Suarez Family Brewery – Hudson Valley New York
Suarez Family Brewery is located in upstate New York, an hour south of Albany and two hours north of New York City. It has been on my list of breweries to visit for some time now after reading about how much people loved it doing road trips through the North-East United States visiting breweries. They are well regarded as having excellent clean lagers, so much that my friends wanted me to share if I could bring back cans of their flagship pilsner. I decided to use Suarez as the subject of my last blog about breweries and I think it is fitting.
Because of the brewery’s remote location, I booked an airbnb in the area so that I could relax and enjoy the fall colors and a quiet weekend away from the hustle of life. I flew into JFK airport and rented a car to drive two hours and found myself in the rustic area of Hudson Valley. Though the roads are small, it is much easier to get to than the delightful but extremely remote Hill Farmstead. The drive is mostly flat and it is easy for people in the area to take a weekend trip to stock up on their beer.
The Palatine Pilsner lived up to the hype and was everything I had expected. The beer was crisp and clean with notes of hay and orange blossom honey. I also tried the black lager, a few other similar pilsners, a pale ale, and a sour while I was there. I didn’t much care for the black lager and found it to be too bitter for the style but the rest of the beers were excellent. The hoppy pale ale was up there with Pseudo Sue or El Segundo Brewing Citra Pale, crisp and dry with lots of prominent tropical hops. The barrel aged blended sour was nicely balanced with prominent notes of botanicals and fairly mild in acidity.
Visiting the brewery you can order 25cl pours of any of their beers. Beers to go are available in growlers, cans, and bottles. For this specific trip I got 750ml growlers to bring back to my nearby airbnb to continue enjoying the beers. At $10 for a 750ml growler plus fill it is reasonably priced enough that growlers make sense even if you don’t expect to return. I left the growlers at the airbnb for future guests to enjoy. I also brought home cans of crispy little and bottles of a biere de garde.
Visiting Suarez is like visiting any tasting room around the US in a good way. While from the outside you are in a rural area, once you walk inside you will find the same communal seating and a casual space with a slightly echo. You will meet with people who have traveled from all around because there are hardly any locals in the area by the brewery. Suarez has all the great qualities of world-class breweries I have visited during my years blogging. One thing that my favorite brewery trips over the years all had in common was the ability to meet people at breweries and immediately start a conversation. During my two days visiting Suarez this happened both times. I hope some of the people I met will reach out when they come to San Diego to meet and share a beer.
This is my final post on this blog because I have accomplished what I set out to do, bring awareness to excellent breweries around the world. I am also gladly leaving the coverage of the San Diego beer scene in the hands of William Vanderburgh, who writes Craft Beer in San Diego. He has not only done what I wasn’t interested in doing, and visited every brewery in San Diego (until the next one). He has also branched out into local publications to cover local breweries. While I will continue to visit breweries, I look forward to no longer blogging about them.
Come expecting lagers and the occasional low ABV hoppy beer. Don’t expect IPAs or stouts.
Outer Range Brewing – Frisco Colorado
Just outside the Breckenridge area, in between Denver and Casey Brewing, you will find outer range Brewing Company. They have a beautiful outdoor seating area tucked in a small mountain town. They focus primarily on hazy ipas. During my stop my friend tried three double ipas and I got one single ipa.
The beers were all within the range of what you would expect for the style these days. Your beer preference within the IPAs would mostly be up to you favorite flavors of hops. For those who venture out to the area for hiking or skiing, outer range will satisfy the urge for ipa either in growlers or cans.
I also ordered a grisette while I was there and it was well made. The beer has notes of banana and cloves reminiscent of a Belgian wheat beer. The beer was both highly carbonated and extremely dry, making it easy to drink quickly. While the brewery doesn’t serve food they are right next door to a Mexican restaurant that appears to serve food to the brewery.
Denver has a number of excellent breweries making hazy ipas at the same level as outer range so I would suggest stopping in only if you have another reason to venture out into the mountains. One great option would be stopping by Idaho springs for a soak in the hot springs before going out to the brewery. There are also a number of hikes around the area. Since they sell a number of their beers in cans you can stop by and pick up a few four packs to bring with you to your weekend nature retreat.
Come to outer range for the hazy ipas. They also have the occasional guest tap for a stout.
Casey Brewing Company – Glenwood Springs Colorado
Casey Brewing Company in Glenwood Springs Colorado is one of the sour breweries that is so well regarded that people make the nearly three hour drive, on windy mountain roads, from Denver to get the beer. Though I had just been in Denver 2 months ago, I wanted to make a special trip where I planned enough time to drive out to Casey Brewing. Since I was staying in Longmont area, my strive was slightly over 3 hours each Direction. On the way exiting Denver, we had quite a bit of traffic as people were heading to Breckenridge.
When we got to the brewery, we drove right past it because it is in a fairly nondescript building. It was only because we turned around and saw the signs indicating where to park that we confirmed the correct building. The brewery itself is down the hill from the parking area in a slightly Underground building where they store all the barrels aging beer. Traditionally you had to book a tour of the brewery in order to try any of their beers, mostly due to limited Supply. Now they have opened a Tap Room in downtown Glenwood Springs but if you want bottles of the best stuff, you still should consider doing a tour. You will also meet the most die-hard fans sharing their favorite bottles with people around them.
