding of the local brew scene as one would expect from someone who has been a major part of the scene for a while. Of the beers I tried, all were well-made but four stood out as quite excellent. I can safely say that if Ceniceros stays on for a while, he will help cement 32 North as a powerful player in the crowded Miramar brewery scene.
32 North Brewing 02
Look and feel wise, the brewery hasn’t changed all that much since it opened. They have always had the beautiful wood-dominated look that helps you quickly forget that you are in the middle of an industrial park. The design of their tasting board has changed quite a bit over time and the design they have now is pleasing and easy to read from a distance.

I had two separate flights on my recent visit, trying seven beers and a cask variant of their house IPA to finish things off. I started with a flight of Pennant pale ale, Blancdonkadonk hoppy wheat, Mighty Mouse session rye IPA, and Landfall berliner weisse (without syrup). The second flight I had the Best Coast IPA, Far East IPA, Hello Darkness oatmeal stout on nitro, and Best Coast IPA cask with mosaic hops.

First flight with pale ales and Berliner Weisse.
First flight with pale ales and Berliner Weisse.

Penant pale ale is a smooth dry pale ale with a great balance of citrus, pine, and resinous hops. It has some malts backing it up but nothing that overpowers the hops as the traditional style tends to do. This was the first standout for me. The blancdonkadonk is a strange beer and a bit hard to describe. At first I got a lot of apricot from what I assumed were English hops over some fruity wheat malts. Then later on I got more passionfruit and other tropical fruit notes. I found the hops were a bit too much but mostly because the flavors weren’t for me. The Mighty Mouse session IPA was clean and dry with a great mix of dank resinous hops, some fruity hops, and as it warms up some floral/herbal hops all supported by a solid rye kick. I liked it more at the beginning but once I got to the herbal hops I lost interest. This is another beer where it mostly isn’t my preferred hops but is done well.

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The Landfall Berliner Weisse, without syrup, was excellent. It had a great medium body and some subtle fruit and citrus notes. They offer three flavors of syrup for this if you want to experiment though I prefer it on its own. Though they will be soon canning their blond ale, I hope this one day gets canned because it is quite excellent. The Best Coast IPA is a great mix of dank pine and resin hops and some tropical fruit towards the end. Though pine on its own is not a flavor I love, it is delicious when properly balanced as here. The beer also has a nice supporting malt backbone that is just enough to give it a good medium body without calling too much attention to itself.

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The cask version of Best Coast was super smooth with tons of mango, guava, and melon bursting from the beer. Surprisingly most of the dank flavors of the tap version were gone. The Far East IPA had tons of over ripe tropical fruit and a sticky sweet fruity finish. I couldn’t identify specific fruits but I really did not care for this one. I finished with the Hello Darkness oatmeal stout on nitro. The beer had a complex mix of roast, coffee, and chocolate notes all supported by a smooth caramel base. This would probably be the first beer for me to order in a pint when I return. It is an excellent oatmeal stout and I’m sure the coffee version is quite nice as well.

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It is a great sign that two of the stand-out beers for me were part of their core lineup and soon to be canned. Even if you have been disappointed in the past with what you had at 32 North, you should absolutely return to try these delicious new batches. Their upcoming 2nd anniversary on October 21st.

Top 4:
Hello Darkness oatmeal stout
Landfall berliner weisse
Pennant Pale
Best Coast 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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Wicks Brewing – Riverside California

On a recent drive to Idyllwild I decided to go out of my way to Riverside and stop by a brewery. You may be thinking, that is not really along the way, why would you do something like that? And you’re right it is seriously out of the way but my husband wanted to stop in Riverside for something else so I figured let’s hit a brewery while we are there. I decided to stop by Wicks in part because I loved their medieval designs and names for their beers. They are a fairly large brewpub offering some solid food and a large lineup of beers. I tasted a total of 8 beers while I was there in two separate flights.

Wicks Brewing 01

Wicks Brewing 02

The first flight included the Paladin Pale, Battle Cry IPA, Hello Sunshine IPA, and El Robo Rye IPA. The pale was nice and fruity/juicy session IPA that was not too thin or too bitter. It is a nice and balanced, smooth beer. The Battle Cry IPA is a bit thicker and resinous with notes of grapefruit and pineapple. I really enjoyed this IPA out of all of the ones offered and picked up a 22oz bottle to go, which I enjoyed recently at home. While not as bursting with aroma in the bottle it stood up nicely to being a month and a half old. The Hello Sunshine was thicker and more bitter than the Battle Cry offering tropical fruit flavors including papaya. The El Robo Rye had a nice golden rye flavor with a slightly darker color and a strong bitter finish presenting flavors of apricot and peach. This was a nicely balanced rye beer.

First flight of beers.
First flight of beers.

The second flight included the Hellified double IPA, Morning Star coffee oatmeal stout, Jasmine Noir black ale, and Black Knight imperial porter. The Hellified double IPA was not that much stronger in alcohol than the single IPA offerings but was quite tasty with intense citrus flavors and a solid bitter kick. The Morning Star coffee oatmeal stout presented a quite mellow coffee flavor and smooth mouthfeel. This is a good stout if you like subtle flavors. The Jasmine Noir was basically a stronger version of a schwartzbier, a German style black lager. It had a light roast flavor but otherwise was very light bodied and easy drinking. I could barely taste the higher alcohol. The Black Knight was a combination of fruity and roasty with a boozy kick on the end, also not very thick. Because I am used to stouts and porters that have more intense flavors I was fairly disappointed by the tasters but looking back now they did a good job making subtle beers for the styles.

