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My Favorite Brewery Experiences of 2017 Outside of San Diego

I visited a number of breweries in 2017. Some have amazing beer but can be quite hectic to visit. A smaller number both serve excellent beer and have a welcoming tasting room that you could easily spend hours enjoying. Out of these breweries, one might be unfamiliar to readers in the US who haven’t heard of a small Canadian brewery in an even smaller town. This list also specifically focuses on breweries outside of San Diego. Each of these also has a full blog post, which is linked to in the name of each brewery.

De Garde – Tillamook Oregon

Located an hour drive west of Portland Oregon, De Garde is a brewery visited mostly by fans of sour beers enthusiastic enough to make the drive outside an already exciting city of breweries in search of excellence. The brewery is located in an area selected specifically for the microflora in the air for their wild ales.

What makes a visit to De Garde so special is the delightful patio and bright indoor seating area where you can order numerous vintage bottles for on-site consumption. While there are beers on tap as well, there is something magical about sharing a vintage bottle with someone you just met. Visiting the source is also the most economical way to get bottles, that are priced quite reasonably at the source.

Since my visit, we have started getting occasional bottles from De Garde in San Diego but I still look forward to a future visit. I also quite enjoyed staying overnight in the area and soaking in the beauty of the Oregon coast.

American Solera – Tulsa Oklahoma

My visit in 2017 was prompted by some ratings listing American Solera as one of the best new breweries. This should come as no surprise for those familiar with Prairie, the brewery where the head brewer got his start. Located in the small town of Tulsa Oklahoma, American Solera is nestled in an industrial area outside of town and for many will be the main reason for visiting the area.

Tulsa is so small that taking Uber around is cheap, making it easy for a solo traveler to visit. American Solera wowed me not just with their excellent sours but with their hazy IPAs, imperial pastry stouts, and barleywines. This is another spot where you would do well to order one of the vintage bottles for on-site consumption. If you are lucky, the person next to you will be a regular and can suggest a favorite.

The tasting room is relaxed inside and has some outdoor seating as well. Many locals visit the brewery regularly and the quality is such that you wouldn’t mind this being your primary brewery available.

Stone City Ales – Kingston, Ontario Canada

I visited the small town of Kingston, Ontario solely based on a string of coincidences but the quality of the beers surpassed all expectation even with minimal hype behind it. Stone City is the only one on the list that served food as well and I quite enjoyed their hummus plate with my beers. To get to Kingston, most people will take a train from Toronto. My friend who lives in Kingston does not recommend the bus. Like others on this list, they are in a tiny town.

Stone city had some excellent examples of juicy modern West Coast IPAs like you find at Fieldwork when they aren’t making hazy beers. What really blew me away was their delectable gose, hazy and soft like a hazy IPA but balancing gentile ginger and lime flavors. The whole line up of beers was impressive, all favoring subtlety over intense flavors. I sat in the brewery for 4 hours on that day and loved both the feel of the place and the conversation with fellow beer-enthusiasts, both locals and those on beer vacations.

Holy Mountain – Seattle, Washington

Holy Mountain and Jester King, my last 2 on this list, are the only ones I have visited multiple times. Both are so impressive that I can’t help but visit them when I am in their respective cities even if only for a short visit. Holy Mountain is in an area of Seattle that is not easy to get to by public transit but as soon as I walk in I am energized by the bright open tasting room with the rich wooden bar. My first visit I was blown away by the quality of their wild saisons and lagers. On returning, they had managed to blow me away with their hoppy beers, embracing the hazy trends while eclipsing many regulars.

Like others on the list, it is easy for me to spend hours at a time enjoying the variety of beers on their menu. With the price of half pours slightly higher per ounce than full pours, I often end up drinking numerous full pours. Since my most recent visit they started canning their hoppy beers as well. Holy Mountain oozes excellence out of every beer served and always delights.

Jester King – Austin, TX

Jester King is quite the drive outside of Austin and typically we rent a car to get there up the winding country roads. As soon as you get close to the entrance and see the wooden picnic tables out in the grass, the country charm takes over. Jester King is primarily a spot for fans of farmhouse ales and sours though they occasionally will tap a stout.

A view of some of the open space around Jester King.

Each time I visit, I love the feel of sitting outside in the open air while enjoying the various beers available. Most of the time my tasters are purchased to help me decide if I want bottles of the various beers they have to-go. I am always impressed by the quality of beers both on-tap and to-go in bottles even though I haven’t even snagged some of the more sought-after fruited sours that sell out quickly. Since Austin is a quick flight from San Diego I try to visit Jester King every 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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Seattle Breweries – Populuxe and Cloudburst,

I missed both Populuxe and Cloudburst during my previous Seattle visit because they were closed the one day I had to visit breweries. Populuxe is in Ballard near a number of other breweries. Cloudburst is much closer to Pike’s Place Market in an old building with somewhat limited seating.

