I have been through San Jose a few times before but every time I end up drinking beers from breweries outside the area. I go for breweries that are worth taking a separate trip to visit. On my most recent trip, I had planned to visit Lazy Duck as a stop on the way to the airport but due to some changes, I ended up visiting both Hermitage and Lazy Duck in the same day. Both breweries are considered by the locals I have spoken with to be the best in the area.
I started at Hermitage mostly because it was further South and I had lunch South of San Jose that day. I was the first visitor of the day, which is not surprising for a Sunday especially on a chilly day where rain was forecast. The place filled up over time as people came by to drink and fill growlers. The tasting room space is fairly standard open warehouse style. They had a wide variety of beer styles but I had heard of them mostly for their sours, so I tried two of those before moving on to the next spot.
The Cherry Rocinante was an excellent delicious Flanders style red with cherry. This is a traditional Belgian style sour red ale that is common to see at breweries. This version was a cloudy dark reddish brown with prominent cherry and a dry tart finish. The beer had mild notes of vinegar and hints of caramel. Many of the other sours served at Hermitage were high alcohol, over 9%. I decided to stick to a 5oz pour of Eurynome, sour stout, which clocked in at over 11% alcohol.
Euronome was a delicious dark sour with tons of dark chocolate, notes of dried cherries and currants and a mildly tart finish. I would not have guessed from drinking this beer that it was so strong. It hides the alcohol quite well. Based on my short visit to Hermitage, I expect I will return when I am next in the area. The two sours I had suggest to me that they know how to make a quality barrel aged sour.
Though Hermitage had a variety of beers, they are best known for their barrel aged sours. I didn’t try their other styles.
When I walked into Lazy Duck, I was surprised by the appearance of the brewery. It was by far one of the roughest looking tasting rooms I have visited including back when Alesmith hadn’t put much money into their old tasting room some 7 or 8 years ago, and even more so than my first visit to Lightning before they had a tasting room. Lazy Duck had sheets and cardboard paneling blocking off the tasting room from the brewing area. Also, when we approached the brewery, my husband pointed out that the area we had entered did not appear as if it was very well maintained. Despite all that, I followed the advice of my fellow beer enthusiasts and ordered some of their beer.
The first question I asked the beer tender was whether any of the sours were barrel aged. I was told that they are not barrel aged but are also not kettle sours. They are quick fermented in the stainless steel tanks. After having visited Hermitage and reading that the sours here were the best in town, I had to give them a taste.
I started with the strawberry sour, which to me didn’t taste much like strawberry. It was nicely balanced with prominent acidic tart and a soft carbonation. If this was the only sour I had of the day, I would have left disappointed. On the recommendation of someone sitting at my table, I tried the raspberry sour next. This was much closer to what I would have expected, with tons of acidic raspberry flavor and a nice underlying funk. I can see why this beer would get people to come visit such a small tasting room.
My husband had the imperial stout with maple and coffee. He initially noted how it seemed quite boozy, reminding him of a barrel aged stout. After some of the Strawberry sour, I gave the stout a taste and found it to be below average. The beer had prominent notes of dark cherry and overall tasted more like Dr. Pepper with a hint of licorice at the finish. I wouldn’t have expected the sour cherry flavor or licorice flavor in a maple coffee stout. I suspect some of their sour yeast got into the stout and it got sour over time.
While Lazy Duck made some decent sours, I personally would sooner return to Hermitage.
Known for: Come if you like quick sours with lots of fruit flavor. None so far are barrel aged.
Dry River Brewing is located in Downtown LA not far from Mumford and a few other downtown breweries. Though getting to it from the freeway requires a bit of maneuvering. They have a small tasting room surrounded by abandoned warehouses. They focus on sour and Belgian style beers so those beers are fairly standard prices even at $10 an 8 ounce pour. I ordered two different beers there on my way South.
I started with Razberet, an oak aged saison aged with raspberries. It had a white cake base with prominent sweet raspberry and just a hint of tartness. I finished with Jungle Boogie, described as a sour dubbel with five types of berries. I wouldn’t have guessed this was a dubbel base if they hadn’t said anything. It tasted like an excellent wild ale aged on berries though. The beer had a ton of funky tart character and intense tart berry notes on a nice soft body.
If you are a fan of sours, it is worth giving Dry River a visit. I did not taste everything they had but the Jungle Boogie suggests that they know how to make a sour and are a spot to watch. They also brew the occasional IPA but they didn’t say what their house approach is to the style. Shortly after my visit they started canning certain beers and now have the occasional beer to-go in cans.
Come for sour and Belgian inspired beers
Casa Agria is located in Ventura California and depending on traffic it could take you an hour to two hours to get there from Los Angeles area. We made a special trip to visit the brewery from San Diego and stayed the night nearby so we didn’t have to do a huge amount of driving in a single day. The tasting room is fairly mid-sized. Many people were stopping by for growler fills. They have a variety of beers mostly into three categories. Sour and farmhouse ales, hazy IPAs, and stouts.
I started with Strickland Ranch, a mixed fermentation wild ale brewed with honey. The beer was dry and funky with a nice blend of vanilla, mild honey, oak, and white cake notes. I moved on to the fruited sour they had available, a blend of three varieties of stone fruit. It was a bit more acidic and the stone fruit blended nicely with notes of white cake and mild funk. I could have used more fruit with this one but it was still quite good.
