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Austin Texas Beer – Hops and Grain Brewing and Jester King

In my short trip to Austin I visited only two breweries, in part because I was currently on a break from alcohol (or about to start one) and also because some of the local breweries don’t offer tasters. But the two breweries I did visit were the most highly recommended and they were both delicious in their own way.

Hops and Grain

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Hops and Grain is closer to downtown austin while Jester King is far out from the city. It is certainly much easier to visit Hops and Grain. Rather than a taster flight, they sell you a glass and you can fill that glass four different times for $10. It isn’t a bad deal per ounce but for someone who was wanting to cut back, wasn’t the best either. I was glad that they used a 10 ounce glass instead of a pint glass like I encountered at some other breweries. I stuck to some of the lower alcohol options and found most of them to be quite tasty. I tried the Zoe lager, the Alt altbier, the mosaic pale and the baltic style porter.

Austin Beer 02 Austin Beer 03

Pilsner
Pilsner

The lager was super smooth and had notes of peach and light floral hops with a bready malt finish. It was one of the better lagers that I have had. The Altbier was super smooth and flavorful with a nice German malt flavor. I don’t have much familiarity with the style so I can’t say if it was a good example of it. The Mosaic Pale was a very well done pale in the modern style with lots of fruity hops and low on the malt bill. It stands up to some of the best San Diego pale ales. The porter was roasty and very tasty with notes of rasin and dark chocolate.

Austin Beer 05 Austin Beer 06

The brewery is a great place to hang out when it is quiet but it can also get quite noisy during the middle of a busy Saturday. They do have some outdoor seating out front but because it is in the sun I didn’t go out there. Not only am I quite sensitive to the sun’s rays, so are beers. I was quite impressed by the beers that I tasted and wish I could have tasted more in a more traditional taster size. They are also walking distance from Mueller’s Meats, a great local BBQ joint that has lines but nothing ridiculous.

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Top 2:
Mosaic Pale
Pilsner

Jester King

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I also visited Jester King despite the long drive. It is probably a good 30 minutes outside Downtown Austin, which means driving along some windy roads to get there, many of them only two lanes. It is one of the biggest outdoor brewery locations I have visited. They do offer individual tasters of each of the beers but I was disappointed that they gave you full size glasses with each one, which meant it was a bit difficult for you to carry around a large number of tasters. Still, because they serve tasters I tried seven beers at Jester King.

The fantastic designs on the tap handles at Jester King.
The fantastic designs on the tap handles at Jester King.

I wasn’t too excited by the two smaller beers I tasted, the Petit Prince or the Audio Palette. They are both mainstays but seemed to be a little lacking in flavor for my tastes. Still it is worth trying them if you go so you can decide if you like them and want to buy bottles to take home rather than blindly buying bottles. Noble King was a solid farmhouse ale with light citrus and lemon notes and hints of spices. The Multifarious smoked stout was very smoky, and ultimately the only one we didn’t finish drinking. The smoke was a bit too much for us.

My first set of tasters.
My first set of tasters.
My second set of tasters.
My second set of tasters.

The Ol Oi sour brown was really smooth and not too sour with a really smooth oaky finish. I left with a few bottles of this because it was one of the more impressive dark sours I have tasted. The 2015 Autumnal Dichotomous was really smooth and slightly sweet, a very delicious farmhouse ale that hits my saison spot. I left with a few bottles of this one as well and look forward to seeing how they age. The last beer I tried was the Bufords Roadside Wares, a colaboration with Arizona Wilderness brewing. It was mildly tart with some dark fruit flavor and some acidic finish. It was a solid beer but I didn’t like it enough to buy any bottles especially because it cost a few dollars more than the others.

A view of some of the open space around Jester King.
A view of some of the open space around Jester King.

For a highly hyped brewery a long distance from the town I was glad I went out and visited Jester King. If I went out again I would skip some of the lighter alcohol beers in favor of the more complex sours and farmhouse ales. The ones I liked though were absolutely delicious, which is where I think the hype comes from. If you do happen to like their lighter beers you can find them in the local Whole Foods stores as well, though I didn’t compare the pricing.

Top 2:
Ol Oi Dark sour
2015 Autumnal Dichotomous farmhouse ale

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.

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Pacific Brewing Celebrates One Year of Serving Beer

A year ago I was at Pacific Brewing Company when they had their grand opening party. Now they are still around and pouring their core beers. For the anniversary party they put on an anniversary double IPA, a barrel aged version of their stout, and a double dry hopped version of the Bombora IPA. Unlike other anniversary parties around they didn’t have a price at the door so you could come by and have a few tasters or a pint without any of the other stuff if you want.

