Tag Archives: Sour

Breweries in Western Michigan – Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and other areas

There are many breweries in Western Michigan. I could never visit all of them in a span of two days, nor can I give sufficient time to all the breweries I did visit. I stuck to those breweries most recommended on Beer Advocate message boards. In this post I will cover Brewery Vivant, Founders, New Holland, Arclight, Transient, and Bell’s. I didn’t try anything on tap at Arclight though so I will be posting based on the bottles of sour beer I picked up recently on my way to Transient. I also didn’t taste anything but stouts at Bell’s because I happened to visit on their All Stout’s Day.

Brewery Vivant

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Vivant is known for its Belgian style beers and the few that I tried were quite well done even if some were not to my tastes. Vivant is located inside an old funeral church and they have a gorgeous space with two large stained-glass windows. They have tons of seating and a full menu of food. I stopped in quickly for a flight. Keep in mind the tasters are on the expensive side, with prices ranging from $3 to $4. I’m not sure that I understand why they have such pricing. Thankfully, the bottles are more reasonably priced and they have cans of most of their core beers.

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Their farmhouse ale was dry with notes of white wine and some mild peach with minimal spice character. It is a very well-done saison. The maelstrom stout is bitter and smoky with some mild roast and hints of burnt caramel. It has a creamy finish and if you give it some time to warm up and for your palate to adjust to the initial shock it is a fantastic beer. The Verdun Biere de Garde has notes of dark fruit with a mildly sweet finish. It wasn’t as dry as I expected but I enjoyed it enough and the beer was nicely balanced. The Liquid Crystal Belgian IPA was intensely floral with a fruity base malt similar to the Verdun. I wasn’t a fan of the mix of flavors and it was not my hop profile but it is a well-made beer.

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Their stone fruit sour was excellent with some intense brett on the nose and a puckering tart at the finish that gives way to sweet peach and nectarine. I left with two bottles of this for myself and another for a friend. It is worth checking ahead to see if the brewery has any sours because they are excellent. The barrel aged stout on raspberries was a shock at first with a mix of flavors I haven’t experienced before. I’m not sure I like the blend of bourbon and raspberry. To me this is almost a sour and not something I would recommend for someone who is mostly into sweeter stouts. The raspberry comes on as mildly tart and overpowers the bourbon. If you like sweeter stouts you should go to Founders or New Holland instead.

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Top 2:
Farm House Saison
Stone Fruit Sour

Founders

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Compared to the spacious area of Vivant, which is already a good size as breweries go, Founders is massive. While they do have some people taking orders from the tables, you can also line up and order beer or food directly from the counter, which is faster. They also have a water bottle filling station near the restrooms to make it easy to hydrate. Because of the huge space, Founders has live music and we were blessed by some bluegrass during our time there. I’m not sure why the groups seemed to only play one song and then switch but I wasn’t complaining because despite being bluegrass they had a ton of bass in the music. Come with ear plugs if you like a quiet brewery experience, especially on weekends.

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I tried a couple of their IPAs and a couple of stouts but we didn’t have a ton of tasters because they didn’t have many stouts on tap and I wasn’t a huge fan of the IPAs. The harvest IPA was a fantastic mix of resin and grapefruit and nicely balanced with a mild sweetness and bitterness. I got some notes of fresh grapes at the back. The Beer City IPA was quite old school with a prominent bitterness and tons of pine. It was well-made but not my favorite hop profile.

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The Rubaeus was a tasty raspberry ale, jammy and not too sweet with the right blend of amber malts to support the berries while giving it some additional fruit notes. The watermelon gose was sweet and mildly tart with a great balance of flavors. It wasn’t too salty and is probably the first really good watermelon beer I’ve had. My husband went up to order the nitro breakfast stout and backwoods bastard tasters but the server heard him to order a pint of breakfast stout. Though he hadn’t been in love with breakfast stout before, he really loved it on nitro. I got an intense nutty coffee with a smooth mild chocolate. The nitro made it extra special.

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I had tried the regular dirty bastard before and really liked the flavors of the base beer. The backwoods bastard has a ton of caramel and bourbon and is super smooth. I passed this up in the stores before based on the price of a four pack but now I might consider buying some because it is so good. It is quite easy to spend a full day at Founders if you are staying in town longer. How long you want to stay depends on what sorts of beers they have and your preference. I would recommend Founders more for their stouts though the Harvest IPA was excellent too.