I ordered a pint of Tints while I was at the brewery, a hazy pale ale. It was creamy in body with intense tangerine notes and mild vanilla. I left with a growler of their other hazy IPA, Transitions and Interludes. This beer was also thick and creamy but with more notes of tropical fruit. They have really nailed the thick mouthfeel for the style. I also tasted one of their imperial stouts with coffee, trying a few sips from my husband’s beer. It was thick with toasted malts, nutty coffee, and mild sweetness like a candied pecan.
I was overall quite impressed by Casa Agria during my visit. They seem to do all the various styles they brew quite well, making it a great spot for people who live in the area.
Kairoa brewing recently opened across the street from Small Bar on Park Boulevard. They are a brewery and restaurant with seating both inside downstairs and upstairs on their patio. On warm days, most people flock to their patio to get some sun. On cold days most people huddle inside the downstairs area leaving the patio area less crowded.
I stopped by on an early spring day and enjoyed the sun on the patio. A few of the beers had run out, an indication that they are quite popular. I ordered two different beers while I was there, a Brown ale and a pale ale. Tasters are three dollars each for a 5 ounce pour so I stuck with pints during my visit. Pints are priced at around $6.50 each.
The Brown ale was delicious and initially tasted to me like they added some cold brew coffee. It also had some nice roasting notes of dark chocolate. The beer was strangely hazy which is unusual for the style but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Next I ordered their pale ale, which was deliciously balanced with tons of hop aroma with notes of citrus, cannabis, and resin. Despite all the massive hop additions, the beer was not particularly bitter.
I happened to be visiting during the tail end of their brunch service on a Sunday. I looked through the menu and liked to see that a good number of the items are vegan. I ordered their vegan chilaquilles, which while tasty was more of a nacho dish and than chilaquilles. I am excited to come back and try other options both on brunch and other times.
I was mostly impressed by the space, the beer, and the service during my visit to Kairoa. I will have to try a bit more of the food before I decide if I would return for that. If you are visiting just for the beer, you will find a solid lineup of great beers. I briefly tasted my friends Pilsner and Belgian pale ale. Both were well made and clean beers.
Wrecking Bar Brewpub
Wrecking Bar is not too far from New Realm. They also limit parking to valet and there is not a lot of parking nearby. They had a variety of beers but by the time I got there I was craving something different so I ordered their oaked ESB and coffee brown ale. Both were excellent.
The oaked ESB had notes of caramel and toast with hints of raisin and a vanilla oak finish. The coffee brown had tons of coffee flavor up front with a nice blend of roasted malts, light smoke. I could feel the caffeine coming through nicely as well. In the unlikely event you didn’t care for any of their house beers, they had a few guest options and cocktails as well.
Three Taverns is a bit East of downtown Atlanta and in an area where you have to take small four lane roads most of the way. It doesn’t seem that far but you commonly get stopped by people turning in one lane or another. I read about their focus on Belgian styles but now it seems they have gone fully into the milkshake sour area as well. While I wasn’t expecting much from the sours, they let me taste a few and they were quite well done.
I started with the pilsner, which was crisp and dry with notes of citrus hops and a rustic finish. It had light pepper notes and a mild bitter finish. If I didn’t already have a bunch of bottles from Monday Night I might have brought home some pilsner. The sour I ended up ordering was the blueberry pie one and it really tasted like my mom’s blueberry cobbler. The beer had a bright pink color and subtle lactose that gave a light sweetness to the blueberry and spices.
Though Three Taverns had some great beers, I suggest buying cans or bottles elsewhere unless you live nearby due to the drive to get there. It really tests your patience.
Atlanta Brewing Company (FKA Red Brick Brewing)
Atlanta Brewing is not far from Scofflaw Brewing. They have a large tap room in a warehouse. I tried four different beers, two saisons and two dark beers. I didn’t care too much for the saisons.
The first saison was brewed with serviceberries. It was funky with notes of white cake on the base with lingering bitterness and notes of honey. While it was the better of the two, I wouldn’t order it again. The second beer I should have avoided because it was brewed with figs and orange. I found this one a little sweeter and less funky but neither beer did much for me.
My husband ordered tasters of their porter with coffee and barrel aged stout. The porter was dry and bitter with notes of cherry and chocolate. It was too bitter for me and I let my husband finish it. The bourbon barrel aged stout was nice and balanced with notes of vanilla and caramel with a nutty finish. The beer had a good medium body and was not overly sweet or boozy.
I likely tried the wrong beers at Atlanta Brewing so I’m not going to judge them too harshly by the few beers i tried. But I wouldn’t try their funky beers again.
Orpheus had a good variety of beers but I went for the sours. Noise and Flesh, their barrel aged sour was thin and funky without a lot of flavor or complexity. The berliner weisse was equally bland with light tropical fruit notes and a lingering bit of tartness and acidity. My husband ordered the imperial stout, which was quite lovely. It had tons of coffee and dark chocolate with a nice thick body and light raisins on the finish. I might have tried their barrel aged stout but the price was way too high for me.
I didn’t try more beers while at Orpheus because it was quite loud inside and too cold outside to comfortably sip beers. I don’t suggest stopping by Orpheus for their sours but if you like a good stout the imperial stout was quite impressive.