Tag Archives: Porter

Midnight Jack Brewing – Oceanside, San Diego

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Breweries in Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin, Karben 4, Vintage, Raised Grain, Good City, Black Husky,

I normally get my information about which breweries to hit in a city from Beeradvocate and Ratebeer forums. This sometimes works out wonderfully, when locals give a list of tons of places that I have to pick the cream of the crop from. Other times this is not so great when there aren’t a lot of well-recommended breweries in an area. In that case I may miss a few places or skip over local favorites entirely based on the opinions of people on a message board. Sadly in Madison, Wisconsin this meant I didn’t make the trek out to New Glarus (45 minutes outside of town) and didn’t visit Vintage brewing because I didn’t ask my friend for recommendations. Thankfully I got some crowlers from Vintage because my friend shared the wealth.

Karben 4 came highly recommended in Madison and I agree with the praise. Out of the Milwaukee breweries, Raised Grain was a clear winner though the locals indicated that they are still in somewhat early stages.

Karben 4

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Karben 4 was the most recommended brewery out of all the Madison breweries and so it was my first stop, and turned out to be my only stop. I had a number of tasters and almost everything was excellent. They have a medium-sized tasting room with a kitchen and tons of variety.

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I started with the Champagne Tortoise English mild style ale and was immediately impressed by the clean beer bursting with flavor. The beer was smooth and fruity and lightly sweet, without any noticeable bitterness. The Tokyo Sauna pale ale was bitter and mildly soapy/herbal with a smooth malt finish. I didn’t care for the hops in this one. The Nightcall smoked porter was smooth and balanced with tons of chocolate and caramel and a mild smoke on the finish.

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The Fantasy Factory IPA was fruity with tons of citrus and a smooth malt backbone that was balanced by resinous hops. It was a solid IPA. Lady Luck imperial red was fantastic. I was glad to find an imperial red that wasn’t hopped to intense bitterness. The beer had tons of caramel and dark fruit with a mild roast at the finish. I could easily order more of this quite regularly if I was a local. Dragon Flute pale ale had tons of bright fruit showcasing tangerine and pineapple over a low malt bill and mild bitterness. I finished with the Idiot Farm double IPA, a delicious sticky sweet double IPA with tons of citrus and a balanced malt-backbone.

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Since I didn’t get the scoop on other local breweries while I was there I might have just gone back to Karben 4 for more because of their impressive lineup. Though I didn’t like all the hoppy beers, they had two that were quite excellent. And one of the ones I didn’t like may have just been an old keg.

Top 4:
Champagne Tortoise English Mild
Lady Luck Imperial Red
Dragon Flute Pale
Idiot Farm Double IPA

Vintage Brewing

Though I didn’t visit Vintage Brewing I did get to try four different beers thanks to a friend. It helps that they have a crowler machine so the beers stayed fresh over a few days.

The oaked pale was a fantastic smooth blend of a malt-forward IPA and a smooth oak bite at the finish. The oak removed any intense bitterness and the beer was quite popular among a group of people at a party who generally don’t like IPAs. The Toy Boat Toy Boat double IPA was deliciously fruity with a smooth balanced malt backbone of English malts. Hops came on strong with tons of sweet melon notes. I would love to visit the brewery the next time I am in town.

Raised Grain Brewing

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Raised Grain is a ways to the west of Downtown Milwaukee but well worth the drive. I tried a number of different beers from them and almost everything was excellent. They have a nice medium-sized tap room with plenty of bar seating and a number of tables. They had sports on their TVs and you could tell the locals have become regulars.

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The Naked Threesome was a delicious fruity pale ale with tons of grapefruit and a sticky caramel malt backbone. The Anniversary Stout was nutty with tons of vanilla and a smooth finish. Quite the tasty beer. The porter was an interesting mix of spice, cherry, mild smoke, and some burnt caramel notes. I found the cherry to be a bit much for my tastes though. The coffee stout on tap was delicious with tons of nutty coffee on the nose and the taste and a mild caramel finish. This was quite an excellent coffee stout.

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Before I left, the bartender offered a smaller pour of their staple imperial red IPA. It was deliciously balanced with tons of citrus and pine from the hops and some mild caramel and bread notes from the malts. With so many red IPAs being total malt bombs this was quite refreshing. The scotch ale was smooth and fruity wish some mild oak at the finish.

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Top 2:
Coffee Stout
Paradox Imperial Red IPA

Good City Brewing

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Despite the name, I found only half of the four tasters I ordered here to be drinkable. They started out strong with a mosaic pale that had tons of tropical fruit and hints of mango without significant malts or bitterness. The session IPA was bursting with papaya and creamy malt backbone with a crisp dry finish. If the rest of the beers were as good I would be praising them along side Raised Grain. Sadly, the next two were not very good.

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The Pale Lager had some notes of peaches and cherry with some quite prominent alcohol taste and a strong bitter finish. Though there was some mango in the finish as well, the bitterness and strong alcohol flavor killed it for me. Similarly, the double IPA had strong flavors of onion and a sticky sweet malt backbone. Though it had some fruity hop notes on the nose I got none of it in the taste. I was even more surprised to see that the brewery charged me just under $4 for the taster of this double IPA and almost $3 for each of the two IPAs. If I had noticed the $4 taster price on the board I would have passed it up out of principle. Charging twice as much for a pint as they do for a taster is ridiculous and hurts visitors who aren’t interested in ordering a full pint.

