This was probably the brewery I was most looking forward to visiting in Portland, so I naturally went there first. I ended up with two flights for a total of twelve beers while there. For some reason the majority of breweries in Portland want to only sell flights in certain pre-defined groups. This sometimes meant I had to try a few more beers than I was expecting. This was certainly the case with Deschutes.
For my first set of tasters I got the Two Step IRA, Fresh Squeezed IPA, Hop in the Dark Black IPA, Session Obsession Session IPA, Smooth Hoperator Experimental Hop Pale, and Inversion White IPA. The Imperial Red Ale was pretty much a nice strong red with a light hop flavor. The Fresh Squeezed IPA was one I expected to love and possibly even order a pint of. It had a nice bright citrus hop bite and wasn’t overly bitter but it didn’t seem to have the same intense flavor that I am used to in San Diego.
The Hop in the Dark Black IPA was not particularly hoppy or bitter and mostly had flavors of smoky roasted malts. It didn’t impress me on either the dark flavors or the hop flavors. I don’t expect it would seriously satisfy hop heads or those into stouts. The Session IPA was a solid presentation of the now-popular style. It had some solid hop flavors without the bitterness of other sessions. Still, the hop profile wasn’t grabbing me.
The Experimental Pale Ale was quite nice for a lighter color pale. The hop flavors were largely towards the pine. It was a beer I would have enjoyed to buy in a six-pack. The Inversion White IPA was surprisingly malty tasting for the style and not particularly hoppy. Overall, it seemed to be a nice balanced brew but didn’t have the hop flavors that I have come to expect.
At the end of Round 1 of Deschutes, I was starting to wonder if I was going to find anything that blew me away. In Round 2 I explore the second set of six beers I tasted while visiting Deschutes.
Outside craft beer fanatics, Lagunitas is probably more well-known than Russian River because their beers are widely distributed in Southern California. I decided to not get tasters of some of the more commonly available beers while I was there so that I could try some newer ones.
Lagunitas is also a brewpub, meaning it is open earlier in the day, and the crowds can get pretty crazy. Since we got there a little bit later and had already eaten, it wasn’t too crazy to find a spot at the bar. The outside seating area surprised me because it looks like you are visiting a ranch, complete with sandy floor and picnic tables.
I ordered a taster flight of Nelson IPA, Maximus Double IPA, SF Beer Week Double IPA, and Hop Stoopid. Of the four, Maximus and Nelson were my favorites. The Nelson IPA has all the grapefruit flavors you might expect from the Nelson hops. Some sweeter flavors recognizable from the regular IPA on the back end round it out nicely.
The Maximus Double IPA has plenty of tropical fruit flavors on the front end combined with some more earthy hop flavors on the back. The San Francisco Beer Week Double IPA is made with Nelson, Mosaic, and Hop 366. The beer had a slight soapy flavor combined with the citrus flavors from the other hops. Heavy pine flavor comes in the back from the Hop 366. I probably would have enjoyed this one a little more without the Hop 366.
I ended it with the Hop Stoopid. It was so strong that it became thick and syrupy. The flavors leaned heavily towards the tropical fruits. I recognize the style here but it isn’t for me. Lagunitas is such a big brewery that you are likely to find most of their core beers all throughout California and many other states. It was nice to finally stop in for a visit but I don’t think I’ll be back. Like Stone, I can get most of the best beers in bottles almost everywhere I look.
Best known for its Blind Pig IPA, Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger, I had to stop by the brewery to try some beers. Because I was going to Lagunitas on the way back I only tried a few half pints while I was here and the single hop pales were my favorite.
Before I get to the beers, I should note that this is a brewpub, not a pure brewery and tasting room. When you arrive there it is pretty obvious that the zoning wouldn’t permit a barebones brewery. Being a brewpub means you can stop by earlier in the day for a pint because they are open for lunch. However, this also means that it gets crowded pretty fast and seats don’t clear out very quickly.
Even though my husband and I arrived at around 1:30PM, the lunch crowd was still hanging around. The service was pretty slow, though with only a few bartenders pouring beer this wasn’t surprising. We ended up ordering their version of a works pizza. It was quite tasty and very greasy. The other thing keeping everyone around was the insane taster flight that would take even seasoned brewery nuts quite some time to finish with friends (19 tasters!)
I started with Row 2 Hill 56, a single hop simcoe pale ale and Hop 2 It, a pale ale made exclusively with Hop 366. I love single hop pales because I get to really understand the flavors of individual hops. Simcoe is used pretty commonly in IPAs. The lemon and pine flavors come through nicely in this one. Hop 366 is a new experimental hop related to the warrior hop. It was much more earthy with a hint of tropical fruit on the back.
