When I first visited Side Project a few years ago I ended up at their Cellar location, where they serve not just their own beers but many varieties of guest beers. I didn’t realize at the time that the main brewery location was down the street. Still, I returned a few years later, in March of 2018, because I was generally impressed by the quality of the beers the first time and my friends continue to post about how good they are. On this return trip, I was able to try three interesting beers on tap and ordered a bottle for on-site consumption because I wanted to taste something with fruit.
I started with the Foedre Fremier, a foedre aged golden sour. I enjoyed that it was complex tart and funky with a nice buttery oak finish. After that, I tried the Provence Lapsang, a barrel aged Saison with tea and orange peels added. While initially I thought the foedre version was more complex of the two, as both of the beers warmed up I’d had a difficult time differentiating between the two.
The Noir Fremier was creamy with light roast and notes of honey and citrus with vanilla on the finish from the bourbon barrels. I enjoyed this the most of the three on tap and brought home a bottle for myself. In order to taste some of their more sought after beers, I ended with a bottle of fence row. This is a popular blackberry sour that they bottle. I initially thought it had aromas of mustard although as it warmed up I found it mildly acidic, smooth and dry with flavors of a dry red wine with notes of berries. I thought overall that the berry character could have been much stronger but it was a solid beer.
While I was at side project, they also had some new IPAs that they were releasing. I did not try those because I was focusing on the sours. However, they appeared to be quite popular and there was a can release that same day. I look forward to trying more beers from side project in the future. When combined with the other breweries in the Saint Louis area, it is worth a trip out to Side Project or connecting with some locals to trade for some of their beers.
Come for farmhouse ales and wild ales though they recently started brewing IPAs and other clean styles as well.
Karl Strauss has been putting on a big anniversary party for a number of years now. I talked to quite a few beer nerds at other events who always told me that this was one to go to. Some said they had been attending the Changing of the Barrels every year for four years or more. I quite enjoyed it this year though mainly because I really liked the new anniversary saison aged in wine barrels with pink peppercorns. It should be tasting great at next year’s event too assuming they save some for that. If you missed the event, the saison may be available at the breweries for a week or two after.
Karl Strauss has a large tasting-room location off the 5 freeway a few miles north of Balboa and Garnet. I would have enjoyed it more if they had not sold so many tickets because the area got incredibly crowded and the lines were somewhat long both for beer and food. If you grab a beer before getting in line for food, you likely finished your beer before you get to the front of the line. Same thing if you eat your food in the line for beer. They had two stations for beer as opposed to festivals I’m used to where the beer is spread out among 20+ tents. The lines did move fairly quickly thanks to everyone having their own glass already.
For the beers they had three sour beers, three versions of the new saison (standard, cask with strawberry, and nitro), two barrel-aged imperial stouts (a third variety was consumed by the VIP group), a 14% imperial stout, and the rest of the list was mostly their standard year-round beers. There were a few new beers that they recently released and most people probably hadn’t tried yet, including two new IPAs. As someone who visits Karl Strauss fairly regularly, I come to an event like this for the barrel-aged stuff and I found the options a bit limited.
I was the biggest fan of the new saison, which was incredibly balanced with a mix of funk, red wine character, and just a hint of peppercorn. The fruit in the cask version was quite subtle though it was a nice variation. Fear of the Tart, a barrel-aged dark sour was also quite nice and a lot lower alcohol than I normally see for a dark sour. This would make a nice year round sour if they could produce it more regularly. Another favorite of mine was the wild ride, a sour that uses Red Trolley as a base and is aged on raspberries. I had previously rated this beer quite highly at a sour festival and it was equally impressive here with a restrained sour finish. Sadly it ran out half way through the evening so I couldn’t go back for seconds.
As for the stouts, the 30th anniversary stood out as nicely attenuated for 14%. It hid the alcohol well and wasn’t overly sweet or syrupy as is common with beers that high of alcohol. It reminds me of the imperial stouts at Red Horn in northern Austin, which is quite impressive. It should age quite nicely between now and next year and I can hardly imagine how crazy it could get if aged in bourbon barrels. The barrel aged rye imperial stout was quite tasty and similarly dry though surprisingly thin for 12% as well. The 27th anniversary ran out before general admission got inside so I didn’t get to see how it was holding up. They had two newer IPAs including their Boat Shoes, a slightly hazy un-filtered beer they recently canned and Isomerizer, a mosaic IPA that is being canned soon.