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Though I didn’t care for the second half of my flight, the first two beers were quite impressive and show that the brewer knows how to work with hops and can get the right flavors from them at least some of the time. I will give the brewery the benefit of the doubt and assume that they messed up with the double IPA though I question selling a beer so clearly off the mark. Still, paying $12 for essentially one pint of beer just because they are in tasters is a poor way to treat customers who aren’t going to buy a pint until they have had a few tasters.

Top 2:
Mosaic Pale
Session IPA

Black Husky Brewing

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Black Husky doesn’t offer typical 4oz tasters but instead 7oz tasters, which makes their pricing slightly more reasonable even if they still annoyingly price things essentially against the people who order anything but a full pour. Visitors aren’t going to order full pints of things if they are visiting multiple breweries in a single day. It just doesn’t make sense. So because of their large tasters I went with essentially half pours of their two IPAs.

The IPA with Citra was smooth and presented tons of tropical fruit notes from the hops. The IPA with mosaic had tons of bitter grapefruit with hints of lime in the finish. Both IPAs were made well though they were noticeably quite similar in the malt behind them. I would have tried more beers there but the styles available didn’t pique my interest.

Black Husky has a very nice theme going and some relaxing seating in the tasting room. Sadly, the tasting room also got quite loud even when it wasn’t completely full. This didn’t make me want to stay very long. They are worth dropping by if you are craving a good IPA because the two IPAs I tried were nicely done.

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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Little Miss Brewing, Miramar area San Diego

Little Miss opened recently in an area not far from other nearby breweries but a bit confusing to find. Like many other breweries in the area they are located inside a warehouse space. They have plenty of seating from the start, which is always good to see. They were originally going to wait some time after opening before turning it into a tasting room but then beer enthusiasts showed up anyway and wanted to have some beer. So they quickly turned the space into a tasting room. If you have some difficulty finding them, Google will bring you to the end of a building with a driveway on each side. To get to the brewery you take the right driveway and head all the way to the back.

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When I visited, I had a flight of four beers and two more before I left. In total I tried the berliner weisse, SDPA, SMASH Galaxy, porter with coffee, IPA, and the base porter. The berliner weisse is tart and tasty giving some fruit, mild citrus notes. They offer fruit puree to mix in with the beer but I found it didn’t really add much flavor and it wasn’t as consistent as other places with syrups. The SDPA (San Diego pale ale) was a good mix of fruit and pine with a mild bitterness. The SMASH galaxy was pretty disappointing and lacked in significant aroma. The beer was crisp and mildly bitter but didn’t really pop.

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The porter with coffee was a good mix of coffee and roast and a good medium body. The base porter was delicious and complex with tons of roast, chocolate, and caramel. You can’t go wrong with either version though I personally preferred the base porter. The IPA was a fantastic mix of pine, grapefruit, and lemon hop notes. Though I don’t really care for pine on its own, when blended like this it works well. This is an excellent example of the West Coast style of IPA.

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Little Miss isn’t pushing any boundaries but they came out of the gate with a great lineup of beers. They are located right around Hess, Alesmith, and Mikkeller. Their combination of military imagery and pin-up art helps them stand out. I also really liked the seating provided, which used old kegs and placed pillows on top for a surprisingly comfortable seat.

Tap handles in the shape of bombs.
Tap handles in the shape of bombs.

Top 3:
IPA
porter
Berliner Weisse

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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Sante Adarius Rustic Ales and New Bohemia – San Jose California

The San Francisco Bay Area is a large place and visitors often travel as far north as Santa Rosa to visit Russian River or as far south as Santa Cruz to visit Sante Adarius Rustic Ales or SARA for short. I chose to fly into San Jose for this brewery visit so that I had a fairly short drive down to Santa Cruz, or the neighborhood of Capitola where SARA is located. I also visited a newer brewery known as New Bohemia Brewing a short distance away. Both breweries complement each other nicely.

Sante Adarius

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SARA is a cult favorite for their sours and farmhouse ales, many of which are bottled and released exclusively from the taproom. I happened to visit when they were releasing bottles of Lady in Grey and they also had bottles available of their Farmhouse Noir, a dark sour. I tried a number of different beers over two separate visits including the Chavez porter, Lady in Grey, Anais saison, Vanilla Joe, and 831 IPA. The Chavez porter is a very smooth and delicious beer with hints of vanilla and chocolate with a mild roast at the finish. This is the base beer for many of their adjunct versions including Vanilla Joe, made with vanilla and coffee. The Vanilla Joe was a delicious mix of coffee and vanilla and so popular that it was no longer available when I returned for my second visit. This was also my husband’s favorite beer.

