Tag Archives: Sour Beer

Creature Comforts and The Southern Brewing Company Athens GA

Creature Comforts

Athens Georgia is a small college town about an hour and a half drive East of Atlanta. I visited mainly for Creature Comforts and while I was planning the trip I read about The Southern Brewing Company and their barrel aging program. People rave about the Tropicalia IPA from Creature Comforts, though when I tasted it, it didn’t blow me away, perhaps because I assumed from the name it was going to be a hazy IPA. I had two IPAs at Creature Comforts and they were both excellent examples of the West Coast style of IPA, hop-forward, low malt bill, and crisp dry finish while not too bitter.

What really impressed me though was their berliner-weisse. I didn’t drink any of the base while I was there but when I visited they had a number of versions available. Both the Terry Swish, with three kinds of fruit, and the dry-hopped variant were fantastic. I enjoyed both of them so much that I brought back a six pack of the base to explore it further. I enjoyed the cans so much that I wished I had brought back a second six-pack. This is the new standard against which I will rate berliner-weisse beers for some time.

 

 

San Diego breweries sell a lot of fruited berliner weisse and gose but usually they go a bit too light on the fruit for my tastes. This one was bursting with fruit and so good that I got two of it out of the tour. The dry-hopped version was perfectly balanced, with tons of hop aromas and no bitterness. The fruity hops went nicely with the citrus kick of the gose.

A note on the way breweries sell beer in Georgia, or at least while I visited, they can’t sell beer directly. Instead, they sell you a tour that includes a glass and six six-ounce pours. They have tours available but you don’t have to take one. It is their way around the silly laws. Other silly laws limit your ability to take home beers, so that you can’t buy more than 72 ounces of beer to go in one day per person. The tour thing should be changing soon for smaller breweries based on a law that has already been passed, which would allow them to sell directly. It will be interestin to see if they start doing taster flights like other tasting rooms.

Creature Comforts makes some great beers and everything I tasted when I visited was well-made. I also brought home a bottle of one of their sours to try later. They have a large open tasting room with plenty of seating inside and outside and it can get quite busy on weekends. I happened to visit on a particularly busy weekend because it was graduation time for many and they celebrated by going to breweries.


Top 2:
Terry Swirl
Dry-hopped Berliner-Weisse

The Southern Brewing Company

Compared to Creature Comforts’ West Coast style IPAs, everything hoppy I had at The Southern Brewing Company was more malty in the classic style. I didn’t even bother with their IPA once I realized it was as malty as their pale ale. There is nothing wrong with the style but I don’t particularly enjoy drinking it. The pale ale was really well made and a good mix of fruity hops and biscuit notes from the malts.

What I really enjoyed was their Berliner weisse and their Cherokee Rose. The Berliner weisse was complex and balanced. The Cherokee Rose tasted like an earthy saison with some mild funk. They also had a barrel-aged saison on tap that was funky as expected and nicely done. I also enjoyed their mexican-chocolate stout that was left over from Cinco De Mayo. It was appropriately balanced and medium body with notes of spice and mild hot pepper heat on top of a nice roasty stout.

I wanted to try some of the sours they were selling bottles of but besides the saison I couldn’t try them. Thankfully I found a bottle of their peach sour at a local shop and brought one of those bottles home along with their bourbon barrel aged stout. Southern also had a nice tasting room with an even larger lawn area for people to hang out in the sun. It is a shame California has such restrictive laws that require enclosed spaces at breweries or we could have something similar. They used the space to put on live music and it was good and relaxing. The crowd was even more insane at Southern.

If the sours from both breweries turn out as good as I hope, it makes for a great visit to enjoy the laid-back town of Athens and have some great beer while you are there.

Since writing this post, I tasted the peach sour and barrel-aged stout I brought back with. The peach sour was well-made though pretty standard for the style. The barrel-aged stout was also quite tasty though a bit thin because I assume they blend it down after aging in the barrel. It is a nice change from some of the thick sludgy stouts I see a lot of. Both were nicely done but not something I would make a separate trip to buy bottles of.

Top 2:
Cherokee Rose
Mexican-Chocolate Stout

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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Blue Owl and Zilker Brewing Austin Texas

Blue Owl Brewing

Blue Owl is a brewery that does all sour mash beers, which means for every style of beer they make a kettle sour even their pale ale, or their stout. Both Blue Owl and Zilker are very close to each other so they are easy to visit in one trip. The last time I was in Austin I brought back a six pack of the Blue Owl sour pale. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t particularly delicious. I decided to return to see if some of their other beers in cans grab me enough to buy some and if not save the six packs for those who like it. Blue Owl does not sell individual pours so you must buy a glass and they will fill the glass four times for the price. Thankfully they offer multiple sizes. I went for the half pint size, or 8 ounces.

