Both J Wakefield and Wynwood Brewing are in the Wynwood neighborhood known for graffiti and a small distance outside of downtown Miami. If you are staying on Miami Beach it is a bit of a drive to get out to the breweries but worth it if you are serious into beer. J Wakefield had their air conditioning at full blast, making it uncomfortably cold in the tasting room and music to match the urban graffiti look of the brewery complete with pounding bass on most songs. I came for their sours and stouts and was not disappointed, though the tasters were each $3 because of the beer styles. I chose to visit Wynwood Brewing after J Wakefield based on the recommendation of the server at J Wakefield.
Their gose was clean and crisp with notes of citrus and fruit with mild salt at the finish. One Trick Pony is a bright pink color from the various fruits and I got notes of grapefruit rind, passionfruit and ginger. This was the most tart of the bunch and was very refreshing. Phat Bottom tastes like an apple tart (the pastry) with notes of honey and caramel, though was a bit too sweet for my tastes. Hops 4 Teacher was a bit sweet with a bitter finish that lingers on the tongue. It was fairly average as far as IPAs go.
For my second flight I went high alcohol, with each beer over 10%. Brush has an intense chocolate marshmallow nose that translates nicely on the taste and a warming finish going down. The chocolate was subtle and everything was wonderfully balanced. Too Sweet was thick and tasty but overpowered by cinnamon and other spices, reminding me of a holiday ale. Gimme S’more was a more artificial tasting version of Brush without the fudge notes and compared to Brush wasn’t as good. I finished with Upper Body Strength, a collaboration triple IPA with Trillium. The beer had a light color and masked the alcohol really well. The hops gave off tons of fruit with lots of mango and citrus notes. It was a perfectly balanced triple IPA, a rarity for the style. I probably would have bought cans if they hadn’t sold out before I got there.
Come for fruited berliner weisse and intense adjunct stouts.
One Trick Pony
In some ways I may be extra harsh because I came here after J Wakefield but I was not too excited by the beers here. They are slightly more established and had a clear draw in the community with people having parties and kids running around. I started with the Magic City pale ale which smelled like overripe fruit but once I got past that it was a solid balanced pale ale with fruity hops and a mild bitterness.
House IPA was a bit herbal with a bitter finish, very similar style to the pale, probably the same malts. I couldn’t stand the hops they used to I didn’t finish this one. Citranella was their citra hop IPA but it tasted more like a lower alcohol barleywine with its strong malt backbone. Seems like a waste of the citra hops, which were barely detectable. The imperial stout was smooth and mildly sweet with hints of caramel and vanilla and some mild smoke.
Wynwood seems to know how to make beer but their IPAs are all far too malty and lack the intense hop aromas that make the style enjoyable. If you prefer the modern style of lower malt IPAs then you won’t like their beers all that much. I didn’t try their other styles that people seemed to be drinking a lot of, like the blonde ale.
In the quaint beach town of Monterey about an hour south of Santa Cruz and a nice place to stop after driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from Paso Robles you can find Alvarado Street Brewing, a spot that has been getting a lot of hype lately. After my visit, I can say it was quite well deserved. They have a large space with a spacious restaurant, some outdoor seating in front, and a beer garden in the back where you can enjoy some beers outdoors or walk up through the back to pick up some cans or crowlers to go. I didn’t do a flight of tasters while I was there because they were only doing full pours in the beer garden so I didn’t try everything on their expansive tap list. But I quite enjoyed what I tried.
I started with the Wharf Rat IPA, a balanced IPA with notes of pine and tropical fruit. The beer had a nice orange haze while not super cloudy. This was also the favorite of a friend who met us there. The Vengeful Barbarian hazy IPA pours a super cloudy yellow haze with notes of mango and pineapple and a mildly acidic finish. My mom really enjoyed this one.
My sister ordered the cherry vanilla kettle sour, a tasty mix of strong cherry flavors and mild vanilla in the back, mildly tart and very nicely done. The minesweeper IPA was my favorite, a great mix of fruit, mango, and pine with a medium bitter finish and similar orange haze to the Wharf Rat. I left with a four pack of this one though I should have gotten two because I gave two of the cans to other people and after my second can I really wanted more.
If you are already in the area of Santa Cruz for breweries, taking the trip down to Alvarado Street is worth it. Or you can sometimes find their cans around the bay area. They had a bunch of different styles inside but we decided to eat outside instead. If you are vegetarian or vegan, their vegan double double burger (modeled after In N Out) was really good and tasted almost like the real thing.
The brewery that came most highly recommended on Beeradvocate was IMBIB so I went there with high expectations. They had a massive tap list of almost 20 beers so with the altitude of Reno I wasn’t about to try everything. I decided to focus on the sours since they had five on tap and one on the cask. Though I didn’t like all of the sours, two stood out as really delicious and I left with crowlers of those.
