We went to New Image based on their inclusion in a recent list of standout Colorado breweries. After verifying on their instagram that they had a number of cans available, we chose to stop by and try for ourselves. They have a full food menu and most people around us were ordering food with their beer. The tasting room is fairly standard size and I could see it getting packed during peak times. Thankfully we visited early on a holiday Friday and it was nice and chill.
Though they had a number of IPAs on tap, I immediately ordered a blackberry, raspberry, and plum sour. The beer had a nice dark red color and tons of berry acidity. It is on the tart side of a fruity kettle sour but balanced nicely with prominent berry notes. Thankfully one of my friends wanted to share a four pack because I preferred to have one or two cans instead of 4.
Because I brew kombucha at home I had to try their kombucha inspired ale. They blend kombucha with beer for an interesting take on a kettle sour. I tried the base version of this beer and found it fairly similar to a base gose without fruit. The beer was lightly tart and salty. I didn’t taste any obvious kombucha notes in the beer though.
Before leaving, I tried a few tastes of my friend’s beers. One had their “Vermont Style IPA” and it nicely nailed the creamy mouthfeel and juicy hop flavors that I would expect from the style. Another friend had their single hopped mosaic pale. It was excellently done. The beer was crisp and easy drinking while presenting subtle fruity notes from the mosaic hops.
I would recommend stopping by New Image to try some of their beer and also going nearby to New Terrain either before or after. The two breweries make a great side-by-side experience contrasting the standard indoor brewery with air conditioning of New Image with the rustic open tasting room at New Terrain.
New Terrain is immediately impressive when you get close to the parking lot. Their small lot fills up quickly but there is plenty of street parking in the area. There aren’t many other businesses or buildings nearby. This is a perfect start if you want to go hiking before a few pints because there are numerous hiking and biking trails that start from the brewery. According to my friend who brought us there, half of the people in the parking lot are there for hiking. It is quite the gorgeous spot with a spacious seating area mixed between indoor and outdoor. The indoor area is so open that the transition is almost seamless except for the difference in volume.
New Terrain has a lovely unique way of serving flights; their holders hold beers vertically instead of the typical side-to-side arrangement. This makes it easier to move around glasses without breaking them. I ordered a half pour of the two beers that interested me most, the kolsch and blackcurrant sour. The kolsch was crisp and light with notes of hay. My only complaint is that the beer could be under 5% to be more true to style but it was still quite good.
I was also quite satisfied by the blackcurrent sour. It was much less tart than the New Image beer I had earlier, but delicious in its own way. The beer was dry with prominent jam notes and a light tart finish. While the line to order can sometimes get a little long, it is lovely to hang out on the patio of New Terrain. I have not been to many breweries that as beautifully blend nature and brewery. Be prepared that you will encounter dogs and children while sitting out in nature as well.
Helia is in that middle ground that sits right on the border of Carlsbad and Vista and is not far from where Toolbox brewery used to be. Helia stands out among the many breweries in the area with their unique feel that perfectly encapsulates the beach vibe even though being fairly inland. This is most obvious in their choice of seating, which has a nice laid-back vibe to it.
Beer wise, I was glad to see that they have simple pricing across the board of $2 per taster, $4 per half pour, and $6 per pint. I started with a half pour of their amber ale, the stronger of the two. It was crisp and dry with notes of milk chocolate and minimal bitterness. My husband enjoyed this as well. Next I tried their pilsner, made with Dos Desperados brewery. It was soft and easy-drinking with light floral hop notes and a light sweetness on the finish.
My husband had a taster of the porter while there and really liked it. I had a few sips of it and was impressed as well. The beer has notes of burnt toffee on the nose. Flavors are a nice mix of marshmallow and caramel with mild roast on the finish. After a few IPA filled days, I wasn’t in the mood to try their IPAs this visit. Helia stands out with their relaxing vibe and hopefully will find their niche and be around for some time.
I tend to not visit small breweries within the first year of operation unless I know the brewer well from where they brewed before. In the case of Jacked Up I was partially put off by the name, which to me suggested it might be run by a bunch of frat boys. After reading that the brewer had been home brewing for a while and won many awards, I figured it was worth a visit now that they had been open for 2 years.
The tasting room is just off the 15 freeway in Escondido and not all the way into central downtown Escondido. The tasting room had a nice community vibe to it and the bartender was happy to offer splashes to ensure that people like what they order. After a few splashes of various IPAs I ended up with a half pour of their hazy IPA. The more west coast style was too strongly bitter for my palate now accustomed to hazy beers. Compared to what I regularly enjoy even their hazy was strongly bitter. The beer nailed the hazy appearance and mouthfeel with notes of mango and orange under the initial bitterness. The beer nicely blends traditional West Coast style bitterness with the juicy flavors and creamy mouthfeel expected of a hazy.