Second Flight.
Second Flight.

I enjoyed the food I had at Wicks and especially enjoyed the IPAs. They are worth hitting if you are in the area and are looking for your West Coast style IPA kick. If you are a fan of dark beers, don’t expect anything exploding with flavors but you will find some smooth and drinkable beers.

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Top 2:
Battle Cry IPA
Paladin Pale

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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Border X Brewing – Barrio Logan San Diego

Border X originally opened in Otay Mesa, very close to the border with Mexico. The beers are still brewed at that location but more recently they opened a satellite tasting room in Barrio Logan, closer to Downtown San Diego. I visited the Barrio Logan location recently to try their beers. I didn’t get to taste the popular Blood Saison because they ran out but I did get to taste the Hefeweisen, Abuelos pale ale, Abuelita’s chocolate stout, Horchata golden stout, and a coffee oatmeal stout they brewed in collaboration with Groundswell Brewing.

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The hefeweisen was a nice cloudy yellow with a light citrus kick that blended nicely with banana and pineapple. Though it was largely to style, their version was a nice change to the typical, and very refreshing. The Abuelos pale ale was a solid fruity English style pale with figs added. The beer was lightly bitter and very smooth. This was the only hoppy beer available when I visited, so it might not be the best destination for hop heads looking for West Coast style brews.

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The Abuelita’s chocolate stout had a deliciously smooth oatmeal stout body and bright chocolate flavors on the front. I found it less bitter than most stouts. The beer has a light vanilla on the back. The chocolate flavors were also very different than you see in most local brews because it uses the Mexican style of chocolate usually used in the chocolate drinks available in Tijuana and elsewhere. It reminded me of some of the better of such drinks I have experienced in Tijuana. This is certainly a standout beer that they brew.

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The Horchata golden stout isn’t boozy at all despite being 10%. It could easily be confused with ordinary horchata. The beer was very smooth and sweet with the right amount of rice, vanilla, and cinnamon. The brewers create an extract of the vanilla and cinnamon themselves that gives it authentic and not fake-tasting flavors. The coffee oatmeal stout brewed with groundswell was a nice smooth oatmeal stout with light coffee in the back. It was very nicely balanced, though I slightly prefer the chocolate stout.

Border X 01

Though Border X isn’t a place to visit for hoppy beers because they didn’t have an IPA they are brewing some awesome stouts and word on the streets is the Blood Saison is also really good. Both the chocolate and horchata stouts were very impressive. I hope to visit them in the future to see how things are going. The tasting room in Barrio Logan has a similar feel to places I have visited in Tijuana with plenty of Mexican imagery on the walls.

Top 2:
Abuelita’s chocolate stout
Horchata golden 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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Mother Earth Brewing Company, Vista CA

Mother Earth is one of those breweries that I heard a lot about but rarely tasted. Fairly recently I tried their Boo-Koo IPA for the first time and knew I should visit the tap room sometime soon. Located in the center of Vista, Mother Earth is thankfully close to the 78 freeway and easy to find. The tap room is large and has a good amount of seating and room for dogs. Aside from four core beers on tap they also had a few interesting special release beers available.

Mother Earth Brewing 01
I tried the Boo-Koo IPA, Roundabout Oatmeal Stout, Make up Your Mind IPA, Sin Tax peanut butter stout, and Quit Stalin bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. The Boo-Koo is a delicious light body and light colored IPA with lots of citrus and tropical fruit and medium bitterness. This one recently showed up in six-pack cans and is one of their best major beers.

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The Roundabout Oatmeal Stout was listed as a smaller specialty beer but it was so good I wouldn’t be surprised if it joins the main lineup at some point. The beer was dry and roasty with a nice bitter chocolate finish. Though it was a low 5.4% alcohol it was bursting with flavor. I liked it so much that I took home a crowler (32oz can they fill on the spot for you to take home). The Make Up Your Mind IPA was a delicious tropical fruit/juicy IPA also with the light color and medium bitterness. The biggest difference between this and the Boo-Koo is the sweeter hop flavors that dominate.

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The Sin Tax is a strong 8% peanut butter imperial stout with an intense and overpowering peanut butter flavor that adds a bit of sweetness and makes the beer seem a bit syrupy. The peanut butter flavor is similar to the Belching Beaver peanut butter milk stout. The underlying stout is a bit typical and tasty but I found this one too sweet. My husband liked it though. I ended with the Quit Stalin bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. This was very impressive, giving a strong stout background and plenty of sweet bourbon flavor. Everything balanced quite nicely, avoiding any strong boozy flavors.

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Mother Earth has two locations and I visited the Main Street location. Their web site says that this location tends to get a more wide selection of beers. There is also a home brew shop next door. Overall Mother Earth is a very impressive brewery giving the right focus on their core beers while also brewing some smaller batch stuff. I happened to visit them after Wavelength brewing next door and I found Mother Earth to be the more impressive of the two, though they are also much older and established.

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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