Bay City Brewing has been open for three months or so and I have heard nothing but praise for their San Diego Pale since they opened. Quite a few friends of mine have visited them with regularity whenever they can. I was excited to see what I would find when I visited on on November 15, 2015. They had a number of beers on tap but at $12 a flight of four tasters (ouch!) I only tasted four plus the additional taste the bartender passed to me. I had the stout, San Diego Pale (7.7!), Sour Brown, and Sour Wheat. I also had a taste of the coffee pale ale that the bartender brought over.
The stout was thick and a mix between a light smoke and a heavy roast plus some medium amount of bitterness. My husband wasn’t very impressed by it and thought it had a sour aftertaste. I found it to be a solid example of the style though I probably wouldn’t order more than a taster. The San Diego Pale was very much the typical West Coast style IPA, a mixture of fruit and citrus hops though this specific batch had a bit too much simcoe in balance to the rest of the hops, giving it a sticky sweet finish that I didn’t care for. Others came in and ordered pints without complaints so perhaps I just don’t like simcoe as much as everyone else. It is also possible that this batch turned out a little different than what everyone else was raving about, but I don’t see it.
The two sours were not particularly impressive either. The sour brown they said had some sarsaparilla and bourbon chips added, which I could tell maybe two sips out of the whole taster but for most of it I got a generally off-putting sour taste that missed all of what I tend to like about sours. It may benefit from some time in a barrel aging but as it was didn’t do anything for me. The sour wheat was fairly typical to what smaller breweries have put out when doing their first berliner weisse. It was a light bodied wheat with heavy citrus punch primarily lemon. This one at least had a clear flavor that it was trying to present, though I have had better. The coffee pale ale was tasty, mixing a mildly bitter low malt pale ale with a smooth coffee.
Located a good mile behind Modern Times (I expect most people will come visit them from the 5 Freeway and go past Rosecrans to get there), Bay City Brewing needs to do something unique to get people to visit them over Modern Times. I didn’t find much that stood out from them. You can also hear the cars driving by the nearby freeway while you are there, which takes away from the whole experience. Plus while I was there they had some pounding techno on in the background that I wasn’t a fan of either. As a young brewery they certainly have some time to perfect their sours and get their San Diego Pale to be consistent but for now I don’t see much reason to visit them over Modern Times when I am in the area.
San Diego Beer Week has been around for a few years now. Many other cities do similar things where they have special events for the week. Some people in San Diego think the whole idea is silly because we have fantastic beer available all year round. Still, I found the events to be interesting enough that I am glad to have taken part. All these special events can get quite expensive but even more so if you go to all the bigger festivals and pay for a round trip on Uber. Thankfully I was able to get someone to be the designated driver for most days so that I didn’t drive under the influence.
Day 1 – Alpine and Green Flash Takeover at O’Brien’s Pub
Day 1 of San Diego Beer Week 2015 started at O’Brien’s pub, a place I returned multiple times during the week because it is the closest bar that had special things going on. For Alpine and Green Flash takeover night they brought a bunch of Green Flash Cellar 3 beers as well as many delicious Alpine IPAs. Having recently visited Alpine to taste HFS IPA, I split a pitcher of this fantastic IPA with a friend, though I ended up giving him 2/3 of my second glass because I got him a Flanders Drive from Cellear 3 and he didn’t like it. My husband later joined us and had a glass of Odin’s Raven imperial stout from Alpine that I helped him with. I was surprised they poured this in a pint because it is so strong.
Day 2 – Sour Day at O’Brien’s Pub
I showed up around 2PM at O’Brien’s Pub for their sour beer takeover. At $4 a taster, or $24 for 6 5oz tasters it was an expensive visit (one that would be repeated later in the week) but the beers were quite delicious and I was able to sip them for a while. This is also normal price for sours anywhere you find them. I had the delicious Almanac Valley of the Heart’s Delight (an apricot sour), Karl Strauss Wild Ride, Russian River Supplication (a sour made with cherries and aged in wine barrels) Manzanita Brewing 5th Anniversary (their first ever wild ale), and The Bruery’s Oude Tarte (2013). All of them were quite tasty but I especially liked the Valley of the Heart’s Delight. Both Karl Strauss and Manzanita’s offerings were well-done and tasted like proper sours. The atmosphere at the sour day was nice and calm so I was able to chat with people outside and at some point read without a noisy crowd. I stuck to these five tasters so that I could drive home safely.