I started with the sour red, which was malty, mildly tart, and easy drinking. The sour stout was an interesting mix of caramel roast, light sweetness, mild cherry notes, and a mild tart kick. I enjoyed this the most of the beers I tried and considered grabbing some cans. The raspberry Belgian strong tasted like cough syrup, sticky and notes of cherry. The sour wee heavy I couldn’t finish even though it was a bit more balanced than others. It had notes of cherry and caramel and a strong acidity that was a bit overpowering.

Blue Owl is worth a visit if you want to try some kettle sours but I would recommend going for the smaller taster option. I also think the sour mash works better with the lighter core beers.

Known For: 

Blue Owl brews exclusively kettle sours, which means this is not a brewery to visit if you crave IPAs or stouts.

Zilker Brewing

I visited Zilker the day after their second anniversary party. They serve flights without needing to buy the glass. I started with the blackberry kettle sour, which had a gorgeous dark purple color and a great mix of berry flavor and mild tart kick. I ended up ordering a full pour of this before I left. If you see a fruity kettle sour on tap, be sure to try it. The Marco IPA was a nicely done classic IPA with a malt balance and notes of pine and herbal hops. The anniversary IPA was a solid example of the classic West Coast style IPA, blending citrus and pine with a light malt backbone. The coffee stout was nicely done with a good mix of roast and coffee.

Zilker was my last stop for the day so I didn’t try their numerous lighter options, though they had many on tap. Everything I tried was well-made. If you are more into classic styles of hoppy beers, Zilker is the place to visit, otherwise those looking for the juicy hazy IPAs should visit Pinthouse Pizza. If you can schedule your visit to Zilker when they have a fruited kettle sour on tap, it is worth it.

Top 2:
Blackberry kettle sour
Anniversary 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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Good Beer Company and Cismontane Brewing Santa Ana California

The Good Beer Company

Despite the completely generic name, The Good Beer Company is anything but generic. I had heard great things about them prior to visiting from those who love sour and wild ales, though like many breweries experimenting with the style, having a flight of tasters can get quite expensive. I decided to stick to one full beer and ordered an apricot sour they had on tap. It was tart and dry with a strong apricot kick and a high overall acidity. I found the beer to be solidly above average.

Good Beer Company 01

I could tell that the brewery makes things in small batches and the tap list changes fairly regularly. Everything on tap was either a farmhouse ale, a wild ale, or a sour. Tasters range from $2 to $4 and so it made more sense to order a full pour of the apricot beer. They are in an old brick building and the place gets quite loud. In a future trip I hope to try some more of their varied offerings but what I tasted suggests that they are on the right track.

Good Beer Company 02

Known for:
This is a place to visit if you enjoy farmhouse ales, wild ales, or sours.

Cismontane Brewing

Cismontane Brewing 01

Located in the heart of Santa Ana it is easy to overlook Cismontane despite having been open for five years now due to its proximity to fan favorites in Anaheim. However, the short distance can take a long time to travel during peak hours making Cismontane a great stop if you are staying in Santa Ana since it is close to John Wayne airport. I had a flight of five tasters and overall it was solidly average. While beer geeks driving down from LA or up from San Diego may not always stop here, it is a good spot for locals.

Cismontane Brewing 03

The CA Lager was smooth and clean with notes of caramel and fruit, a great rendition of the style. The Rye IPA was a mix of floral and pine on the nose and sticky and dank mouthfeel. It is a well-balanced IPA and not too bitter. The Sour Brown anniversary ale was a perfect balance of caramel and citrus tartness and true to style. The porter was strong on the dark fruit notes with tons of cherry and mild molasses. It wasn’t really my thing. The imperial stout on nitro was excellent with tons of roast and caramel with mild smoke, though also a bit dry, thus not so sweet.

Cismontane Brewing 02

Top 2:
California Lager
Sour Brown

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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Breakside Brewing Portland Oregon

Breakside also came highly recommended for my latest Portland trip. Most of the beers I had when I visited were solid but it is hard to follow something like Great Notion. They didn’t have any of their sours on tap, though I did bring a few home with me so I finish with some information about those sours. I had six tasters, mostly a mix of hoppy beers and stouts.
Breakside 01
The pilsner was quite good with a good mix of spice and fruit and a mild bitterness at the finish. The Breakside IPA was a good balance of pine and fruity notes, a nice modern take on the Pacific Northwest style of IPA. I preferred this over the Wanderlust IPA, which was more dry and had strong notes of citrus with a mild bitter finish. Though part of that might be that they call Wanderlust “West Coast style” and I think they slightly missed the mark here.
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I was very excited to try their salted caramel stout but I found it to be smoky and quite mildly sweet with minimal caramel. The bourbon barrel aged salted caramel had a thicker body and a solid bourbon finish with a good amount of sweetness and some mild salt. This was the highlight of the stouts for sure. The Breakside Stout had some notes of caramel and roast but it was overpowered by a strong bitter finish that I didn’t care for.
Breakside 02
From what I had on tap I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to visit Breakside for stouts, though they are doing a good job with the modern hoppy beer styles. They also have a restaurant so the place was full of brunch crowds as well when we visited on an early Sunday afternoon.
I came home with a brett pale ale and dark sour. Both were quite good for the style and I’m glad I picked them up. The dark sour was especially nice and smooth without being overly tart.
Top 2:
Breakside IPA
Bourbon Barrel Aged Salted Caramel Stout.

