Tag Archives: San Diego

Serpentine Cider – Miramar Area San Diego

Serpentine Cider is a new craft cider brewery right next to Thunderhawk Alements. They have a kitchen inside serving delicious food and will be adding a mead company in November. Though they had only been open for a week when I stopped by, they impressed me both with the overall feel of the place and the quality of the meads. The head brewer has been home-brewing cider for seven years and the quality shows. They had a good variety of meads available and I tasted five that seemed to be the most interesting.

Two that stood out from my flight were the Passion Fruit and Hopped ciders. Passion Fruit had a good balance between sweet apple and the a passion fruit kick. The hopped beer had tons of hop aroma with an emphasis on citrus flavors with a nice dry finish.

The raspberry blackberry had a mix of jammy black berry and acidic raspberry. The lemongrass and ginger had a mild citrus character and some light ginger on the finish. The guava had a fairly mild guava taste. They indicated this had to do with some fruits they got a bit too early in the season.

All of the ciders are made with beer yeast and this gives them a character closer to beer than the incredibly dry ciders you may find at other spots like Newtopia Cider. I thought the hops worked better with the cider here than they did at Newtopia. Though the cost of pours is higher than beer, the quality was there and I hope to return soon to see how the mead company that is joining them turns out.

Top 2:
Passion Fruit Cider
Hopped Cider

Paul McGuire

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

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Wild Barrel Brewing – San Marcos San Diego

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 2:
Blackcurrent San Diego Vice
Cherry San Diego Vice

Paul McGuire

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

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Rouleur Brewing – Carlsbad San Diego

Rouleur is one of two breweries in the brewery igniter space in Carlsbad fairly close to Arcana Brewing and Culver Brewing. Sadly their neighbor, Wiseguy Brewing, closed abruptly. I initially visited while I was trying beers at Wiseguy but since I didn’t try very many beers that time I returned for a second visit recently. Overall Rouleur is a solid brewery and should make for a fun stop for people in the area.

Hazy/Juicy IPA

I only had three beers at Rouleur in my first visit because I had just finished 8 tasters next door. Rouleur has a nice small tasting room and a wide number of beer options. I focused on their Dopeur hazy IPA though it wasn’t to me particularly juicy or hazy. The beer was strong with herbal character and had very little tropical fruit or citrus that would make a beer juicy. It was also a bit too bitter for the style. My server indicated that it is normally less bitter and that they were having some issues with the yeast. As indicated below, the brew is no longer as intensely bitter as I experienced initially and they have updated the description and now simply call it a juicy IPA.

The saison was fairly standard with notes of white wine, citrus, and white cake, nicely balanced. The Bonkeur Pale had notes of peach and grapefruit with much more juicy nose and flavor than the Dopeur. All 3 beers were light in color and clear. I enjoyed the three beers at Roleur and was especially glad to see that they intentionally do 4oz pours in their 5oz glasses to leave room for head and aroma. They brew hoppy beers closer to the local trends than Wiseguy next door and have the dry-hop techniques down as well.

Tap list as of October 9, 2017

I returned to Rouleur after their neighbor Wiseguy closed to give them a more in depth try. I gave the Dopeur another try to see if it was any different now that they had released it in cans. The bitterness that put me off before was now gone though the beer still tended towards herbal hop flavors with some mild fruit to balance it out. It is a tasty IPA for sure but not my preferred flavor profile. The blackberry blonde was subtle with light berry character that balanced nicely with the fruity base beer. It had a clean dry finish but after the intense fruit I had at wild barrel it didn’t grab me that much.

The red ale was nice and balanced with notes of biscuit and dark fruit and some subtle hop character. This was one of my favorites of the day and a refreshing take on the style that I normally don’t care for. The dark ale on nitro was a bit drier than I prefer with notes of cherry and roast but overall very subtle malt flavors. I would have preferred more punch to it. The double IPA was strongly malty with notes of pine and resin, a medium bitterness, and notes of black tea when it warms up. Though I wouldn’t characterize it as a malt bomb, it was still more malty than I prefer. To their credit they do note on the board that this is a more malty double IPA.

Their cycling theme is furthered by this crazy display.

Top 2:
Amber Ale
Dopeur 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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3 Punk Ales – Chula Vista San Diego

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

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

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

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

Coffee brown ale

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

Stout on nitro

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

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

Paul McGuire

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

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Wavelength Brewing Company – Vista San Diego Revisited with New Brewer

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

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

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

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

Top 2:
Apricot Berliner
Scotch Ale

Paul McGuire

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

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Twisted Horn Mead and Cider – Vista, San Diego

Twisted Horn has a beautiful tasting room where you can try a variety of meads and ciders, many containing fruit or other adjuncts that make them interesting. Tastes are served in 2oz pours, allowing people to try a number of them without drinking too much alcohol. The meads are all around 9% alcohol and the ciders tend to hover around 5%. I tried four meads and five ciders while I was there and found quite a number of delicious ones.

