Tag Archives: IPA

Where to Drink in North Park Neighborhood of San Diego

North Park is a thriving residential neighborhood with tons of bars and restaurants and now breweries. I am going to list all of the breweries and also highlight some of my favorites. There are really two smaller clusters of breweries, one along El Cajon Boulevard and one along University Avenue.

Furthest South in North Park area is Modern Times’ satellite tasting room nestled among various restaurants. They focus on hazy IPAs, barrel aged stouts, and sours and you can pick up limited amounts of their cans from this location. If you want their barrel aged sours, the selection is wider at the main brewery. Thorn Street is not far down the road, easily walkable with their brewery location where they largely stick to traditional styles. Neither of these locations has food.

On your way up to University Avenue, you will pass Mike Hess brewing, a large tasting room that is usually crowded. I haven’t visited them in years and suggest you stick to other nearby stops instead. My fellow beer blogger Craft Beer in San Diego considers Hess one of his favorites so perhaps I am just missing something. Check their tap list first to see if the beers interest you. Also on University is North Park Brewing, a young brewery that partnered with Mastiff Sausages for their kitchen. They have excellent food and vegan options (including vegan sausage). This is one of my favorite places to visit in the area because they have excellent IPAs and also brew the occasional flavorful low alcohol beer, sometimes an English mild or dark lager. I end up drinking their mild beers so often I forget to order the IPAs. Lately they have started brewing the occasional hazy IPA and some have turned out quite good.

A short walk north from there, you will pass Toronado bar on your way to Rip Current’s North Park tasting room, Belching Beaver’s north park tasting room, and Second Chance’s small neighborhood spot. Toronado is a local favorite featuring a variety of beers on tap. Rip Current is known for excellent IPAs, but they also brew fantastic German styles, stouts, and barrel-aged stouts. Belching Beaver is mostly known for their IPAs. They recently started making some hazy IPAs and also have a young sour beer program with the original brewer and blender behind the now closed Toolbox brewing. Second Chance makes excellent beers to style and is one of the few local breweries that makes an excellent Irish red that is available year round.

Once you reach Belching Beaver you are fully into the El Cajon Blvd part of town where you can find Tiger Tiger, Pariah, Eppig, A hard Kombucha brewer, Home Brewing, Barn Brewing. Further North you will find Fall Brewing, Poor House. Of these my favorite is Fall but Pariah and Eppig are great too. Tiger Tiger is connected with Blind Lady Ale House and serves their house beers from Automatic Brewing on draft along with a variety of local beers. All pints there are served in imperial pint glasses, giving you a full half liter.

Pariah and Eppig opened around the same time and both have excellent beers. Pariah I visit mostly for IPAs though they have a variety of styles available. Eppig I mostly visit for lagers including one of the best dark lagers in town. I haven’t yet visited their neighboring hard kombucha spot and don’t plan to because I drink kombucha as an alternative to beer and prefer my home brew.

Home Brewing is a quirky spot connected to a home brew mart but they have been doing quite a few interesting collaborations and can releases lately that tend to be good. It is a good spot to visit if you want to learn about some more obscure styles. I haven’t been to Barn brewing yet and don’t expect to anytime soon. Nobody talks about them in my circles and I assume they have a more local following. They are owned by the same people who opened Poor House.

Fall Brewing is a local staple both for excellent IPAs and lagers. They also brew a variety of other styles reliably well. I tend to order their English Pale Ale there simply because nobody else does a beer like that around town like they do. Poor House is a quirky neighborhood brewery that I haven’t been to in many years. They are similar to Barn in that nobody really talks about them but they are still around so I assume they have a following as well.

Further East along Adams you will find Kensington Brewing and Blind Lady Ale House home of Automatic Brewing. Kensington Brewing I have been to only once and don’t expect to return. They have a similar neighborhood feel and lack the excellence of others in the area. Blind Lady Ale House is a restaurant focusing on pizza and serves their house beers from Automatic Brewing along with a variety of other guest beers. They also serve all their pints in imperial pint glasses giving you a full half liter. If you haven’t heard of Automatic Brewing don’t be surprised. They hardly market themselves as a brewery online. But they do make some great beer.

