The Bell Marker – Downtown San Diego

The Bell Marker took over a spot on the corner of 6th and Broadway. They had a wide lineup of beers so that it would have been difficult to try them all even doing flights. I happened to visit during happy hour so I had pints rather than my usual tasters because they were only $4 a piece during that window. If you are there for happy hour, I highly recommend you order the hummus plate, which is a great deal and a healthy meal when paired with a pint.

I first had a pint of their English Brown. This is a style I don’t order very often in San Diego but when I saw the lower alcohol it was worth trying a splash. As expected, the American Brown they have is a bit more hop forward and higher alcohol than the English style. I loved the dark color like a porter. The beer was roasty and quite flavorful for the low alcohol with notes of chocolate and caramel. Some may say this borders on porter territory with the prominent roast but it is a delicious beer either way and a rarity with the low alcohol.

I returned another day and had the cream ale and Belgian Wit. I was going to try their pale ale or session IPA but the splashes of both were a bit high on the bitterness and I wasn’t feeling them so I went on the lighter side. The cream ale was crisp and delicious with notes of pear and peach with a soft body. The Belgian Wit was super dry with a hint of clove and a mildly earthy finish. It paired wonderfully with their hummus plate and is one of the more authentic versions of the beer I’ve had locally. My husband drank the milk stout both times and it was tasty with a mix of caramel and roast with a medium body and not overly sweet.

If you are in Downtown San Diego it may not be too far to walk to Bell Marker. If you do, you will find a good variety of solid beers and a broad menu of food options. Their happy hour is currently 3-6PM daily with $4 pints and discounted appetizers. They have a good sized restaurant with standard restaurant seating and a good sized bar.

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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Weldwerks Brewing Company – Greeley CO

Weldwerks is quite the long drive, about an hour outside of Denver, and located in the middle of nowhere. You can find some of their beers around Denver in bottle shops and on tap but a lot of the beers don’t leave the brewery. The tap list was so insane that I could only go to that one brewery for the day because I wanted to try so many different beers. Though they are known for their hazy IPAs, and they are good I was most impressed by the milkshake IPA and the Berliner weisse beers with fruit. Their barrel aged imperial stouts were also quite excellent.

I started with DDH juicy bits, their flagship hazy IPA. It was creamy and mildly bitter with notes of tangerine and tropical fruit. It is a solid hazy and hits the right flavor notes for the style. Coalescence hazy IPA was similarly creamy but more explosive with hop aroma this time mostly tropical fruit including tons of papaya. I would have bought cans of this if they had been available. Evil Haze Factory was also super creamy with notes of vanilla, strawberry, guava, and pineapple. While it had some lingering sweetness, it was still my favorite of the hazy IPAs from the visit.

My initial flight of tasters including IPAs and fruited sours. 

Double blackberry milkshake IPA was delicious with tons of berry flavor and related acidity. It was juicy and lightly sweet though I was surprised it was not hazy. Perhaps the hazy had been part of it originally and had settled out. In comparison, I much preferred the fruit explosion of the tropical milkshake IPA. It had a bright pink/purple color with a creamy body and explosive tropical fruit and berry notes. The stone fruit Berliner was juicy and tart with prominent stone fruit and a nice thick body similar to a smoothie almost. It reminded me nicely of the stone fruit gose from Aslin brewing. The strawberry rhubarb beer was like liquid pie. It was sweet with notes of baking spices and just the right amount of fruit.

The brownie batter stout was a big hit for my husband and other friends though a bit too sweet for me. It had nice prominent dark chocolate and dough but I don’t care so much for the heavy lactose flavor. There are plenty of delicious milk stout options for you here if you love a sweet stout. I prefer more of the barrel aged stuff so after this I had three versions of their meidanoche stout, a crazy powerful 15% barrel aged stout aged in rum barrels. Each was served as a 6 ounce pour.

Part 1 of the massive tap-list displayed on their large TV screens. 

Part 2 of the massive tap-list displayed on their large TV screens. 

The cool thing about the medianoche beers is they have a special glass just for the beer and so even if you get a six ounce pour, it is proper glass for the beer. I had three versions, a version made for their invitational beer festival with coffee and chocolate, a malibu version with coconut and vanilla, and a version aged 18 months in a single barrel without any adjuncts. They were all fantastic, not crazy boozy despite the high alcohol, and wonderfully balanced. They were some of the best barrel aged stouts I have had anywhere.