Day 3 – Award Winning Coffee Beers at Pizza Port Ocean Beach
In the mid-afternoon on Sunday my husband and I visited Pizza Port Ocean Beach for their award winning coffee beer day, which included their own recent bronze winning Bacon and Eggs coffee stout, Beachwood Brewing’s recent silver winning Pablo Escobeer (a Colombian coffee stout on nitro) and New English Brewing’s recent gold winning Zumbar imperial coffee and chocolate stout. I had a pint of the Bacon and Eggs for the first time that day and it was really delicious, giving me plenty of smooth nutty coffee that also had a nice caffeine bite. My husband really enjoyed the Beachwood offering on nitro as well. Then I ordered a glass of the 18th Anniversary from Firestone Walker (most likely a hold over from a previous barrel-aged event). This was a fantastic beer, blending a variety of different barrel aged beers. We also enjoyed a slice of the brunch pizza that they had along with the beers and it paired really nicely with the coffee stouts.
On our way back we stopped by Alesmith for their barrel aged beer day, which meant a flight of Beer Geek Speedway, Jamaican Blue Mountain Speedway, Velvet, and Bourbon Barrel Aged Speedway. I had heard mixed things about the Beer Geek Speedway in the past but I thought it was quite tasty. Jamaican Blue Mountain was tasting smooth as usual. And of course Velvet is the most smooth of the bunch. I’m still surprised by how fast the bottles sold out when it was put on sale but it is a delicious beer. Velvet is a bourbon barrel aged version of Jamaican Blue Mountain with vanilla added.
Day 4 – Imperial Stout Release at Duck Foot Brewing and GreenFlash 13th Anniversary Beer Release
I visited Duck Foot to start off my Monday for their new Ukrainian Imperial Stout release. The beer had a delicious caramel kick with some dark chocolate notes despite not having any adjuncts added. After our first sip of the taster, we ordered an 8 ounce to share as well. They also released a raspberry version later in the week but I didn’t get around to try that. They also filled six barrels that previously held Heaven Hill Bourbon with this beer for a future barrel-aged release. Based on the delicious base beer, I am very excited to see how this turns out.
Green Flash released their Handshake IPA as their 13th Anniversary beer. This is a collaboration IPA with Alpine. The beer is a smooth IPA with a strong grapefruit flavor. I was glad to see a few other Alpine beers available as well on tap, including HFS, Bad Boy, Hop Box, and their Ales for ALS IPA. I had an 8 ounce of the HFS and an 8 ounce of the ALS IPA. Both were delicious. I really liked the light flavors of the ALS IPA and the solid grapefruit flavor.
Day 5 – Beer and Cheese Pairing at The Winesellar and Brasserie
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this beer and cheese pairing but it turned out to be a mini beer festival of sorts. They had a medium-sized room with five breweries and one meadery and two more breweries outside. In all they had Iron Fist, Port Brewing/Lost Abbey, Saint Archer, New English, Golden Coast Mead, Helms, Duck Foot, and Helix. Each of them was pouring four ounce pours of two different beers in a wine glass we got at the beginning. They also had cheese at each of the different stations that you could grab to eat with crackers to go with your beers.
Some of the highlights of this event for me were the Double IPA from Duck Foot, tasting really fresh that evening, Iron Fist’s Saison, New English Zumbar imperial stout, and the sour mead from Golden Coast Mead. Some friends chose to boycott Saint Archer because of their recent sale to Miller/Coors but I like their coffee brown ale so I had a little of that. The only downside to the event was that they didn’t have much bread available. Some fresh bread showed up a few times during the event but it disappeared so fast I didn’t get much. This was a great little intimate event and I was able to try some interesting cheese and beer pairings.
Day 6 – Fieldwork Takeover at O’Brien’s and Modern Times Takeover at Regent’s Pizzeria
Fieldwork brewing is a relatively new brewery up in Berkeley that was started by some brewers who formerly brewed for Modern Times. I got to visit them recently (my blog post will be coming up soon) and was impressed by their beers so I was glad to have another chance to try their beers locally. I was surprised when I noticed that a good number of the beers were different than the selection they had when I visited the brewery only a short time ago. I don’t know if they brew especially small batches but I really enjoyed the beers I had. I ordered a pint of the Shoreline IPA and a pint of the Gray Wolf double IPA. My husband joined me later and ordered a pint of the Morning Time Coffee Stout.
