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.