Populuxe

Populuxe has a nice outdoor area with picnic tables and room for food trucks to set up. I didn’t get to try their IPAs because they had run out. From the beers I had, many of the lower alcohol styles I expected to be nice and balanced were too intensely bitter.

The summer ale on nitro was quite subtle with light fruit notes and a creamy body from the nitro. This isn’t one that you would really sip but more something you would drink down quickly. I drank it so quickly that I forgot to take a photo of it when the glass was full. The hoppy wheat was quite bitter with notes of grapefruit rind and mild grassy hops. The bitterness overpowered the rest of the beer and I didn’t get much hop aroma.

The oatmeal stout was bitter and roasty with a dry finish. With the low alcohol it lacked the punch of stronger stouts. It might have been better on nitro. The ESB had a biscuit malt base with intense citrus and herb hops. Like the wheat, the bitterness was too much for the style. The one beer I enjoyed the most was the saison. It had some notes of orange peel with light brett funk and some light white wine character. I didn’t get to try their IPAs but based on the other beers I expect they would be similarly bitter.

I recommend visiting populuxe for the saison and otherwise passing them in favor of other local breweries.

Cloudburst


Cloudburst was highly recommended because they are run by one of the brewers who brewed for Elysian for some time before they sold out. I only tried three beers because they don’t serve taster flights. I was quite disappointed right off the bat because they charge $5 for a 10 ounce pour and $6 for a 16 ounce pour making it more expensive if you want to try multiple beers.

Such off-putting glasses to serve beer in. I couldn’t believe they used these glasses.

I tried one pilsner and two IPAs. The pilsner was crisp and fruity with light floral hop character. It was a tasty pilsner. The Whenever IPA was a light orange hazy color. Hops were herbal and bitter with notes of onion and garlic and a light salty finish. I didn’t much care for this one. The Lip Sync IPA had some notes of orange peel and citrus with a soft body but a salty/mineral finish. Both were decent IPAs but neither had the intensity of hop aroma that makes the style so much fun.

I wasn’t particularly impressed by what they had at cloudburst. I can understand that they want to recommend ordering a full pint but this doesn’t work very well when trying to visit multiple breweries in one day. There are other seattle breweries that were more impressive on the IPA front. Cloudburst seems to be all hype to me.

Known for: People rave about their IPAs though I didn’t find them to be particularly standout in that 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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Seattle Breweries – Reuben’s Brews, Stoup, Lucky Envelope, and Holy Mountain

The breweries in the neighborhood of Ballard in Seattle have exploded recently such that they are close enough together that you can walk to a number of them after parking. For me this meant visiting Reuben’s Brews, Stoup, and Lucky Envelope in one monday afternoon. I wanted to visit Populux as well but they were closed that day. Each brewery had a few tasty beers but nothing to the level that would justify the hype behind them.

Reuben’s Brews

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Reuben’s Brews is the first one I wanted to visit due to reading about it online from another blogger. They had a massive tap list but the seven beers I ordered didn’t impress me enough to get me to order another flight. I tried three sours, three IPAs and one stout. The three sours were all very interesting though my favorite was the Kentucky Common. It was really smooth with notes of caramel and some mild tartness. It had a delightful smooth finish that I don’t get much. My sister really liked the dry-hopped sour because it exhibits tons of lemon with a mild tart kick. I also enjoyed the fruited sour I had because I thought it had some good balance, just the right amount of fruit, and a good tart finish.

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I picked my IPAs to try by the two varieties they had available in cans. Both seemed to exhibit bitterness over aroma and both also seemed to have a wheat malt base that I didn’t really care for. Though one of them had some nice tropical fruit and pine after it warmed up, it was just fairly average. The experimental IPA was really off-putting and the flavors reminded me of Sorachi Ace hops. Neither one of us liked that one at all. I later told the bartender they should put a note that it tastes similar to Sorachi ace because that hop is very polarizing. The Porter was really tasty with lots of caramel, roast, and mild smoke.

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For such a new brewery, I was surprised that they had almost 20 beers on tap. It seemed to me like they need to spend more time coming up with some killer core beers but I hear their IPAs are quite popular around the area. If you like kettle sours, it should be an interesting place to stop by but I wouldn’t recommend trying everything on the board. They have a nice open atmosphere and tons of outdoor seating and street parking.

Top 3:
Kentucky Common Sour
Fruited SOur
Porter

Stoup Brewing

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Just a short walk from Rueuben’s is Stoup, where they have a shorter tap list and the IPAs are more flavorful. I did not care for the ESB I tried. It was really pretty tasteless and thin. Their seasonal witbeer was pretty good with lots of spice, some mild fruit, and hints of lime. The Mosaic Pale was quite popular there and my sister really liked it. I thought it was well done and had a good amount of citrus and fruits. It also had some notes of green peppers, which was a bit strange. I preferred the Citra IPA instead, which had a lot of tropical fruit notes. The North West IPA was an interesting take on the style, lots of sticky, dank pine character that dominated over the malts. The porter was solid but lacked the sweetness that I enjoyed in the one at Reuben’s.