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The Lady in Grey is a delicious complex oaked blonde with a dry finish and bright fruit notes. I enjoyed this one and picked up a few bottles for myself and a few friends back home. The Anais is a super fruity saison with mild funk and an earthy finish. The 831 IPA is quite fruity with darnk pine at the finish. I found the IPA to be overly bitter at the finish, not from hops but from something else. This is an issue they have identified and should be fixing for future batches. I also got to try the Farmhouse Noir thanks to a kind regular who bought a bottle for us to share. I had already purchased some to bring home but it was not available on tap. Famhouse Noir was a delicious dark sour with just the right amount of tart finish and lots of fruit and mild vinegar. I look forward to exploring the flavors of this beer more when I open the bottle I brought back with me.

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On the two different days I visited SARA had quite a few people even as early as 12PM. The first day I visited was a Saturday which also happened to be a bottle release day so people were lining up for bottles and hanging around for beers. When I stopped by the next day there were no lines and the crowd was a little smaller but still respectable. There is plenty of seating available for people to hang around for a while. Flights are not available but they serve everything in half pours or full pours and the servers do a great job of explaining the beer styles prior to ordering something.

Top 2:
Vanilla Joe
Anais

New Bohemia

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As SARA attempts to re-create the Farmhouse styles from Belgium, New Bohemia puts a lot of effort into creating German style pilsner, heffeweizen, and Vienna lager. I tried the pilsner, IPA, Mole Stout, Double Duchess coffee porter, and black IPA on nitro. The pilsner is super clean and delicious with a medium body and light German hop kick to balance out the bready pilsner malt. I passed on the heffeweizen because it is the Bavarian style which I don’t particularly like (tending to taste of banana and cloves).

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The IPA was super smooth and juicy with notes of tangerine and melon, with a nice amber color. This is in line with the modern style of IPAs with lower bitterness and more hop aromas and was very impressive. The mole stout was deliciously balanced with the coffee, chocolate, and chilies all blending together perfectly. The chocolate and chilies trade off at the finish and the beer is smooth all the way through. The Double Duchess coffee porter is thick and delicious with tons of coffee flavor and a mildly sweet finish. The black IPA is served on nitro and it does a great job of mellowing the hops further while offering a super smooth finish. The hops are given a chance to shine and like the IPA it isn’t overly bitter.

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Delicious pilsner.
Delicious pilsner.

For a new brewery I was quite impressed by the delicious beers offered at New Bohemia, though the brewer has a ton of experience at other places prior to opening up his own brewery. There is a little something for everyone here and the large number of stouts available was quite nice to see. We originally stopped by for a flight of four tasters but returned later for more because they ran out of the Vanilla Joe at SARA so we had to have more Double Duchess instead. That is how delicious it was.

New Bohemia 05

Top 2:
Double Duchess
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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Bend Oregon Breweries Part 2 – Riverbend, Sunriver, and Deschutes