Two varieties of Medianoche in their signature glass. I had to try them side-by-side.

The invitational version was thick and fudgy with light barrel character and fairly hidden alcohol. I got some mild nutty coffee out of it as it warmed up. The malibu was slightly sweeter with notes of strawberry. The 18 month version was the most boozy of the bunch with strong rum character. As it warmed up the beer had some nice notes of toffee and tobacco.

The view of the inside. Plenty of seating. 

Despite the crazy drive to get out to Greeley, I was glad I visited the brewery and would consider doing it again depending on the tap list that they have, which thankfully they update regularly on Untappd. If you go to their Untappd page you will see a list of beers available to drink on site and beers available to-go.

Pint of Juicy Bits that I ordered before leaving. 

Top Beers:
Stone Fruit Berliner
Tropical Milkshake IPA
Invitational Single Barrel Medianoche

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 Session – Beer and the Life – What Craft Beer Means to Me

This post is in response to a prompt provided to me by a fellow San Diego Beer Blogger, Bill Vanderburgh, who writes for craftbeerinsandiego.com.

I have been traveling for fun and for visiting breweries for over four years. This raises the question of what value there is to doing so, besides making it easier for others to decide where to go when visiting the same city. I find tremendous value in it, which is why I still continue to travel despite not making any money from my blog.

The value of exploring breweries can be seen in a few ways. The most obvious is that by visiting the brewery directly you get to try beers you wouldn’t find elsewhere. This has little meaning if you can’t differentiate between beers or if you are happy with just any beer. So this leads to an explanation of the hardcore beer enthusiasts, whom I have befriended over the years.

All beer drinkers start their journey with a flavor they enjoyed in a beer that they want to re-live. But for some, their enjoyment is not dependent on quality, or the variations of quality are not so apparent. By becoming hyper-focused on flavors of beer, many enthusiasts take a leap further. Through this leap comes a differentiation between good, great, fantastic, and world class. Others are happy to find beer that is at least good or sometimes great and stop there. Looking back I sometimes wish I had done so to. Constantly searching for fantastic can lead to disappointment if a beer is not perfectly fresh or as flavorful as the previous batch.

However, having reached the level where I differentiate between fantastic and world class gives me an experience that I can share with enthusiasts around the world. And through this comes a passion that leads me and others to travel longer distances to visit breweries famed for being world class. As some might point out, I am not certified either as a beer judge or a cicerone. I have no formal training on what makes a beer a fantastic example of its beer style. But I speak not from education but from personal experience, an experience many drinkers can relate to.

At nearly every excellent brewery I visit, I meet people who share my passion for searching out the fantastic and the world class. These meetings often turn into in-depth conversations and occasionally friendships. Friendships often develop over a shared passion, whether for types of music, quality beer, or appreciation of nature. These shared passions help us to quickly judge the person we just met. From there, a friendship may develop further into something more personal over the course of many years.

There is a certain welcoming character to beer enthusiasts that I find quite similar to metal heads. Once that shared quality is discovered, conversation takes on a deeper meaning. But I live in San Diego where there are already many world class breweries to visit, surely I could meet beer enthusiasts in my hometown. I absolutely have. There is something different about meeting someone at De Garde, Sante Adarius, American Solera, Cantillon, Jester King, Hill Farmstead, and others that immediately triggers another level of connection. I met 5 wonderful people on my visit to Cantillon a few years ago. Of them, I have kept in touch with the three American women. All 3 of them fell in love with Cantillon’s famed apricot lambic.

The group I joined when I was at the brewery.

You might notice a similarity in the list of breweries. They all focus on barrel-aged beers either farmhouse or inspired by the Belgian lambic tradition. This style has an inherent draw for beer enthusiasts. The beers can be aged, developing complexities over time. And in certain instances I have found specific beers of the style that my husband and mother enjoy, even though most sour beers are beyond their appreciation. I have had numerous people I had never met offer to share a bottle with me that they purchased to drink at the brewery. I have also shared many similar bottles with others, whether at the brewery or when friends come over to share some beers.

There is a tendency among the hardcore beer enthusiasts to welcome the person you just met as if you were friends with them for years. This connection to others is at the heart of what it means to be human. Some might even describe it as sharing an experience of unconditional love. I look forward to the development of these friendships over the coming years. My journey has just begun.

