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.