This is part 2 of my Bend Oregon breweries coverage. Part 1 included Boneyard Brewing and Crux Fermentaion Project. In Part 2 here I explore the rest of the breweries I visited in Bend.
Riverbend Brewing
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I only visited Riverbend brewing because of a recommendation by the server who helped us at Crux. I asked for her suggestion for best IPAs besides Crux and Boneyard and she said we should visit Riverbend. It wasn’t on the must-visit list but I am glad we stopped by. I did seven tasters there, Hydrostatic IPA, Organized Love IPA, Katatonic double IPA, Chains Required IPA, Barrel Aged Katatonic, Boots and Flannels black lager and Equinox IPA.
My massive flight at Riverbend.
My massive flight at Riverbend.
The Hydrostatic IPA was super smooth and delicious with prominent orange flavors and a fairly solid malt backbone. The Organized Love was fantastic, super balanced with citrus and mello pine and amazingly smooth. This could easily stand up to the single IPAs from Boneyard or Crux. Katatonic double IPA was more balanced and strong with a super dank, sticky, sweet finish. It was a bit malty for my tastes but I really liked the barrel aged version which had a nice sour finish and light vanilla from the oak.
Close up on part of the flight.
Close up on part of the flight.
The Chains Required IPA was also super smooth and light body with a juicy finish with subtle lemon. Equinox IPA was smooth and fruity with a good balance of rye and smooth malts. Boots and Flannels was a smoky black lager with a tart finish that was also quite tasty. I took these tasters quite slow as it was the last stop but I was wishing later that I had found their Organized Love IPA at a growler station around town or that I had filled some while I was there. It was really that good. This is a great brewery to add to the list if you have more time.
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Top 2 Riverbend Brewing
Organized Love IPA
Katatonic Double IPA
Silvermoon Brewing
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On our second day we started the day at Silvermoon where I wish I hadn’t tried so many of the IPAs because the IPA 97 was the main one I enjoyed. The others weren’t bad but they weren’t that fantastic. I tried the Hob Nob IPA, IPA 97, Turning Point IPA, Southern Exposure IPA, Tart of Gold, Porter, Stout, and the Bone Crusher Double Red Ale. The Hob Nob was smooth and balanced with a bitter finish. It is an easy beer to drink. IPA 97 had a massive lemon and pineapple flavor and was probably the freshest that day. This is their flagship and I can see why. I brought back a six pack for some friends at home.
First flight with the IPAs and the sour.
First flight with the IPAs and the sour.
The Turning Point IPA was smooth with lemon flavors and a crisp dry finish while not too bitter. Southern Exposure was also smooth and light with a crisp bitter finish and a bit more citrus from the southern hops. Both of these were drinkable but a little low on the hop flavors for my tastes. The Tart of Gold was a smooth sour, not too tart, with guava and bitter grapefruit flavors. It was a solid first effort. I have had worse from small breweries but it was fairly average and probably wouldn’t satisfy those who really like sours.
Stouts and imperial red.
Stouts and imperial red.
The porter was super tasty with lots of roast and a smooth finish. The stout was even better with thicker mouthfeel and some bitter chocolate on the finish along with some additional bitter hops to finish it out. I could have drank a bit more of either of these if I wasn’t planning on hitting more breweries. The bartender told me I had to try the Bone Crusher if I like hops and I was very impressed. I would say it is more of a double IPA that happens to have a solid malt backbone. The fruity hops take center stage here and balance nicely with the caramel malt backbone. This and IPA 97 are worth tasting though if you are going to a lot of breweries I would just stick to those two.
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Top 2 at Silvermoon Brewing 
Hop 97 IPA
Bone Crusher Double Red IPA
Deschutes
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I have written about Deschutes in the past and I always found their IPAs to be a bit too malt forward, which was the case here again though I had to try the fresh squeezed again to see if I was missing something. It is also worth coming by the original pub for some unique offerings that are not available elsewhere, which is what I focused on. My husband really enjoyed the stout float he ordered as well. I had four tasters here, the fresh squeezed IPA, Smoked Gose, Horseridge IPA, and Rue de Bond Saison.
My partial taster flight.
My partial taster flight.
Fresh Squeezed is balanced and showcases citrus hops but the malts are a little too forward for my tastes and it still tastes too traditional for me. I really liked the Horseridge IPA though. The malt balance works so much better with the English hops making for a smooth IPA that showcases the hops strongly. If you are going to Deschutes for hops this is the one to try. The smoked gose was really delicious and balanced. The underlying gose has a nice citrus bite and the smoke is subtle enough that it doesn’t overpower the rest. The Rue de Bond Saison is quite tasty and showcases banana with herbal notes for a super tasty saison. I brought a growler home but sadly it wasn’t sealed right and was oxidized when I got home.
My husband's stout float.
My husband’s stout float.
Deschutes is best to visit for their delicious porter and stouts and you can buy a lot of the barrel aged versions of their Abyss at the brewery. If you are used to the more traditional Northwest style of IPA then you will enjoy their IPAs, otherwise you might want to skip it in favor of other local places that have taken a more modern style to their IPAs.
Out of the three in this post I found Riverbend to be the most impressive. Their IPAs were mostly fantastic.

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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Bend Oregon Breweries Part 1 – Boneyard and Crux

Bend Oregon is a town that has become known as a beer destination for many years thanks to the success of the local brewery Deschutes, that has grown so large it is fairly widely distributed and has additional locations outside of Bend. More recently, Bend has gotten popular thanks to the fantastic IPAs brewed by Boneyard. I spent two days in Bend recently and I realize that there are a lot more breweries I could have visited than the ones that I am including in this post. However, like anywhere else I tend to visit the breweries that many consider must-visit while leaving the rest of the breweries to those who are local.

Boneyard Brewing

This is one visit where I did not take notes on the individual beers I tasted. This is because when you visit Boneyard there is no where to sit and no where to set down your taster flight. This will change when their brewpub opens at some point in the future but for now this means that if you visit the brewery it is a very crowded experience intended to enjoy a quick flight, fill some crowlers, and get out of there on to the next brewery. Because I did not take notes the following will be based solely on memory.

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The taster flight at Boneyard consists of every beer they have on tap and they go through the tasting giving you 2 tasters at a time until you have gone through the full set. Every beer I tasted was tasty, as expected but some were better than others. Out of the five hoppy beers I tasted, two stood out as super fresh at the time, Hop a Wheelie and Notorious. Because I was looking to get the best beer possible, I left with six crowlers of Hop a Wheelie, which was tasting slightly better than RPM at the time for my tastes, and two of Notorious, because it is one of the most delicious triple IPAs you will find.

The small tasters offered at Boneyard.
The small tasters offered at Boneyard.

I was also a bit surprised to find a black ale that resembled a black lager and a doppelbock because the second style is especially rare to find made well at American breweries. Surge Knife, the Imperial Stout, was also quite delicious, with a heavy mouth feel and a great balance of smoke, chocolate, and roast. As you will read below, I spent a lot more time at Crux while I was in town simply because they have a place to sit and room to breathe.

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I have gotten more used to crowds but there is something I find quite difficult when it comes to standing in a tiny brewery stuffed full of people so much that even though it is 40 degrees outside, it feels like someone turned on the heat. That being said, if you want to fill up crowlers from Boneyard visiting the brewery directly is the way to do it because you are probably only going to find their flagship IPA, RPM, on tap elsewhere around town. Prices for crowler fills are quite reasonable at $6 a crowler for the lighter stuff and $14 for the stronger stuff.

