Burning Beard Brewing – Impressive New Brewery With Delicious IPAs

In San Diego most new breweries aren’t going to get very far without an IPA unless they focus exclusively on sours and wild ales. Burning Beard has been open for a few months and has already attracted a large following thanks to a solid lineup of hoppy beers and a punk vibe that comes through in the beer names, the logo, and the music played at the tasting room. Located in a small industrial area just outside the center of El Cajon, and not too far from the 52 freeway, on a busy day you will likely find yourself parking on the street but once inside you are greeted by the smiles of the various beertenders who all know their beers and are led by Shannon Lynnette, whose involvement as tasting room manager instantly signals to her friend and fans that the beers are going to be awesome. Many locals know her from her time at Alesmith.

Burning Beard 01

Side note and disclaimer: I was not charged for the eight tasters that I will discuss in this post thanks to the awesome hospitality of Shannon and the newest member of her team. However, I will be giving them the same treatment as I would any other brewery. I have not been in any way obligated to give them a positive review.

Tap list when I visited the brewery on June 16, 2016.
Tap list when I visited the brewery on June 16, 2016.

This was actually my second visit to the brewery, after I made the drive out a month earlier only to realize my cold left me unable to smell and thus unable to experience the hops they pull off so well. Though I couldn’t experience their beers that day, trusting Shannon’s recommendations and a super fresh IPA I came home with a crowler (32 ounce can to go) of their Hopmata IPA. A few days later, when my senses had returned, I opened the crowler and posted on Instagram, “Delicious IPA with tangerine notes and super sticky and dank, very impressive IPA.” At the time when I opened the crowler the beer had been only on tap for four days and the freshness was noticeable. Some responded to my post on Facebook and indicated that they preferred the Dankness Visible IPA and I can see why and will explain below now that I have tried it.

Burning Beard 10

On this most recent trip I stuck mostly to the hoppy beers with the exception of the saison and the imperial stout. The coffee stout they have was out at the moment, which was the beer my husband preferred when we stopped by the first time. I tasted the pilsner, rye pale, ESB, Circle of Hops pale ale, saison, Dankness Visible IPA, Hopmata IPA, and Insoc imperial stout. Starting a tasting with a pilsner I have rarely experienced one so flavorful and delicious. To me there are two things that set apart a good pilsner, one is the clean pilsner malt and the other is the right amount of hop character to balance it out. This had both with notes of fruit and floral hops that balanced nicely with the slightly sweet pilsner malts. I later ended up ordering a pint of this beer before I left.

First four tasters, all delicious light hoppy beers.
First four tasters, all delicious light hoppy beers.

The rye pale was a solid pale with notes of tangerine, lemon, and melon from the hops and a nice mild bitterness on the end. The ESB was super smooth and delicious with a great caramel malt backbone and a light apricot hop flavor that is detectable but stays back to avoid overpowering the rest. There are a handful of local breweries that have impressed me with their ESBs but Burning Beard joins the group. It is no surprise to me that this beer recently won first place at a beer festival. Circle of Hops is the more traditional pale of the bunch, offering a chewy malt backbone and with hops primarily providing bitterness with some dank and sticky character coming in at the end. Of these first four, the pilsner and ESB stood out for me though many people around were really digging the Circle of Hops.

The saison is super fruity with notes of banana, pineapple, and ripe tropical fruit with just a light funk behind it all. The beer had none of the traditional pepper or earthy notes that can sometimes make a saison. Before I describe the two IPAs I should note that the Dankness visible was noticeably the fresher of the two so that gave it an edge at the time. Both IPAs have distinct hop profiles that may appeal to different people. The Dankness Visible is super dank and has lots of pine and resin notes. I really enjoyed the balance of flavors here and the hops were strong and in your face without making the beer too bitter. The Hopmata IPA is more fruity and sticky with notes of mango and tropical fruit and a slight wheat malt flavor to it. This one was a bit more bitter of the two but still a very tasty IPA.

