Category Archives: Brewery/Restaurant

Forbidden Root Revisited 2018

During my last visit to Chicago I was so impressed by Forbidden Root that I was willing to visit the city even when I wasn’t able to take the time to visit other spots nearby that had truly impressed me. Before trying Forbidden Root’s beer, I used to drive to Transient Artisan Ales an hour and a half to the East in Southwestern Michigan. This trip was my chance to see if the brewery was able to make the same quality of beers consistently. They did.
i still haven’t found any of their beers with fruits or botanicals that grabbed me but I was very impressed during my previous visit with their hazy IPAs, specifically the hazy rye IPA called Radio Swan. During this visit I started with Radio Swan and it was thankfully as good as I remembered. The beer had intense notes of melon and citrus with a nice creamy pilowy body and light bitterness. Most San Diego breweries seem to get this same mouthfeel occasionally but I have not found any that do so consistently. My guess is that they don’t really care because the average consumer doesn’t know the difference. I would have left with a crowler of Radio Swan but the machine was having issues on the day I visited.
Radio Swan IPA
Besides the delightful Radio Swan I also tried a beer called Night Moth, a hazy IPA aged in oak barrels. This was one of the beers available in 4 pack cans during my visit. I found the beer to be overly sweet and primarily showcasing strong oak, notes of vanilla, and honey. It would work better with fruit as Untapped showed they have released different versions. But on its own, it lacked the drier finish and was too sweet for me.
I should also note that I was a bit let down by the lack of vegan options at the brewery on their standard menu. I was initially satisfied to order from their small plates because it sounded like one or two of those would be to my liking. But the roasted carrots with hummus dish was half the size I might have expected for $12. My server that day indicated to me that none of the main dishes were able to be made vegan.
Still, given the quality of the Radio Swan IPA, I still hold Forbidden Root as one of the best breweries in Chicago.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Gravity Heights – Impressive New Brewery in the Mira Mesa Area

These days it is hard for me to get excited about every new brewery. Many small breweries barely launch with average beer. Thankfully, the team behind Gravity Heights, including Skip Virgilio, the original brewer behind Alesmith, knows about quality. It shows in both the lineup of beers and the beers I tasted.
Gravity Heights is a massive brewery restaurant that is close to the size of Ballast Point’s big Miramar location. This immediately suggests that there is some big money behind the project. Though big money doesn’t always translate into understanding the local beer scene and what people want to drink. In this case, I can say that someone involved knows exactly where the market is headed.
Gravity Heights launched out the gate with four lighter style beers, a variety of IPAs, three darker beers, and a few collaboration beers. I was glad to see that they had both a house amber and a German style Alt beer. Beers are priced to push the consumer into ordering a pint with $3 tasters and $4.50 half pints. Thankfully most of the pints are $7 with some of the more expensive beers at $7.50 and a few at $8 a pint.
Alt is a German style Amber known for letting the flavor of the malts shine and occasionally some hop character to balance it out. The Alt served at Gravity Heights had prominent notes of coffee and hints of raisin and plum. This is a satisfying beer that blends the lines between amber and brown ale. I would recommend this personally over the dry stout, which I had at the end of the night. Though flavorful for a dry stout, and sporting notes of coffee and roast, I found the dry stout less to my liking.
Alt Beer
Dry Stout
I next ordered their hazy IPA to see if it was done properly. A lot of breweries are making beers they call hazy though a lot miss the style mark completely. This hazy IPA was a delight, bursting with tropical fruit and tons of citrus and citrus rind notes. It had enough haze to fit the style and a nice citrus rind finish that helps balance everything out and avoids it tasting like orange juice. If they can keep this beer consistently as good as I had it on my first visit, this will become a popular local favorite in no time.
I enjoyed the beers at Gravity Heights and also quite liked their back patio where they have a variety of seating options and not just the usual picnic tables. With plenty of businesses within walking distance, they should have no problem attracting visitors. I look forward to returning as the weather warms up.
Top 2: 
Hazy IPA
Alt Beer (German style Amber)

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Cologne – Drinking the Kolsch in Koln