The meads I tried included various flavorings of cranberry, vanilla, blueberry, and coffee. They were all quite delicious and presented subtle flavors that blended nicely with the sweet honey base. Of the four I really enjoyed the one with blueberry for its mild tartness and acidity. I also enjoyed the cranberry one for the light tart kick it gave.

While I enjoyed the meads, the ciders had more intense fruit flavor and impressed me the most. Of the ciders I tried the plain dry cider, cherry, peach and ginger, raspberry, and strawberry with hot peppers. Though I was hesitant at first the strawberry was my favorite of the bunch with strong sweet strawberry notes and some mild heat in the back. I also really enjoyed the raspberry. Though I didn’t get much chocolate from it, it had a strong flavor of raspberry and light tart finish. The cherry was a bit more subtle but still had a nice tart finish.

I enjoyed everything I tasted at Twisted Horn and recommend coming for a visit. I would have brought some home in a growler except I didn’t think to bring a 1 liter flip top growler from home and I try not to buy new growlers. If you have a 1 liter growler at home bring one with you to fill. Most people who I saw while I was there left with growlers to bring home. Twisted Horn is also very close to Toolbox so you could visit both in one trip quite easily though you may want to spend all your time at Twisted Horn after you try their delicious cider.

Favorites:
Embers – Cider with strawberry and hot peppers
Midnight Sun – Cider with raspberry and chocolate
Blue Cloak – Mead with blueberry juice
Blushing Maiden – Mead with cranberry

Paul McGuire

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

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Circle 9 Brewing – Clairemont San Diego

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

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

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

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

Session IPA full pour.

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

Top 2:
Session IPA
Imperial Stout

Paul McGuire

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

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Stop Trying to Create National IPA Brands

As craft breweries become larger, there is a temptation to grow their brands and distribute beers into all 50 states. The problem is that at a certain scale quality drops off and beers deteriorate in shipping or on the shelf. Even if the quality is still there, because the batches are so huge, it is rare to taste a beer at peak freshness.

The best example for people in the West Coast is Dogfish Head. They brew some amazing IPAs and 60 minute IPA is delightful when fresh at the source. By the time it reaches San Diego it tastes like a malty mess. The difference is night and day. Not only is it disappointing to those who know what it can taste like but it may give people the wrong impression of what the beer tastes like. I had assumed the talk of it being amazing was all hype until I visited the brewery directly.

Or consider Maui Brewing. Their West Coast style IPA is crisp and delicious at the source but once it is shipped across the ocean it loses its kick. I didn’t expect much during my recent visit but at the source their IPA was excellent.  The same thing can be said for Lagunitas, Green Flash, New Belgium, Stone, and Sierra Nevada. Now that Lagunitas is owned by Heinekin, you find it on tap in bars across the country. But it is hard to keep the quality when you are brewing massive batches of IPA. The difference is also quite noticeable with Alpine beers that are now brewed in large batches at Green Flash. While they are fantastic when fresh and on tap they are brewed in such large quantities that it may sit in kegs or bottles for months after brewing.

Admittedly, some of the larger breweries are attempting to improve the quality and freshness of their beers in areas far from their home town by opening new breweries in other parts of the country. Stone, Sierra Nevada, Green Flash, New Belgium, and Ballast Point have all either opened or are in the process of opening new locations. Green Flash, Stone, and Ballast Point have opened spots in Virginia. Sierra Nevada and New Belgium have opened in North Carolina. Stone also opened a brewery in Berlin, Germany. Green Flash is also opening a brewery in Nebraska. Some could say that this makes them more regional but they are still making beers in massive batches.

For a while Alpine kept things small and quantities were limited. I lamented the difficulty of finding the beers at the time and the lack of six-packs. I wondered why people regularly drove to the source to buy the beers by the case. You can now buy Alpine beer in the grocery store in six-packs but it often lacks that explosive hop kick that made it worth seeking out. A similar thing can be said for Toppling Goliath where in an effort to meet demand they started contract-brewing with a Florida brewery to distribute outside of their local Iowa market. Fans agree that it isn’t close to the stuff brewed out of the brewery in Iowa. I have yet to taste the beers myself but I will be visiting the brewery in November.

Together, these breweries teach us a lesson about the importance of focusing on your region and growing within reason while keeping the quality the same. As the craft-brew explosion continues, there is room for a lot of regional leaders in beer. But do we really need IPAs from Founders and Bells distributed to the West Coast? Does the East Coast need Green Flash, Ballast Point, and other West Coast brands? They may draw interest initially but then that interest wanes and they get lost in the sea of local options. As big breweries focus more on growth and less on quality they lose the quality that brought visitors to seek the beer out at the source.