The Foeder Squared was funky and acidic with some apricot notes and a mild tart apple flavor common among lambics. The flavors were good but the beer was a bit too subtle for me. Abiogenesis was my favorite of the bunch, a wine aged dark saison, it had a cloudy brown color and flavors of mild caramel and smooth malt mellowed out by the oak and a mildly acidic finish.
The boysenberry with brett had a dark red color with mild tart and good lightly acidic berry notes. It was a satisfying fruited sour and I left with a crowler of this as well. I wasn’t a fan of the IMBIB and Alibi collaboration beer. It was fruity and bitter and had some other flavors I couldn’t identify. The Pinot de Garde, which I assume from the name was a wine aged biere de garde was also not my thing and seemed like it may have gone bad sitting in a cask for too long.
I also tried the oatmeal stout and maibock before leaving. The oatmeal stout was standard to style, dry and not super roasty. The maibock was clean and fruity with a prominent malt base. I really enjoyed this one. While I could have come back the following day to try more, I decided to leave it at what I did try. I would recommend stopping by IMBIB if you like sours.
Abiogenesis – wine barrel aged dark saison
boysenberry brett sour
Pigeon Head Brewing
I would not have stopped at Pigeon Head if I hadn’t been recommended it by the brewer at IMBIB. They focus mostly on lagers and had a nice variety of beers on tap. I also appreciated that they charged only $6 for a taster flight of six beers. I wish more breweries could price tasters so reasonable.
The black lager was creamy and clean with a mild caramel flavor and a light body. I enjoyed this more than the black lager (schwartzbier at Brasserie St. James). The oktoberfest beer was smooth and clean with a dry finish. The pilsner was quite good, crisp and clean and very easy drinking. The IPL had tons of pine and herbal hop notes that balanced nicely with the bready malts.
The ginger peach brett saison was my favorite of the bunch. The ginger was subtle and the beer was clean and fruity with a mild peach taste in the finish. I left with a crowler of this one. The Nevada Brown was smooth with mellow coffee and roast, overall very easy drinking. I came back the next day and had a glass of their red rye lager. It was a delicious beer and hid its alcohol very well. The rye balanced wonderfully with the malts.
Pigeon Head was my favorite brewery from the trip and has a nice small tasting room with plenty of seating both indoor and out. They fill growlers and crowlers of almost everything. The bartender indicated that they will be doing more sour and wild beers in the future so keep an eye on them.
Red rye lager
ginger peach saison
Under the Rose
Under the Rose was recommended by my friend who lives in the area but not so much by the local I met in the brewery the first evening. I wouldn’t say much was truly bad but none of the beers were more than average and with so many other choices, I wouldn’t return.
The berliner weisse was fruity and dry and mildly tart, done well to style. The sour saison was mildly tart with some citrus notes and a mild rye kick. The aged porter has some intense whiskey flavors that blend nicely with dark fruit notes. It is better than a lot of the other lighter alcohol bba beers I have had.
The wine aged belgian had tons of spice but also an intense floral/herbal kick that was almost soapy. There was a sweet cake taste in the malts but very little oak or wine character I could detect. The pale ale was pretty standard mix of pine and fruity hops while not being too malty or too bitter. The IPA was more of the same just stronger and a little more bitter. Both the pale and IPA were fairly old school.
As a sour fan, Cantillon is considered one of those places that you need to visit at least once. After spending half a day there with great company I totally agree. Getting to Cantillon is pretty easy. The metro drops you off a short distance away from the brewery so you don’t have to walk too far. The tour is short but worth paying the 7 euro fee (cash only) for because of the tasters you get after the tour is finished. The real fun comes when you start sharing bottles of archive beers with the various people around. Ideally you should gather a group of five or six people to share bottles with so that you can each buy one bottle and you can all share beers. You will have to buy bottles for on site consumption with cash only. I ended up getting together a group of six people and we each bought one bottle to share with the group.
If you are lucky, Cantillon will have something unique and interesting on the to-go bottle list besides the standard Gueuze (a blend of different aged lambics), Kriek (brewed with cherries), and Rose de Gambrinus (brewed with raspberries). When I was there they happened to have the Cuvee St Gilloise, a dry-hopped lambic as well.
The prices for beer to go are very reasonable. The 375ml bottles are 4 euros on site and the 750ml bottles are 7 euros. The beers are packaged in cardboard holders that don’t have the strongest handles so if you choose to leave with more than 6 bottles, you should take a cab back to your hotel to avoid breaking. Even then, some of the handles started to break by the time I got up to my room. If you can, bring two large cloth shopping bags with you so that you didn’t have to worry about the handles breaking on the way to the room. It is worth the trip so that you can bring back plenty of bottles to enjoy at home. The beers are much less expensive on site than they are if you find them in other places outside of Belgium.