Second set of tasters.
Second set of tasters.

The Insoc imperial stout is primarily bitter and roasty with notes of dark fruit dominating. I tend to prefer more chocolate or coffee notes in my imperial stouts and more sweetness so I wasn’t too big on this. My husband, who also prefers more chocolate and coffee in his stouts wasn’t huge on this one either. It is clearly well made but not the type of stout I would order much of. After tasting my 8 tasterts and sipping on a pint of the pilsner, I was ready to head back home so I picked up a crowler of the Dankness visible to have in a few days. I don’t usually do a lot of growler fills with breweries but I can see myself stopping by when I’m in the area fairly regularly to bring home some of their delicious IPAs. It is nice to see a small brewery offering crowler fills since you don’t have to worry about bringing your growler with you to stop by for beer to go.

Delicious pilsner in their pint glass.
Delicious pilsner in their pint glass.

I should also note that while I really enjoy Burning Beard, they are most impressive for their hoppy beers. They do have a few tasty Belgian style offerings as well as the stouts and are working on some sours so that eventually they will truly have something for everyone. For a brewery that has been open only a few short months they clearly fill a void for the locals in the area who filled up the place as early as 4PM on a Thursday. The place does have quite an echo so when it is crowded it can be difficult to hear the music under the roar of all the talking but it doesn’t get so loud to make it uncomfortable and they do have a section of outdoor seating if it gets to be a problem. They also regularly have food trucks during the evenings so keep an eye on their Facebook page to see if a food truck interests you.

Top 4:
Dankness Visible
Pilsner
ESB
Hopmata 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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Mikkeller Brewing – New San Diego Location

I visited Mikkeller’s San Diego location twice to cover the majority of the beers. They are such a big name that I wanted to try as much as possible. In total I tried 11 different beers. Mikkeller took over the old Alesmith location and is brewing beer with one of the Alesmith Brewers. They gave the Alesmith tasting room a change in look including tons of wacky artwork of the sort that Mikkeller has on their bottles.
Mikkeller Brewing 01
Mikkeller Brewing 02
To start with, I tried the two lightest beers. The Berliner Weisse was really nice beer that is lightly tart with notes of fruit and citrus. The Saison SD is also quite fruity with some mild funk, notes of banana and peach, and a solid earthy back end. Both of these were quite good. The Sparks pale ale is solidly balanced pale with notes of peach and other fruits with a medium bitter finish. The Waves IPA is super sticky and dank with overripe tropical fruit notes dominating but it is not overly bitter.
Berliner Weisse and Saison.
Berliner Weisse and Saison.
Sparks and Waves.
Sparks and Waves.
The Brett IPA is super fruity and is a nice balance of funk and citrus hops. This and Waves were my two favorite hoppy beers. Brett IPAs are hard to get right kinda like Belgian IPAs because of the strong flavor the yeast imparts so I always try to recognize one that is done right. The Spells double IPA to me tasted like a double version of Sparks. It was similarly balanced with a nice bitter finish and some citrus hop flavor at the finish. Sparks and Spells aren’t bad per say but a bit less hop aroma forward compared to the Waves.
Double IPA and Brett IPA.
Double IPA and Brett IPA.
Hop Geek Breakfast is one of the most popular beers from Mikkeller and I thought it was solid but not fantastic. It is smooth and roasty with a bitter coffee finish and a mild sticky sweetness under. The coffee could have come on stronger though. Hop Geek Breakfast is a highly hopped version of the previous one. While the balance was there and the citrus and pine go well with the roast I would still prefer the Waves IPA over this. Flat White Beer Geek adds lactose and is the sweetest of the bunch. It balanced nicely between sweetness and coffee.
Dark beers.
Dark beers.
The NY Verden Old Ale is thick and fruity with notes of cherry and mild smoke and a sweet finish. The Imperial Stout was thick and a mix of bitter chocolate and light smoke. I noticed a lot of the stouts had a similar mild smoke flavor to them that to me was a little off-putting. While I found the flat white too sweet, everyone else who I know really liked it the most of the stouts. Mikkeller opened up out of the gate with a large tap list thanks to having a ton of recipes that have already been perfected. There is a little something for everyone on tap.  Though I wasn’t huge on beer geek breakfast initially I am confident that they will get the recipe dialed in shortly and I will come to love it.
Top 2:
Waves IPA
Brett 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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Craft Beer in the Philippines – 2016 Edition

