Tag Archives: San Diego

Eppig Brewing North Park San Diego

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul McGuire

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

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Two new Breweries in Carlsbad – Culver and Burgeon

Culver Beer Company

Culver Beer Company has a fairly large tap list and a few solid beers though I felt they missed the mark on the IPAs. Thankfully, some other beers they had were solid. I had six tasters in total during my visit. They have a good sized tasting room with plenty of areas to sit. When I read that they were in Carlsbad I assumed they would be right off the 5 freeway but they are actually a bit more inland. Still, they are not too difficult to get to from the freeway. Another thing to keep in mind for both Culver and Burgeon is that the cell signal is quite weak at both. Burgeon had issues with their wi-fi when I visited but Culver had a solid wi-fi.

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The Pilsner was fruity and floral with a mild bitterness though I found the bitter finish was a little too strong for the style. The amber lager had some nice fruit notes including some cherry and an herbal/pepper finish from the hops. It had a nice clean finish and was a solid start for a beer of this style. The hoppy saison was a nice balance of fruity hops and spices with a medium body and mild bitterness.

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The vanilla stout smelled nice with an intense vanilla on the nose but when I actually tasted it, it tasted a bit off, with a strange bitter finish. I am not sure what was up with this but it didn’t taste like a stout. The Street Walker IPA was floral and intensely bitter with a fruity finish including some banana. It is a decent IPA if you don’t mind intense floral hops. The True Hero IIPA was grassy with hints of pine but was a bit off on the finish. I asked the brewer about it and they said they had a power outage during brewing that prevented it from finishing properly. I hope that is all that happened.

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Culver isn’t making bad beer such that I would say you shouldn’t ever visit them, but they are not making anything that is worth seeking out if you don’t live nearby or crave a well-done lager.

Top 2:
Amber Lager
Hoppy Saison

Burgeon Beer Company

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I went to Burgeon Beer Company directly after Culver Beer Company. They are pretty close by and have an even larger tasting room. The tap list was smaller at Burgeon and so I only ordered four tasters. The milk stout was tasty and presented a nice roast character with a creamy finish. The pale ale is a nice balance of crisp pine and grapefruit with a medium bitterness and an overall good balance.

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The IPA was a nice hazy orange color and had excellent fruit character with notes of tangerine and tropical fruit. The double IPA was lighter in color but similarly hazy with hints of pineapple, vanilla, and grapefruit. Both the single and double IPA had a nice acidic finish. I was quite impressed by everything at Burgeon and if I lived in the area I would be there regularly for their hazy IPAs.

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Top 2:
IPA
Double IPA

Out of the two, I would recommend Burgeon for those who are into hoppy beers especially hazy IPAs though Culver is doing some solid lagers and has an interesting variety of beer styles to choose from. I expect Burgeon will do great things in the coming year.

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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Thunderhawk Alements Miramar Area San Diego

Thunder Hawk has been in the planning stages for many months before finally opening in the crowded Miramar area of San Diego, which already houses over 10 breweries. Some would argue that it is growing too fast for the demand, and we will soon see if all the breweries can survive. Thunderhawk came in with a lineup of beers that are different from the usual style for the area. They aren’t following the trends but are instead making beer in a classic style.

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When I first visited the brewery in the first week of November, 2016 they had only four beers on tap because they have been selling their beer faster than they can brew it. On tap were an ESB, two pale ales, and a saison. The saison is also usually available in a version made with local pine needles. They also brew a popular double IPA and dopplebock. None of those beers were available at that time which is a good sign for them. An earlier version of their menu suggests that they consider the pale ales to be “West Coast Style.” I disagree with that but that doesn’t mean they are bad beers.

