Redhook is such a big name that I thought it might be disappointing. After all, many of its bigger brews make their way down to San Diego and so I have had them before. But I had hoped that I might encounter some interesting smaller batch beers that were only available at the tasting room. Sadly, they required me to buy a flight of tasters at once so I had to try almost everything even though I prefer to stick to a few styles when there are a lot of beers to taste. I tried the Wisecracker Wit, ESB, session ale, ale, porter on nitro, IPA, and double IPA.
The wit had a nice sweet Belgian flavor and a light enough ginger flavor that didn’t overpower the rest of it. The ESB you have probably had before. Even on tap it was largely an easy drinking beer without any serious amount of flavor. I was glad that the malts didn’t overpower the hops too much but it was largely a bit weak for my tastes.
The session ale was a slightly weaker version of the typical session IPA. It had some nice light citrus hop flavors but again was not particularly strong tasting. The audible ale pretty much tasted like a typical northwestern pale ale with cascade hops and not a lot of flavor.
The porter on nitro was nice and smooth but again pretty lacking in flavor. I didn’t get much of the coffee and chocolate it was described as having. The IPA was nice, sporting good citrus and pine flavors. It was clearly a fresh batch and had a nice sweet finish. Still I couldn’t help compare it to the Bellevue Brewing IPA I had the day before.
The double IPA was on the sweeter side, far too sweet for me. I didn’t particularly care for it because it did not seem to feature the hops very prominently and wasn’t particularly bitter. Redhook was an interesting place to stop and visit if you are going with friends out to Woodenville Wineries but none of the beers were particularly impressive.
I visited Seattle recently and recently with the hope of visiting some local breweries. Sadly, I only ended up visiting four. Still, I will provide my thoughts here on Bellevue Brewing, Redhook, Triple Horn, and Fremont Brewing.
Bellevue Brewing was the first place I visited near Seattle and some of the beers were quite impressive. I tasted the pale ale, ESB, scotch ale, oatmeal stout, IPA, Triple Wheat Ale, and Malt Liquor.
The pale ale was slightly sweet with a nice citrus back to go along with the typical pine hop flavors. The beer was nicely balanced so that the malts did not dominate like they do in some pale ales. The ESB was a bit too light on the flavor for my tastes. It didn’t have any interesting flavors that I noticed.
The scotch ale was interesting because the first thing I tasted was a sort of sweet grape juice flavor. I didn’t really detect much of the caramel and toffee flavors the brewery described it as having. The oatmeal stout was quite nice on the lighter end of the stout spectrum. It was good and creamy and sported some light caramel flavors.
The IPA was bursting with flavors. I found out that this beer is brewed fresh every six days, which explains why it had that fresh taste. The IPA was on the lighter side and bursting with citrus and floral flavors. It reminded me of the San Diego style of IPA I had previously missed while visiting Seattle.
The triple wheat IPA was a powerful brew and had plenty of intense flavors from similar hops as the IPA. I also got a nice tropical fruit flavor from it. The use of wheat malts kept it from being overly malty like many triple IPAs tend to get. The malt liquor was very strange because despite its 8% alcohol it was very light in bitterness and had almost no body to it. Perhaps some people will enjoy having a strong beer that has very little taste but it seemed like a total waste to me.
Overall Bellevue Brewing was a fun place to visit and had some fantastic IPAs. When I found out that my sister had not yet visited there despite living in Seattle for quite some time now we stopped in for a pint a few days later. They had added a rye version of the IPA by then and it impressed me so much that I had a pint of that rather than the regular IPA.
For round two of my brewery visits on Saturday January 4, 2014, I stopped by Groundswell Brewing. Groundswell is less than 1/4 mile from Benchmark Brewing.
I ordered a taster flight to share at Groundswell. The selections were a nice compliment to what I had at Benchmark earlier. The Irish Special Bitter was an interesting choice to start the flight. The brewers start with an ESB recipe and add a special kind of yeast in order to give it that distinctive flavor of an Irish Red. The malt flavor really comes through here. It is a nice flavor and slightly stronger than the typical Irish Red.