If you don’t stay to taste at least one bottle on site, it might seem like a waste of time to come all the way out to visit. Many reviews from people who came just for the tour expressed this view. Keep in mind as well that they are only open from 10AM to 5PM and they sell the last bottles for on site consumption at 4:15 so you should plan to get there shortly after Noon, after a hearty lunch, if you want to make the most of your experience. In general the people who arrive earlier in the day are at Cantillon to try as much as they can while they are there so you can easily get a share going. Of the bottles we shared, the Fou Foune (brewed with apricots) was the agreed upon favorite. I also really enjoyed the grand cru.
Visiting Cantillon was everything I expected and it was a great time hanging out with the group of people I shared bottles with while we were there. The crowd appeared as Cantillon was about to close so those people could only do the tour and weren’t able to try any bottles. You should also make sure you enjoy sours before making the trip so you know what you are getting into.
I’ve taken a lot of trips and visited a lot of breweries over the last three years. In most cities two or three breweries jump out as fantastic while others are usually pretty solid. Either I visited at a time when the breweries were in a slump or a number of the breweries I visited in my Sacramento trip were not up to snuff. Though Knee Deep, Moonraker, Mraz, and Black Vinyl Ale Project are a ways outside of the city itself, based on beeradvocate forums research they are considered Sacramento breweries by locals and they were recommended over others in the city itself. This suggests to me that the breweries I didn’t visit in the city must be even worse. After a while I just couldn’t stand the idea of hitting another brewery in the area. Because I was staying in the city I didn’t want to make the drive back to Auburn again to return to Knee Deep.
Knee Deep Brewing
Knee Deep is the only brewery of the entire trip that I had ever heard of prior to my research. Many readers may be familiar with their beers as their hoppy beers are pretty broadly distributed in California. I was glad to find out that they brew stouts as well and even a number of other styles that don’t usually make their way down. Because they had over seven double IPAs on tap I asked for a few recommendations of the freshest to taste and added a stout for my husband.
Big Sipper was super smooth with tons of citrus and tropical fruit. Hoptologist was really flavorful with tons of tropical fruit and citrus. Simtra was a bit resinous and bitter and yet super smooth for 11%. The beers seem to all have similar malt bills and so they all started to taste a little similar after a while. I should have stopped with those three hoppy beers because the Citra Extra Pale tasted a bit old and had lost the hop luster of a fresh brew. The imperial Fanilla was a tasty imperial porter that had tons of roast and strong vanilla in a thin body. The IPAs were all tasty but didn’t blow me away at the source like some other breweries. Mostly I found the IPAs to be a cut above the average but I’ve had better at a few San Diego breweries.
Knee Deep has a large tasting room with plenty of indoor seating, two separate bars, some outdoor seating, and room for food trucks. I was surprised to see a few people sitting outside even though it was quite hot when I visited. They had tons of bottles available for purchase and offered growler and crowler fills of most of the beers.
Come to Knee Deep for big strong hoppy beers. Almost everything they make is over 7%
Moonraker is only about a mile away from Knee Deep. They have a smaller tasting room that is able to stay nice and cool with a strong air conditioning. Around the time of my visit, their cloudy, juicy, IPAs were getting so popular that they had to restrict growler fills. Sadly, they didn’t live up to the beers that pioneered the style or even to some newer IPAs of a similar style that Modern Times has made.
The Yojo Deux was dank and citrusy with a cloudy yellow color and notes of mango and peach but it was unbalanced by a strong acidic finish. The Yojo 33 1/2 was slightly less cloudy and had hints of melon, pear, and green pepper. I thought the beer had an off-putting herbal finish that I didn’t really care for. The Dojo was also herbal and quite bitter and my least favorite of the bunch with a similar acidic finish to the first.
Chain Shot 7 was smooth but lacked significant aroma character. It is possible that I tried an off-batch of a few of these IPAs but I didn’t finish what I tried. It is a shame because I really liked the feel of their tasting room, which had plenty of seating, strong air conditioning, and good wi-fi.
Moonraker has recently gotten popular for cloudy juicy IPAs though I was not impressed by what I had.
Black Vinyl Ale House
Black Vinyl Ale House has been doing a number of sours and had quite an expansive tap list available but I didn’t enjoy the first flight enough to try anything else. I started with their citrus saison, which was the only good beer of the bunch. It was nice and earthy with fruity yeast character and a dry finish. The sour stout had a mild coffee base with a tart finish but overall quite average and didn’t taste like much.