I moved on to Blind Pig IPA, one that has been listed on numerous “Best IPA” lists. It certainly had a nice balance to it but was far too heavy on the pine/earthy flavors for my taste. Though there was some strong grapefruit taste in the background, it was still pretty overpowered by the other hops. It is certainly a good IPA but not my favorite hop profile.
My favorite hop profile comes through a lot more with Pliny the Elder, a fairly widely distributed double IPA. I’ve had Pliny the Elder a few times on tap in San Diego at various bars. Finding it in bottles is not so easy. Even at the brewery, they limit the number of bottles you can purchase of both Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder.
Pliny the Younger has much of the same hop profile as Pliny the Elder but is a Triple IPA. I am a bit disappointed that Russian River decided to make Pliny the Younger a once a year special release because this leads to long lines wherever it appears. Flavor wise, you will get much of the same beer from Stone’s Enjoy By series, Green Flash’s Green Bullet, and Saint Archer’s Double IPA. I waited in line for Pliny the Younger last year and it was delicious but I probably won’t wait in line for it again.
In all, I found Russian River to be insanely crowded (very similar to visiting Stone Brewing) and not hugely worth the trip. It is a shame that they don’t widely distribute bottles of their famous beers because there is enough demand from the craft beer drinkers around the country for it.
Tonight I decided to stop by Karl Strauss in Downtown San Diego to see what they had on for Cask Night. I was excited when I saw that the cask beer was a mosaic session IPA. I always enjoy trying beers with single hops because it is a great way to familiarize myself with specific hop flavors. In this case, the mosaic hops were delicious and had a nice crisp grapefruit flavor that really gave some nice flavor to this beer.
After devouring this delicious cask, I went for the pale ale because I have been exploring local pale ales lately. I’ve already become quite familiar with most of the IPAs that Karl Strauss brews so I wanted to see if I could try something I might have overlooked before. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavors from the pale ale though it was still slightly more malty than I might have preferred. The hops give it a delicious amount of citrus bite that you can really feel in the mouth. Some of the hops go a little heavy on the piney flavors for my tastes though and so I wasn’t completely blown away. Still, it is one of the better San Diego pale ales out there.
If you are in the mood for something stronger, the Tower 10 IPA is always a great west coast IPA and they occasionally have some delicious double IPAs on tap as well.
I’ve been visiting Ballast Point for some time now. When I first visited the Scripps Ranch location it was really small and had hardly any space to sit if any. Now it is three times as large inside plus has a nice outdoor sitting area. When Ballast Point announced the new location in Little Italy I was excited but I didn’t go down there until now because I am so close to the Old Grove location. After making it down to meet with a few friends I am glad I made the trip and got to try a few interesting beers they don’t have at the other location.
I went straight for the four varieties of single hopped IPAs. For those not familiar, most IPAs, like Ballast Point’s Sculpin, are made with multiple varieties of hops. The combination of flavors is what makes your favorite beer so good. Single hopped IPAs are made with a single type of hops. This is nice because it lets you become familiar with the different tastes of the hops. They were nice to taste and experience the hops but I was not craving pints of any of them after the tasters.
It is important to note that Ballast Point does have a wine selection as well. So you won’t be alienating your friends if they don’t drink beer. I didn’t get to taste any of the wines though so I don’t know how good they are.
I next went for the Hop Face IPA, the original Sculpin recipe with some Mosaic hops. With that I got a taster of the Chocolate Schwartz and the Dunkelweisen.
The Hop Face was good but it didn’t blow me away or anything. I still prefer the original Sculpin. I was quite impressed by the Chocolate Schwartz. I wasn’t expecting such a delicious sweet chocolate taste. It could turn into a popular mainstay if they make it right. The Dunkelweisen was not bad but tasted pretty much like any other dark Belgian beer. It didn’t grab me and I much preferred the Chocolate Schwartz.
It is nice to note that they did have a selection of food available here. Most of the offerings were around $12-$15. We only had the chips and salsa. It was tasty and the chips were quite nice. We ended up eating a sandwich down the street at Mona Lisa. The little Italian market has amazing huge sandwiches for $7 or so that you can easily split with someone. Since Ballast Point serves food I doubt they would let you bring one in, but it is great for after a few beers. Overall, it is worth stopping by the Little Italy location for a taste of some interesting beers you can’t find at the other location. It is a great start to a new location that will hopefully be very successful.