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One of the pale ales is made with more typical piney hops. The other is made with mosaic and citra, both known for their fruity and citrus character. Both beers were classic style with a balanced malt backbone and an underlying bitterness. I didn’t think the mosaic and citra beer tasted like I expect from either of those hops but it was dank, balanced, and clean. The Westworld pale, the piney of the two, was a bit herbal but still similarly balanced, dank, and not too bitter. These beers don’t have the same flavors everyone else around town is chasing with the juicy IPA craze but this gives them a longer shelf life and the flavors will stick around longer.

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The ESB initially was not a beer I could be very positive about. I got a lot of notes of overripe fruit from it and not much apricot or caramel like I would expect from the style. A friend of my mom’s who joined us at the brewery that evening was a huge fan of this beer though. She enjoyed it more than any of the other beers and didn’t taste the same flavors as strongly. Thankfully this seems to have been an issue with that batch and newer batches have come out much better as described below.

Great outdoor seating area for the warmer months.
Great outdoor seating area for the warmer months.

The oak aged saison was my favorite of the evening. With both ginger and honey I was worried that either of the two flavors would overpower the rest of the beer. Thankfully, everything was perfectly balanced with the ginger sitting in the back and the honey adding just the right amount of body to the beer. The oak gave it a fantastic smooth finish.

I came back a week later and their Dunkel was on along with their vanilla stout. The Overture dunkelweisen was smooth and balanced with notes of caramel and burnt toffee, an impressive beer and one of the few San Diego versions of the style I can drink. The Rise of Zemunda stout had tons of vanilla with some mild chocolate. It was very flavorful for a low alcohol stout.

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For my third visit before this post, I stopped by November 23 and tried their ESB wet hopped with Brewer’s Gold hops, regular ESB to compare, and the Punt Gun IPA. The Wet Hopped ESB was very tasty and had a nice mix of caramel malts, mild hops, and some mild coffee notes in the finish. This was so much better than my experience with the regular ESB that I asked for a splash to compare and the overripe fruits I had a problem with earlier were all gone. Their ESB is now a very enjoyable beer. The Punt Gun IPA has a ton of followers online but I hadn’t been able to taste it until today. I can see why. It is a really clean balanced IPA with notes of mango, apricot, an,d other tropical fruits with a mildly sweet finish.

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Thunderhawk has a gorgeous interior with lots of wood accents and a beautiful outdoor space that help set it apart from the rest of the breweries in the area and will go a long way towards bringing more people inside. Based on my repeated visits, i expect any issues I had with early batches will be remedied shortly. The excellent beers I have tried show me that the brewer will soon dial in any beers that aren’t quite there yet.

Top 2:
Punt Gun IPA
Dunkelweisen

Paul McGuire

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

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32 North Brewing Revisited Again, Second Change of Brewers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 4:
Hello Darkness oatmeal stout
Landfall berliner weisse
Pennant Pale
Best Coast IPA

Paul McGuire

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

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Longship Brewing, Mira Mesa, San Diego

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This is the shorter tap list they had when I first visited.

Though there are quite a few Miramar breweries now they have been growing in clusters. I found it refreshing when I saw where Longship opened because they are close enough to the others though far enough away to attract a different crowd and much easier to find than Wet and Reckless was in a similar area (before they re-opened in a different location as Reckless Brewing). Longship has a viking theme to their brewery and I find their logo to be very nice as well as the various shields on the walls around the tasting room. They just opened so they have a very small tap list at the moment and only four beers. I tried the IPA, golden ale, Belgian style wit, and San Diego style dark ale.

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The IPA is closer to a session IPA with low alcohol and also fairly low bitterness. It showcases fruity hop notes and is a pretty standard session IPA. The golden ale is a very interesting take on the style. A hefty 7% alcohol it is sticky sweet and showcases tons of spice from the yeast and various tropical fruit notes from the hops including guava sometimes. The Belgian style wit was super cloudy pale yellow. It drinks ridiculously smooth with lots of banana, vanilla, mild citrus, and even notes of tapioca pudding in the sweet finish. With so many breweries making wits to style I very much enjoyed this variation that stood out as delightfully unique. The dark ale was quite bitter and very hoppy. It reminded me of a style common in Portland where they call it a Cascadian Dark Ale. It has a caramel malt backbone and a mildly sweet finish that balances with the strong hop notes.

