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Arizona Breweries Part 2 – More Phoenix Area Breweries

In Part 1 of this two part post I wrote about Prison Hill Brewing in Yuma and three Phoenix area breweries, Papago, Fate, and Goldwater. In this post I include the remaining 3 breweries from my visit, Huss, Arizona Wilderness, and Beer Research Institute.

Huss Brewing Company

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In typical brewery style, Huss is tucked away in an industrial park and has a fairly small tasting room though with a decent amount of seating. They only serve their house beers but they have quite a lineup such that I didn’t taste everything, especially because this was my fourth stop for the day! I tried the Southern Hussy peach ale, Husstler milk stout, Peanut Butter Husstler, That’ll Do IPA and Grapefruit IPA. The Southern Hussy is a delicious barrel-aged peach ale lightly tart and very strong peach flavors that were balanced out nicely by the oak.

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The Husstler Milk Stout is a fairly light body milk stout, not too sweet and very smooth. I liked it but the Peanut Butter version was much better, with a good amount of nutty flavor and mild chocolate. I filled a growler of this one to take home and it was quite delicious 5 days later. The IPA was very nicely done with good balance and solid bitterness. The flavors were mostly on the citrus and fruit side. The grapefruit version was even better, with a nice blend from the added grapefruit.

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Top 2 from Huss:
Southern Hussy
PB Husstler

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company
AZ Wilderness is one of the more hyped breweries I visited. They brew a lot of different beers all the time so the lineup changes quite regularly aside from their IPA which is always available. They have a large restaurant with parking that fills up quickly and a lot of people hanging out in the tasting room area were just waiting for their table. Thankfully they cleared out quickly so I had plenty of room to hang out and do a few flights. They have delightful hardwood all around, including a huge piece for the bar and smaller logs for holding your flights.

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I did two separate flights for a total of 10 tasters while I was there. The first flight included a berliner weisse, saison, oak aged bitter, Dekopa Belgian pale ale and milk stout. The second flight included the coffee stout, peanut brittle ale, Big Eye Rye double IPA, Refuge IPA, and Biere de Wassail Belgian Christmas ale. The Berliner Weisse was quite well done just as you would expect with a nice light fruity flavor, very mild tartness, high carbonation, and a light hop flavor. I recommended it to quite a few people at the bar when they asked for something light when the bartender for some reason didn’t think that it was a good idea. Most liked it.

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The Saison was a delightful peach/orange color and had a good combination of fruity flavors primarily peach with a nice sticky finish. It had just the right amount of saison funk and not a ton of intense spice as you sometimes get. The Oak Aged Bitter is a traditional English style bitter aged in oak barrels. It was quite mild with flavors of coffee and light earthy hops. It was smoothed out nicely by the oak without getting too much intense wood character. The DeKopa Belgian Pale did not taste right to me at all. At least one person confirmed what I tasted while others thought it tasted much different and more typical floral hops with Belgian yeast. To me it had a scent of mildew with flavor of sweaty socks. I even asked the bartender if it was supposed to smell how it did and he confirmed it was. I also had a similar (though not as extreme) experience with Cantillon Grand Cru so if you find similar flavors in that then avoid this. My best suggestion is to ask for a splash before ordering much in case you experience this similarly.

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The Milk Stout was good and smooth on nitro with a nice mild smoky flavor and hints of caramel. Very drinkable and delicious. The Coffee Stout was similarly smooth and mild with a nice nutty coffee taste, also very nice. The peanut brittle ale was quite sweet with lots of lactose flavors and a smooth peanut butter flavor. It was quite tasty. The Refuge IPA is a really crisp IPA that to me tasted like fresh cut apples. It had a lot of flavor without a high malt bill and a good medium bitterness that didn’t overpower. The Big Eye Rye is a fantastic sticky dank double IPA bursting with fruity guava and tropical fruit. While a little more bitter than the Refuge it wasn’t overly bitter and I quite liked it.

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The Biere de Wassail is a Belgian style Christmas ale. As such I was not surprised that it had quite a lot of spice flavor, high alcohol, and was essentially a fruity version of a Belgian Dark Strong. It was quite sticky sweet and very strong reminiscent of apple pie. I was satisfied by a taster of this but many people were ordering full pours and loving it. Everything I tried at AZ Wilderness was delicious with the exception of the Belgian Pale listed above. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the way they brewed it but there are certain flavors that certain palates taste differently. Some people taste certain stouts as if they have soy sauce, and I apparently taste certain types of Belgian yeast as if they are mildew.