Independence is important in many ways but ultimately large craft breweries abandon quality in their search for ever-growing profits and lose some of the spark that made craft beer exciting. As more and more breweries are bought out things will only get worse. Up-and-coming breweries should focus on serving a region and not allow the search for expanding profits to leave behind the quality beer that brought them a following in the first place. The trend of limited-release cans direct from the brewery is a good response to this, but larger breweries are so big the limited releases are just peanuts to them.

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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Viewpoint Brewing – Del Mar San Diego

Viewpoint has the distinction as the first brewery to open in Del Mar. Many in the area resisted the idea of a brewery and tasting room so they made a compromise and exist as a tasting room only until 4PM and then at 5PM they open as a restaurant. Since even the people of Del Mar drink alcohol with dinner they are satisfied and the brewery gets to open. This is a unique thing for a San Diego brewery.

I ordered a flight of all their tasters while looking across the water to the racetrack on the other side. The view allowed me to forgive the wait for someone to take my drink order that you get when you aren’t sitting at the bar. I also recommend you don’t do a flight on a warm day because the beers warm up too quickly and the last quarter of the taster is going to be too hot if you take your time tasting.

My husband enjoying the fresh air.

The beers available focused mostly on the hops with three pale ales, a session IPA, a saison, and a red rye IPA. The choice to focus on lower alcohol beers probably has something to do with their location. Experiment A Pale, made with experimental hops, was smooth and balanced with biscuit malt base. It had some mild ester character and a mild bitter finish. Of all the pale ales this one is was the least hoppy.

The SMASH Chinook pale had a dank marijuana nose and tons of dank resin and pine on the taste with hints of marijuana. It had a mild sticky body fitting with the resin and a fairly low bitter finish. I enjoyed this one a lot but it is recommended for the big hop heads. The mandarina pale had notes of tangerine and bitter grapefruit and a stronger bitterness than the other two pales. It had some herbal character as it warmed up.

The session IPA was dank and resinous with strong pine on the finish and a medium bitterness. It was slightly darker than the pale ales but not overly malty. The saison was solid with lots of ester character, notes of vanilla, spice, and white wine. I didn’t get much hop character here even though smash in the name suggests it had some hops added. The red rye IPA was nicely balanced and not too bitter. The beer focuses on classic bittering hops as opposed to aroma and compared to the rest of the beers it seemed out of place.

The gorgeous view.

Viewpoint has an open patio mostly covered. If you sit at a table prepare for a slight wait to order beers and get them served. I was slightly disappointed that with so many beers they didn’t have them in an order that suggested tasting order though none of them was so bitter it would wreck your palate. If you aren’t into hoppy beers, they have plenty of guest beers on tap as well from various small local breweries. If you know what you like, I recommend trying a splash and ordering a full pour because they don’t warm up as fast as the tasters.

Top 2:
Chinook SMASH pale
Mandarina 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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Pariah Brewing Company – North Park San Diego

Pariah opened up in North Park in between San Diego Brewing Company and Eppig brewing in a space designed for easy opening of a brewery. Pariah’s head brewer used to brew for Helms before he left to do his own thing. I stopped by for a few tasters to see what they are brewing. I had 4 tasters and overall they are off to a good start. They have a nice open tasting room that kept cool even on a hot day like when I visited.

The Mayor and Monk is a hoppy saison described on the board as a hoppy version of an abbey-inspired ale. The beer had plenty of ester character without being too sweet and featured some fruity malts and lightly floral hops. This was one of the best beers I tasted there. The Indie or Bust IPA, made in the style of the 11-Barrel IPA some other local breweries made to highlight independent breweries, was good and balanced amount of malts with fruity hops, medium bitterness, and some mild pine and resin.

My previous post had indicated Clearly Juicy was a malt bomb incorrectly. Though that was what my notes indicated from that time I decided to come back to give it a second try. Clearly Juicy is still not a juicy IPA but it is a solid west-coast style double IPA. The beer has a low malt base and notes of grape, resin, and pine with a sticky bitter finish.  It is a little sweet because of the higher alcohol.

The Dank Drank was resinous and classic west-coast style IPA. Resinous and mild notes of onion and red grape. It has a solid medium bitterness. The Dorcha stout had a nice mix of caramel and roast on the nose. On the taste it mixed nicely with burnt caramel, coffee, and toffee. This was nicely done and to-style.

I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have any sort of discount on the price of tasters for buying 2 or for buying 4 like you usually see. With a name like Pariah it is not surprising that they buck the local IPA trends for a more classic west-coast style approach. All 3 IPAs were either classic west coast to nicely balanced. Pariah has some solid beers and is a worthwhile stop for people living in the area. They don’t offer anything that stands out from the sea of other local breweries unless a stout brewed with umi is your thing.

Top 2:
Mayor and Monk
Dorcha 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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