The sour red tasted like balsamic vinegar so strongly that I couldn’t taste anything else. Though I’ve gotten acetic acid notes before I’ve never had anything this strong. The sour saison had a strong flavor of lime and a strong supporting ginger note and was quite acidic. It didn’t really taste like beer though if you like strong ginger and lime flavor you might enjoy this. The imperial stout presented mostly strong dark fruit with some mild roast, fairly average.
Black Vinyl has a long way to go before their sours are anywhere near the level that I would recommend them.
Mraz is the only brewery of the bunch that I want to give the benefit of the doubt because they had a fairly strong traditional sour program going at the time and the only sour on tap when I visited was a kettle sour and they had just started that program. I probably should have ordered a bottle of their sours to enjoy on site though outside of certain Belgian breweries, I review breweries based on what they have on tap. Mraz is also quite a long way away because they are on the other side of a large lake so that whether you are coming from the west or the east you are going to have to take a number of surface streets to get there.
Mraz was probably the only brewery besides Knee Deep that really impressed with hoppy beers. I really liked the House Party IPA they had which was super fruity and a good example of how to do a mosaic IPA. The plum (kettle) sour on the other hand was seriously lacking in flavor. Before leaving I tried splashes of the two other beers on tap that sounded interesting but they weren’t good enough for me to order more so I just left.
Mraz is known for sours and Belgian style beers though their kettle sours need a bit of work.
Track 7 was the most recommended of the breweries in Sacramento proper and they were quite crowded when I arrived on a Sunday around Noon. I got a feeling the special event going on drew larger crowds than usual. Because of the crowds they weren’t offering flights so I started with two half pints of two different IPAs. The beer tender I ordered from didn’t even know how to describe the differences between the different flavors of the IPAs available, which should have been a sign to leave and go do something else rather than visiting more breweries.
I tried the Sukahop first, their attempt at a cloudy juicy IPA. I found it had some juicy citrus notes with a strong herbal finish. While it shared some of the herbal notes I got at Moonraker, the beer was a big improvement over Moonraker. The Boomer’s Cut dominated with tropical fruit hops but had a strong alcohol taste on the finish that was quite off-putting. Since at the time they were only really serving IPAs and lighter pilsner style beers I stopped there in part to get away from the noisy crowd and long lines. I generally tend to dislike herbal hop notes in IPAs so if that is your thing you might like the Sukahop.
Visit Track 7 for IPAs
Though they had a large tap list I didn’t feel like drinking much more after the first four tasters. I started with the helles, which was above average. It was balanced with some nice fruity hop notes and a crisp finish. The three IPAs I had were all overly bitter and lacking in aroma such that I didn’t finish any of them. The single IPA on tap was malt forward and resinous but the bitterness dominated. The double IPA was more fruity with notes of caramel malts but again bitterness dominated and it was a malt bomb. The black IPA was all bitterness with no roast and only some mild smoky notes.
If you are into the new school aroma-dominant IPA, you won’t like much of anything at Device except the helles. Their IPAs were the worst of the whole trip. Some years ago I might have loved their IPA lineup but as I have progressed away from hunting out extreme bitterness, I find overpowering bitterness to be a sign of poor skills by the brewer. They had a nice dark feel inside with wi-fi but since it was impossible to go back to the helles after those bitter malt bombs I paid up and left each of the IPAs half drunk.
If you are considering a visit to Sacramento for beer, skip it and go to San Francisco instead where you will find much better breweries. If you are visiting Sacramento for business or other reasons, skip the breweries and go straight to the local beer bars where you will find much better San Diego and San Francisco options on tap and probably some Knee Deep without having to make the drive to the brewery.
On my trip to Denver I made the drive up to Boulder area to visit Avery and in the process stopped by Odd 13 first to try the beers that never get distributed to San Diego.
Odd 13 just celebrated three years and from my visit they seem to focus primarily on kettle sours and IPAs. They have a solid size tap room in an area six miles east of Boulder where the cell reception was terrible and the wi-fi unreliable. I started with some sours and moved my way on to a few IPAs.
Amacron kettle sour was nice with citrus notes and mild hop character. The Durazndor kettle sour with peaches and apricots was nice and mildly acidic with a good amount of fruit character. This was my favorite of the three sours so I was glad they had cans available. The Vincent Van Couch was another kettle sour with tons of fruit notes from the sour mash. The Buzzin Cuzzin coffee stout was nice and mellow with smooth coffee character that balanced nicely with mild chocolate.
For the IPAs, I finished with the Double Dry Hopped Super Fan. The beer had some nice citrus and herbal hoppy notes though the bitter finish didn’t jibe with the juicy style. The Hopperella was nice and smooth with notes of peach and vanilla. Both beers have the distinctive hazy unfiltered look and are tasty versions of the juicy style.