The Shoreline IPA was quite delicious and had many of the same flavors they described on the board, including citrus and jack fruit. The Gray Wolf double IPA was brewed with Nelson and Hallertau hops and it had a perfect fruity and citrus blend with a surprisingly low bitterness and delicious finish. My husband was satisfied with his Morning Time Coffee Stout. Modern Times brought a ton of beers to Regent’s Pizzeria and I only ordered their Monster’s Park Imperial Stout. It was good and thick with plenty of coffee and chocolate flavors. I was glad to see the massive beer selection at the place in person and will hope to visit them soon to see how the pizza is.
Day 7 – Speedway Grand Prix
The Speedway Grand Prix is something that I have done every year since I tried it the last time they had it at O’Brien’s. Each year they have 12 varieties of Speedway Stout available in 3 separate 2oz flights. I tend to go share with my mom and my neighbor because we each enjoy different flavors and so everyone enjoys what they have. Each year they also ask you to rate your favorite flavors so that they can see what was best received and possibly make that one again in larger quantities. Because the list of the different beers is available below along with my ratings I won’t go into all of the different beers, except for a few that really stood out.
I quite enjoyed the Triple Hammerhead, a coffee explosion of flavor that had a nice bitter after taste. It has a smooth espresso kick. I also really liked the Butterfinger flavor, with the right mix of peanut butter and caramel while not being overwhelming sweet. Peanut Butter and Jelly was really nice with Raspberries added that gave it just the right amount of sweet kick to balance the nuts. The hazelnut was also very smooth and had a nice addition of chocolate that balanced it out. Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and Sour Cherry were my two other favorites. I was surprised by how much the Oatmeal Raisin reminded me of the cookie.
There were also a few special versions of Speedway on tap, including a Pu-Erh tea variety and a separate Autumn blend that didn’t have as overpowering maple flavor as the other maple one. The Pu-Erh was so good I could barely distinguish it from other coffee varieties. The beer has some inherent coffee flavors that are still there without coffee added. They also had Reforged on tap, their anniversary blend of various bourbon barrel aged beers. Others reported that they had different specialty beers if you went on Wednesday or Friday instead. It was really a fantastic experience.
Day 8 – Barrel aged Beer Day at O’Briens
I returned to O’Briens for the last time to have some big barrel aged beers. I tried a number of barrel aged beers but I should have stuck with the ones from more well-known breweries because I was not very impressed by the barrel aged old ale from Widmer and Cigar City or the Rye Ale Sierra Nevada brewed for O’Brien’s 20th anniversary. Both were a bit lighter in body and lacking in the punch of some of the others. What I really did enjoy was the Uncle Jacob’s Stout (a 16.9% bourbon barrel aged beer from Avery Brewing) and Firestone Walker’s Parabola (a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout). If I go to a similar event in the future I would get more Firestone Walker offerings and some Lost Abbey stuff.
Day 9 – Bourbon Barrel Aged Day at New English
New English decided that rather than simply barrel aging their Zumbar imperial stout, they also put their brown ale in bourbon barrels. For this event they had five varieties of brown ale aged in bourbon barrels plus some other things and their Zumbar Imperial Stout aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. Though they had flights available I decided to only try three of the varieties since I had done so many flights this week already. The Heaven Hill aged Brown Ale had a really nice bourbon flavor, a little less sweet than the Woodford Reserve varieties. In comparison the 2013 Woodford Reserve aged version was a lot sweeter and more smooth though it lacked the same bourbon kick. The Heaven Hill aged Zumbar was absolutely delicious. The beer was silky smooth and the bourbon really accented the coffee and chocolate flavors of the beer. It came close to some of the better barrel aged beers the previous day, though it was not as high in alcohol as either of my favorites. I was overall quite impressed by the different ones I tried and very much look forward to having more of that Heaven Hill aged brown ale in the future.
Day 10 – Coffee, Donuts, and Stout at Benchmark Brewing
After the festivities of previous days, I wanted to keep things light. Thankfully Benchmark expected this and planned their second annual coffee, donuts, and stout. They offered a flight with tasters of their oatmeal stout and imperial stout plus a cold brew coffee on nitro and coffee infused versions of the oatmeal stout and imperial stout on cask. This was just the right amount to share with two others while enjoying the donuts they had along with it. Though I don’t regularly eat donuts, I really liked their peanut butter version and the coconut one. Both of the coffee added casks were delicious. They also paired really well with the beers. I preferred the imperial stout version but my neighbor liked the more subtle flavors of the coffee in the oatmeal stout.