Must visit stops If you only have time for a few
Fall Brewing
Rip Current
Modern Times
North Park Brewing (serves food)

Other standouts
Belching Beaver
Pariah
Eppig
Second Chance

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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Santa Rosa Breweries – Fogbelt and Cooperage

It is common for people to take a trip to Russian River brewery in the Santa Rosa area. Most people will go just for that one brewery but there are many others around that are worth visiting in their own right or stopping by if you don’t feel like waiting for a table at Russian River. I decided to make a trip to the Santa Rosa area to visit these breweries and see which ones stand out to me.

Fogbelt Brewery

Shortly after landing, I stopped by Fogbelt brewery. It was quite noisy inside as is typical for Friday nights at breweries. Their pricing made sense to order pints because it was five or six dollars a pint as opposed to two or three dollars a taster. I started with their wet hop Redwood Hill IPA. The beer had a copper color with earthy and piney hops nicely balanced with a malt base and medium lingering bitterness. It reminded me of a slightly more resinous version of blind pig and Russian River. Notes of orange blossom come through as it warms up.

I ended with a dark sour called Methuselah that was nicely balanced with notes of caramel and raisins with a smooth oaky finish and hints of red wine, cherry, and dates. Before I left I noticed they had some Carolina reaper hot sauce, hot sauce made with one of the spicy is peppers on the planet. When I asked for a taste, they brought me a chip and a little bit of hot sauce and it was delightfully flavorful and spicy such that I left with two bottles. If you are a fan of extremely spicy hot sauces, make sure you stop by just for that. This hot sauce has become part of my regular rotation at home and I’m glad I got two.

If you are not a fan of noisy breweries, I would suggest avoiding fog belt on Friday nights. They also came highly recommended for their food, although I did not try any because our flight was delayed quite a bit and we arrived after having already eaten. Fogbelt is worth a stop if you enjoy more traditional approach to your hoppy beers, which I expect you do if you are in town for Russian River.

Cooperage Brewery

After fogbelt, we went straight to cooperage brewery. They had a more open feel and dispersed the sound a bit better. Their templates seem to be almost exclusively hoppy beer focused. This should have suggested that I may not enjoy the English mild but I went for it anyways to start.

The English mild on tap was dry with notes of acorns and mild smoke. The beer was fairly lacking in flavor for the style and not impressive compared to others I’ve had recently. I finished with the beer called Wookie of the year IPA. It was excellently balanced with tons of hope aroma and notes of resin, lemon, and light pine. The beer had a soft mouth feel with mild bitterness on the finish. This is a good spot to come visit if you are looking for more IPAs.

 

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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Breweries to Visit in Downtown San Diego

In my travels I have learned that not everyone has the time or inclination to venture outside of the downtown area. Thankfully Downtown San Diego has seen a lot of new spots opening in the last few years making that a good option while still giving you a good taste of what San Diego has to offer.

Without even leaving the downtown area, you can easily access three of San Diego’s biggest and most established breweries, Ballast Point, Stone, and Karl Strauss. Stone’s tasting room is a bit more difficult to notice as you walk by but once you are inside you won’t want to leave. I suggest visiting Stone’s smaller company store locations anyway over their restaurants because the beers are slightly cheaper and you can still try most of the beers.

Some people may have written off Ballast Point after their sale to the wine distributor Constellation but if that doesn’t bother you, their Little Italy location is large and serves food. Not far from there is Bolt’s satellite tasting room though I suggest you skip that as there are better options. There is also a Mikkeller tasting room somewhere around here but I have not managed to visit yet.

Karl Strauss’ original location is in the heart of Downtown and is a spot I go to regularly for lunch. The food is excellent including vegan options and the beers have evolved nicely with the times. They still brew their standard Red Trolley and delicious Heffeweizen along with a lineup of hoppy beers. They are a brewery tourists tend to overlook for the more shiny spots but you can’t go wrong with their beer.

Other spots you can visit downtown include Resident Brewing, The Bell Marker, Half Door Brewing, and the newly opened 10 Barrel Brewing and Melvin Brewing. Resident is located inside the neighborhood bar called The Local. They have a wide variety of house beers along with a full bar and guest taps. The food is excellent and while it is not listed on the menu they have a few vegan options.

Half Door has not impressed me as much with their food but they have a good variety of hazy IPAs and also some excellent Belgian styles and stouts. They will finally be able to sell growlers and crowlers sometime in January 2019 with a new change to the law. Mission Brewery is near Half Door but I haven’t visited in years and don’t recommend it. Stone also has a small company store location near the ball park if you are in that area. I have never visited.