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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De Garde Brewing Tillamook Oregon – Delicious Wild Ales

De Garde has a reputation for making fantastic wild ales in their brewery near the Oregon coast. To get there you will probably have to drive from Portland for an hour and a half minimum in each direction through windy roads and a pass that sometimes gets snow when it is cold enough. I visited in late February 2017 and it rained most of our drive through the pass to the west and snowed the night we stayed out there so that it was coated in white on our drive back East. This is one of the few breweries that has completely lived up to the hype for me. If you don’t want to make the long drive you can usually find their beers around the Portland area. They are even showing up occasionally in San Diego as well.

De Garde 01

In the tasting room you have a choice between paying $3 for a 6 ounce pour or $4 for a 12 ounce pour, so I naturally stuck to full pours before ordering a bottle out of their cellar. While there is outdoor seating, since it tends to rain quite a bit, if you arrive on a rainy day you might find the tasting room a lot more packed with people than it was on the day of sun when I visited. I started with the famed Bu Weisse, a 2.5% beer that is still quite flavorful thanks to the time it spends in oak barrels. The beer had a good medium body and notes of lemon and lime with oak on the finish. The brewery regularly makes fruited versions of this same beer but I much preferred its base version. They also make a stronger version that spends much longer in the barrels.

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I went next for the Nectarine Premiere, a fruity beer that I was quite excited to try after the rave reviews. It is not a standard stone fruit sour but instead is a soft juicy beer with minimal tartness that at times reminds me of fruit puree. It hides the alcohol well and was so delicious I had to bring home quite a few bottles for myself. With a choice on tap between fruited Bu and a beer I recently had down in San Diego, I ordered one of the bottles from the cellar, the purple kriek, a beer brewed with cherries and raspberries. This is more of the traditional lambic style beer with a strong tart finish but still plenty of prominent cherry and raspberry notes. The acidity was quite prominent so I opted to share some with people near me.

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De Garde 05

Before heading home I purchased some bottles of De Garde’s Saison Facile, their wild saison. In Portland I picked up two bottles of the Alt Bu Weisse, aged for 3 years in oak barrels. This is one of the few breweries outside from major cities that I can see myself visiting again for all the delicious beers they release throughout the year. It also helps that most of the bottles are priced lower than most California breweries making the same styles of wild ales and sours. If you happen to be traveling with a friend who doesn’t like sours, they tend to have a few stouts on tap from other breweries to satisfy them.

De Garde 02

Known for:
Come for wild ales, lambics, and sours. Though they usually have a few guest beers on tap.

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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Miami Breweries – J Wakefield and Wynwood Brewing

J Wakefield Brewing

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.

J Wakefield 01

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.

J Wakefield 02

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.

J Wakefield 03

Known For:
Come for fruited berliner weisse and intense adjunct stouts.

Top 2:
One Trick Pony
Brush

Wynwood Brewing

Wynwood Brewing 01

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.

Wynwood Brewing 03

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 Brewing 02

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.

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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Alvarado Street Brewing Monterey California

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.
Alvarado Street Brewing 02
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.
Alvarado Street Brewing 03
Yes that one in the center is an IPA.
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.
Alvarado Street Brewing 05
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.
Top 2: 
Minesweeper IPA
Wharf Rat 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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Reno Area Breweries Part 2 – IMBIB, Pigeon Head, and Under the Rose

IMBIB Brewing

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Top 2:
Abiogenesis – wine barrel aged dark saison
boysenberry brett sour

Pigeon Head Brewing

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Top 2:
Red rye lager
ginger peach saison

Under the Rose

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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.

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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.

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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.

reno-23

Top 2:
Aged porter
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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Visiting Cantillon in Brussels, a Pilgrimage Worth Making

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.

We started with the Fou Foune, a delicious peach beer.
We started with the Fou Foune, a delicious apricot beer.

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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.

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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.

The group I joined when I was at the brewery.
The group I joined when I was at the brewery.

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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.

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All the bottles we finished.
All the bottles we finished.

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.

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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Sacramento Area Breweries, Knee Deep, Moonraker, Mraz, Track 7, and Others

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Known for:
Come to Knee Deep for big strong hoppy beers. Almost everything they make is over 7%

Moonraker

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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.

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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.

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Gotta love their tasting board and how they tell you how hoppy things are.

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.

Known for:
Moonraker has recently gotten popular for cloudy juicy IPAs though I was not impressed by what I had.

Black Vinyl Ale House

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Known for:
Mraz is known for sours and Belgian style beers though their kettle sours need a bit of work.

Track 7

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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.

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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.

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Known for:
Visit Track 7 for IPAs

Device Brewing

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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