When I last posted about the state of Craft Beer in the Philippines, most bars were focused on import beers, many of which were from California. Though many of these imports are still available in Manila, the quality of beers brewed by small breweries has increased significantly. I still haven’t found any breweries offering full fledged tasting rooms or restaurants like the place I visited in Siem Reap but I am now much more optimistic for the future of craft beer in the Philippines. In this post I focus on Manila and Cebu, the two cities I visited during this trip. And specifically I focus on two drinking establishments, The Bottle Shop in BGC Mall in Manila, and Ilaputi Restaurant in Cebu where they have taps from Cebu based Turning Wheels Brewing. Some may have also read about Irie Gastropub, though they had closed temporarily and were not open when I visited though they do plan to re-open with even more taps.

Manila – The Bottle Shop

Philippines Beer 2016 01
The Bottle Shop in Manila has 15 taps and tons of selection of mostly Filipino craft beer with a few imports thrown in. Prices range from 250 pesos ($5) to 400 pesos ($8.50). The Bottle Shop felt like any other craft beer bar around and the servers were quite knowledgeable about the beers pouring such that they were able to give me an idea about the difference between the numerous IPAs on the board. While at the bar I drank 3 local beers, Katipunan Brewing’s Stout, Crow’s Brewing Mala Hierba IPA and De Puta Madre Double IPA.

Their solid lineup of bottles available.
Their solid lineup of bottles available.

Katipunan Stout was quite impressive and I wasn’t expecting to like it after having some fairly disappointing beers from them during a previous trip. But for a lighter alcohol stout this was quite tasty and could easily have come from any number of smaller craft breweries out of San Diego. It was complex and balanced with smooth mix of coffee and chocolate and plenty of roast. The Mala Hierba IPA from Crow’s Brewing was quite tasty with a dank piney nose and citrus forward taste while not being too bitter or too malty. This is a fantastically balanced IPA and you will have a hard time finding anything better in the Philippines.

I can't remember if this is the double IPA or the single IPA but based on how dark it is, it is probably the double IPA.
I can’t remember if this is the double IPA or the single IPA but based on how dark it is, it is probably the double IPA.

In comparison, the double IPA was slightly disappointing because it had a flavor closer to a barleywine and hints of apple came in at the back end. The double was much more malt forward and highly bitter with notes of grapefruit from the hops. I liked it when I first tasted it but after drinking half of my beer I wished I had ordered another Mala Hierba. The Bottle Shop has a solid selection of bottles of craft beer as well, with many imports and a few Filipino beers that didn’t make it on the list. This is for sure a must stop if you are in Manila and want something other than the local macro beers.

Cebu City – Ilaputi Restaurant
On tap at Ilaputi are all beers from Turning Wheels, a Cebu based brewery. I tried a flight that had two double IPAs, an IPA, and an Imperial Stout. The first double IPA was cloudy and unfiltered with citrus hops dominating and fruity undertones. It was the most bitter of the bunch and probably the closest to an IPA. I also found out later that this was the freshest of the bunch too. Though I could drink it, I didn’t find it as tasty as Crow’s IPA mentioned above.

Philippines Beer 2016 04

As you can see, many of these beers are really hazy.
As you can see, many of these beers are really hazy.