I really enjoyed the feel of Bend itself and with such a short flight to get there I hope to return after Boneyard has opened their brewpub so I can spend a whole day drinking nothing but their delicious brews. If you only have the time to visit two breweries while you are in Bend, you should absolutely visit Boneyard and then spend the rest of your time at Crux and you will see why below.

Top 2 at Boneyard
Hop a Wheelie IPA
Notorious Triple IPA

Crux Brewing Company

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I was told by some locals that Crux is run by the original brewer from Deschutes who eventually decided he wanted to be back at a smaller place. If this is true, I now understand how Deschutes was able to get so popular. However, if you don’t like the hoppy beers Deschutes makes because they are very traditional don’t let this keep you away from Crux because they have taken hoppy beers to a whole new level that in some ways you could say is better than what Boneyard does. Where Boneyard makes fantastic IPAs that are up there with Cellarmaker, Russian River, and Alpine to name a few, there is an extra smoothness and subtlety of flavor in the beers brewed by Crux that makes even their 10% double IPA have a body that is closer to a 6% IPA and a flavor profile that is pure aroma.

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When I visited Crux I tried 8 different beers the first day. These were the pale ale, sugar daddy pale ale, experimental IPA, nitro stout, brown porter, enigma saison, impass saison, and Half Hitch Double IPA. When I came back at the end of my second day I tried one more that I had missed, their red wine barrel aged quad.

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The pale ale was super smooth and balanced with plenty of citrus hops and bready malt background. The sugar daddy is a malt-forward 7% pale ale yet the malts stay in the background nicely leaving room for intense tropical fruits to come out in the finish. The experimental IPA was amazingly smooth and hoppy considering the alcohol percentage. Once again this was malt forward while being fairly light body and insanely smooth and dry on the finish. Flavors came through nicely with plenty of pineapple and mango.

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The nitro stout was super smooth with lots of roast and chocolate notes with a subtle smoky bitter finish. My husband wasn’t too big on this when we first had it with the flight but when we came back later in part so he could order the stout brownie, he had no trouble finishing a 10 ounce pour. The brown porter was also incredibly smooth with milk chocolate flavors. Given the lower alcohol content and subtle flavors this is one you might want to taste before going to the IPAs. The enigma saison was super fruity with a banana finish. Though it claims to feature a specific hop variety I didn’t taste much hops at all. The Impass saison also had banana but some citrus and floral tastes going for it that made it a more balanced beer though it was still lacking the earthy finish I like in a good saison.

Some delicious food we had while at Crux.
Some delicious food we had while at Crux.

The Half Hitch double IPA was surprisingly smooth and delicious even after all those smooth IPAs. For a 10% beer it lacked the alcohol flavor at the end or the intense sweetness that can kill a good double. I left with 3 bottles of this beer though I learned later that I could have picked them up at home because they now distribute down to San Diego. Finally, the wine barrel aged quad was absolutely wonderful and a fantastic mix of flavors. The beer lacked the overly sweet syrup taste that quads usually have and had a great balance between smooth belgian and red wine finish without being tart.

I enjoyed Crux so much that I came back a second evening rather than visiting some other brewery that I wasn’t sure about. I figured since I won’t be back in Bend for a while I should enjoy more of this delicious beer and I was glad I did come back again. My husband really liked the stout brownie we came back for and I got to try the barrel aged quad that I skipped the first time.

Top 2 at Crux
Experimental IPA
Half Hitch double IPA

In part 2 next week I will explore Riverbend Brewing, Silvermoon Brewing and Deschutes to see if the brewery is any different at the original pub.

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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Tampa Breweries Part 1 – Cigar City, Angry Chair, and Coppertail

Any town like Tampa with the reputation of Cigar City and the breweries that have sprouted around its success can be exciting and sometimes awesome. I had a great experience overall and some solid beers from the seven breweries I visited in two days with at least two really tasty beers from each brewery I visited of the ones I tasted. In order to visit so many breweries in 2 days I had to limit myself in the number of tasters to the ones that sounded the most exciting, so I may have missed something awesome on tap and if so that is always sad.

Side Note – I visited Tampa prior to Cigar City’s sale to Oskar Blues. Though I probably would have visited Cigar City anyway even after the sale because thankfully it was not to AB InBev.

Cigar City Brewing Company
Sometimes the biggest breweries are great but are missing the charm of the other places, whether from the crowds or just the massive selection on tap. I couldn’t possibly try everything at Cigar City so I focused on the hoppy beers, a sour, and dark beers. I tried the Invasion Pale, Jai Alai IPA, Tropical IPA, India Style Porter, Juniper Aged Sour, and a big collaboration imperial stout. I found the Invasion Pale to be much better overall than the two IPAs. It is a super tropical light-bodied beer with a low malt bill and medium bitterness sporting flavors of mango and tangerine. I loved this one so much I left with two six packs and would have likely ordered a pint if I had more time to hang.

Tampa Breweries 04

Main flight at Cigar City.
Main flight at Cigar City.