Durazndor peach sour
Hopperella hazy IPA
Avery is one of the larger breweries in the area, only surpassed by New Belgium for wide distribution of their beers. Though I’ve had most of their core beers before I wanted to visit the brewery directly to try them from the source. They have a massive two floor restaurant with plenty of seating and bar space for people to enjoy beers plus some outdoor seating as well. My husband enjoyed their always delicious brown ale that I used to buy quite regularly a few years back and their tasty stout. I stuck to their IPAs and finished with a brewery-exclusive sour.
Their single IPA is a perfect example of the classic West Coast style of IPA with tons of dankness and citrus notes and a dry finish. The Double IPA is fruity and sweet with notes of peach and a nice thick malt base that balances it out perfectly. The double dry hopped maharaja was fantastic to have fresh at the source finally. It is super smooth and does a great job hiding its 10% alcohol. I finished with the Terpshicore sour made with wine grapes and aged in wine barrels. The beer looks like a nice full-bodied red wine and is nice and jammy with fruity notes from the brett and a mild acidic finish. Though $6 a taster I savored every sip and would order more again for sure.
Avery has a wide variety of styles available from pilsner through to stouts and stronger IPAs, barley wines, and barrel aged beers including intense stouts and sours. It is hard to imagine someone not finding something to enjoy among the large tap list. They also had a handfull of tap room exclusives that make it worth the trip.
While in Montreal I visited two breweries, Dieu du Ciel, and Station HoSt where they serve beers from Hopfenstark brewery. I really enjoyed the overall atmosphere at Dieu du Ciel and how they served flights and full pours of their beers plus light food. It was a little strange that you couldn’t buy their bottles at the brewery but had to visit nearby bottle shops but we managed to find a place to buy some bottles of Peche Mortel. I tried quite a number of beers and ultimately went for more Peche when I was finished with the tasters, though this didn’t make the experience any less awesome. I left with one of their fantastic glasses that will be fun to use regularly.
Dieu Du Ciel
In total I tasted 5 beers at Dieu du Ciel and my husband tried 3, which I sampled as well. All of the beers were quite impressive but a few stood out among he bunch. They didn’t have any IPAs in the traditional sense but the various hoppy beers were delicious and were more than enough to satisfy my hop addiction. I started with a rye pale which became even more impressive once I translated the beer name and realized it was rye I was tasting. The beer did a great job of highlighting the spice from the rye while keeping the overall beer silky smooth and mildly bitter. This is a beer where the malts shine. The mosaic pale was delightful as well with the malts staying mostly in the background and letting the juicy fruity flavors of the mosaic hops shine as good as I have tasted them anywhere else. The saison I tasted was a fantastic mix of citrus and spice on the nose. The beer has a chewy mouthfeel and has earthy malt notes along with some peach notes and a dry finish. It is quite the impressive saison.
The porter was really smooth with hints of roast and caramel, subtle yet very well done. The oatmeal stout, which appeared to be on nitro, was silky smooth with mellow smoke and bitter chocolate. The Peche Mortel is one of the most popular beers Dieu du Ciel brews and when I tasted it I could immediately tell why. I have tasted quite a lot of coffee imperial stouts in the past and this one is up there with the best of them and I would even say I prefer it over Sump from Perennial. It is luscious and creamy thanks to being poured on nitro and has tons of coffee and caramel with a perfect balance. This was the beer I stayed and sipped on after all the other tasters and the one I decided to bring back with us to the US though hopefully my husband doesn’t drink it all without me.
Before leaving I tasted two sours and they are some of the least acidic sours I have ever tasted. The mango sour was almost like drinking mango juice, with very low acidity and some mild sweetness. The framboise was also super smooth and jammy with some hints of hibiscus and mild sweetness. These two have also been the only sours so far my husband enjoyed. They are so unique that I would consider another trip to Montreal to buy them if they happen to be available in bottles in the future. Dieu du Ciel has not only some of the best beers of any brewery I have visited but also one of the best experiences and most relaxig tasting rooms of any brewery I have visited. They serve food as well though I didn’t partake.
Peche Mortel Coffee Imperial Stout
Station HoSt – Hopfenstark beers
Station HoSt is a bar that serves exclusively beers from a brewery called Hopfenstark. I admittedly raised the bar ridiculously high by visiting this brewery after Dieu du Ciel but I was not impressed by the beers I tried and would recommend you skip this bar if you are in the area. I only tried a few tasters to start mostly so that I could leave quickly if I didn’t like what I had without drinking a ton. Part of this had to do with he noisy bar atmosphere they have, which wasnt exactly inviting me to tay very long. I started with the framboise which I found quite sweet and reminiscent of cough syrup but also quite acidic. I could understand if it ended up simply being too acidic for me but it happened to be too medicinal as well.