Top 3:
Breakfast stout on nitro
Watermelon gose
Harvest IPA

New Holland

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I almost skipped visiting New Holland because we already got their new coconut rum dragon’s milk in San Diego. It was worth a stop to try a few other variants of their beer. The Down Dogger, a hoppy wild Belgian golden was fruity with lots of spice from the Belgian yeast and super dry but it wasn’t sour, funky, or hoppy. It was a fairly standard beer. The Harvest 2, a fresh hop pale, was bitter and malt forward with some notes of grape. It didn’t stick out at all or suggest from the flavors that the hops were fresh. The Vanilla Chai Dragon’s Milk had tons of cinnamon and clove with mild vanilla. To me the spice overpowered the rest of the beer too much. I didn’t really care for it. The Brewer’s Select Dragon’s Milk, a slightly stronger version of the regular, was smooth with notes of vanilla but the alcohol came out a little too hot on the finish.

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Comparatively, the coconut rum version, released this year, is much better. It has tons of coconut flavor and a mild rum note at the back. I’ve been enjoying these bottles for a couple of weeks at home prior to visiting. I’ve also had the regular Dragon’s Milk in the past and thought the standard was more balanced than the Brewer’s Select version. The few beers I tasted at New Holland tell me that it is worth sticking to variations of Dragon’s Milk and having other beer styles at other breweries in the area. Since you can find Dragon’s Milk in four packs as far out as the West Coast (we started receiving them in San Diego) I would recommend grabbing some bottles to enjoy at home instead.

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New Holland’s various locations are restaurants and they tend to get crowded quickly. The location in Grand Rapids had such an insane wait that we decided to stop in Holland on our way south to visit the original brewery. Since we already ate at Founders, we only had a little dessert at New Holland to go with the stouts.

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Known for:
Known mostly for their popular barrel aged imperial stout called Dragon’s Milk and the different variations.

Transient Artisan Ales

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Transient is a very young brewery but has developed a ravenous following from the nearby areas for its release of juicy North East style IPAs in cans as well as the different variations of sours. It is quite a drive to get to Transient either from Grand Rapids or Chicago, and will likely take you over an hour either way. Coming from Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo you can stop by another brewery along the way called Arclight. I stopped there briefly for a few sours they were releasing but they had plenty of other beers available on tap. Considering all the fantastic stouts at Founder’s and Bell’s I might still recommend coming out to Transient for their Buckley light chocolate stout.

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I started with the Cromulent pale ale. It was juicy with notes of orange peel and peach with tons of hops and not a lot of bitterness. It is a very respectable juicy pale. I had a small growler of this beer at home the next day and it was still quite good. The pineapple salarium is tasty pineapple, not too acidic, mildly tart, and a dry finish. It reminded me of the Beatitude series of beers from San Diego’s Council Brewing. Bottles were already sold out when I got there. The Indoorsman brett pale ale had a strong woody bite with an herbal finish and some mild bready malts and peaches at the finish. I couldn’t get over the lingering bitterness at the finish and did not finish the taster.

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The Henry porter was smooth and smoky with a ton of burnt caramel. Though this one was a bit shocking at first once I adjusted and it warmed up the beer had more caramel and I enjoyed it better. The Double Barrel Obelus was super smooth with notes of honey, peaches, and a mild buttery finish from the American oak. It is a fantastic complex beer that I enjoyed so much I left with two bottles. The Buckley light is pure liquid dark chocolate and creamy smooth. This is an excellent chocolate stout and worth seeking out.

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Top 2:
Double Barrel Obelus oak aged saison
Buckley Light chocolate imperial stout

Bell’s Brewing

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Despite Google showing multiple locations for this brewery, they have only one location that is split into a general store and a cafe. The brewery itself is not open to visit or drink in a tasting room. I visited on the day when they had All Stout’s Day, which meant all but two of the taps at the brewery were replaced by stouts. Thus, I won’t be including any commentary on how good their IPAs or other styles are.

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I started with the java stout. It has mild smoke and tons of coffee roast, a very easy-drinking beer. I had two varieties of their expedition stout, one of their flagship brews. The 2014 and 2015 were not all that different but both were fantastic. The beer has tons of caramel and roast and a nice thick body.

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The whiskey aged expedition stout was super smooth with a creamy mouthfeel and a strong but not overpowering or hot whiskey. The black note on tap had some nice notes of chocolate and fudge when compared to the whiskey expedition. The whiskey aged 30th anniversary had tons of fudge and cinnamon with some mild vanilla on the finish. The barrel aged dagger stout had tons of vanilla and espresso with a super smooth finish. All of the barrel aged stouts on tap were fantastic but the barrel aged 30th anniversary and barrel aged dagger stout were my two standouts. With such strong beers it gets difficult to give more detailed descriptions after a while.