In comparison, the Jai Alai IPA was fairly disappointing. I’ve enjoyed it before on tap in other parts of Florida but I found it a bit too sweet, sticky, and heavy with more malt balance than I expected. It is a solid IPA for sure and nicely dank balanced with some carmel malts but it wasn’t as delightful as the pale ale. The tropical IPA was well-balanced with a chewy bread finish and a solid bitterness. It was nice and tropical but I again found the malts a little too overpowering and the hops just weren’t bursting out as they could have.

Two stouts I tried at Cigar City.
Two stouts I tried at Cigar City.

The India Style Porter was massively smoky and bitter with mild notes of caramel. While well-crafted, it was just too much smoke for my tastes and I didn’t drink much. In comparison the collaboration imperial stout on tap was much more complex and balanced with everything including chocolate, smoke, molasses, licorice, cherry, plum, and other flavors all blending together in a super thick and chewy stout. Though I don’t know that I would want to grab a bottle of it I very much respected the complex flavors and my husband was very impressed. Finally, the Juniper Sour was really not my thing. My husband described it as under-ripe fruit with an off-putting finish. Others described it as a gin bomb because Juniper is often used in gin. I just couldn’t point out any of the flavors or finish it and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

An idea of how large it is inside Cigar City Brewing.
An idea of how large it is inside Cigar City Brewing.

There were a ton of other beers I didn’t get to try including the pilsner that is apparently so popular they have to limit how much people can buy, but with a huge crowd and after the generally underwhelming IPAs I didn’t feel drawn to order a second flight. I was most impressed by the pale ale and will be enjoying that at home for a while because I left with two six-packs.

Tampa Breweries 01

Cigar City Top 2:
Invasion Pale
Collaboration Imperial Stout

Angry Chair Brewing
I immediately found the atmosphere at Angry Chair more inviting than Cigar City with a smaller size, slightly smaller crowd, and some great locals to chat with about the area and beers. I skipped the hoppy beers here because everyone was raving about the two heavy stouts and I had one more to go for the night. Plus after a massive Cuban sandwich earlier I didn’t want to go overboard. But everything I tried at Angry Chair was really impressive. I tried the gose, raspberry berliner weisse, German Chocolate Cake, and Tiramissu Stout.

Tampa Breweries 06

Tampa Breweries 09

Tampa Breweries 10

The gose was crisp and refreshing with very mild tartness and a little salt with a solid balance of yeast flavors. The raspberry berliner weisse was really fruity and not too tart with a dry finish and a delightful pink color. I considered getting a growler of the raspberry but they weren’t doing fills. The Cerman Chocolate Cake was a massive delicious mix of chocolate and intense coconut. The coconut lingers a little bit on the finish, just enough to balance out the chocolate. The tiramissu stout was really thick and a little too sweet for my tastes. While it had a nice intense coffee start the end was like sheet cake frosting a little too heavy and it coated the mouth, unbalancing the whole thing.

Tampa Breweries 07

Tampa Breweries 08

Angry Chair has a nice small tasting room with a great local presence and a nice set of taps. If you like stouts or sours this is a must-visit in the area. I was also glad that this and many local breweries didn’t treat the gose and berliner weisse beers as super special and still only charged $2 a taster.

Angry Chair Top 2:
German Chocolate Cake
Raspberry Beliner Weisse

Coppertail Brewing

Tampa Breweries 11
Coppertail was the last brewery in Tampa proper I visited but there are plenty more to come in Day 2 that I visited in the surrounding areas. Coppertail is in a large building and slightly bigger overall than Cigar City. I tried a number of beers there but I almost left a bit early because of the massively loud music playing. I tried the gose, berliner weisse, sour session IPA, Free Dive IPA, and Unholy Belgian Tripel. The gose was crisp and refreshing with a nice citrusy finish and a pilsner malt finish. I really liked the flavor of this one. The Berliner weisse was a little lighter in body with less flavor than the gose so I would suggest people go with the gose. It didn’t have much that stood out about it.

Tampa Breweries 14

Tampa Breweries 16

The sour session IPA was a really interesting different flavor with powerful grapefruit kick at the front and a mild tart finish. All 3 of the “sours” were highly carbonated and tasty. The Free Dive IPA was a solid balanced IPA with tons of citrus and grapefruit and a medium bitterness. I preferred it to the Jai Alai as it felt the malts were more subdued. The Unholy Belgian Tripel is a super hoppy version of the classic style. It could easily be described as a Belgian style Double IPA. Everything balanced nicely with the American hops taking center stage and balancing nicely with the sweeter finish and Belgian yeast. I really savored that taster.

Coppertail has some quite unique artwork at their tasting room.
Coppertail has some quite unique artwork at their tasting room.

Coppertail Brewing Top 2:
Unholy Belgian Tripel
Gose

Out of the three breweries I visited on my first day the one I found most welcoming was Angry Chair. Not only did they have some very tasty beers they were the quietest of the bunch. They have a very neighborhood feel and don’t try to turn the tasting room into a bar.

Come back next week for my post on Day 2 of my Tampa experience, where I visited other breweries in the Tampa Bay area.