Top 3 from AZ Wilderness:
Big Eye Rye
Refuge IPA
Beer Research Institute
My last stop of the trip was Beer Research Institute. Though I did stop at Alpine for a bottle pickup and growler fill on the way back I did not do tasters there so I consider this my last stop. Beer Research Institute is surprisingly located in a strip mall. They look like any small strip mall restaurant from the outside and they serve food. We ended up only eating their bread pudding, which was absolutely delicious. I tasted 6 beers while I was there in one flight, Morning Sex coffee porter, Dark Side imperial stout, Intergalactic saison, Street Cred black IPA, Mjango Unchained mango imperial IPA, and Lolli Belgian Tripel.

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The Morning Sex coffee stout was slightly sweeter and more balanced than the AZ Wilderness version and had a nice caramel malt background. This is one of the favorites of the guys at AZ Wilderness and I can see why. The Dark Side imperial stout is fruity and slightly sweet with mild smoky and roasty flavors. The Intergalactic saison was a nicely balanced beer with fruity tastes of grapefruit and pineapple and a mild funk. I really enjoyed this one. The Street Cred black IPA was roasty and fairly bitter with fruity hops that are almost hidden under the silky caramel dark malts. I expect a lot more roast and bitterness from my black IPA and I found the hops didn’t really work with the underlying beer too well.

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The Mjango Unchained was a super delicious mango double IPA with a sweet mango flavor and very light bitterness. It hid its alcohol really well. My husband actually thought it was pretty good and he hates IPAs. I wish I could have filled a growler with this one. The Lolli was quite sweet and fruity and closer to a tripel than the Belgian Blonde they claim it is on the menu. It has some mild spice on the back from the Belgian yeast. It is solid for a tripel but I was more in the mood for a blonde at the time.

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I really like the setup at Beer Research Institute and they are brewing some solid beers for such a young brewery. I understand the limited growler fill options because they seem to be brewing on a very small system. I didn’t try any food other than the dessert but they seemed to be quite popular for what they had.

Top 2 Beer Research Beers:
Morning Sex coffee stout,
Mjango Unchained mango Double 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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Arizona Breweries Part 1, Yuma and Phoenix

Living in San Diego, I decided to take a road trip to Phoenix for New Years Eve and New Year Day at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016. We rented a car and drove through Alpine out past El Centro, and stopped by Yuma on the way for Prison Hill Brewing before crashing in Phoenix and hitting four breweries the first day, Papago, Fate, Goldwater, and Huss. We then hit 2 more breweries on the following day, Arizona Wilderness and Beer Research Institute. At each brewery I found something interesting that I appreciated or found to be impressive. This first part of the tour will cover the first four breweries while the second part will cover the last three. I had the most tasters at Arizona Wilderness so it fits that they fall into part 2.

Prison Hill Brewing Yuma Arizona

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Prison Hill Brewing was a place we stopped mostly because we needed somewhere to eat on the long drive from San Diego to Phoenix. We left San Diego around 3 and so if we waited 5 hours or more until we got to Phoenix we would have eaten at 8 or later, so we stopped by Prison Hill for dinner and beer. Prison Hill is a brewpub so I had a few tasters while I was there plus we both had dinner. I had four tasters, the Oatmeal pale ale, pumpkin chocolate brown, IPA and Double IPA. The Oatmeal pale was smooth with a nutty malt backbone and mellow hops that balanced nicely. It was quite tasty and worthy of ordering a pint. The pumpkin chocolate brown was smooth and spice forward with more pumpkin spice than chocolate with some hints of caramel malts on the back. The chocolate is quite subtle here and mostly on the bitter side. This is a beer for those who like a lot of spice.

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The IPA had aromas of fresh guava on the nose and that was mostly what I tasted as well in the taster. It is a sweet and sticky IPA with other fruit flavors that come through at the end. I ended up ordering a pint of this one and I quite enjoyed it until the end. The double IPA was boozy and sweet with tropical fruit notes towards the end. It wasn’t too bitter and was nicely balanced. Though I found the boozy notes to be a little much, it was still a quite solid double and it could have been a lot worse. Food wise, I really enjoyed their burger and my husband enjoyed his blackened salmon. Both were done properly. It is a nice little place to stop on your way to Phoenix or back to San Diego. Prison Hill also has a full bar available and plenty of bottles available for those who don’t like craft beer.

Top 2 at Prison Hill:
Oatmeal Pale

Papago Brewing Scottsdale Arizona

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Papago brewing is a brewpub in Scottsdale that serves a few house beers, brewed by Huss (see part 2) and has a decent selection of guest beers and a solid lineup of bottles from all over. Word from the locals is that they started out as one of those bars serving mostly imported beers. When I visited I tried the four house beers, the Coconut Joe, Orange Blossom, IPA, and Oude Zuipers, a Belgian strong ale.

Tap list at Papago
Tap list at Papago

The Coconut Joe is a coconut coffee stout with a light body and a nice mix of mild nutty coffee flavors and stronger coconut. It reminded me of Death by Coconut from Oskar Blues though I don’t know that I would drink a full pint of either. The Orange Blossom is a Mandarina Wheat with vanilla added, and seemed to be a crowd favorite when I visited. It was quite crisp and light with vanilla and orange flavors that balanced nicely with a sweet but not too sweet beer. I could certainly see myself ordering a larger pour of this.