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Known for:
Intense stouts and barrel aged variants, also some old school IPAs that are quite popular.

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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Spokeane Area Breweries, Twelve String and Iron Goat

12 String Brewing

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12 String was not on my list when I planned out the area but I arrived there thanks to some people I met at Selkirk Abbey. They had some excellent beers in a wide variety of styles. My very first beer in the taster flight was the passion fruit gose, one of the most balanced fruited gose beers I have had. It is balanced in that the fruit doesn’t overpower the complexity present in the base beer. The beer had a mild tart kick to it and an overall nice balance of flavors.

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The Jam Session IPA was a balanced IPA with lots of fruit and citrus notes, fairly standard. The C# #5 IPA had tons of pine and fruit from the hops but a bitterness that dominated it too strongly. The Rye IPA was malty with barely noticeable citrus hops and a good rye bite, fairly average. The Double Drip Imperial Stout was thick and mildly smoky with tons of roast and coffee. My husband really enjoyed this beer and we ended up bringing a 32oz growler home with us and giving one to my uncle the following day. Really excellent beer. The electric slide Double IPA was the best of the IPAs with tons of citrus and super smooth overall.

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Top 3:
Passion Fruit Gose
Double Drip Imperial Stout
Electric Slide Double IPA

Iron Goat

Iron Goat came highly recommended and I thought that all of their beers were very well done. They have a large tap room that is also a restaurant and it was busy but not overly so when we visited. I had a large flight of varying styles but focusing on the sours, IPAs, and farmhouse offerings.

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The Farmhouse ale was quite solid with a nice mix of spice and a good dry finish. The Rhubarb farmhouse was a tasty twist on the base beer with a good bite from the rhubarb. Both were very drinkable. The cherry sour was smooth and fruity and moderately juicy. At first it didn’t seem very sour but it got a bit tart as it warmed up. The blackberry apricot sour was my favorite of the bunch with lots of jam and a good tart finish. All the flavors blended very nicely.

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The headbutt IPA was super floral and piney with a strong bitter finish. This is a great beer to order if you love pine hops in your IPAs. The Impaler double IPA was balanced with dank citrus notes from the hops and a smooth caramel malt backbone. This was also a very tasty beer.

Top 2:
Blackberry Apricot Sour
Impaler Double 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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Breweries in Anchorage, Midnight Sun and Anchorage Brewing

It is fitting to start a post about Anchorage breweries with Midnight Sun because from what I have been told by the locals, the brewer who now brews all the beers at Anchorage brewing was originally at Midnight Sun. These two breweries are fantastic to hit although you may find the on-tap selection at Midnight Sun somewhat lacking like I did. They make up for this with their bottles available to-go.

Midnight Sun Brewing

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Midnight Sun is a brewpub so they have food and serve brunch on the weekends, making it a great first stop once you arrive in Anchorage if you already need a beer. Depending on how far you traveled to get there, you will most likely be ready for a beer immediately. The brew pub has ample seating and a wide tap list. Though the items on tap were not of the sort that blew me away, no imperial stouts or sours on tap, the beers I did get to try were well-made. Since flights are limited to specific sets of beers, we ordered half pours of everything, which was plenty. In total I tried the Alt Bier, Coffee Porter, Pleasure Town IPA, and Imperial Pumpkin Porter.

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The alt bier was quite fruity and super smooth and clean. I could easily see myself going through multiple pints of this. The coffee porter was smooth and mild and quite light bodied. It could have used a bit more coffee kick but it was done well. The pleasure town IPA was quite bitter and dank balancing the three hops nicely with the occasional citrus or tropical fruit coming through. Overall I thought it was just a tad too bitter such that the aromas got a bit overpowered. Still it is a solid IPA and one you can’t go wrong with bringing with you on a hike. The imperial pumpkin porter had a ton of dark fruit from the malts and lots of spice. It was thankfully not made overly sweet. To me the spice was a bit overpowering of the rest of the beer as is common with this style.

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I left the brewery with a number of bottles to bring home and have already opened two of them. The wine aged brett pale ale was quite delicious. The other imperial stout was well-made but pretty solid. I am excited to try the Berserker bottle I have in the cellar as well.

Anchorage Brewing

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Anchorage Brewing is one of the few breweries that completely lived up to the hype. Though they only allow you to order full pours of beers, which made me come back two days in a row to enjoy everything, everything was very well made so I didn’t mind this at all. The tasting room has no food and tends to have close to 10 beers on tap at any given time. Because no tasters are served they are fine with giving you a few splashes.