The Bell Marker recently opened with beers made by an ex- Pizza Port brewer and featuring an excellent variety of food including tons of vegan options. I have only ordered their hummus plate, which is an amazing deal during happy hour. I found their IPAs too bitter for my tastes but I quite enjoy their brown ale and other traditional styles.

I have not yet made it out to 10 Barrel and just stopped by Melvin for the first time recently but they both have brew houses so I included them in the list. 10 Barrel is owned by AB inBev (aka Budweiser’s parent company) and faced fierce opposition from locals, which is why I have never visited and don’t plan to. But if that doesn’t bother you, I hear the beer is solid. Melvin is a new location for a Wyoming brewery with a kung-fu and hip-hop vibe. Expect hip hop playing at high volume when you visit. Their founding brewer got his start in San Diego and they added a brew house at this location making them a San Diego brewery. They are so new that I just visited there a few days ago my first time. They focus on hoppy beers and serve Asian Fusion style food. Not far from these East Village location there are rumors that Little Miss plans to open a satellite tasting room as well sometime next year. Bay City has a new location in the works as well.

If you don’t mind taking an uber, it is not too far to head over to North Park, where you can visit 10 different breweries or Point Loma where you can visit Modern Times’ main location, Stone’s massive Liberty Station restaurant and Eppig’s waterfront beer hall. Those whose family drag them to visit the Hotel Del in Coronado should stop by Coronado brewing, one of the established breweries that I have not yet managed to visit. You could also venture down into Barrio Logan and visit Border X and Iron Fist.

I will do a separate post on North Park breweries later but most of them are excellent and the staff at any of them will happily point you to the best ones nearby. I didn’t include any mention of the numerous bars in the Gaslamp area mostly because I haven’t visited them. I also haven’t mentioned Monkey Paw because it is still unclear if they will re-open in some form after recent troubles. Rumors suggest that they will become a new location for South Norte, a brewery connected to Coronado brewing.

I also missed a few newer spots that I hadn’t even noticed had opened that you can read about on my fellow beer blogger’s site Craft Beer in San Diego  Contrary to his suggestions, I would personally avoid East Village all together and focus on Resident, Karl Strauss, and Stone, though Half Door is certainly worth a visit. Both Amplified and Duck Foot make good beer but I want to send you to places that make excellent beer. It also depends heavily on what styles you like to drink.

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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Charlotte, NC Breweries – Heist, Divine Barrel, and Resident Culture

Heist

Heist wasn’t on my list for Charlotte initially. I ran into a friend who had been out to Charlotte recently (the brewers from Council Brewery) and they immediately said Heist was their favorite. Out of the small number of breweries I visited this was also my favorite. Depending on your style preferences, you might enjoy Heist more than any nearby breweries including popular Ashevillle options. They also have fantastic food.

Heist has a restaurant and focuses primarily on hazy IPAs and fruited sours. Even their honey blonde is hazy. I enjoyed all of the beers there and a few stood out as favorites. I started with Mango Pick’n, a Berliner Weisse with tons of mango added. It was thick and creamy with prominent ripe mango puree flavor. The mango overpowered the base beer so it only had a hint of lacto tart on the finish. This was my favorite of the bunch and I left with a few four packs.

Next was High Fives, described as a honey blonde, this tasted more like a hazy pale ale with some honey added. Mild honey sweetness supports the hop aromas of tangerine. The beer had a nice medium body and wasn’t very bitter or acidic. I was tempted to get a crowler of this one as well. Next was Torguga, a hazy IPA with pineapple and coconut. The adjuncts blended in perfectly with the base beer and it was like a creamy pina colada hazy. My husband took a sip and remarked that it doesn’t taste like an IPA. The hop aroma was minimal or non-existent and the beer was minimally bitter.

The two hazy double IPAs were both solid but both were fairly muted in hop aroma and neither had the same level of flavor as the others on the flight. Blurred up was super tropical on the nose but did not come through with similar flavors. The beer was acidic on the finish and had a nice creamy body with mild sweetness and low bitterness. The Cloud Control was a bit softer and less acidic with prominent notes of pineapple. While they nailed the mouthfeel it could have had more explosive hops.

Though I didn’t care for the double IPAs, the other beers were quite impressive at heist. This is a spot you should not miss if you are either local or stopping through.