I had a really great time with all of these events this week, though I will be taking a few days off to let my body recover after all that. It is hard to pick a favorite event but I think the best few events I visited were the barrel aged beer day at O’Briens, Speedway Grand Prix, and the Barrel Aged day at New English. What can I say? I love the imperial stouts.
Spain seems to be the place where you can find craft beers much more easily than London or Munich. Though every restaurant has beer (usually mass produced lager) and most serve sangria there are a decent number of bars to be found where you can taste a local ipa or other beers. In the area where I stayed alone there were at least four different options for enjoying craft beer from either Barcelona itself or Spain more generally. Local ipas were solid and hit that spot that had been only satisfied a few times in London and Reykjavik.
Before visiting I had only found one brewery, called Edge Brewing. It is run by a couple of Americans and I heard great things about it before visiting. They are only open on Saturday morning by appointment through the website site to visit directly but their beers tend to show up around town with regularity as well. I arrived at the brewery on Friday night based on old information, they used to be open only Friday evening, and was greeted by one of the brewers who was surprised I was there but graciously offered me information about other bars nearby and a few brew pubs. He also provided me two bottles for review. One of those suggestions was Black Lab, which was the only stop I was able to visit, because I wanted to be able to taste the bottles I got from Edge before flying back.
Prior to my visit to Edge Brewing and ultimately Black Lab brewpub I visited a couple of local bars in the Gothic Quarter. One was called La Cerveteca, located at Carrer d’En Gignàs, 25, 08002 Barcelona. They had five taps or so and serve a variety of Tapas. When I visited they didn’t have a ton of local beers on tap so I just had one IPA (Napar Insider IPA) before moving on. It was a tasty citrusy IPA and really hit the spot. I had some nice conversations with some other Americans in the bar as well.
Later that evening I visited another bar called Cat Bar, located at Carrer Boria, 1708003 Barcelona. Cat Bar also serves Vegan Burgers, though I didn’t try any of them. They had more local options available so I got to try some local IPA and Imperial Stout. I would recommend Cat Bar as the first choice of the two bars I visited due to a larger tap list. It appears they also have live music sometimes. I didn’t take notes so I can’t recall exactly what I ordered that evening.
I made my way to Black Lab brewpub and was welcomed by an English speaking owner/brewer who explained the multiple beers and food items. I ordered half pints of three of the offerings and had a banh mi sandwich along with them. Both the pale ale and ipa were very tasty with citrus/pineapple flavors and light malt bills. Their raspberry beer was also fantastic, with a light amount of tartness and a solid fruit flavor. If I had visited black lab sooner I might have taken a growler of the frambuesa to the beach. I was surprised that they both fill growlers and offer beer to go.
The banh mi sandwich was fabulous, served with house cut fries. It had both nice juicy chunks of pork and a creamy pate. The bun was one of the softest I’ve had a sandwich on before and it had a nice kick with a house spicy aoli and some jalapeños. The fries came with a dipping sauce similar to Mexican salsa. I then returned to my room where I had the two bottles from edge brewing, a pale ale and a double ipa. The pale was nice and balanced with a light amber color and some floral hops that weren’t overpowering. It ended with a nice mild bitterness.
The double ipa was aptly named juggernaut. It was a seriously dark amber and resembled an American barley wine more than a double ipa. In many ways it was similar to stone brewing Double Bastard. The beer had a strong hop bitterness and a powerful roasted malt background. It was surprisingly not boozy despite the strong alcohol content and not too sweet. It is definitely worth seeking out if you like what San Diego beer people would call a malt bomb.
Because I had an early morning flight the next morning I didn’t visit other suggestions from the list but I will list them below. The craft beer scene is still in the early stages but many described it as exploding. So if you visit long after this post ask for some suggestions at black lab. They should be able to point you to some places that have opened since this was posted. If you happen to be in a place where the beers aren’t very good you can almost always find some good sangria for fairly cheap. Drinking is a way of life in Spain and Barcelona especially so you often see people drinking in the mornings or during lunch time.
Some suggestions from Edge that I didn’t get to visit:
El Vaso de Oro (A Spanish style restaurant serving their house brewed beers).
Brew Pub Le Sec (a beer bar and brewery with live jazz)
La Bona Pinta
La Cervecita (beer bar with a solid number of taps).
Penrose was quite the drive from an already out of the way sub-area of Chicago. Getting to Penrose from downtown Chicago would probably take at least an hour on a good day on the toll roads. Still, I saw a number of sours on their menu and heard some great things about their brews so we took the drive out there. While I was there I tried the white IPA, Belgian IPA, Mandarina sour, Deminus Roux sour, and Lemongrass saison.