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My first visit to Longship was on June 30, 2016 just before their grand opening. To give a more accurate picture of their quality, I visited them a second time on October 6, 2016. In October they had added a chocolate stout, brown ale, and dopplebock. Based on recommendations from the beertender I got a fresh taster of the Hoppy Belgian to compare to the previous time.

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The Hoppy Belgian golden presented tons of spice with some mild fruity hops and a bitter finish. Gone are the tropical notes that made it so interesting originally but this is what happens when they change the hops. I also didn’t notice as much sticky sweetness to this new batch. I ordered the chocolate stout on nitro. It presented tons of bitter chocolate and roast with a dry finish and super thin body. There is very little sweetness in the beer at all. Though it wasn’t my style the beer was well made.  The brown ale presented tons of dark fruits that linger on the finish with some mild caramel in the back. I wasn’t a big fan of this beer. The dopplebock was thick and sticky with molasses and chocolate notes and mild dark fruit. This was one of the most impressive of the bunch because so few breweries locally have managed to make interesting dopplebocks. This is the first one I could actually consider drinking.

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Longship gets far with their unique theme and overall solid lineup of beers. They clearly have a following from locals who work around the area and want a place to stop in after work. It is worth stopping by especially if you are interested in trying a few styles that aren’t as common locally.

Top 2:
Dopplebock
Belgian style Wit

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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Resident Brewing, Downtown San Diego

Resident Brewing hasn’t gotten a ton of buzz that I have seen around town in part because of their location in the heart of downtown. They are located inside The Local, a bar that recently had a face lift to modernize its previously dark dive bar style interior. They have a solid lineup of beers and are a great addition to the downtown brewery scene. Keep in mind though that later in the evenings the connected bar tends to have very loud music so if that is not your thing, you should try to visit it closer to when they open.

 

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The gose was crisp, dry, refreshing, and not too salty. Though I have had more complex gose, this one is very enjoyable. The saison was fruity and dry with hints of white wine, a solid beer. The oatmeal stout was smooth with notes of chocolate, mild roast and smoke on a medium body. This is a very solid oatmeal stout. The loud mouth hoppy amber was intensely piney and floral with a strong bitter finish. I was given beer from the end of the keg so it may have been better when first tapped. It is quite a malty beer so I would not recommend this compared to the IPAs on tap.

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Pio Pico Pale was fruity and exploding with grapefruit over a light malt bill with a nice dry finish. It is one of the more flavorful pale ales I have had in San Diego. The Chasing Galaxy was a delicious hazy IPA with tons of juice and a dry finish. I haven’t yet had a lot of the local hazy beers but this one comes close to many of the excellent ones I have had from elsewhere. The Citra IPA was nice and crisp though seemed to be lacking in the aroma department. It may have simply been on tap for a bit too long and lost its strong aromas.

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For a brewery that I hadn’t heard any buzz about prior to visiting, I was quite impressed by the beers at Resident. They had many other beers on tap as well that I didn’t try because I wanted to stick to the styles that sounded interesting to me. You can see some barrels in the brew house so expect to see some barrel aged beers in the future. I wasn’t told what is aging in them.

My additional pour of the delicious Chasing Galaxy IPA.
My additional pour of the delicious Chasing Galaxy IPA.

Top 2:
Pio Pico Pale
Chasing Galaxy

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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North Park Beer Company – North Park San Diego

North Park has been exploding with small breweries and satellite tasting rooms lately. Depending on where you live you can easily walk to a number of different spots. North Park Beer Company hasn’t been open very long but it has been in the works for quite some time and it shows with their gorgeous interior design. Most small breweries focus more on beer and perhaps a certain theme over looks, especially the small ones in industrial areas of town. North Park Beer Company has a classic interior that is a mix of a British pub and an iconic train station. You would assume as soon as you enter that they serve food and that is in the works, partnering with Mastiff Sausage Company, a local favorite that can be found at various breweries in food truck form. Even with a large space and quite a big crowd when we visited, it didn’t get unbearably loud. They still have a fairly small lineup of beers but what they had tells me that they know how to make a good beer.