Flight at Papago
Flight at Papago

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The IPA was very citrus forward and seemed to be a clone of Stone IPA with a strong bitterness and fruity aftertaste. The Oude Zuipers Belgian strong was intensely fruityi and quite sweet with flavors of fresh apple and a nice effervescent carbonation. It hid the high alcohol quite well and I may have gotten a growler fill of it if I had brought along any 32oz growlers. Papago has a solid lineup of both house and guest beers and is worth a visit. I wouldn’t have hit Goldwater Brewing if I hadn’t been suggested by a few guys in the bar.

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Top 2 from Papago:
Mandarina Wheat
Oude Zuipers Belgian Strong

Fate Brewing Scottsdale Arizona

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Next up is Fate Brewing. They have a new restaurant location called Fate Brewing South and a tasting room location at Fate Brewing North that was closed the day I visited. The restaurant has a lot of seating and a good number of seats at the bar. Besides their house beers they have a full bar and a number of guest beers available though it seemed like most people were there for their house beers. I had a flight of six tasters and mostly found their beers to be quite well done. The flight included a single-hop simcoe sour, English pale ale, SPA2.0, American style Pale Ale, brown ale, and export stout.

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The single hop sour is light and refreshing and mildly tart with a light hop kick. The beer is mildly bitter like grapefruit with some good fruity flavors, a solid sour. The English Pale is surprisingly light color for the style and had some nice crisp tropical fruit flavors mixed with earthy hops. This was one of the highlights for me. The SPA2.0 was super delicious 5.5% pale bursting with hop flavors, low on bitterness and finishing nicely with grapefruit. I was going to fill a growler of this but the brewery said they decided not to fill outside growlers. I brought 4 San Diego growlers with me to fill along this trip and ended up filling 3 elsewhere.

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The American Pale Ale was peach forward in flavor and more malt balanced than the previous two pales. It was also a bit more bitter. I didn’t like this one as much but it was still quite well done. The brown was super smooth thanks to oatmeal added and was nice and thick with plenty of roasted malt flavors. I could have almost mistaken this for a stout. The export stout was nice and lightly smoky with some bitter chocolate finish and a fairly light body. I would have preferred it a little more sweet and thick but it was well done.

Top 2 from Fate:
APA 2.0
English Pale

Goldwater Brewing Company

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After Fate my husband drove me to my next stop, Goldwater Brewing, not too far away. He went to do a few other things while I enjoyed the beers there. Goldwater is a proper tasting room not offering food or guest beers. It has a nice laid back atmosphere and I really enjoyed chatting with the people I met there. I tried 5 tasters there, the Desert Rose cactus ale, Dynamite Pale, Birthday Suit IPA, What a Day IPA, and Brutus Imperial Stout.

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The Desert Rose is a delightful pink-colored beer slightly sweet with a very mild tartness. You can taste the cactus fruit. I ended up filling a growler of this beer and everyone back home loved it too. The Dynamite Pale is a balanced pale ale bursting with melon and passionfruit. The beer is balanced nicely with some smooth oatmeal with the malts and it finishes with a solid bitterness. The Birthday Suit IPA is poured fresh from the tanks, a quite tasty fruity IPA with notes of pineapple with a nice dank finish and medium bitterness. I also filled a growler of this one to take home. It was quite nice two days later, though a little more dank.

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The What a Day IPA was more balanced and pine forward than the Birthday Suit. It was slightly sweet and tasted like it had similar malts to the Dynamite pale. Those who like the West Coast style of IPAs will likely prefer the delicious Birthday Suit. The Brutus Imperial Stout is a super thick and smooth imperial stout with light caramel and chocolate flavors that balance nicely. It was quite impressive. One thing to note is that aside from filling outside growlers Goldwater Brewing also has a Crowler machine so they can offer you beer to go in a large 32oz can if you prefer.

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Top 2 from Goldwater:
Birthday Suit IPA
Desert Rose

In the second part of the Arizona Breweries list I will discuss Huss brewing, Arizona Wilderness, and Beer Research Experiment.

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.

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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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Craft Beer in Tijuana?

Craft beer in Tijuana? You’re kidding right? I couldn’t believe it either. After all, many San Diego residents have a hard time believing that a trip to Mexico is safe let alone that it could be fun. But I set out just to see if it was possible and happened to taste some solid Mexican craft beers (cerveza artesanal) in the process.

Like any area that is still in the early stages of the craft beer revolution, you aren’t going to find craft beer in your average bar. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you went on a trip to Tijuana and never realized that there was an option for exploring craft beer (minus some of those billboards around town advertising a craft beer festival I happened to see).