The white IPA had a solid lemon and pine flavor from the hops with a medium amount of bitterness on the aftertaste. I was surprised that the Belgian yeast was not very prominent. Compared to the light golden white IPA the Belgian IPA was a darker more orange color with more resinous hop flavors and strong bitter aftertaste. Though I was surprised by how bitter this was it was nicely balanced in that the hops went well with the malts and yeast.
The Mandarina sour was very dry and highly carbonated with both a light golden color and a very light body fitting to its 4% alcohol. It was very medium sour and had a light citrus kick. Comparatively the Deminus Roux was a darker amber color and the flavor came through with very strong grapefruit and a heavy bitter aftertaste. This didn’t seem particularly sour either but was dominated by the grapefruit flavor that was very reminiscent of eating fresh grapefruit. All of the bitterness seemed like there was quite a bit of hops in there though it may have been from grapefruit rind. This was a favorite of one of the people I tasted with but the grapefruit was too much for me.
Before leaving I ordered a taster of the Lemongrass saison hoping that it would satisfy me in a way that I hadn’t yet been by the previous four tasters. I was quite glad when I took a sip because it had all of the delicious funk I expect from a proper saison with plenty of bright spice flavors and a light lemon kick on the back. This was also quite carbonated and some in my group who were not familiar with saisons were a bit surprised by the flavors. I savored this taster all to myself as the best from my visit. If I happen to visit them again I will certainly look for more saisons.
3 Floyds has become such a cult following that most of their popular offerings that are bottled are sold out within a few days once they are made available. The coveted zombie dust and double ipa bottles disappear as quickly as cans of heady topper. Though you may be able to find some double IPA at nearby liquor stores they aren’t stored cold and the ones I found were too old to pick up. Going to the brewpub on a weekend will end up with a wait of at least 40 minutes. It is worth the wait to get a seat because fresh zombie dust from the source is delightful as are the other offerings.
Though I had heard that 3 Floyds plays death metal at the brewery it is not all death metal all the time. They cycle between metal and punk rock and other fun songs. The scream vocals mostly blend in so they aren’t much worse than the average music at a brewery or bar. While I was at 3 Floyds I didn’t get to try very many beers because they don’t offer taster flights and I didn’t want to get seriously wasted trying 10 ounces of each of the double IPAs. (It is a brew pub atmosphere because they serve food as well so I understand the lack of taster flights. I heard great things about their food but I didn’t end up ordering any while I was there). I had an 8oz of Zombie Dust, my husband had a Moloko Stout on nitro, and I had a Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker double IPA and finally a Chevalier blueberry sour.
After hearing tons of hype for Zombie Dust it is hard to be impressed but I knew with the first sip that this was a fantastic beer that is very much worth all the hype. It was extremely light body and bursting with hop flavors of both citrus and tropical fruit (primarily pineapple). It is deceptively sessionable considering it is 6% and feels much lighter than that. The bitterness was very mild, coming across just enough to let you know the hops are present.
The Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker double IPA was delicious from the first sip. It pours a delightfully hazy yellow orange with a powerful golden hop flavor and just the right amount of sweetness. Many beers in similar style become syrupy but there is none of that here. Though it has a solid bitterness I didn’t feel it wrecking my palate. The beer ended nicely with some stone fruit and peach flavors. It was overall a very impressive double IPA.
I didn’t drink much of my husband’s Maloko stout on nitro but from what I had it was a well-crafted stout with a solid chocolate flavor and very creamy. This one also hides its alcohol extremely well and I wouldn’t have known it was 8% except for the very mild booze on the back end. I ended with the Chevalier blueberry sour. This was a properly sour beer, just short of puckering. It is certainly an acidic sour but it blends with plenty of blueberry flavor at the back end. Considering everyone talks about Three Floyds for their hoppy beers and imperial stouts I was surprised by how fantastic this sour was.
Overall, I would certainly visit 3 Floyds again if I am in the area on a weekday so that I can load up on some awesome fresh from the brewery beers and have some more pints of delicious fresh from the brewery beers. If you are visiting Chicago for a few days it is worth the 45 minute drive and nearly hour wait for some of the best hoppy beers around. Hopefully next time I will be able to get my husband to drive me like he did this time because those double IPAs are fantastic.