I wasn’t sure what to expect for the food but with so many people they decided to have each food truck offer three different courses, separated by 45 minutes. Each individual serving was quite small and each time a new item was ready, people lined up to grab it. I would have assumed a wider variety of available food when buying the ticket. All of the food was meat-focused. Both food trucks did a great job with the food. Beer people didn’t seem excited by the salad so I got to get quite a few of those. Mastiff won the day for me with the delicious pig fries (potato served with pulled pork, sausage, and pork belly) and the pork nugs (crispy pork belly squares). Biersal served a delicious tri-tip sandwich with a tasty jalapeno chimichurri sauce.
As a vegetarian, I had no choice but to eat the meat served or miss out on a significant part of why I bought the ticket and drink on an empty stomach. Thankfully I don’t have any health conditions that prevent me from eating meat but not all vegetarians have the same luxury. I don’t expect breweries to have vegetarian options at all events but it would be nice if they made a note on the site that food was likely to be all meat-focused. I would have been able to adjust my expectations accordingly. Of course they did advertise two meat-focused food trucks but Mastiff does make some amazing vegan sausages.
As for the overall experience, I found the lines much longer than ideal. However, without setting up jockey boxes around the seating area the only way to change that is to sell less tickets. Since both my general admission ticket and my mom’s designated driver tickets included a bottle of the barrel-aged saison, a beer that I quite enjoyed, I was still overall satisfied. It had a unique taste from other local barrel-aged saisons. We got to taste next year’s beer as a preview which I assume will be aged in some sort of barrel for next year. Even if they don’t barrel age it, the 30th anniversary imperial stout should age nicely by next January.
Considering the reasonable ticket price of $45 for general admission including food, beers, and a bottle the Changing of the Barrels event was a solid value. Though I was slightly irked by the lines they could have been a lot worse. And the lines for the food somewhat stopped me from over-eating.
The last time I was in Minneapolis I didn’t try anything at Indeed because they were packed due to a special event down the street from them. I could see the crowd of people outside and suspected the inside crowd was just as crazy. Thankfully this time they were much more reasonably crowded and I got to try a few beers. One thing to note though is they don’t serve tasters of anything so I was not able to try more than 4 beers before moving on to the next stop.
I started with their Zwickel, an un-filtered Pilsner. It was crisp and dry with cracker notes and light grape character. I would have preferred more intense lager yeast character but it was well-made and easy drinking. I tried splashes of 3 of their hoppy beers before ordering a cask of their Let it Roll with extra hops. It was super creamy with notes of pine and a mix of floral and herbal bite on the finish with low bitterness. I enjoyed this the most of the hoppy beers they had though I still would have preferred more fruit character.
The Mango Helio was their mango sour. It had intense juicy mango character at times tasting like candied mango with a light tart finish. The Rum King imperial stout had intense tropical rum character with a creamy base that hid the alcohol quite well. I found the beer to be fairly thin and the flavors to lack complexity. I didn’t taste much more than rum.
Indeed had a great lineup of beers and I would have loved to have tried more than I did but what I had was quite good. If you are in MSP for a weekend Indeed is a great stop and they are properly recommended as one of the better breweries in the area.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
San Diego has its share of world class breweries. There are certain names in the beer world where you know whatever beer you order from them will be excellently made. At Bar Sin Nombre the tap list features beers from these breweries on the regular. Belgian beers from a couple of breweries are regular highlights as well as Belgian inspired beers from within the US. You will always find a few select IPAs and stouts along with some excellent lagers. By keeping the number of IPAs on the board fairly small, they can rotate through IPAs to ensure that whatever you find is fresh.
They post updated tap list regularly on Facebook so you can see ahead of time what to expect. There is also a great selection of beers in bottles and wines for those who don’t drink beer.
Each beer is served in specific pours ranging from 8oz to 18oz with glassware selected to leave plenty of room for head. Most of the Belgian-style beers and sours are served in 8oz tulip glasses. I am especially glad that the larger pints are served in Impeiral Pint glasses and not the usual shaker pint glasses that I am surprised are still used at major bars around town.
The bar draws massive crowds occasionally when they share on Facebook that they have a special Cantillon on tap or other excellent beer. I have visited both when it is insanely busy, where I missed the Cantillon but saw a number of my fellow beer enthusiasts and more recently on a lazy Saturday where the crowd was light but still quite respectable.
The outside front has no sign telling you where to go, as part of the nameless theme but you won’t have any difficulty finding the place. The inside decor is simple with standard bar stools and plenty of spaces to stand around the outer walls. If you come on a particularly busy day you may barely be able to walk through the place. Though it only opened in Mid-November 2017, Bar Sin Nombre has already become a regular spot for local beer enthusiasts to visit, knowing that they will always find world class beer and meet people who appreciate the same.