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I started with the Migrating Eyes brett saison. I found it very smooth and funky with a nice tart kick. The anadromous dark sour was a nice mix of jam, vanilla and oak, and was quite smooth. My husband went straight for the darkest hour imperial stout. It had lots of molasses and caramel and was super smooth. Despite being 13% it wasn’t very boozy. He loved this one so much that coming back the second day he didn’t mind ordering it again.

Brett saison and Imperial Stout.
Brett saison and Imperial Stout.

The triple IPA they had on tap was absolutely delightful. The beer was smooth and juicy with a bright orange cloudy color. Flavors included lots of citrus and mango. I ended up ordering this a second time the second day after trying a few others. When I came back the second day I tried the single IPA, which was well-made but didn’t have the same intense flavors of the double IPA. The Bitter Monk, was a delicious brett-forward Belgian double IPA. It had the right mix of bitterness, brett, and Belgian yeast. I also left Anchorage with a number of bottles because they have quite a wide range of beers available to bring home.

Dark sour
Dark sour
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Triple IPA, super juicy

Anchorage Brewing is one of the most exciting breweries I have visited and is a great way to spend a few hours if you happen to be in town. Though they tend to focus on sours and tarts they do hoppy beers well and their imperial stout was quite impressive.

Top 2:
Triple IPA
Migrating Eyes Brett Saison

Though I did visit a couple of other breweries in town for a few beers, these two were the most excellent and would be worth planning a trip around to visit. Though both breweries do distribute to San Diego, you may find a few bottles at the breweries that you can’t find down here.

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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Breweries in Quebec City Canada La Barberie and Noctem

I visited two breweries in Quebec City while I was in town. La Barberie was the older of the two and has been around for over 10 years. Noctem is very young and yet still managed to impress me heavily.

La Barberie

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La Barberie is a small space that gets packed quickly with people either ordering flights or full pours of beers. It has a very traditdional feel to it and doesn’t get too loud. They had a large flight available of 8 beers which gave me a good mix of styles. The only disappointing thing for me was that their hoppy beers are very traditional and lack the modern flair that has become common in California and elsewhere.

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I started with a ginger and lime beer which was very tasty with a good mix of lime on the front and ginger on the back end very subtle. The coffee stout was delicious and smooth with tons of coffee flavor and very nutty. The Bier de Miel farmhouse ale was really tasty with a ton of lemon and spice and a mild sweet finish, a very tasty saison. The pilsner was quite earthy and chewy with a peppery finish, very nice.

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The English style red ale was quite bitter and fruity, pretty traditional and not my thing. The IPL was quite strongly bitter with lots of pine and floral hops and some earthy malt flavors. The gose was a little fruity and a little salty, silky smooth and not too tart. I wasn’t expecting something very sour but after they recommended I save this for last it made me expect something a bit more sour. The final beer is meant to be a sangria style beer and it was unlike anything I had tasted before. It had tons of raisin and grape notes from the malts and a sweet finish with hints of red wine. I would pass on that one in the future for other better beers.

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Top 3:
Bier de Miel (saison)
Pilsner
Gose

Noctem

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Unlike La Barberie, Noctem is a noisy bar atmosphere that I wasn’t interested in staying at very long. The beers I tried were very tasty but it was so loud that I didn’t stay after my four tasters. I tried the sour saison, which was fruity and mildly bitter with notes of grapefruit and lemon. The stout they had on was made with grapefruit and pepper, an unexpected combination that actually worked really well. The acidity from the grapefruit balanced nicely with the pepper and it was quite nice. Their house IPA was a delicious mix of pine and grapefruit with a strong bitter finish, very impressive. The apricot sour was delicious and smooth with tons of fruit character. I would have ordered more of it except for the music playing was so loud.

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Though I had read some mixed reviews for Noctem prior to visiting I was quite impressed by their beers overall, though the atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired.

Top 2:
IPA
Apricot Sour

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Seattle Breweries – Reuben’s Brews, Stoup, Lucky Envelope, and Holy Mountain

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

Reuben’s Brews

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

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

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

Top 3:
Kentucky Common Sour
Fruited SOur
Porter

Stoup Brewing

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

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

Top 2:
Citra IPA
Mosaic Pale

Lucky Envelope

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

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Top 2:
Helles
Peanut Butter Porter

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

Holy Mountain

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

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

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

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

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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