My husband tried a few of the lighter malty beers before settling on the vanilla stout sitting just under 9%. I had a few sips of his beer and it was well made. The beer had notes of dark chocolate and vanilla without getting too heavy or sweet. I can tell that the base beer is also well done. Though Jacked Up isn’t offering anything that would entice people to drive up from North Park, it is a solid neighborhood spot with a stage that suggests they have the occasional live music. Despite being almost 90 degrees outside on the day I visited, the tasting room stayed comfortable with good ventilation, use of fans, and some air conditioning. It is worth a stop for those who find the modern style of IPA to have abandoned a bitterness that made the style interesting in the first place. The hazy IPA was even more bitter than the early hazy from Second Chance, which I found bitter for the style.
The Original 40 opened just East of North Park brewing company, not far from the tasting room where Chuck Alek was before they closed. They have a large indoor space with a full menu though at least initially the food is not available until 5PM. The brewery gives Chris Gillogly a chance to explore new styles after coming from a stint at Mikkeller San Diego and Groundswell before that. From the few beers I tried, it will be a welcome addition to a fairly crowded neighborhood.
I stopped by on a Saturday afternoon and it was quiet enough to be peaceful to enjoy a pint. But as it got later into the evening and the place started filling up, it became uncomfortably loud as many places in the area tend to get. Thankfully they didn’t have any loud music to make things even more intense. I started with their German style pilsner, which was crisp and well made. The beer had notes of orange blossom honey and a crisp dry finish with a light bitterness. This lager is offered along side a Mexican style lager that I didn’t try.
There were lots of hazy IPA options available but I went for one made along with Pure Project Brewing based on input from friends who had visited recently. The beer had a nice thick creamy body for 6% and tons of juicy papaya, mango, and orange peel to round it out. I hope they manage to add a similar beer to their rotation. They also had a big imperial stout when I visited that was made along with Horus Aged ales and so dosed with incredible amounts of cacao nibs and vanilla beans. Though delicious I don’t know if I would have ordered more than one at $7 for a 4oz pour. Other tasters were the now standard price of $3 each.
I was overall impressed by the beers I had and hope that The Original 40 is successful. Along their house beers they had a few guest taps including something from Burning Beard and Societe and a few alcoholic kombucha options. I didn’t eat any food during my visit because the kitchen wasn’t open yet and they didn’t seem to have a lot of vegan options.
Mason Ale Works is a brewery I haven’t covered mostly because when restaurants add in a brewery after the fact, it seems like an after thought. I saw that they had opened a new tasting room not far from New English Brewing company up in a residential area of Carmel Valley that I had never visited before. I made my way out on a warm Summer day to see if the space was worth returning to.
First off, a note on service. Regular readers know I don’t usually say much about service because beer is what matters. But the person serving me during my visit to Mason Ale Works seemed to really hate my questions about the beers. One question I asked was how their flagship beer was different than the Rye IPA and I got a curt reply that “It is an IPA with Rye.” He either really wanted me to buy a flight or didn’t know his beers enough to give serious answers. Either way, this is not typical in the San Diego beer scene. As some of you may know, I stopped ordering flights once $3 tasters became common. Even with the slight discount, 4 tasters here is $10, which is more than I want to spend for that much beer.
Beer wise, I started with a pint of their session IPA which thankfully kicked (I got the last of the keg). At first I thought great, a free half pint. But I couldn’t even drink more than 1/4 of what I was served before going up to pay for a pint of something else. While I generally complain about San Diego session IPAs being overly bitter, this one was just overly tasteless. Or to put it another way, completely lacking in any hop character at all. They might as well have simply called it a session ale but even then it was overly sweet and extremely generic. Thankfully the other beers I tasted were good.
I was with my mom on this visit and since she has been avoiding hoppy beers lately I ordered her a pint of the Mexican Lager. While not the best lager I’ve had, it was still quite good, and had a lot more flavor than the session IPA I started with. The beer had a nice dry finish and a light hop kick. I finished with a pint of their core IPA. While described as a typical West Coast IPA it was thankfully a more modern take on the style, meaning less bitterness than was standard when the style first became popular. It was a nice example of the style and had prominent grapefruit notes with mild resin in the background.
As for the space, they had air conditioning inside and a nice shady outdoor area in the back. The breeze was cool enough that the outdoor seating was perfectly pleasant. If I lived within walking distance I could see myself returning but since it is a bit far from anything else, I likely won’t return very often. For those of you who don’t like beer, they also serve wine and spirits.