Pacific Brewing 1 year Anniversary 05

I had a taster flight that included the barrel aged stout, anniversary double IPA, double dry hopped Bombora IPA and the Sticky Icky. To me the barrel aged stout was a bit more heavy on the vanilla and didn’t have much of the bourbon flavors I was expecting. They seem to have decided to showcase the flavors of the base beer. I could have done with more bourbon flavors because the vanilla gave it a little syrupy sweet flavor that didn’t work for me.

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Then came the anniversary double IPA, a nice lightly herbal beer with a solid bitter bite and mild amount of sticky sweetness. This was great and would go nicely as a pint. Then I had the double dry hopped Bombora, a sticky dank citrus beer with plenty of extra kick thanks to the extra hops. It stood up to the anniversary even though I had it after the anniversary double.

Pacific Brewing 1 year Anniversary 02

I ended with the Sticky Icky to see how it held up since the opening. It seemed a little less sweet than I remember it being but it was a bit more balanced, which gave it a very pleasant taste. The beer had a nice light roasty flavor and mild hop bite, making it a proper stronger amber without going overboard like many try to do.

Pacific Brewing 1 year Anniversary 04 Pacific Brewing 1 year Anniversary 01

It was good to see Pacific sticking to their core beers they started with. Since opening they added the televisions so they have some of the games on as well. I’m glad they managed to keep similar hop flavors going in their anniversary beer despite the difficulty of getting many of the hops they likely used to start with. I look forward to what Pacific will come up with over the next year.

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.

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Green Flash Silva Stout Release Party 2015

Green Flash had a special release party to promote the first of many barrel aged beers they are aging at their new facility out in Poway they call Cellar 3. Though they weren’t able to hold this event in Poway, they had a big bash and brought out a number of specialty beers for the occasion. Among the special versions was a special coffee version of the stout that somehow was stronger than the original version, clocking in at a gigantic 13%.

Silva Stout Release 2015 01 Silva Stout Release 2015 02

Also for sale at the tasting room were bottles of the barrel aged stout. Silva Stout is a blend of bourbon barrel aged double stout and the regular double stout. The coffee version was so strong that I could feel it seriously after only a small 4oz taster. Flavor wise it was not particularly boozy and had a good smooth caramel flavor along with a nutty coffee taste.

Silva Stout Release 2015 03 Silva Stout Release 2015 04

According to the flavor notes they handed out with bottles of Silva Stout the grand opening of their Cellar 3 will be held on May 16, 2015. I look forward to visiting that facility to taste the different beers they have but for now some of the special beers they brought out for the party should hang around for a little bit.

First set of tasters, Left to right, Brett Saison, Apricot Le Freak Barrique, Boysenberry Saison, Candella Barley Wine.
First set of tasters, Left to right, Brett Saison, Le Freak Barrique, Boysenberry Saison, Candella Barley Wine.

Among them they had some barrel aged Saisons with Brett, a delicious barleywine in collaboration with Cigar City, two varieties of Silva Stout on tap including one extra strong version with Mostra Coffee, a barrel aged Le Freak with Brett and an Apricot version of the same with Brett.

Second set of tasters, Cask Silva Stout front left, Black Tiger, back left, Coffee Silva Stout right back, Apricot Le Freak front right.
Second set of tasters, Cask Silva Stout front left, Black Tiger, back left, Coffee Silva Stout right back, Apricot Le Freak front right.

Of these the standouts to me were the Candella Barleywine, Le Freak Barrique, and Apricot Le Freak Barrique. The new recipe of Le Freak works great with the barrel aging and addition of Brett. The Silva Stout was also quite delicious with plenty of smooth chocolate and bourbon flavors. I also came home with two bottles of Silva Stout.

Mango Inferno (left) and Silva Stout (right).
Mango Inferno (left) and Silva Stout (right).

I was glad to see that the bottles of Silva Stout were still available three hours after opening and there will also be quite a few that were sent out to distributors you might find in stores. The opening of Cellar 3 should mean more availability of Silva Stout and hopefully some of these delicious Brett Le Freak varieties as well going forward. If you want to try some of these beers you should stop by the tasting room over the next few days so that you can taste some before they go.

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.

