I had written Wavelength off and was waiting for a good excuse to return when it was reported that an ex-Belching Beaver brewer had taken over the reins. They had a great space so this was the perfect chance for me to return and see if they improved. I tried all the beers on the board though one of the things I liked was that they no longer had such a huge list of beers. Instead, the new brewer was focusing on some key styles until he can get things dialed in.
The Octave Orange wheat ale was a good clean wheat beer, lightly fruity and with a good clean finish with light spice. The Golden Note blonde ale was fruity and crisp with a nice dry finish. It was a bit thinner than the wheat and had a nice subtle hop kick on the finish. The Aprikose apricot Berliner had a nice earthy malt character from the base that blended nicely with light tart kick and mild apricot notes. I was impressed because the apricot didn’t overpower the base beer. The beer also had a good medium body.
The Hop Squash hazy IPA was not particularly hazy but has a nice orange/gold turbidity. It showcased intense tropical fruit on the nose. The beer had a nice soft body with tropical fruit and mild pine. Though not hazy it is a tasty soft modern IPA with minimal bitterness and a fruity finish. This is also miles better than their IPAs used to be. The Off Kilter scotch ale was quite delicious with notes of caramel and molasses, a light bitter bite, and mild burnt toffee notes on the finish. It also had some nice mild dark fruit character. It is a really excellent scotch ale, lightly sweet and super smooth body. It is likely to satisfy those who only drink stouts.
Adophis barleywine was the only beer on tap from the old brewer. It showcased notes of dark fruit and biscuit malt base with spice and floral character from the hops with a strong bitter bite. It was more hop forward for a barleywine than I generally prefer but still tasty. It is refreshing to see a shorter tap list here than the huge number they had on tap the last time. The IPA is a huge improvement over the various IPAs brewed previously and the scotch ale and berliner stand out as my favorites. Wavelength now has a quality of beers that should allow them to compete with their neighbors, including the popular Mother Earth brewing.
Twisted Horn has a beautiful tasting room where you can try a variety of meads and ciders, many containing fruit or other adjuncts that make them interesting. Tastes are served in 2oz pours, allowing people to try a number of them without drinking too much alcohol. The meads are all around 9% alcohol and the ciders tend to hover around 5%. I tried four meads and five ciders while I was there and found quite a number of delicious ones.
The meads I tried included various flavorings of cranberry, vanilla, blueberry, and coffee. They were all quite delicious and presented subtle flavors that blended nicely with the sweet honey base. Of the four I really enjoyed the one with blueberry for its mild tartness and acidity. I also enjoyed the cranberry one for the light tart kick it gave.
While I enjoyed the meads, the ciders had more intense fruit flavor and impressed me the most. Of the ciders I tried the plain dry cider, cherry, peach and ginger, raspberry, and strawberry with hot peppers. Though I was hesitant at first the strawberry was my favorite of the bunch with strong sweet strawberry notes and some mild heat in the back. I also really enjoyed the raspberry. Though I didn’t get much chocolate from it, it had a strong flavor of raspberry and light tart finish. The cherry was a bit more subtle but still had a nice tart finish.
I enjoyed everything I tasted at Twisted Horn and recommend coming for a visit. I would have brought some home in a growler except I didn’t think to bring a 1 liter flip top growler from home and I try not to buy new growlers. If you have a 1 liter growler at home bring one with you to fill. Most people who I saw while I was there left with growlers to bring home. Twisted Horn is also very close to Toolbox so you could visit both in one trip quite easily though you may want to spend all your time at Twisted Horn after you try their delicious cider.
Embers – Cider with strawberry and hot peppers
Midnight Sun – Cider with raspberry and chocolate
Blue Cloak – Mead with blueberry juice
Blushing Maiden – Mead with cranberry
Occasionally I have need to update a post on a brewery that has changed significantly since the last time I posted. Back when I visited Toolbox it didn’t seem very likely that the entire core of their beer would change so drastically. But brewers are people too and disagreements occur that lead them to move on to other breweries, as was the case when one of the head brewers from Toolbox left. I don’t intend to get into the specifics of what happened as that is none of my business but I do want to explore for you the big differences in the types of beer available at Toolbox. For those interested you can read my original Toolbox post. I have updated it with a note to indicate that the information is outdated.