The IPA was malt forward and not as bitter, not very hoppy or impressive. The second double IPA was also quite cloudy and unfiltered with a strong bitterness and primarily citrus hops but it lacked the aromas that made the first double IPA so tasty. The Imperial Stout was fairly light body and was a primary mix of chocolate and roast but it also had the distinct flavor of pilsner malt, taking away from what might have been a tasty stout. It didn’t have enough body or flavor for the alcohol and compared with the Katipunan stout I had in Manila simply wasn’t close enough to style. Still, the first double IPA was tasty enough that I would want to go back if I was in town. I also was impressed by the presentation at Ilaputi with offering a flight of tasters on a flight board.

Philippines Beer 2016 06

Considering my last post suggested there was not much hope for where craft beer in the Philippines is headed, I am now excited for where Turning Wheels and Crow’s Brewing go from here because they are obviously talented brewers and have an idea of what hoppy beers should taste like. If I hadn’t been to manila that fresh double IPA would have been just the thing I needed to hit the spot. While I wouldn’t suggest going to the Philippines specifically to try their beers if you are in the area these places are certainly worth visiting. I should also note that another place nearby was serving two beers on tap from the Cebruery. I was even less impressed by their stout and blonde than anything else mentioned above. So Crow’s and Turning Wheels are the two ones to seek out if you end up in The Philippines.

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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Siem Reap Brewpub – Siem Reap Cambodia

Siem Reap Brewpub 01

When I planned my trip to Siem Reap Cambodia, the land of $0.50 draft beers, I wasn’t expecting to find a brewery. I didn’t even search for one until I was already a week into my trip, relaxing at my hotel in Penang Malaysia. To my surprise I found one right off the bat, because the brewery knew how to market itself as craft beer. Siem Reap brew pub is located a little bit away from pub street, where most visitors spend the evenings enjoying cheap beer. Thankfully Google knows where it is and it is fairly easy to find because of its large space and bright lights. They have five beers available, a blonde, a golden ale, a honey wheat, an ipa, and a stout (which the simply call a dark ale). I tried all five over two separate visits because the flight of tasters only includes four.

Siem Reap Brewpub 04

The blonde ale is crisp and delicious with notes of citrus and honey with detectable floral hops but nothing overpowering. Most drinkers might not notice the hops at all. The Golden ale is fruity and medium bitter and to me resembles a pale ale more than a golden ale. The beer has notes of banana, Apple, and spice with a strong bitter finish. Those who aren’t much into hops should skip this one. The honey wheat is smooth and not too sweet, and drinks like a good wheat ale with hints of honey. The spice notes typically from a Belgian yeast are present and balance nicely with the honey.

Siem Reap Brewpub 03

Siem Reap Brewpub 05

The ipa mostly has flavors of tropical fruit and apple with a light body and good balance. The Golden ale was almost more hoppy. The ipa is neither a classic British style nor northwest style nor West Coast style. After speaking to the brewer and learning that this primarily uses galaxy hops I was less impressed because it didn’t taste anything like what I’m used to with the hops. It isn’t terrible but I ended up drinking more of the lighter styles instead. The stout is medium body with molasses flavors dominating and supported by dark chocolate notes in the back. The molasses is a nice nod towards the local stout flavors but this beer is much more complex.

Siem Reap Brewpub 02

The Brewpub has a fancy feel to it with a pond in the center of the outdoor area and comfortable seating outside. Inside tables have white table cloths and folded cloth napkins. For a Cambodian brewery I was glad that they charged only $3 for a flight and the same for each individual pour of beer. This is a nice change from Malaysia where the imported beers are usually $8 to $10, though they are also a Muslim country and so alcohol is not as common. I found the beers at Siem Reap brew pub to be overall very impressive and much better than any craft beer offerings I’ve tried in the Philippines. Before heading home I stopped by the Philippines to try some craft beer to see how they improved. As you will read in my next post, a few breweries are making some solid beers in the Philippines as well. If you care about quality local beers when you travel be sure to stop by this brewery if you are ever in Siem Reap.