If you come by the brewery to buy some Zombie Dust in bottles make sure you go during the week and check the web site for what to-go beers are available the day you go because they rarely last into the weekend. Also after having a fairly disappointing six pack at a nearby store I highly suggest that you not buy any if you can’t find it at the brewery. The stores nearby have very little in refrigeration so the double IPAs they stock are not likely to represent the same delicious quality. Also bring along a cooler or store the beers inside the air conditioning of your car on your drive back to your hotel room.
When I was in New Orleans, I almost didn’t stop by NOLA brewing because I figured it was going to be a lot of the same ambers and English style IPAs that I saw in many of the bars from them. When I had a little extra time to kill I decided to go anyway and lo and behold there were two sours and two brett beers on the menu along with a delicious saison and a variety of stouts. I didn’t have a chance to try their IPAs while I was there but with so many beers on tap I would have barely been able to walk out if I had.
In total I tried the Piety cherry sour, Desire raspberry sour, Hullmelon brett pale, Sauvage brett pale, Girl Stout Cookie, Rumple Stout Skin American stout, Irish Channel stout, and Hurricane saison. My husband drank most of the stout tasters but I had enough of each so that I could taste them.
The Piety cherry sour was very smooth with a medium amount of sour and a light cherry flavor that balances nicely with the rest. It poured a nice light amber color almost orange. Considering many cherry sours get to be a little much for me, I liked this one. The Desire raspberry sour was a satisfying sour with plenty of raspberry flavor, medium amount of funk and medium amount of sour. This was my favorite of the two sours.
The Hullmenlon brett pale poured a cloudy yellow and presented a nice melon and citrus flavor. This beer was very smooth and tasty. The Sauvage brett pale seems to be a beer that they make with various hops depending on the batch. The one on tap tasted like it used nelson hops and another one available in bottles was brewed with galaxy hops. The beer had a nice intense grapefruit flavor and a solid bitterness that balanced very nicely with the brett funk in the background.
The Hurricane saison was bright and fruity with some intense tangerine and peach. The fruits went nicely with the saison yeast flavor. This was a very impressive saison. The Girl Stout Cookie seemed to be a thin mint style stout. It had a nice minty flavor and some mild chocolate, making for a solid stout. I don’t normally like mint in my stouts but it was subtle enough that it worked well.
The Rumple Stout Skin American stout was a bit on the fruity side with some cherry flavors that balanced with some strong bitterness from some hops. Comparatively, the Irish Channel stout was a bit more chocolate forward and less bitter. I preferred the Irish Channel because it was a little more smooth and typical of the style. This one is also available around New Orleans in cans.
Before I left I also got to taste some of the Sauvage with galaxy hops thanks to someone next to me at the bar. He enjoyed the flavors of the one on tap and was curious to see how the galaxy would taste. He poured me a small taster and it was tasty but the galaxy had faded, leaving a more traditional brett pale taste. Depending on your hop preference, it may be better to enjoy the Sauvage on tap.
If you like sours or brett beers and are in New Orleans you absolutely need to stop by NOLA brewing for some tasters. They also have plenty of more traditional options on the menu as well. Thankfully they are situated in a part of town where it is easy to park because most of downtown New Orleans is a nightmare with parking.
Sauvage brett pale
Desire raspberry sour
Back when I first visited The Bruery I indicated that they made some solid sours but didn’t try any of them. At that time I wasn’t interested in sours and wouldn’t have tried them if you paid me. Now that I have grown to appreciate sour and brett beers I stopped by The Bruery recently when I was in town and got to try some of their new offerings. For a look at some of the core beers and my general overview you can check out my original post.
For this visit I made sure to try as many of the specialty beers as I could. For my taster flight I tried the Golden Orchard Belgian with Brett, Sour in the Rye, Tripel Tonnellerie, So Happens It’s Tuesday bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, and Floyd D’Rue, a rum barrel aged imperial porter.
The Golden Orchard immediately grabbed me with the delicious sweet and fruity flavors mixing tropical fruit with the Belgian spice. I picked up a bottle of this when I left because I was so impressed. The brett yeast added almost zero funk and instead enhanced the delicious fruity flavors. Next came the Sour in the Rye, an oak aged sour rye ale. I really enjoyed the combination of mild tart with dark fruit and caramel. Everything was mellowed out nicely by the oak barrel. This one is also available in bottles, though they were a bit more expensive than I wanted to spend. The price is pretty typical for sours though.
