Tag Archives: San Diego

Karl Strauss Celebrates 29 Years With their Annual Changing of the Barrels

Karl Strauss has been putting on a big anniversary party for a number of years now. I talked to quite a few beer nerds at other events who always told me that this was one to go to. Some said they had been attending the Changing of the Barrels every year for four years or more. I quite enjoyed it this year though mainly because I really liked the new anniversary saison aged in wine barrels with pink peppercorns. It should be tasting great at next year’s event too assuming they save some for that. If you missed the event, the saison may be available at the breweries for a week or two after.

Karl Strauss has a large tasting-room location off the 5 freeway a few miles north of Balboa and Garnet. I would have enjoyed it more if they had not sold so many tickets because the area got incredibly crowded and the lines were somewhat long both for beer and food. If you grab a beer before getting in line for food, you likely finished your beer before you get to the front of the line. Same thing if you eat your food in the line for beer. They had two stations for beer as opposed to festivals I’m used to where the beer is spread out among 20+ tents. The lines did move fairly quickly thanks to everyone having their own glass already.

Waiting in line inside for beer.

For the beers they had three sour beers, three versions of the new saison (standard, cask with strawberry, and nitro), two barrel-aged imperial stouts (a third variety was consumed by the VIP group), a 14% imperial stout, and the rest of the list was mostly their standard year-round beers. There were a few new beers that they recently released and most people probably hadn’t tried yet, including two new IPAs. As someone who visits Karl Strauss fairly regularly, I come to an event like this for the barrel-aged stuff and I found the options a bit limited.

I was the biggest fan of the new saison, which was incredibly balanced with a mix of funk, red wine character, and just a hint of peppercorn. The fruit in the cask version was quite subtle though it was a nice variation. Fear of the Tart, a barrel-aged dark sour was also quite nice and a lot lower alcohol than I normally see for a dark sour. This would make a nice year round sour if they could produce it more regularly. Another favorite of mine was the wild ride, a sour that uses Red Trolley as a base and is aged on raspberries. I had previously rated this beer quite highly at a sour festival and it was equally impressive here with a restrained sour finish. Sadly it ran out half way through the evening so I couldn’t go back for seconds.

Outdoor beer line.

As for the stouts, the 30th anniversary stood out as nicely attenuated for 14%. It hid the alcohol well and wasn’t overly sweet or syrupy as is common with beers that high of alcohol. It reminds me of the imperial stouts at Red Horn in northern Austin, which is quite impressive. It should age quite nicely between now and next year and I can hardly imagine how crazy it could get if aged in bourbon barrels. The barrel aged rye imperial stout was quite tasty and similarly dry though surprisingly thin for 12% as well. The 27th anniversary ran out before general admission got inside so I didn’t get to see how it was holding up. They had two newer IPAs including their Boat Shoes, a slightly hazy un-filtered beer they recently canned and Isomerizer, a mosaic IPA that is being canned soon.

I wasn’t sure what to expect for the food but with so many people they decided to have each food truck offer three different courses, separated by 45 minutes. Each individual serving was quite small and each time a new item was ready, people lined up to grab it. I would have assumed a wider variety of available food when buying the ticket. All of the food was meat-focused. Both food trucks did a great job with the food. Beer people didn’t seem excited by the salad so I got to get quite a few of those. Mastiff won the day for me with the delicious pig fries (potato served with pulled pork, sausage, and pork belly) and the pork nugs (crispy pork belly squares). Biersal served a delicious tri-tip sandwich with a tasty jalapeno chimichurri sauce.

As a vegetarian, I had no choice but to eat the meat served or miss out on a significant part of why I bought the ticket and drink on an empty stomach. Thankfully I don’t have any health conditions that prevent me from eating meat but not all vegetarians have the same luxury. I don’t expect breweries to have vegetarian options at all events but it would be nice if they made a note on the site that food was likely to be all meat-focused. I would have been able to adjust my expectations accordingly. Of course they did advertise two meat-focused food trucks but Mastiff does make some amazing vegan sausages.

As for the overall experience, I found the lines much longer than ideal. However, without setting up jockey boxes around the seating area the only way to change that is to sell less tickets. Since both my general admission ticket and my mom’s designated driver tickets included a bottle of the barrel-aged saison, a beer that I quite enjoyed, I was still overall satisfied. It had a unique taste from other local barrel-aged saisons. We got to taste next year’s beer as a preview which I assume will be aged in some sort of barrel for next year. Even if they don’t barrel age it, the 30th anniversary imperial stout should age nicely by next January.

Considering the reasonable ticket price of $45 for general admission including food, beers, and a bottle the Changing of the Barrels event was a solid value. Though I was slightly irked by the lines they could have been a lot worse. And the lines for the food somewhat stopped me from over-eating.

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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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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