Next up was the Hefeweizen. Though it drank well it could have used some stronger fruit flavors. I tasted what seemed like a lemon flavor but it was not heavy at all. It was still interesting to see a Hefeweizen on tap because so few San Diego breweries offer one. I went next for the brown ale. This one had a great multitude of flavors with a nice caramel taste. I could see this one being a big seller once they are able to bottle or can it.
Next up was the Honey Amber. I didn’t find the honey to be a good combination here at all. The honey flavors seemed to overpower the amber flavor so that it was all I tasted. I’ve noticed that honey beers tend to be very polarizing. Usually half of the people hate it and half of the people love it. Another patron really enjoyed the honey flavors. I ended with the Hoppy Amber. If I hadn’t just had the Modern Times version of this style I might have rated it higher. I couldn’t help but compare this to what is now one of my new addictions and so I was a bit let down. The Hoppy Amber has some nice malt flavors at the front but the hop flavors were so far in the background I almost missed them. Though I can understand why you might want to avoid the bigger hop flavors Modern Times does with their Hoppy Amber, I think the hops could have been increased a little bit while still retaining the unique flavor.
I finished off the day with a pint of the Irish Special Bitter. Though I enjoyed it, I think the brown ale would have been better for enjoying a full pint. I was a bit disappointed to see that Groundswell didn’t have any really hop-forward beers or any stout or porter. I look forward to seeing the beers that Groundswell comes up with in the future.
Update September 2014:
When I returned to Groundswell some months later, I was surprised to see a much expanded tap list. Not only were there now more core beers, there were also a lot more specialty beers. They now have six core beers and six specialty beers at once. One of the core beers is an IPA and there were a few specialty IPAs as well. This is a welcome improvement to the selection when I visited the last time.
The new core IPA is 6.8% and is nicely balanced with citrus and pine and a malt background that doesn’t overpower the rest. It is a solid IPA that should satisfy most hop-seeking visitors. The White IPA says it is hopped with Citra, though I stupidly tried it after the regular IPA so I couldn’t taste it. It certainly has a lighter body. Then the Double IPA at 8.3% was quite juicy with some melon flavors. Everything rounded out with a solid level of bitterness that made this my favorite of the night.
It’s been a while since I was last at this brewery. A while ago they had four or five solid beers and an ESB that I really liked but I wasn’t excited enough to head back for a long time. Thanks to a friend suggesting I try them, I stopped in for a pint after an evening bike ride and got to try two amazing beers that were up there with the best San Diego has to offer.
I got to try a 12oz of the Zumbar chocolate coffee imperial stout on cask to start. It impressed me from the nose alone and then once I got to taste it, the coffee was mostly overtaken by the bitter chocolate flavors. It had a nice bitter chocolate flavor that came through even on cask but was very mellow. I’m looking forward to coming back to taste it on tap some other time.
If you have never tried a stout or porter on cask, you are in for a treat. Both styles of beer tend to have a nice mellow flavor but the cask really smooths everything, leaving you with a creamy flavor that you can’t re-create anywhere else.
After the imperial stout on cask I went straight for the west coast style IPA called Humbly Legit. And damn, this was a legit west coast IPA. Immediately the grapefruit from the Nelson hops just hit me and I liked it. The color was in the middle between the more malty IPAs and the really hop-forward like you see from Societe’s Apprentice and Intergalactic’s Perseus. You can barely taste the malts though, and it really comes at you with that heavy hops flavor.
If you expected to be disappointed by the English style ales here, you will not find anything to hate from the Humbly Legit and the Zumbar. I also remember really enjoying the ESB the last time I was here, although I didn’t give it a fresh taste this time around. The Troopes Tipple is an English style IPA so it has a lot lighter taste than you might expect in San Diego and almost tastes like drinking a lager. Still, it has a good flavor to it that impressed the friend I came here with. Hop heads should absolutely check out the Humbly Legit.
Do you have a favorite beer at New English Brewing? Share with me in the comments.