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 on Kauai Island Hawaii

There are two breweries on Kauai Island, Kauai Beer Company near the airport in Lihue, and Kauai Island Brewery and Grill, a sports bar on the South side of the island. Neither one bottles anything and both are in places the average tourist isn’t going to spend much time. I stopped by Kauai Beer Company when I landed because it is close to the airport and they were closed the day I flew out. I didn’t check if either of the breweries fill blank growlers but considering they both sell stainless steel growlers I would only recommend buying one of their growlers if you are going to be on the island for a few weeks, otherwise bring your own stainless steel growler if you are interested in some beer to go. Both breweries make a lager and a few other similar lighter beers. I skipped those in favor of the styles that I am most interested in, mostly because they charge $2.50 per taster.

Kauai Beer Company 01

Kauai Beer Company
I tried four beers at Kauai Beer Company, the Summer Red, IPA, Double IPA, and Oaked Porter. The Summer Red was good and balanced with fruity hops taking center stage with nice stone fruit flavors and a light bitterness. The IPA was pretty average with fruit and citrus at the front and a floral finish that I wasn’t a fan of. The Double IPA doesn’t have the same floral finish and is a bit more balanced and smooth with a citrus kick and strong bitter finish. The Oaked Porter was quite tasty with smooth body from the oak and a nice combination of light roast, mild smoke, and smooth oak. This was probably the best they had, and I can see why people are raving about it on Yelp.

Kauai Beer Company 02

Kauai Beer Company 03

Top 2:
Oaked Porter
Summer Red

Kauai Island Brewery and Grill

Kauai Island Brewery 01
At Kauai Island Brewery and Grill I tried four beers as well. I tried their Lilikol Ale brewed with passion fruit, Fonz IPA, red, and porter. The Lilikol Ale was smooth and delicious with plenty of passion fruit flavor. The beer was more sweet than tart and though it might have been more my thing with a light tart finish, it was still very easy drinking and delicious. The Fonz IPA has great flavors of mango and citrus with a strong bitter finish that didn’t overpower the rest of it. I thought this was much better than the Kauai Beer Company IPA. The red ale was nicely balanced with fruity hops and a bitter finish. It lacked the sweeter fruit taste from the other brewery but was still solid. The porter was pretty standard with a mix of roast and caramel and a nice medium body.

Kauai Island Brewery 02

Kauai Island Brewery 03

Top 2:
Fonz IPA
Lilikol Ale

Each of the breweries I visited had one or two beers that I really liked. If I had brought a growler with me I might have filled it at Kauai Island Brewery and Grill with their IPA or the passion fruit beer. If you are a big fan of IPAs, you should visit Kauai Island Brewery because I thought theirs was closer to the west coast style I love. Considering the selection of beers in most local grocery stores, many shipped from other islands, it s worth making the trip out to one of these two local breweries.

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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Highland Park Brewing Company – Highland Park Los Angeles

Highland Park Brewing resides inside a bar called La Hermonsillo that you might quickly ignore as you walk past wondering why anyone would want to be seen inside. With a logo that could easily be mistaken as relating to a strip club or seedy dive bar, a friend I met with there had never gone inside despite living very close. The neighborhood doesn’t have the best reputation either. The night before visiting the brewery I mentioned my plans to some people at another brewery around town and they cautioned against my stepping foot in the neighborhood, though when I assured them that I occasionally visit Tijuana they thought I should be fine.

Highland Park Brewing 01

The sign out front you might see driving by. Doesn't exactly seem like a brewery.
The sign out front you might see driving by. Doesn’t exactly seem like a brewery.

Like many breweries, Highland Park Brewing can get quite the crowd during the middle of a Sunday. Some people may be visiting to pick up a few bottles from an online release. Like many breweries that offer sours, the tasters are not very cheap. Some can be as much as $4 or $5, though for a sour that is fairly typical. I tried a total of six tasters while I was there plus a larger pour of another beer. I tasted the Beer Spaceship session IPA, Partly Cloudy IPA, pumpkin porter, Griffith J. Griffith, Pushin Carts, Raised Eyebrows, and Wakeup Coffee Beer.

Beer list when I visited.
Beer list when I visited.

The Spaceship session IPA was a flavorful session IPA with flavors primarily of pineapple and tropical fruit. It made for a nice contrast with the Partly Cloudy IPA that tasted more of grapefruit and tangerine. Both beers were light colored and low on the malt bill. I almost filled a growler with the Partly Cloudy IPA but I decided against it. The pumpkin porter was nice and balanced with some mild pumpkin flavor and subtle spices. The beer’s light body contrasted nicely with the thick, sticky, and sweet Griffith J. Griffith, a 13% monster of an imperial stout. Bottles of the imperial stout had been sold online and were no longer available but I was tempted to pick up one if I could. The beer was quite sweet and had a nice intense coffee flavor.

The two hoppy beers I tasted.
The two hoppy beers I tasted.
The two stouts.
The two stouts.