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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Denver Breweries – Mockery and Prost

Mockery Brewing

Mockery was my third brewery of the day and also my least favorite from that day. Though they did have a few solid beers out of the bunch. The brewery was pretty empty because it was July 4th and the brewery was nice and cool.

I started with the dandelion farmhouse. It was dark and malty with notes of cherry and an herbal bitterness. It didn’t work for me at all and didn’t taste like a farmhouse beer to me. Hops in Stereo IPA was decent with hops mostly on the herbal flavor and a boozy finish. The Rock on Forever IPA was hazy mostly because it was a new keg. The beer was creamy and tropical with a light bitterness. It was a solid IPA and the best of the bunch.

Sour Grapes was quite disappointing. The beer was strong and boozy with mild grape character and light caramel. It was nothing like a typical american wild ale. The barrel aged stout was quite good with tons of dark chocolate and a great balance for 10%, largely hiding the alcohol. Mockery had a solid lineup though I would not recommend you visit if you are hunting for sours.

Top 2:
Rock on Forever IPA
BBA Stout

Prost Brewing

Prost is a full on German style brewery. They have a wide open inside seating area as well as outdoor seating. They had a food truck on site when we visited, with great food. I only ordered full pours of two beers because after all the tasters I wanted to have a proper half liter of good beer. Before ordering the Keller Pilsner and Heffeweizen I had a small splash to confirm they were what I wanted and both were great.

The Keller pilsner was delicious and lightly bitter with doughy and earthy notes and mild hops on a clean finish. It had all the complexity I expect from the style and is more my style than the lagers at Bierstadt Lagerhaus. The Heffeweizen was perfectly balanced with notes of banana and clove but not overpowering the beer. It had a good dry finish. If I lived in the area I would drink their heffeweizen on the regular.

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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Denver Breweries – Baere and Cerebral

Baere Brewing

Baere was one of the most recommended breweries that I visited in my trip. Some said it was a must visit spot. I thought the beers were good but they didn’t particularly blow me away. They had a nice tasting room in a strip mall with good air conditioning inside and plenty of outdoor seating, though it was too hot to sit outside when I visited.

I started with their saison, which was good. The beer was dry and spice forward with cracker notes and a lingering bitterness. It was a bit bitter for the style but solid. I prefer a different style of saison but it was nicely done. The Belgian Single was solid with notes of light orange and light funk. The beer was subtle and lightly bitter on the finish. The Grisette was my favorite of the bunch. It had bright notes of lemon and grapefruit with mild funk from the brett yeast finishing with light oak. This is one of the more impressive brett beers I have had in a while.

The porter was good and roasty with mild bitterness and somewhat syrupy. It is fairly standard for the style. The kolsch was light and creamy with notes of grape and corn. It was average for the style. The pale ale was super dry with nice mix of resin and tropical fruit. A solid pale but it could have used more explosive hop aroma.

Baere was overall solid though the only thing that stood out to me was the grisette. It is a good brewery but not something I would go out of my way to return to.

Top 2:
Grisette
Belgian Single

Cerebral Brewing

Cerebral had mostly hazy IPAs and I tried quite a few. They have a good sized tasting room and a solid line up of hazy beers including a few available in cans. For hazy beers they were fairly average though still good. The sours with lactose were much more impressive. I tried a flight of six beers of which most were IPAs with a few sours.

I started with the mango coconut lime berliner weisse with lactose. It was easily my favorite of the bunch. The beer initially tasted to me like peach pie with light tart and notes of cinnamon. The lactose gave it a creamy body without getting overly sweet. Their flanders red style sour was solid with notes of caramel and red wine vinegar and a strong tart finish. It wasn’t the best but a solid example of the style.

The Tangerine Stuff IPA was bursting with citrus and the fruit balanced wonderfully with the base hops. The beer had nice prominent notes of mango to combine with the tangerine. The last 3 were all hazy IPAs. DDH Strange claw was creamy with tons of hop acidity and a nice burst of tropical flavor. Rare Trait was super flavorful and exploded with notes of tropical fruit and papaya. The Controlled Chaos was the most creamy of the bunch with tons of pineapple flavor. The three hazy beers were all solid, fairly average as far as hazy IPAs go. They are a solid stop if you don’t want to hunt for Weldwerks hazy IPAs.

Top 2:
Bird of Paradise – Berliner with lactose and fruit
Controlled Chaos – Hazy IPA

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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Exploring San Diego's Craft Breweries