During my visit at the brewery, the two favorite beers that I had were an apricot sour, called Apricot Diversion, made with 4 lb of apricots per gallon of beer and a BlackBerry raspberry Cherry sour. All the beers are poured from a bottle because they are bottle conditioned, carbonating in the bottle as opposed to forcing CO2 into the beer. Apricot Diversion had a tart finish but was also very juicy and bursting with soft apricot flavor with a lovely silky mouth feel reminiscent of a East Coast style hazy IPA. The Blackberry raspberry Cherry beer was loaded with berry flavors and mildly tart.
The tour is basically 3 pours of beer and a short explanation of how they make their beer and how fermenting in barrels it’s different from using a traditional stainless steel fermenter. They also now make some of their beers by putting them in a koelship. By fermenting in an open container like this, the yeast is collected from the air as opposed to being intentionally added. It gives the beer a unique flavor reminiscent of the Lambic style in Belgium. They do add some yeast later in fermentation to keep certain unwanted flavors from developing. If you can’t make it out to the brewery itself, you can occasionally find bottles of one or two beers around town in Denver either at bottle shops or at bars that cellar a few bottles.
Once you have had the beer though, it is worth the long drive to pick up a case or two of beer. Nearby is bonfire brewery, the place that originally supplied wort to Casey for the first few years. Casey is a small operation and by keeping small they have kept the quality consistent over the years. While some Beers may not be as fruit forward as others, all the beers are well made and high-quality. Their barrel aged saison has set the standard by which I judge the style for American breweries.
Come to Casey for their barrel aged sour and funky beers. Many are Spontaneously fermented.
Modern Times Festival of Dankness 2019 was Excellent as Usual
Modern Times has put on the Festival of Dankness, an IPA focused beer festival for five years now. With each year the number of hazy IPAs has increased quite a bit. I didn’t make it to the previous two years due to scheduling conflicts but I finally came back for the 2019 festival in part because Other Half, Great Notion, Monkish, Moksa, Tired Hands, and a few other big name breweries were present.
In the years since Modern Times first put on the festivals, they have improved their system of scanning tickets so that for the festivals in 2019 I attended, including Carnival of Caffeination in February, they scan everyone’s tickets and check IDs before it is time to let people in to the festival. They have a waiting area ready for people to chill until it is time to open the doors or in this case let people break past the ribbon.
It happened that some of the bigger names were right next to each other, leading to tons of lines mostly in the back section of the festival. Monkish, Moksa, and Other Half were all clustered together meaning those who braved the lines got to enjoy those beers. This is the one benefit of having VIP – VIP got to access these breweries with shorter lines. In my case, I didn’t bother with the lines and didn’t get to drink beer from either of those.
Despite sticking to General Admission tickets this year, I wasn’t short on beer and I had plenty of excellent breweries to choose from without waiting very long for any particular beer. The longest line I waited in was for Green Cheek, which was usually no more than 5 minutes at a time. Standouts beer wise were Green Cheek with their double and triple hazy IPAs plus Boneyard with their always excellent double and triple IPAs that were not hazy. And Wayfinder from Portland Oregon brought an incredible Oktoberfest beer that was as excellent as I remembered.
Plenty of local breweries were on hand serving their always excellent IPAs including Burning Beard, Pizza Port, Burgeon, Societe, and of course Modern Times with their ever large spot serving many different beers including the always-present massive imperial stouts. Two of those stouts were reserved for members as usual so it helps to know people.
With so many breweries bringing double and triple IPAs as they have from the first year, it doesn’t take much to get quite intoxicated. Thankfully this year the festival started at 3PM, meaning the sun was less intense. They also had shade tents put up in the center between brewery tents so people could avoid getting too much sun. Of course, all the money from the festival goes to charity so it is always a good cause. I like to think that the various Modern Times festivals were instrumental in the addition of new bike lanes that have shown up or are in the works in San Diego.
Ratio Brewing Company – Denver Colorado
Ratio was recommended to us by a friend saying that they have good clean traditional beers. They are smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood that resembles many different beer hipster neighborhoods around the country. Immediately on arrival we saw 15 electric scooters out front and at least 5 bicycles. They have a nice spacious taproom with a large outdoor seating area with plenty of shade and seating.
I started with a pint of their saison because I was craving the style after not having any similar options at previous breweries over the past couple of days. The saison had notes of banana and hay with mild orange peel and a crisp dry finish. While described as a French style saison, it seemed to have similarities to a Belgian style wit as came through with the banana character. I enjoyed the outdoor seating and the other beers my friends had were also solid.
Ratio is close to Epic Brewing’s taphouse and also super close to Our Mutual Friend and Bierstadt Lagerhaus. So if you are ubering around the city, this would be a great way to visit multiple spots. I wanted to visit Our Mutual Friend during my visit as well but with limited time I went next to Black Project instead.