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I tasted their light scotch ale, hoppy red, IPA, stout, and San Diego style pale ale. The scotch ale was a bit too light for me, coming in at only 3%. I didn’t get much flavor from it. The hoppy red was really smooth and balanced with mellow malts and fruit notes from the hops. It makes for a very delicious red IPA that should become a local favorite. The IPA was sticky and dank with a good thick mouthfeel and tons of pine character. It was well made but I found it a little too bitter compared to the more mellow hoppy red and SD pale. If you love simcoe forward IPAs this one might be your favorite. The stout is a very dry stout with a caramel base and a bit of a hoppy finish. It is an average stout but I usually don’t care for the dry variety and neither does my husband. The San Diego style pale ale was super smooth and light on the malts with some nice fruity hop character. Bitterness was almost nonexistent and overall a very impressive beer.

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Over time the lineup of beers will grow but if North Park Beer Company keeps the three hoppy beers I had as core beers, they will become popular very quickly. I was also very glad to see the pint glasses they used which had plenty of room for giving customers a good size head on the beer without skimping on the beer. The line for 16 ounces is a few inches below the rim of the glass. One day when this is standard practice at every brewery I won’t need to point it out. Based on my recent visit, word travels fast about new breweries in the area and people are already flocking to this young brewery.

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Top 2:
Hoppy Red
SD style pale 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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Home Brewing Company – North Park San Diego

I probably wouldn’t have gotten out to visit Home Brewing Company, located next door and connected to The Homebrewer in North Park off El Cajon Boulevard, if it wasn’t for the Groupon they offered. Just like White Labs, one of San Diego’s major yeast sellers, you might not know they serve beer if you don’t regularly visit them to buy brewing supplies. But also like White Labs, they have a lineup of beers that can be educational and tasty at the same time. I found the beers at Home Brewing Company to be more approachable and generally more tasty than anything I ever tried at White Labs in my few visits there. While I understand why White Labs offers four different versions of each beer they serve, to highlight differences in yeast, their main product, I found the base recipes to be a bit lacking. Home Brewing Company does some similar variations but not as numerous and in many ways the beers they offer attempt to show what certain lesser known styles should taste like.

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Though I will be describing the beers I tasted when I visited, keep in mind that the lineup of beers tends to change pretty regularly because they don’t have any core beers that you can expect to find each time you visit. The first three beers were all very similar lighter alcohol beers except the first one had a red malt and the second and third had the same pale malt but different yeasts. Other beers after that generally attempt to showcase one or another part of the underlying beer. I really enjoyed comparing the first three beers, all using the same hops, but which were different from various other changes in ingredients. The amber version had a more pronounced malt flavor while the two pale versions were both good for showcasing the hops though slightly differently. The difference between cali ale yeast and English ale yeast was subtle yet clear and it can be fun to try to distinguish on your own.

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Home Brewing 04

The other beers in my tasting were each unique, ranging from a hoppy brown ale that at times tasted like chocolate and at times orange to a Belgian style stout, a gose, an alt beer, and an imperial stout. Out of these the gose was both the most interesting of the bunch and one of the more interesting variations of the style I have had locally. Simultaneously mildly salty and super fruity I got notes of pear and doughy malts in a delicious combination. The alt beer was also impressive with a smooth malt flavor that had notes of tasty caramel. The tasting notes provided with each beer are detailed and on point and would provide a nice basis for someone new to tasting to learn the various flavors a beer can have.