Pushin Carts, a tart saison, was very tasty with a light body and mild tart finish. The beer is subtle yet flavorful, with the familiar saison flavor and hints of fruit. In contrast the Raised Eyebrows, passion fruit sour, was intensely bitter, showcasing the passion fruit and guava while still tasting like beer. I really enjoyed both of these beers and was tempted to pick up a bottle of Pushin Carts. I ended with the nitro Wakeup Coffee Stout, a thin, creamy, coffee-forward beer that could almost be mistaken for cold brew coffee. It had all the delicious characteristics of a coffee beer, without getting too bitter on the back end.

The two sours.
The two sours.

Though the tasters were a bit expensive, the beers were quite delicious and the sours weren’t overly expensive for the style. The bar also has a few guest beers as well as a fairly solid menu of food. We ended up ordering some sliders, polenta bites, and the charcuterie and cheese board and they were all quite well-done. Because they are located in a neighborhood with a lot of Mexican food you could easily stop by a place nearby for a bite before visiting the brewery. They also surprisingly have some parking behind the place, which was great to see.

Top 2:
Partly Cloudy IPA
Raised Eyebrows

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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Cellarmaker Brewing Company – San Francisco California

Though there are other breweries that have been around longer, Cellarmaker is one of the most highly praised breweries in the city of San Francisco. When I visited recently, I can see why. They have a tasting room in central San Francisco where you can order tasters, pints, growlers, etc. On a Saturday they were quite packed and I could barely find a place to set down my tasters on the ledge by the window. I split my tasting into two separate flights of 4 beers each, with the pale ales and IPAs in the first flight and the dark beers and double IPA in the second flight. Tasters are a little expensive at $2.50 to $3.00 each but understandably they want to push people to order pints, for which they didn’t cheat people by pouring large heads. This is also the city known for high rents so I expect that is part of it as well. The tasting room was fairly noisy and music was blaring, yet I didn’t find that it kept me from chatting or talking to people. They have an interesting wooden fence of sorts on the front of the place that lets in a nice breeze for ventilation.

Cellarmaker 01

My first flight included Double Dry Hopped Dobis pale ale, New Beer Smell pale ale, Mo’ Passion IPA, and Pho Momocoe IPA. Second flight included Dank Williams double IPA, Batch 1 porter, Coffee & Cigarettes, and Baby Blamo. All of the IPAs and pale ales were low on the malts as you can be with the alcohol present, with the pale ales and IPAs following the modern style of extracting as much hop aroma as you possibly can from the beers. Double Dry Hopped Dobis was a cloudy yellow and had a bright citrus, tangerine and lemon, flavor with a smooth finish and light bitterness. New Beer Smell was similar though exploding with tropical fruit instead. Both were fantastic and which one you like would depend on your hop profile of choice. The taster board gave accurate descriptions of the flavors you could taste.

Cellarmaker 02

Mo’ Passion was a delicious resiny/juicy IPA with hints of mango and medium bitterness. This one was also quite smooth and light on the malts. It is great to see more breweries using South African varieties of hops after tasting how delicious they can be in a beer from Modern Times. I almost got a growler of this one when I left but I chose to go with Dank Williams. Pho Momo Coe is an attempt to make a Vietnamese spiced IPA so besides the hops it includes ginger, lime, and chilies. While I thought everything balanced together nicely, I prefer the more traditional style of the others. Hops were of the juicy/herbal flavor and the ginger came through a lot on the end.

Cellarmaker 03
First set of tasters, pale ales and IPAs.

Dank Williams was ultimately my favorite IPA of the bunch. Though it is 8.2% it didn’t seem overly boozy or sweet, just thick, resinous, and super dank. I got flavors of peach on the back, giving it a nice finish. I ended up filling my 2 liter blank growler I brought with me with this beer. When I opened the growler at home it had lost a lot of the peach flavor but was still a delicious dank/resinous double IPA that went down smooth. Batch 1 Porter is one of the more common beers you will find on tap outside the brewery. Though I really like it, I found it was overpowered by the others in the flight. It is a smooth and sweet roasty stout with light vanilla flavors.

Second set of tasters, double IPA and the various stouts.
Second set of tasters, double IPA and the various stouts.

Coffee & Cigarettes is one of the more popular beers they offer, and I can see why. It offers a strong yet smooth nutty coffee flavor with a subtle smoke on the back end. It has a nice chewy mouth feel and a bitter finish. On any other flight this might have been my favorite dark beer but then I tasted the Baby Blamo. This coconut stout is really sweet and has a more prominent coconut flavor than any beer of the style I have had before. It has a nice subtle bitter chocolate flavor on the back to finish it off. My husband and I shared a goblet of this before leaving.

More of that delicious Baby Blamo.
More of that delicious Baby Blamo.

If you are in San Francisco and don’t have a lot of time to get out of the city, visiting Cellarmaker is quite easy because it is pretty close to a Bart station. I did not attempt to park there so I can’t say if it is easy to do so. I was very impressed by all of the beers I tasted. They brew a solid lineup of hoppy and dark beers. I was a little surprised that I didn’t see anything from other styles on the menu.

Top 3:
Dank Williams
Baby Blamo
Mo’ Passion

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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