Next came the Tripel Tonnellerie, an oak fermented Belgian Tripel. This was a tasty tripel with nice mild caramel flavors coming from the oak. If they hadn’t had the next beer on tap I might have ordered more of this. I was glad to see So Happens It’s Tuesday on tap, a popular bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. Bottles of this beer are limited to reserve club members so other than trading or going to a bottle share this is the only way to taste it. The beer was thick and sweet with caramel flavors and sweet bourbon. It was so delicious that I barely got a taste before my husband finished the 2oz taster. We ended up ordering a 10 ounce pour of it to share before leaving and savored every drop. Thankfully my husband didn’t have much to drink and could drive me after that powerful beer.
This visit ended with the Floyd D’Rue, a rum barrel aged porter coming in at an impressive 14.7%. With a beer this strong I wasn’t surprised that it was pretty boozy. The flavors of various spices from the spiced rum barrel dominated, especially cinnamon and cloves. Compared to the previous beer I wasn’t very interested in ordering more but I did enjoy experiencing something aged in rum barrels.
There were a few other tarts available on tap that I tried a few days later but I didn’t end up taking notes. I do remember really enjoying the flavors of the Oude Tart (2013) flanders red ale and the Rueuze (2014) Gueuze. Both of these were available as a special for Earth Day with some of the proceeds from each sale going to various charities. Visiting The Bruery ready to enjoy the beers they are known for leads to a much more enjoyable experience, though it still tends to be so crowded in the evenings on the weekend that you have a hard time finding a place to set your taster flight.
My third and final Torrance area brewery during my recent visit was Phantom Carriage. Phantom Carriage is located in Carson, slightly between Torrance and Long Beach but close enough to Torrance area to make it a natural next stop for the day. It just so happened that they were celebrating their grand opening that day so how could I not stop in!? After getting my IPA fix at Smog City and my Belgian fix at Monkish I was ready for some sours. Many Southern California breweries that make sours focus on fruit sours (beer with fruit added) but Phantom Carriage had wild ales and sours on tap, in the form of both dark and light varieties.
I started with a flight of the Muis wild ale (a sort of brett blonde ale), Old Muis aged wild ale, and Bergman sour ale. The Muis was a solid beer with plenty of tropical fruit and light hoppy flavor with a mild amount of tart flavors. The beer was overall quite enjoyable. The Old Muis, which was an aged version was quite a lot more tart and had a light flavor of bourbon or whiskey.
The Bergman was very light and not very sour or tart and had a light fruit flavor and light sweetness. Compared to the others it didn’t taste like much. Subtle beers are hard to enjoy when others are such knockouts. As you can see in the pictures below, Phantom Carriage uses a unique style of taster glass that gives you a good chance to enjoy the aromas of the beers.
Second flight I tasted the Rathrbone dark sour, Lugosi barrel aged sour, and Dolores dark farmhouse ale. The Rathbone was a flavorful beer that was much more tart than the Bergman with plenty of good dark fruit flavors and a nice overall tartness. The Lugosi was quite tart and that did a good job to balance out the flavors of the barrel that gave it a nice boozy flavor.
The dolores was quite smoky and had plenty of roasted malt flavors and a little bit of dark fruit. Though on its own it had a strong smoke flavor it was great when compared to the others.
Overall, I was quite impressed by the beers at Phantom Carriage to start and look forward to what they will do in the future. Their tasting room is fairly large with enough room to handle a good number of people. They also have some food they serve as well, a rarity for new breweries. If you live in the area and like horror movies they also have a small theater where they will be playing horror movie classics. I couldn’t tell if this is going to be something they do all the time or only certain scheduled events. I will certainly be stopping in the next time I am in the area to see how things are progressing.
This post has been updated now to reflect some changes that took place in May of 2015. Update is at the bottom.
The area around Alesmith, Green Flash, and the new Ballast Point is increasingly becoming crowded. Recently added in that area is a new brewery called 32 North. The owner partnered up with a brewer who previously brewed for Karl Strauss and White Labs and opened up with a nice-looking tasting room and a solid selection of beers to start. The Karl Strauss influence is especially noticeable in the peanut butter cup porter and imperial stout, both very similar to Karl Strauss’ offerings of the same style.
One thing that sets this brewery apart from many of the places around the area is its operating hours. They are open every day from Noon to 10PM. For a while most breweries closed on Mondays and many also close on Tuesdays. Plus this is one of the few that remains open until 10PM. Also impressive is the lineup of beers to start. I didn’t get to try everything in my first visit but I came back the next day to try the other three. I always like to see a brewery that focuses on a few core beers.