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Home Brewing Company is also extremely minimalist in decor because it is not meant to be a full on brewery. There is no board listing all the beers on tap and the bar doesn’t attempt to showcase some exotic tree. There isn’t much room for a lot of people to hang out but the few standing tables make great places to discuss the differences in the beer. They are also right in the heart of North Park’s growing brewery scene and so easy to stop at on your way to Belching Beaver or Fall Brewing. You shouldn’t feel you need to try everything but it is worth stopping by regularly to see what new styles you can discover or what differences of ingredients you can learn. You may even end up feeling inspired to brew your own.

Top 2:
Gose
Alt Beer

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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Amplified Ale Works Miramar Tasting Room

Amplified Ale Works has been brewing out of a Kebab Shop in Pacific Beach for a few years but I haven’t been out that way for over two years so I was glad when I found out they were opening a tasting room on Miramar right next door to Pure Project. From what I read they have some solid IPAs so I wanted to check it out for myself. I started with four tasters and didn’t feel like ordering any more after that because I was heading to a party later that evening. I tried the pale ale, dry stout, IPA, and Biere De Garde. I really liked their easy to read tap list on the large TV as well as their guitar-shaped tasting board.

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The pale ale was balanced and strongly bitter with hints of citrus and tropical fruit. This beer is more traditional style and the bitterness is the main draw with some overripe fruit flavors on the finish. The dry stout was solid with light smoke notes and a bitter finish though I would have preferred it on nitro. After the pale ale I would have preferred a stout that was a little on the sweeter side. The IPA is pure San Diego style with low malt bill and lots of pine and grapefruit, while not being too bitter or too sweet and finishing with a nice thick resinous mouthfeel. The Biere De Garde was bitter and malty with notes of stone fruit. It reminded me of a hoppy dubel and while I wasn’t expecting it to be so bitter I thought it was very balanced and smooth.

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They had a lot of other beers available on tap but I wasn’t in the mood for a blonde, a wit, or a really strong Belgian style beer at the time. The tasting room is quite small and has a decent amount of seating but it tends to get quite loud even with a few small groups inside. That was the other reason I didn’t stay very long. They also had a projector in the tasting room showing a soccer game with the sound muted. Though I don’t much care for the classic style of their pale ale or the dry stout their beers are well-made and to style. Hop heads will probably like the IPA.

Top pick:
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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Burning Beard Brewing – Impressive New Brewery With Delicious IPAs

In San Diego most new breweries aren’t going to get very far without an IPA unless they focus exclusively on sours and wild ales. Burning Beard has been open for a few months and has already attracted a large following thanks to a solid lineup of hoppy beers and a punk vibe that comes through in the beer names, the logo, and the music played at the tasting room. Located in a small industrial area just outside the center of El Cajon, and not too far from the 52 freeway, on a busy day you will likely find yourself parking on the street but once inside you are greeted by the smiles of the various beertenders who all know their beers and are led by Shannon Lynnette, whose involvement as tasting room manager instantly signals to her friend and fans that the beers are going to be awesome. Many locals know her from her time at Alesmith.

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Side note and disclaimer: I was not charged for the eight tasters that I will discuss in this post thanks to the awesome hospitality of Shannon and the newest member of her team. However, I will be giving them the same treatment as I would any other brewery. I have not been in any way obligated to give them a positive review.

Tap list when I visited the brewery on June 16, 2016.
Tap list when I visited the brewery on June 16, 2016.

This was actually my second visit to the brewery, after I made the drive out a month earlier only to realize my cold left me unable to smell and thus unable to experience the hops they pull off so well. Though I couldn’t experience their beers that day, trusting Shannon’s recommendations and a super fresh IPA I came home with a crowler (32 ounce can to go) of their Hopmata IPA. A few days later, when my senses had returned, I opened the crowler and posted on Instagram, “Delicious IPA with tangerine notes and super sticky and dank, very impressive IPA.” At the time when I opened the crowler the beer had been only on tap for four days and the freshness was noticeable. Some responded to my post on Facebook and indicated that they preferred the Dankness Visible IPA and I can see why and will explain below now that I have tried it.