Cologne, or in German Koln, is known for their Kolsch style of beer. This beer is called a lagered ale by some in the US, which is to say it is an ale that is made with lager yeast. If you are familiar with German beer generally, you may know the Helles or Pilsner, both generally lagers. This is similar to those though closer to a pilsner because they don’t tend to be as hoppy as a helles.
A note if you are considering visiting these breweries – like Dusseldorf, they are cash only or some have a 100 euro minimum charge on a card. So if you are planning to go out drinking budget 3 euro 80 cents for every 2 pours and plan on having 12-15 total pours per person plus food.
Like Dusseldorf, there are a bunch of different breweries where you can order Kolsch and they serve beers in similarly sized 200ml glasses, though slightly thinner and taller than the ones for Altbier. I visited four different breweries, starting my day in a time between lunch and dinner where hardly anyone was drinking except those finishing their lunch. I was done with my museums and ready for a beer nonetheless.
I started with Paffgen, which confusingly is also spelled Pfaffen. It was gorgeous inside at their location in Old Town area. I enjoyed their beer but not as much as a few others following. The beer was a bit grassy with light herbal hop character and a dry finish that disappears off the tongue. Though my least favorite that doesn’t mean it was bad. The Kolsch style is delicate by nature and meant for drinking over sipping.
I moved on to Sunner at their Walfish bar. The beer there was slightly more hoppy with notes of citrus and floral hops and still incredibly dry. It was difficult to distinguish much from the previous one. I moved on to Peter’s where I enjoyed the softer body and light sweetness on the finish. This was my favorite of the bunch and one I would love to return to again. Because of the larger restaurant feel, there were more people drinking here than the previous two.
I ended with Muhlen alt at¬†Malzmuhle. They were also nice and soft like Peter’s and quite good. They were the only one I visited once it was proper drinking time so they kept the beers coming without much difficulty. I had four pours there, which is slightly under a liter.
Favorite Spots
  1. Peter’s had a lovely classic feel and a delightful soft body to their kolsch that I loved.
  2. Malzmuhle was similarly soft like Peter’s and also quite good.
  3. Remember to bring cash as most of these breweries are cash only.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Dusseldorf – Drinking the Alt Bier

Dusseldorf is traditionally known as the city where they brew Altbier. There are numerous breweries in the old town area of the city that get packed starting around 7PM. I visited five different spots and of the five, only one was comfortable accepting payment via credit card. A few said they accept cards but require a 100 euro minimum charge, which might as well be cash only. Beers are served in 200ml glasses so while you go through quite a lot of beers, it takes five to drink a full liter.
I started at Uerige first, where I met a Korean woman visiting Germany from Los Angeles and ended up joining me for the rest of the night to chat while we drank. Uerige had one of the more traditional feels of the bunch and also the beer that was the most hoppy/bitter. I had a lovely salad there with my beers. Their Altbier had notes of bitter acorn, notes of cherry, and a lingering bitterness. Though a number of the altbiers we tried were hoppy, they tended towards the bitterness over aroma, letting the malt character shine through.
In most of the breweries they would constantly roll out wooden casks and pour glass after glass of beer. In a few of the more busy spots they seemed to empty a cask in 30 minutes or less. Perhaps it was because it was early but at Uerige they didn’t constantly serve us like they did at some of the others but we still got our beers quickly. My companion enjoyed the altbier at Uerige the most of the bunch. It was a highlight for me as well though I appreciated some others for their more restrained bitterness.
Next on our list was Zum Golden, right up the street, though they were closed that day. We made our way to Zum Schlussel next, where we had the sweetest of the beers with more notes of caramel and molasses and a more creamy head than the others. They seemed to be the biggest space of them all and the restaurant was packed with most tables either occupied or reserved. If you plan to eat with a group at one of these breweries, you should make a reservation or expect a wait.
We set up at Zum Schlussel in a standing area in view of the casks not far from the front door and watched as they filled beer after beer to deliver to the tables around us. We each had two glasses here and moved on to the next spot, Im Golden Kessel, just down the street. There we stood to drink as well and experienced our first constant serving of beer. The beer there was a bit closer to Uerige in flavor and bitterness. The important thing at most of these spots is the beer is so dry that it is easy to drink through glass after glass without issue. Our drinking was occasionally interrupted by the popping sound of a new cask being tapped.
After a few beers we moved on to Kurzer, the newest of the bunch and also the place with the youngest crowd. They used a different sort of cask that was much smaller but had no issues keeping us constantly supplied with beer. I initially got some notes of Indian Curry (masala chai) that thankfully dissipated over time but in general this was not a favorite of mine. We also might have been turned away except the people who reserved the table where we set up did not show up. Here again they required cash to pay for the beers, despite the modern feel.
We moved on to Fuschen, where we stood near the entrance as well. This place was also packed but we settled in a bar area where they were happy to serve us beers. By this point the flavors were all starting to blend together and it was hard to distinguish one from another. We finished our few beers there and moved on to Im Golden Ring that seemed like it was on the ground floor of a hotel. Though they were getting ready to close, they didn’t mind serving us.
This was the first spot that had something other than Altbier on the menu and actually gave you a menu of drinks. We each ordered a larger 400ml pour there. The other tables appeared to be all drinking Weissbier. This was also the one spot that I was able to pay with a credit card. I found their version of Altbier to be quite mellow and also similarly caramel forward.
My experience with the breweries was much enhanced by having someone with me to chat with. The Germans around us didn’t seem to speak any English and also didn’t seem very interested in chatting. Like with Dublin, I could tell that for the visitors to these breweries, drinking is more important than tasting and few people were sipping their small beers. While it was fun to visit a bunch of different breweries, you may find it equally enjoyable to set up in a spot and drink much more there. Just make sure you have cash handy. The standard price per beer was between 2 euro and 2 euro 50 cents, which makes it between 4-5 euros per American pint. 200ml is just under 7 ounces so two beers is slightly less than an American pint.
In case you have your fill of Altbier and decide you want something different, you can find some craft beer either at local shops off the beaten path or even a bar in Old Town area. Holy Craft has a bottle shop in Friedrichtrasse and a bar in the Old Town area of Dusseldorf. I only visited the bottle shop but it is a good spot where you can find various craft beers and also sample German classics like Berliner Weisse and Gose, both slightly sour, though the German varieties are much more yeast forward (like a traditional weisse beer) than we are used to in the US.