If you are still with me, you might be wondering where you can have some decent beer in Tijuana. From my brief amount of research before going I found two places to try local craft beers. While at one of them I met someone who visits regularly and suggested another location I didn’t get to visit. Don’t expect to visit many local breweries but you will find two craft beer bars and one small local brewery that runs a brewpub.

Places to visit
Cervecería Tijuana
Fundadores 2951-b, Juárez, 22150 Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
A local brewery focusing on European styles of beer like you might find at Gordon Biersch. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the lineup but then all the beers are 100% malt.
The brewery is open starting at 1PM during the week and offers taster flights as well as serving food.

Taster flight at Cervezeria Tijuana.
Taster flight at Cerveceria Tijuana.

BCB Tasting Room
Orizaba 3003-E5, Fracc. Neidhard, Tijuana, México
BCB resembles the big brewpubs in San Diego such as Toronado. BCB has 30 taps and sells individual tasters as well as full pints. They also have a solid lineup of food, though because it was mostly Americanized I didn’t order any of it. Pints are anywhere from 45 pesos (just under $4) up to over 100 pesos (around $7). If you can’t find a good local Mexican beer to try you will find that they have a great selection of beers from the USA including a number of major IPAs and even more in bottles and cans.

Large selection of taps at BCB Tasting Room.
Large selection of taps at BCB Tasting Room.

Baja Artesanal
Boulevard de las Américas 22429 (Boulevard Aguacaliente), Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
I didn’t get to visit this location but I met someone at BCB who highly rated this place as having a great selection.

Impressive local cerveza I got to try
The first time I visited BCB I went straight for some local (read: Mexican) IPAs and I had some solid ones.

Cucapa Run Away IPA
This IPA offered some solid dark malt flavors and was quite bitter.

Fauna Lycan Lupus IPA
This IPA had some powerful citrus flavors and was strongly bitter. I was quite impressed by the balance of flavors here and ended up buying a pint.

Insurgente Lupuloosa IPA
A solid bitter IPA with a strong grapefruit flavor it almost seemed to kill my ability to taste other beers even though it is about as bitter as the Fauna.

Monastika Libertina Belgian Strong Ale
A Belgian strong ale at 9%, this offered a great balance of flavors with a little hop kick that worked nicely with the Belgian yeast flavors. It had some delicious apricot flavors. I was very impressed by this one.

Noble IPA (Anaheim, CA)
This IPA is not from Mexico but since I haven’t gotten up to visit Noble yet I had to take this chance to try it on tap. This was a deliciously satisfying IPA with tropical fruit and citrus flavors and a good amount of mosaic hop flavors.

Overall, I was quire impressed by the availability of craft beer in Tijuana and would certainly be able to get my IPA fix if I ever go down for a longer visit.

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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Introduction to Craft Beers Part 4 – Wheat Beers and Amber Ales

Wheat Beers

Also known as Belgian wits (like the mass-produced Blue Moon), wheat beers get their lighter flavors from wheat malts that don’t have the same dark flavors or coloring as the malts typically used in a pale ale or a porter or stout. This usually leads to a brighter flavor in the beer and, when mixed with a Belgian yeast, creates the flavors you are familiar with in a Belgian Wit. Some brewers will add lemon or citrus flavors to these as well to brighten them up.

Wheat beers are commonly unfiltered and also typically on the lighter alcohol content around 4.5%. Because of their lighter flavors wheat beers are not as common from craft breweries. Instead, many local breweries experiment with the style. Modern Times and Council Brewing both brew a hoppy wheat. They add a bunch of hops to a wheat beer to give it a citrus kick and some added flavor. These hoppy wheat varieties are still light in alcohol and just as refreshing.

Local Favorites: Karl Strauss Wheat, Ballast Point Wheat, Modern Times Hoppy Wheat, Council Hoppy Wheat.

 Amber Ales

The amber style of beer, sometimes known simply as a red ale, is best recognized by the reddish color of the beer when poured into a glass. While IPAs and pale ales are great for learning about the flavors of hops, ambers are great for learning about the flavors of malts. Malt flavors tend to be the primary draw and sometimes give a fruity flavor and other times a sweeter caramel flavor or a light roasted flavor.

Most ambers tend to be on the lighter side, around 4.5%, and it is pretty rare to see imperial red ales in San Diego. The term imperial as used here implies that the beer is around twice as strong as usual. These stronger red ales tend to add more hops to balance out the more intense flavors from the malts.

Local Favorites: Karl Strauss Red Trolley, Ballast Point Amber, Stone Levitation,
Local Imperial Reds:  Green Flash Hop Head Red, Alesmith My Bloody Valentine and Evil Dead Red, Ballast Point Tongue Buckler,

In the next part of this series I will explore the porter and stout beers.

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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