Burning Beard 10

On this most recent trip I stuck mostly to the hoppy beers with the exception of the saison and the imperial stout. The coffee stout they have was out at the moment, which was the beer my husband preferred when we stopped by the first time. I tasted the pilsner, rye pale, ESB, Circle of Hops pale ale, saison, Dankness Visible IPA, Hopmata IPA, and Insoc imperial stout. Starting a tasting with a pilsner I have rarely experienced one so flavorful and delicious. To me there are two things that set apart a good pilsner, one is the clean pilsner malt and the other is the right amount of hop character to balance it out. This had both with notes of fruit and floral hops that balanced nicely with the slightly sweet pilsner malts. I later ended up ordering a pint of this beer before I left.

First four tasters, all delicious light hoppy beers.
First four tasters, all delicious light hoppy beers.

The rye pale was a solid pale with notes of tangerine, lemon, and melon from the hops and a nice mild bitterness on the end. The ESB was super smooth and delicious with a great caramel malt backbone and a light apricot hop flavor that is detectable but stays back to avoid overpowering the rest. There are a handful of local breweries that have impressed me with their ESBs but Burning Beard joins the group. It is no surprise to me that this beer recently won first place at a beer festival. Circle of Hops is the more traditional pale of the bunch, offering a chewy malt backbone and with hops primarily providing bitterness with some dank and sticky character coming in at the end. Of these first four, the pilsner and ESB stood out for me though many people around were really digging the Circle of Hops.

The saison is super fruity with notes of banana, pineapple, and ripe tropical fruit with just a light funk behind it all. The beer had none of the traditional pepper or earthy notes that can sometimes make a saison. Before I describe the two IPAs I should note that the Dankness visible was noticeably the fresher of the two so that gave it an edge at the time. Both IPAs have distinct hop profiles that may appeal to different people. The Dankness Visible is super dank and has lots of pine and resin notes. I really enjoyed the balance of flavors here and the hops were strong and in your face without making the beer too bitter. The Hopmata IPA is more fruity and sticky with notes of mango and tropical fruit and a slight wheat malt flavor to it. This one was a bit more bitter of the two but still a very tasty IPA.

Second set of tasters.
Second set of tasters.

The Insoc imperial stout is primarily bitter and roasty with notes of dark fruit dominating. I tend to prefer more chocolate or coffee notes in my imperial stouts and more sweetness so I wasn’t too big on this. My husband, who also prefers more chocolate and coffee in his stouts wasn’t huge on this one either. It is clearly well made but not the type of stout I would order much of. After tasting my 8 tasterts and sipping on a pint of the pilsner, I was ready to head back home so I picked up a crowler of the Dankness visible to have in a few days. I don’t usually do a lot of growler fills with breweries but I can see myself stopping by when I’m in the area fairly regularly to bring home some of their delicious IPAs. It is nice to see a small brewery offering crowler fills since you don’t have to worry about bringing your growler with you to stop by for beer to go.

Delicious pilsner in their pint glass.
Delicious pilsner in their pint glass.

I should also note that while I really enjoy Burning Beard, they are most impressive for their hoppy beers. They do have a few tasty Belgian style offerings as well as the stouts and are working on some sours so that eventually they will truly have something for everyone. For a brewery that has been open only a few short months they clearly fill a void for the locals in the area who filled up the place as early as 4PM on a Thursday. The place does have quite an echo so when it is crowded it can be difficult to hear the music under the roar of all the talking but it doesn’t get so loud to make it uncomfortable and they do have a section of outdoor seating if it gets to be a problem. They also regularly have food trucks during the evenings so keep an eye on their Facebook page to see if a food truck interests you.

Top 4:
Dankness Visible
Pilsner
ESB
Hopmata 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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