The rye saison was pretty solid and quite malty but also a bit boozy and reminiscent of pumpkin pie spice. Also quite unbalanced. The gose wasn’t bad but also seemed a bit lacking in flavor in general. It was mildly tart with hints of fresh apple. I was about to leave but the bartender who may have been the owner offered me a taste of the imperial stout, which wasn’t available in tasters and only in a full 8 ounce pour. This was the best beer of the bunch and was a good mix of caramel and coffee while being sticky and thick, quite a tasty imperial stout.
I would recommend only stopping by the brewery if you like a good imperial stout because their other beers need a little work. Even then their imperial stout didn’t come close to Peche Mortel from Dieu du Ciel.
I had also considered visiting a few other breweries in the area as well but when we went to the bottle shop to buy some Peche Mortel to bring back with us, I found some other beers that I ended up drinking on my last night instead of going out to another brewery. If you do happen to visit, consider visiting Benelux, another brewery, or if you prefer bars, Vices et Versa or Le Cheval Blanc. All came highly recommended.
I recently visited Saint Louis Missouri for the weekend and while I was there I visited four breweries, Perennial Artisan Ales, Side Project, Schlafly, and 4 Hands. Both Perennial and Side Project are closed on Sundays so they were my focus for my first day. I started with Side Project where I tried only two beers because I was heading to Perennial next, but they were along the way from the airport so I couldn’t complain.
Side Project Brewing
Despite the name, which might get some people to believe they are approaching things with anything less than full dedication, I was quite impressed by Side Project. They had a massive list of guest beers on tap and four house beers available when I visited along with an extensive list of hard liquor and wine. It seemed that all of the breweries I visited (with the possible exception of Perennial) had hard liquor available, which is unusual coming from San Diego but they were also serving food so it made sense.
I tried Grisette Blend #3, a wine barrel aged farmhouse ale with brett, and a wild ale aged in French oak that was on cask. The Grisette was delicious and effervescent beer that tasted like a mix between champagne and moscato. It had light fruity flavors and a mild funk. Overall I was impressed by the depth of flavor for a 4% beer. The cask wild ale was really smooth and lightly tart with notes of lemon. It was scary smooth and super easy-drinking, with a nice dry finish. I might have ordered two or three more of this one if I wasn’t heading to another brewery after.
What to drink
Come to Side Project only if you like sours or want to try some of the guest beers they offer.
Perennial Artisan Ales
I didn’t try everything on tap at Perennial in part because of the price of the tasters and in part because I wanted to focus on the delicious and super strong stouts. I tried four beers in total. I tried the saison de lus, a saison brewed with chamomile, hopfentea, a Berliner Weisse brewed with tropical flowers, 17, a chocolate mint imperial stout, and Sump, the ever tasty imperial stout with coffee.
Saison de Lus was a delicious mix of the typical farmhouse flavor with a good balance from the chamomile. The beer was nice and fruity and very nicely balanced. I slightly preferred the Hopfentea, a delicious Berliner Weisse that perfectly blended a light tart kick with the tropical flowers. Since I have been drinking a lot of floral kombucha recently, I was glad that the beer lacked some of the more unpleasant flavors that can come when you put too much flower.
The 17 chocolate mint stout is the first time I have enjoyed mint in my stout. It was also my husband’s favorite of the two stouts. The chocolate and mint blended perfectly and the beer went down scary smooth. Next to the 17, the SUMP coffee imperial stout was also quite smooth with a mild coffee finish, medium body, and a sweet finish. After my husband and I finished the first two tasters of these beers, I ordered another taster of SUMP and we brought a bottle of 17 home with us (no SUMP bottles available when I was there). Despite the $5 a taster price these were both well worth it and I would have gone back the next day for more if they were open.
What to Drink:
Order whatever imperial stouts they have available because that is what they are known for.
4 Hands Brewing Company
There is some nice contrast between the breweries I visited so far in that one is known for its farmhouse ales and sours and another is known for its intense stouts. 4 Hands provides a nice wide variety of styles but again charges $3 to $4 for a taster and with so many beers to try it didn’t make sense to pay for each of them. Pricing was clearly geared towards getting customers to buy a pint, so eventually I obliged. I tried the Hatch, sour, Send Help, dry hopped blonde, Devil’s Invention coffee stout, two IPAs (not full tasters) and the double IPA.
The Hatch sour was fairly average and didn’t live up to the sours at the other breweries. It was light and fruity and mildly tart but didn’t hit that sour spot. The send help on the other hand was a very impressive blonde, though it could easily be described as a modern pale ale. The hops burst from it with plenty of citrus and tropical fruits. The coffee porter was solid, smooth and fairly light on the coffee, though still much better than the one at Schlafly. The two IPAs I tried splashes of were fairly average as well and didn’t have that hop kick that I enjoyed in Send Help. Though the double IPA came through and hit all the right notes, quite impressively.