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Noble Ale Works, Orange County CA

A few miles from The Bruery is Noble Ale Works, a brewery that knows how to make a fantastic IPA. My first introduction to the brewery was a double IPA that I tried down in San Diego. I immediately took notice and wanted to stop by for a visit. I didn’t make it to the brewery itself until a few weeks ago when I stopped by both The Bruery and Noble Ale Works on September 27, 2014 on my way home from LA.

Noble Ale Works 01

I tried five beers while there, Rosalita (a hibiscus infused pilsner), pale ale, Big Whig IPA, a coffee milk stout, and man’s milk. The Rosalita was not particularly impressive. There was very little hibiscus flavor and if it wasn’t pink in color you probably wouldn’t even know it was flavored. I didn’t finish this taster. The pale ale was quite impressive with a nice juicy flavor that set it apart from most piney pale ales out there.

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The Big Whig IPA is a powerful IPA that really shows that Noble understands the West Coast style of IPA. It has a lot of citrus flavor and a bit of resinous flavor as well to balance it out. I had this beer on tap down in Mexico pretty recently as well and every time it hits the spot. The coffee milk stout was a bit sweet and strangely light colored. It had plenty of iced coffee flavor to go nicely with the sweetness. The Man’s Milk was pretty similar with a little more syrupy sweetness going on and a lot more caramel in the flavor.

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Because I had already been to The Bruery and was going to dinner when I got back to San Diego I didn’t try the Galaxy Showers, a seasonal double iPA using just galaxy hops. There was another seasonal double IPA called Chinook Showers as well but I didn’t try that one either. Noble was fairly crowded as well and overall is worth a stop if you like IPAs. If you can’t make it up to the brewery look for their Big Whig IPA on tap at local beer bars.

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.

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The Bruery, Orange County California

The Bruery has been open for a few years now but I hadn’t heard of it until I went to the Beer Bloggers Conference this year in San Diego. Though they have a few year round beers, when you visit the brewery you can tell that they are really focusing on sour beers and barrel aged imperial stouts. Many of the sours and barrel aged stouts are limited releases and the bottles are a bit more expensive than usual.

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Though I did taste a few barrel aged beers while I was there, I mostly focused on the core brews that sounded interesting. I was heading to Noble Ale Works (only 7 miles away) next so I couldn’t try more than a full five taster flight. A number of the interesting sounding beers were described as hoppy so I hoped that I would find something that would satisfy my hop cravings.

In total, I tried the double dry-hopped red, hoppy belgian golden, india pale lager (IPL), dubel with cacao nibs and vanilla, and a bourbon barrel aged stout with cherry and vanilla.

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The double dry-hopped red ale was interesting for two reasons. First, it didn’t really have much malt flavor to speak of. Second, it was mostly light bodied and taken over by floral hops. Thus, it really tasted more like a floral session IPA than anything else. It was a solid beer but I found the floral hops to be a little too overpowering leaving just a light citrus background.

The hoppy Belgian golden was a solid Belgian gold though the hops were very light, mostly serving to balance out the typical spice flavors a Belgian beer makes. The IPL was pretty disappointing overall although I have a hard time pinpointing the specific flavor that I didn’t like. Based on the description on the website, it seems the herbal flavors were a bit overpowering in this one.

The dubel was a very tasty chocolate beer and totally different than what I usually get. Rather than a thick full-bodied stout, this was a lighter bodied Belgian beer that displayed the chocolate flavors quite prominently. Finally, the bourbon barrel aged stout with cherry and vanilla was quite nice. The bourbon flavor came through nice and was balanced with a light amount of tart flavor from the cherry.

The Bruery 01

I was generally disappointed by the lack of lower alcohol¬†dark ale offerings. Though they have a bunch of imperial stouts, there is no porter or stout anywhere near the 5% alcohol range. They also didn’t have an IPA, which it seems they were purposefully avoiding. Though many of the beers I tried were described as hoppy, they didn’t really satisfy my cravings. An IPL when done right would take the place of a solid IPA but the IPL here was purposefully avoiding the West Coast style of IPA. By contrast, Ballast Point makes a delicious IPL that I am a huge fan of.

If you like sours, there are a lot of options to try at The Bruery. They also seem to be doing a great job with the barrel aged imperial stouts and special limited release bottles. What they weren’t able to do is satisfy this hop-head’s cravings for the West Coast hop flavors. If you really like floral and herbal hops then you might enjoy their hoppier options a little bit. Otherwise, I suggest you head over to Noble nearby for your hop fix.

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.

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