The four core beers are a 3.8% berliner weisse, a 5.5% pale ale, a strong 7.5% IPA, and a 6% coffee milk stout. Also on tap when I visited on October 28, 2014 was a 4.5% toasted coconut English mild, 6.3% rye pale ale, a 5.5% peanut butter cup porter, and a 10.5% imperial stout.
The berliner weisse is an interesting light-bodied beer that is quite tart. It really isn’t my thing but I was glad to see something from a wheat beer that is a bit different than the usual. Since there has been some mention of future sours in the works, I expect this would be the basis for those sours. The pale ale is quite tasty with a lot of peach and citrus flavors going on. It is lightly malty, which sets it apart from many of the malt bomb pale ales around.
The rye pale ale was a little strange tasting to me. It had plenty of the rye flavors but the hops used didn’t seem to mix properly, giving it a really herbal flavor. There is some room to tweak this one, maybe with a different type of hops. Especially when comparing this to something like Aurora from Modern Times there is a way to go. The IPA was solidly flavorful and bitter. It boasted plenty of tropical fruit and citrus and a powerful bitterness. This is a great start and a solid beer to have as a core.
The peanut butter cup porter was very similar to the Karl Strauss one and had a good mix of nutty flavors and sweetness. The milk stout had some solid coffee flavors and a little more sweetness than I typically prefer but that is balanced by some roasted malt flavors. I would personally prefer a little more pronounced coffee but then I did try it after the imperial stout, mostly because I didn’t realize the milk stout had coffee in it until I chatted with the bartender. The toasted coconut mild was especially tasty on nitro. The mild underlying beer takes on the flavor of the coconut really nicely, giving it a strong lightly sweet coconut taste.
The Imperial Stout is very similar to the fantastic Karl Strauss Imperial Stout sporting plenty of coffee and chocolate flavors. 32 North uses fresh roasted local coffee from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters in both the imperial stout and the milk stout, and it tastes great.
With a spacious amount of seating inside and a good set of core beers, 32 North is off to a great start and seems poised for great things. The initial lineup seems to indicate a recognition of the demand in the local market where a solid IPA and solid imperial stout are both essential.
Update May 23, 2015:
I hadn’t visited 32 North in a while so I thought I would drop in to see how they are doing and I was surprised by the lack of core beers on tap and the number of sours available. I had dropped by previously to try some of their fruit flavored berliner weisse beers before but found that they were way too tart for me before. This time when I dropped in the tap list was pretty sparse but they had a Black Currant Berliner Weisse, a Passion Fruit American Sour, and a key lime gose.
I got a taster of each of the three sours on tap to see how they were. I started with the Black Currant Landfall, which was my favorite of the three. It had a nice blend of sweet and sour with a bit of citrus tart flavor and sweeter berry. The Key Lime Gose was pretty much like drinking limeaid. It was interesting for sure but surprisingly not very tart and mildly sweet. Finally the passion fruit had a nice wild flavor going with a mild passion fruit flavor and very little tart going on. I think both the key lime and passion fruit could be a bit more tart while the black currant was the right balance.
As for how regularly we will see the core beers around, it seems that they are doing smaller batches now and many of them don’t stay on very long. Hopefully these sours will continue to become a main thing for them because it is nice to have someone so close by doing sours.
One of the interesting things about the Beer Bloggers’ Conference was getting us to write about beers as we taste them. But for those of you who weren’t following along on Twitter, lets take a look at how this looked to someone following the feed.
Getting ready for some live beer blogging. Hope it keeps things interesting. #bbc14#craftbeer
The Lost Abbey Deliverance was an amazingly delicious beer. It combined two different styles of beers and had one of them aged in bourbon barrels. If you want a chance to drink those bourbon-barrel-aged beers at home this might be worth the extra high price.
Rough draft brought their session ipa. Nice to compare to green flash session. #bbc14#craftbeer
The Mexican Hot Chocolate style stout really tasted very different than all the other stouts Stone has put out so far. Stone brought this for us in their modern-looking growlers you can now get at the tasting room. This collaboration beer will be available in 22oz bottles in stores starting September 8, 2014.
Rogue brought a marionberry beer for us to try. Not really grabbing me right now. Thick malt flavors. #bbc14#craftbeer
We were blessed with so many breweries showing off their bourbon barrel aged beers. I have seen this becoming popular lately but I am not sure that you can easily go back to more subtly flavored beers after something so strong.
If you enjoyed my post about live blogging, consider following me on Twitter where you can see all the photos I take on Instagram and possibly catch my next live blogging attempt.