The Double IPA was really smooth and super dank and resinous with notes of pine. I liked that it was very hop forward and the malts were subdued. It reminded me of Avery’s popular Maharaja. I enjoyed a full pour of the Double IPA before leaving the brewery. I enjoyed the atmosphere at 4 Hands quite a bit and like to see their wide selection of six-pack cans at the brewery of many of their hoppy offerings. They were the superior IPA option of the breweries I visited by far.
Send Help Hoppy Blonde
My last stop for my visit was Schlafly Brewing, where I was thankful that they served flights. I tried five beers total, the Blackberry sour, dry-hopped APA, oatmeal stout, farmhouse IPA, and double bean blonde. The blackberry sour was very tasty with a nice red color and medium acidity and plenty of berry flavor. This was my favorite of the bunch and one of the best sours of the weekend. The dry hopped APA was also very delicious and while it had similarities to the typical pale ale style it was nicely balanced and the hops were prominent with citrus and pine taking center stage.
The oatmeal stout was fairly average and a little bit smoky but it didn’t live up to earlier stouts. The farmhouse IPA is a Belgian style IPA and has a cloudy yellow color and mixes the Belgian yeast spice with light citrus hops. I found the flavors didn’t really blend together very well and it had an overly sweet finish. Finally, the double bean blonde has both chocolate and coffee added. It was solid and the coffee was the dominant flavor with chocolate fairly subtle. The beers at Schlafly were solid but I would have rather tried more beers at 4 hands if they hadn’t charged so much for tasters, or returned to Perennial, if they were open that day.
If you are coming to Saint Louis for Perennial and Side Project, you will find some delicious beer. I thought most of the breweries I visited had something that set it apart from the rest. Though I was disappointed that most of the breweries charged a lot for tasters, I wouldn’t miss a chance to visit Perennial again.
The San Francisco Bay Area is a large place and visitors often travel as far north as Santa Rosa to visit Russian River or as far south as Santa Cruz to visit Sante Adarius Rustic Ales or SARA for short. I chose to fly into San Jose for this brewery visit so that I had a fairly short drive down to Santa Cruz, or the neighborhood of Capitola where SARA is located. I also visited a newer brewery known as New Bohemia Brewing a short distance away. Both breweries complement each other nicely.
SARA is a cult favorite for their sours and farmhouse ales, many of which are bottled and released exclusively from the taproom. I happened to visit when they were releasing bottles of Lady in Grey and they also had bottles available of their Farmhouse Noir, a dark sour. I tried a number of different beers over two separate visits including the Chavez porter, Lady in Grey, Anais saison, Vanilla Joe, and 831 IPA. The Chavez porter is a very smooth and delicious beer with hints of vanilla and chocolate with a mild roast at the finish. This is the base beer for many of their adjunct versions including Vanilla Joe, made with vanilla and coffee. The Vanilla Joe was a delicious mix of coffee and vanilla and so popular that it was no longer available when I returned for my second visit. This was also my husband’s favorite beer.
The Lady in Grey is a delicious complex oaked blonde with a dry finish and bright fruit notes. I enjoyed this one and picked up a few bottles for myself and a few friends back home. The Anais is a super fruity saison with mild funk and an earthy finish. The 831 IPA is quite fruity with darnk pine at the finish. I found the IPA to be overly bitter at the finish, not from hops but from something else. This is an issue they have identified and should be fixing for future batches. I also got to try the Farmhouse Noir thanks to a kind regular who bought a bottle for us to share. I had already purchased some to bring home but it was not available on tap. Famhouse Noir was a delicious dark sour with just the right amount of tart finish and lots of fruit and mild vinegar. I look forward to exploring the flavors of this beer more when I open the bottle I brought back with me.
On the two different days I visited SARA had quite a few people even as early as 12PM. The first day I visited was a Saturday which also happened to be a bottle release day so people were lining up for bottles and hanging around for beers. When I stopped by the next day there were no lines and the crowd was a little smaller but still respectable. There is plenty of seating available for people to hang around for a while. Flights are not available but they serve everything in half pours or full pours and the servers do a great job of explaining the beer styles prior to ordering something.
As SARA attempts to re-create the Farmhouse styles from Belgium, New Bohemia puts a lot of effort into creating German style pilsner, heffeweizen, and Vienna lager. I tried the pilsner, IPA, Mole Stout, Double Duchess coffee porter, and black IPA on nitro. The pilsner is super clean and delicious with a medium body and light German hop kick to balance out the bready pilsner malt. I passed on the heffeweizen because it is the Bavarian style which I don’t particularly like (tending to taste of banana and cloves).