Top 2:
Mango Pick’n
High Fives hazy honey blonde

Divine Barrel

Despite the name, there were no barrel-aged offerings when I visited Divine Barrel. They have a huge open tasting room but it has quite an echo because with just the talking of people it gets uncomfortably loud. This led me to speed through my flight more than I might have otherwise. They had solid beers but nothing that really stood out as better than the others.

The saison was fairly standard with notes of honey and pear white wine. It finished with hints of pomegranate. The hazy IPA was bitter and piney and just mildly creamy. The hops don’t work very well with the hazy style.

Cadillac Rainbows was an incredibly tart fruited berliner with notes of apricot and passion fruit. The lacto tartness was so prominent it overpowered the fruit. This is a nice counter to other more juicy versions of the style but I don’t think I could drink more than a taster of it. Ice Cream Paint Job is a similar berliner but with more berries and the addition of lactose. It was much less tart than the other and had only light acidity from the berries. Lactose adds sweetness.

Maybe in a few years Divine Barrel will have more barrel aged offerings but for now they are fairly standard with their offerings. If you like more acidic berliner weisse styles this might be a good spot to try.

Resident Culture


Resident Culture is one of the most talked-about breweries in Charlotte. This is in part because it was started by an ex-brewer from Russian River. They had a large variety of beers on tap though I only tasted 4 because my husband needed to rest and it was quite loud. Thankfully they had a couple of bottles I was able to bring with me to-go.

Resident Culture has a large tasting room and the day we visited they had some live music. I started with the hoppy farmhouse. It had prominent herbal hops and notes of bubblegum with a mild earthy finish. It was a solid farmhouse. Books on Tape, a peach brett beer was my favorite of the day. The flavors worked wonderfully with peach and brett funk blending together. The beer had a light acidic finish. I probably would have ordered a pint of this out of the four I tried.

Thunder Study hazy IPA was creamy with notes of vanilla and pineapple and a mild herbal hop finish. It was solid though not as flavorful as Heist. The brut IPA was a bit buttery, which may have been diacetyl. The beer was super dry with mild herbal hop character though overall a bit too subdued hops for my preference.

I had two bottles in my hotel room directly after leaving the brewery. Both were mixed culture saisons aged in oak. Secret Feelings was super carbonated with notes of buttery oak, subtle funk, and mild lemon. It had an excellent balance. Ghost Particle, aged a bit longer, was funky and oaky on the nose and a bit more carbonated. The beer had notes of caramel and kiwi with flavors more on the fruity side than the other one. Both were excellent for the style but I prefer the Secret Feelings of the two.

Though not as impressive as Heist, Resident Culture is excellent and if I were to come back I would try a few more beers there. They certainly know how to work with brett.

Top 2:
Books on Tape – Peach Brett Ale
Secret Feelings – Mixed Culture Saison

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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Rorschach Brewery – Toronto, Ontario Canada

Rorschach was about a 15 minute walk from Godspeed and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had seen that they made many pastry stouts and IPAs and was quite pleased by the quality of their hazy IPAs and especially the one with tons of passionfruit. I only had a few sips of my husband’s imperial stout tasters but they were quite good as well.

I started with a beer fittingly called The Hedonist, a gratuitous flavor explosion of a milkshake IPA, and my favorite from the visit. It was creamy and exploded with tropical fruit and passionfruit flavor with the lactose just adding to the body rather than being noticeable in the flavor. This reminded me of a similar beer at Green Cheek in California that also blew me away. I followed up with a double IPA called Icarus Complex that claimed to be brewed with a similarly epic amount of kiwi. The beer didn’t have remotely similar fruit flavor and was more of a standard balanced classic resinous double IPA. It shouldn’t be surprising though that kiwi isn’t as strong in beer as passionfruit.

The Turtle Imperial stout made with pecans and cacao nibs was quite lovely with prominent cherry vanilla notes. The beer had a creamy thick body with tons of caramel, mild nuts, and roasted malts. I also had a hazy IPA called truth serum that was super tropical with a creamy body and restrained hop acidity. I may return to Rorschach later in the trip. We visited the brewery quite late (around 10PM) so it wasn’t very crowded at that time and we enjoyed some conversation with a new beer friend who was also drinking at the bar. @JasonOfOrillia on Twitter. We ended up meeting with Jason again the next day thankfully for additional adventures though sadly did not return to Rorschach.

Top 2:
Hedonist milkshake IPA
Turtle Imperial 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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