Top two:
Honey wheat
Stout

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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Sante Adarius Rustic Ales and New Bohemia – San Jose California

The San Francisco Bay Area is a large place and visitors often travel as far north as Santa Rosa to visit Russian River or as far south as Santa Cruz to visit Sante Adarius Rustic Ales or SARA for short. I chose to fly into San Jose for this brewery visit so that I had a fairly short drive down to Santa Cruz, or the neighborhood of Capitola where SARA is located. I also visited a newer brewery known as New Bohemia Brewing a short distance away. Both breweries complement each other nicely.

Sante Adarius

SARA 01
SARA is a cult favorite for their sours and farmhouse ales, many of which are bottled and released exclusively from the taproom. I happened to visit when they were releasing bottles of Lady in Grey and they also had bottles available of their Farmhouse Noir, a dark sour. I tried a number of different beers over two separate visits including the Chavez porter, Lady in Grey, Anais saison, Vanilla Joe, and 831 IPA. The Chavez porter is a very smooth and delicious beer with hints of vanilla and chocolate with a mild roast at the finish. This is the base beer for many of their adjunct versions including Vanilla Joe, made with vanilla and coffee. The Vanilla Joe was a delicious mix of coffee and vanilla and so popular that it was no longer available when I returned for my second visit. This was also my husband’s favorite beer.

SARA 03

The Lady in Grey is a delicious complex oaked blonde with a dry finish and bright fruit notes. I enjoyed this one and picked up a few bottles for myself and a few friends back home. The Anais is a super fruity saison with mild funk and an earthy finish. The 831 IPA is quite fruity with darnk pine at the finish. I found the IPA to be overly bitter at the finish, not from hops but from something else. This is an issue they have identified and should be fixing for future batches. I also got to try the Farmhouse Noir thanks to a kind regular who bought a bottle for us to share. I had already purchased some to bring home but it was not available on tap. Famhouse Noir was a delicious dark sour with just the right amount of tart finish and lots of fruit and mild vinegar. I look forward to exploring the flavors of this beer more when I open the bottle I brought back with me.

SARA 02

On the two different days I visited SARA had quite a few people even as early as 12PM. The first day I visited was a Saturday which also happened to be a bottle release day so people were lining up for bottles and hanging around for beers. When I stopped by the next day there were no lines and the crowd was a little smaller but still respectable. There is plenty of seating available for people to hang around for a while. Flights are not available but they serve everything in half pours or full pours and the servers do a great job of explaining the beer styles prior to ordering something.

Top 2:
Vanilla Joe
Anais

New Bohemia

New Bohemia 03
As SARA attempts to re-create the Farmhouse styles from Belgium, New Bohemia puts a lot of effort into creating German style pilsner, heffeweizen, and Vienna lager. I tried the pilsner, IPA, Mole Stout, Double Duchess coffee porter, and black IPA on nitro. The pilsner is super clean and delicious with a medium body and light German hop kick to balance out the bready pilsner malt. I passed on the heffeweizen because it is the Bavarian style which I don’t particularly like (tending to taste of banana and cloves).

New Bohemia 01

The IPA was super smooth and juicy with notes of tangerine and melon, with a nice amber color. This is in line with the modern style of IPAs with lower bitterness and more hop aromas and was very impressive. The mole stout was deliciously balanced with the coffee, chocolate, and chilies all blending together perfectly. The chocolate and chilies trade off at the finish and the beer is smooth all the way through. The Double Duchess coffee porter is thick and delicious with tons of coffee flavor and a mildly sweet finish. The black IPA is served on nitro and it does a great job of mellowing the hops further while offering a super smooth finish. The hops are given a chance to shine and like the IPA it isn’t overly bitter.

New Bohemia 02

Delicious pilsner.
Delicious pilsner.

For a new brewery I was quite impressed by the delicious beers offered at New Bohemia, though the brewer has a ton of experience at other places prior to opening up his own brewery. There is a little something for everyone here and the large number of stouts available was quite nice to see. We originally stopped by for a flight of four tasters but returned later for more because they ran out of the Vanilla Joe at SARA so we had to have more Double Duchess instead. That is how delicious it was.

New Bohemia 05

Top 2:
Double Duchess
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