You may recall previously that Tart X was the basis for many of the fruited sours that were available at Toolbox. This seriously tart base beer made for some quite tart fruited sours. Now the brewery appears to focus on a few different types of beers, Berliner Weisse, Gose, and barrel aged sours. I didn’t try everything on the menu in my recent visit because at $3 to $5 per taster depending on what you were ordering that could get quite expensive. But I could easily tell that trying the gose, berliner weisse, and barrel-aged sour they had on was an important part of understanding their new direction.
I tried five different beers on my latest visit, Free Range Lettuce, Funky Wit, Cumcumberliner, Life Gose On, and Bramble on Rose. The Grass Fed Lettuce is described as a dry-hopped sour pale ale with amarillo, galaxy, and hallertau blanc hops. However, I found it lacked both the flavors of the three hops and the sour kick I expected. It was a quite funky pale ale with really mellow hops and a bitter finish. Perhaps I missed it when it was first put on but hop heads won’t find anything exciting here. The Funky Wit is a twist on the traditional Belgian Wit with the addition of the Brett yeast. In this case the wild yeast gives the beer a very slight funk and a bit of bright fruit notes. Otherwise the beer has a nice high carbonation with light spice and a mild sweetness at the end. Quite a delicious beer and quite different in flavor from typical local versions.
The Cucumberliner is a Berliner Weisse with cucumber, 18 pounds per barrel to be exact. I found the beer to be a delicious mix of tart and intense cucumber flavor. It had a bit of a mouth puckering effect and a nice hint of citrus at the finish from the underlying beer. This was one of my favorites of the day and I left with a bottle that is thankfully reasonably priced at $8 for 16 ounces compared to other sours. The Life Gose On is described as a tart wheat ale with coriander and sea salt. I found it mildly salty yet balanced with a mild tartness and light citrus notes. I think the saltiness was what kept me from getting the citrus gose they had in bottles at the tasting room but I look forward to trying other varieties. As you can see on the beer board two of their other beers were fruit varieties of the berliner weisse. I did not try these in my visit.
I ended with the Bramble on Rose, a barrel aged wild ale with local blackberries. I found it to be absolutely delicious and I was glad I went straight for a full pour the first time. It was bursting with blackberry flavor and had a nice light sour that balanced with a nice light sweetness. The barrel really gave the beer a nice smooth finish. Probably the closest comparison I could make with this beer is the Cascade Blackberry Sour I had recently, quite high praise as Cascade has been brewing this style of beer for many years. I left with a bottle of this beer despite the $22 price tag because they indicated the bottles were going fast and I felt myself wanting more after I finished the first glass. You probably won’t find this beer available when you visit but if you do see a barrel-aged variety you should absolutely try it. Hopefully over time the amount brewed in each batch will increase.
One other thing to note here is the absence of the IPA and Stout that Toolbox brewed before. If you happen to visit with a friend who doesn’t like sours, I hope you are visiting multiple breweries in your trip as there are plenty of great breweries in the area that brew fantastic IPAs and Stouts. Now that I have become familiar with the world of sour beers I think it is fantastic that they have gone all in with sours and decided to no longer brew an IPA. After all they are surrounded by many great breweries that do the IPA properly.
Mother Earth is one of those breweries that I heard a lot about but rarely tasted. Fairly recently I tried their Boo-Koo IPA for the first time and knew I should visit the tap room sometime soon. Located in the center of Vista, Mother Earth is thankfully close to the 78 freeway and easy to find. The tap room is large and has a good amount of seating and room for dogs. Aside from four core beers on tap they also had a few interesting special release beers available.
I tried the Boo-Koo IPA, Roundabout Oatmeal Stout, Make up Your Mind IPA, Sin Tax peanut butter stout, and Quit Stalin bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. The Boo-Koo is a delicious light body and light colored IPA with lots of citrus and tropical fruit and medium bitterness. This one recently showed up in six-pack cans and is one of their best major beers.
The Roundabout Oatmeal Stout was listed as a smaller specialty beer but it was so good I wouldn’t be surprised if it joins the main lineup at some point. The beer was dry and roasty with a nice bitter chocolate finish. Though it was a low 5.4% alcohol it was bursting with flavor. I liked it so much that I took home a crowler (32oz can they fill on the spot for you to take home). The Make Up Your Mind IPA was a delicious tropical fruit/juicy IPA also with the light color and medium bitterness. The biggest difference between this and the Boo-Koo is the sweeter hop flavors that dominate.