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Stoup seems to have a good start on finding the right flavors for their IPAs but the hops weren’t bursting as much as they could have been. They also have a nice open ambience and a good amount of outdoor seating.

Top 2:
Citra IPA
Mosaic Pale

Lucky Envelope

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I started with a helles at Lucky Envelope and really liked the fruity apricot hop character and crisp helles taste. The Session IPA was smooth and fruity, and done well. The IPA was nice and fruity without a ton of bitterness and exhibited lots of tropical fruit. The grapefruit version was quite tasty, with a bitterness to the beer that suggested lots of zest was added to the beer. Their Peanut Butter Stout was also quite delicious with tons of nutty flavor and a smooth finish without being too sweet.

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Seattle Breweries 09

Top 2:
Helles
Peanut Butter Porter

Each of the three Ballard area breweries I visited had something tasty available. They make for a fun walk between the three. Then my husband drove us to Holy Mountain for our last stop of the evening (almost!)

Holy Mountain

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Known for lagers and wild ales (lagers?) Holy Mountain has developed quite a reputation very quickly. Many of their bottle releases sell out incredibly fast. Thankfully they have plenty of other good beers available for those who happen to stop by without planning like myself. I won’t bother describing the specific style of most of the beers since they are almost all wild. Though they didn’t offer tasters, we were able to do half pours of everything and create a flight still. I also left with a few bottles to go.

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I started with Kiln & Cone their pale ale, which was really smooth and quite fruity. After everything else we tried their Three Fates lager, which we should have started with as well. It was quite tasty lager with an earthy back and some floral hops. Ceremony has the unique flavor of cake frosting and coconut while finishing with some mild funk. My sister liked it more than I did but it was interesting for sure.

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Demon Teller was a nice mix of brett and funk with some mild tart and a nice dry finish. Fellowcraft was a bit more fruity than the demon teller and had some nice grapefruit notes. Witchfinder was hoppy and mineral forward, solidly fruity, and good and funky. I got a bottle of this one. Most of the brett beers were tasty though none of them stuck out either as really bad or clearly the best. They are a bit isolated as far as breweries go and my sister tells me not very easy to get to by public transit. If you want anything special, follow their social media for the extremely limited releases.

Overall, I would highly recommend Holy Mountain but the three other breweries didn’t knock off Fremont Brewing or Bellvue Brewing from my previous favorites from an earlier trip.

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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Fremont Brewing – Seattle Washington

I stopped by Fremont Brewing with my sister and my husband and we tried a small section of the available beers because it was still early in the day. I tried the pale ale, IPA, porter, imperial oatmeal stout, and imperial IPA.

The pale ale was quite surprising because it wasn’t particularly malty. Flavors of citrus and tropical fruit came out nicely. The IPA had some nice bright hop flavors. Mostly the hops came through as grapefruit and citrus flavors that dominated.

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The porter had some nice chocolate flavors with a good smooth finish from the oatmeal. By contrast, the dark star imperial oatmeal stout was not for me. The majority of the flavors came forward in a more boozy taste that wasn’t particularly strong in either coffee or chocolate. I didn’t get much sense that this was an oatmeal stout either from the flavor.

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The imperial IPA had some seriously intense citrus flavors. This was the closest thing I tasted in Seattle to the San Diego style of double IPA that has become quite common. It had very little malt flavor at the back end.

Fremont brewing is certainly worth stopping by for a visit so you can try the pale ale, IPA, porter, or double IPA depending on your tastes. They also had a nice large outdoor seating area with plenty of sun and shade options.

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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Triple Horn Brewing – Seattle Washington

Though it is only a few miles away from Redhook, most people visiting probably only ever stop by Redhook. That is quite a shame because Triple Horn has some solid brews available that are much more flavorful than Redhook. When I stopped by I tried the blood orange wheat, IPA, session ale, oatmeal porter, and double IPA.

The blood orange wheat was quite refreshing and unlike any beer I have tried before. The infusion of blood oranges really gave it a strong citrus flavor that was very tasty. The session ale had a nice light citrus kick and yet was still solidly bitter. The IPA was certainly on the darker maltier side but it was well-balanced so the floral and pine flavors came through nicely on the back end.

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The oatmeal porter was much more flavorful than the one at Redhook and had much more noticeable coffee and chocolate flavors. The Double IPA was seriously bitter and also quite heavy on the malts. Thankfully this one also has some enjoyable hop flavors at the back end leaning towards tropical fruits and citrus.

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I ended with the Barrel Aged Belgian Strong Ale, aged in Jim Beam barrels. I expected to love this one but I actually hated it. The flavors of the underlying beer were far too heavy on tart fruit flavors along with the spice flavors you tend to find in some forms of darker Belgian beers. The spice and fruit flavors overpowered the rest of the beer. The whiskey flavors didn’t particularly help because they were added pretty lightly.

Overall, Triple Horn is a solid smaller brewery that you should absolutely check out if you are in the area and don’t particularly like wine. The IPAs are fantastic as well as the blood orange wheat.

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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