The IPA was super smooth and juicy with notes of tangerine and melon, with a nice amber color. This is in line with the modern style of IPAs with lower bitterness and more hop aromas and was very impressive. The mole stout was deliciously balanced with the coffee, chocolate, and chilies all blending together perfectly. The chocolate and chilies trade off at the finish and the beer is smooth all the way through. The Double Duchess coffee porter is thick and delicious with tons of coffee flavor and a mildly sweet finish. The black IPA is served on nitro and it does a great job of mellowing the hops further while offering a super smooth finish. The hops are given a chance to shine and like the IPA it isn’t overly bitter.
For a new brewery I was quite impressed by the delicious beers offered at New Bohemia, though the brewer has a ton of experience at other places prior to opening up his own brewery. There is a little something for everyone here and the large number of stouts available was quite nice to see. We originally stopped by for a flight of four tasters but returned later for more because they ran out of the Vanilla Joe at SARA so we had to have more Double Duchess instead. That is how delicious it was.
In my short trip to Austin I visited only two breweries, in part because I was currently on a break from alcohol (or about to start one) and also because some of the local breweries don’t offer tasters. But the two breweries I did visit were the most highly recommended and they were both delicious in their own way.
Hops and Grain
Hops and Grain is closer to downtown austin while Jester King is far out from the city. It is certainly much easier to visit Hops and Grain. Rather than a taster flight, they sell you a glass and you can fill that glass four different times for $10. It isn’t a bad deal per ounce but for someone who was wanting to cut back, wasn’t the best either. I was glad that they used a 10 ounce glass instead of a pint glass like I encountered at some other breweries. I stuck to some of the lower alcohol options and found most of them to be quite tasty. I tried the Zoe lager, the Alt altbier, the mosaic pale and the baltic style porter.
The lager was super smooth and had notes of peach and light floral hops with a bready malt finish. It was one of the better lagers that I have had. The Altbier was super smooth and flavorful with a nice German malt flavor. I don’t have much familiarity with the style so I can’t say if it was a good example of it. The Mosaic Pale was a very well done pale in the modern style with lots of fruity hops and low on the malt bill. It stands up to some of the best San Diego pale ales. The porter was roasty and very tasty with notes of rasin and dark chocolate.
The brewery is a great place to hang out when it is quiet but it can also get quite noisy during the middle of a busy Saturday. They do have some outdoor seating out front but because it is in the sun I didn’t go out there. Not only am I quite sensitive to the sun’s rays, so are beers. I was quite impressed by the beers that I tasted and wish I could have tasted more in a more traditional taster size. They are also walking distance from Mueller’s Meats, a great local BBQ joint that has lines but nothing ridiculous.
I also visited Jester King despite the long drive. It is probably a good 30 minutes outside Downtown Austin, which means driving along some windy roads to get there, many of them only two lanes. It is one of the biggest outdoor brewery locations I have visited. They do offer individual tasters of each of the beers but I was disappointed that they gave you full size glasses with each one, which meant it was a bit difficult for you to carry around a large number of tasters. Still, because they serve tasters I tried seven beers at Jester King.
I wasn’t too excited by the two smaller beers I tasted, the Petit Prince or the Audio Palette. They are both mainstays but seemed to be a little lacking in flavor for my tastes. Still it is worth trying them if you go so you can decide if you like them and want to buy bottles to take home rather than blindly buying bottles. Noble King was a solid farmhouse ale with light citrus and lemon notes and hints of spices. The Multifarious smoked stout was very smoky, and ultimately the only one we didn’t finish drinking. The smoke was a bit too much for us.
The Ol Oi sour brown was really smooth and not too sour with a really smooth oaky finish. I left with a few bottles of this because it was one of the more impressive dark sours I have tasted. The 2015 Autumnal Dichotomous was really smooth and slightly sweet, a very delicious farmhouse ale that hits my saison spot. I left with a few bottles of this one as well and look forward to seeing how they age. The last beer I tried was the Bufords Roadside Wares, a colaboration with Arizona Wilderness brewing. It was mildly tart with some dark fruit flavor and some acidic finish. It was a solid beer but I didn’t like it enough to buy any bottles especially because it cost a few dollars more than the others.
For a highly hyped brewery a long distance from the town I was glad I went out and visited Jester King. If I went out again I would skip some of the lighter alcohol beers in favor of the more complex sours and farmhouse ales. The ones I liked though were absolutely delicious, which is where I think the hype comes from. If you do happen to like their lighter beers you can find them in the local Whole Foods stores as well, though I didn’t compare the pricing.
Ol Oi Dark sour
2015 Autumnal Dichotomous farmhouse ale