The Sin Tax is a strong 8% peanut butter imperial stout with an intense and overpowering peanut butter flavor that adds a bit of sweetness and makes the beer seem a bit syrupy. The peanut butter flavor is similar to the Belching Beaver peanut butter milk stout. The underlying stout is a bit typical and tasty but I found this one too sweet. My husband liked it though. I ended with the Quit Stalin bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. This was very impressive, giving a strong stout background and plenty of sweet bourbon flavor. Everything balanced quite nicely, avoiding any strong boozy flavors.
Mother Earth has two locations and I visited the Main Street location. Their web site says that this location tends to get a more wide selection of beers. There is also a home brew shop next door. Overall Mother Earth is a very impressive brewery giving the right focus on their core beers while also brewing some smaller batch stuff. I happened to visit them after Wavelength brewing next door and I found Mother Earth to be the more impressive of the two, though they are also much older and established.
Less than a mile from Barrel Harbor Brewing is Booze Brothers, another brewery that has been open for less than two years. It is hard to believe that the breweries are of different ages because Booze Brothers has a much more polished look inside and did a great job pulling off their theme of old west imagery. I had heard some great things about Booze Brothers before visiting and I was quite glad to see them showcasing some less common styles including a biere de garde and a brett farmhouse.
I tried quite a few more tasters at Booze Brothers and thankfully my husband was with me to help me with the stouts and drive back. Otherwise I would have had to limit myself to a small number. I started with four tasters, the Old Crow IPA, High Horse brett saison, Green Eyed Amber, and Easy Rider Brown. I later tried the Ol’ Grandaddy’s IIPA, Sundown Stout, Lights out Lupus biere de garde, and Pick up Porter.
The Old Crow IPA was an OK IPA with a medium amount of citrus and lightly bitter. It didn’t have much that made it stick out though. The High Horse brett saison was a very nice refreshing saison with just the right amount of funk and a good amount of fruit from the brett. The Green Eyed Amber was an interesting fruit forward amber beer with a light amount of honey. It was also quite smooth. The Easy Rider Brown was good and sweet and nutty with a light chocolate flavor. The higher alcohol here made it a little more my style.
The Ol’ Grandaddy’s IIPA was good and dank with a medium amount of bitterness and not too sweet. Still, like the other IPA it didn’t really do much to stick out. The Sundown Stout was a nice blend of chocolate, roasted malts, and a bit of dark fruits. The fruits blended nicely with the rest of it so as not to overpower the rest. Lights out Lupus was my favorite of the evening. This delicious Biere De Garde was bursting with dark apricot and some smooth yeasty saison flavors. This one should absolutely be made a regular at some point. Finally the Pick up Porter was a nice intense coffee flavored stout that got the flavors just right.
I was impressed by the variety of beers offered at Booze Brothers and especially by the two saisons they had on tap. The IPAs could use some improvement though, as the Nugget IPA at Barrel Harbor was much better than anything hoppy at booze brothers. It certainly seems like the brewery is growing nicely and should be one to watch in the coming years.
Lights out Lupus, Biere de Garde
High Horse, brett saison
Pick Up Porter
For a brewery that has been open for less than 2 years, Barrel Harbor is not doing much to distinguish themselves in a crowded market. These days brewing a good IPA is simply expected. I stopped by this past weekend and tried the brown ale, porter, Nugget IPA, black IPA, and double IPA. From all of these the single hop Nugget IPA was probably the most impressive. They were out of their regular IPA at the time.
The brown ale was typical of the style, smooth and flavorful yet not really standing out. The porter was available on nitro and was good and creamy with mild roasted flavors. The Nugget IPA, single hop IPA with the nugget hops, was the best of the bunch. It had a nice golden flavor while being very smooth and fruity. The hops were noticeably fresh and it jumped out at me. I would guess that these are the same hops used in Abita’s Wrought Iron IPA that I love so much.
The black IPA was interesting because it was pretty mellow and low in bitterness for a black IPA. The hops tasted pretty similar to the nugget, though I was told it is brewed with simcoe. The hops blended nicely with the roast, making it a solid beer. Finally, the double IPA was strongly bitter and had a bit of a soapy taste that combined with a cloying sweetness. I wasn’t able to get myself to finish the double IPA taster.
I first tasted an IPA from Barrel Harbor on tap at a bar in Rancho Bernardo. They certainly know how to brew a good IPA but in this market you need to do more than that to stick out, especially up in the “Hop Highway” region, off the 78 freeway. They do have a nice pirate/nautical theme going that makes their tasting room an interesting place to visit. If you do drive up to visit Barrel Harbor make sure you visit one of the other breweries in the area as well. They are very close to Booze Brothers, which will be the subject of my post next week.