My favorites:

  1. Uerige – this was the most complex tasting beer of the bunch.
  2. Fuschen – Lovely traditional feel, and delicious beer.
  3. TIP: Remember to bring cash because most of these spots are Cash Only or have a minimum charge of 100 euro on a card.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus

Thoughts on the Dublin Beer Scene

Dublin has a variety of beer options, whether you are looking to sample local craft beer or simply drink the local styles. There is no shortage of Irish stouts and red ales on Nitro for you to enjoy at the various pubs. Unlike many other areas, you don’t currently have the options of visiting breweries except for Guinness. Thankfully Galway Bay Brewery has seven different pubs in Dublin you can visit to enjoy their variety of house beers and many guest beers.

There is a certain simple pleasure to sipping reds and stouts after getting used to hazy Ipas. Most pubs I visited had the standard Guinness and Smithwicks (red, pale, and blonde) on Nitro and many had other red ales or stouts on Nitro as well. While you can get Smithwicks in cans, nothing compares to the nitro pours at the pubs.

Though I visited around 15 different pubs over many days, I never once encountered a dirty glass or dirty lines. There is a dedication to quality presentation at the pubs in Ireland that American bars could learn from. Pints are strictly defined and most pubs served me an identical amount of beer when I ordered a pint. You can always order a glass if you want a half pint of something at a pub and they won’t mind. Most were also happy to give me a taste of a beer or two if I wasn’t sure what I wanted.

There is a roasty character to the proper Irish red ales I drank over the last few days that I haven’t often encountered in the US and I will miss this flavor. I also had a few lovely Irish Pale Ales (IPA for short) that were similar in character to English bitter styles. In Dublin you can also find both Irish and English craft beers in the stores. I only encountered Cloudwater beer on tap once and they had run out before I ordered it.

Besides the much hyped Cloudwater from Manchester UK, you can find other local Irish versions of kettle sours, hazy Ipas, and others at liquor stores around the Dublin area, typically called Off-License on a sign outside. The one can of Cloudwater hazy Ipa I bought was fantastic and I highly recommend grabbing some if you are looking for that style. My recommendation is to drink all the craft Irish stouts, reds, and pales you can find and add in the occasional pint of Smithwicks. I have only had terrible experience with the local lagers, sometimes called blonde ales, and would suggest you never order those.

Of the various craft beer bars I visited, the two connected with Galway Bay Brewery were my favorites. You can find a list of their Dublin pubs on their website and you should consider visiting one of their pubs at least once. My only complaint is that they have the same food menu at each of them, so you don’t get to try unique food at either spot. I greatly enjoyed their pub ale and they also have a delicious milk stout and various hoppy offerings to try.

Outside the craft pubs, your lineup would typically look like this.

During my four days of drinking in Dublin, my only other complaint is that I didn’t have any serious conversation at the various pubs I visited. It must be too obvious that I am a tourist with my camera over my shoulder. In all, I found my experience in the Dublin pubs to be much superior to my past visit to London. Though it could also have been my approach to the pubs that was different as well.

On my lats evening in Dublin, I decided to finally visit the local pub near where I was staying in my Airbnb near Drumcundra station. The pub there had a drastically different feel and was clearly the spot for the locals to spend their evenings drinking and watching football. I spent a few hours there enjoying the conversation they were having, watching the games, and drinking a few pints. It was a highlight of my trip.

Pubs to Try

Dublin has a variety of pubs you can visit but the ones below are some of my favorites.
1. Any of the pubs connected with Galway Bay Brewery. The staff was always welcoming and they have a good number of guest taps.
2. The Stag’s Head – We visited on a crowded evening and the place had a lovely energy about it.
3. Darkey Kelly’s – Nice traditional Pub that has live music in the evenings.
4. Get out of Downtown Dublin and visit smaller neighborhood pubs. This is the way to get the best local experience.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterPinterestGoogle Plus