Tag Archives: Smoked Porter

Breweries in Bratislava Slovakia

I spent about a week and a half visiting a friend in Bratislava, Slovakia and visiting a few breweries and local bars. I got the feeling that the craft beer scene is just getting started. While there are a few bars with craft taps, there are a handful of actual breweries you can visit directly. I encountered numerous consistency issues where beers that my friend recommended highly turned out tasting bland or worse. Some locals tell me that Poland is far ahead in that area and other friends regularly visit Sweden for the craft beer scene. Still, I had some great beers from a few local spots we visited and one local IPA from a newly opened DUB brewing that was close to the American style because the brewery is run by an American.

Mestiansky Pivovar

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Our first visit was Mestiansky Pivovar, a brewery and restaurant that has a sign on the front saying it has been around since the 1700s though my friend tells me the exact spot has only been open for five years. They serve delicious food and it is the only place my friend regularly eats outside the home. They have two lagers, a cloudy pale lager and a smoky dark lager. Both are delicious though I prefer the pale one. This particular batch was quite fruity and had a nice medium body. The spare ribs there are served in a massive portion and are some of the best ribs I’ve had in my life. Out of the whole trip, the lager here was one of the most outstanding.

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DUB Brewing

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A bit later we visited DUB Brewing. It was in soft opening phase at the time of our visit but has since had its grand opening. The brewery is run by an American from Colorado who previously ran a successful brewery called Bonfire Brewing in Eagle Colorado. His ipa reminds me of home, delicious and balanced with a hearty malt backbone that holds up the pine, resin and grapefruit hops. Now that they have had their grand opening, you can visit and order pints directly. You can also find their IPA on tap around town in certain craft bars.

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Beer Time in Nitra

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On my one weekend there we drove out to Nitra, a common attraction for tourists and visited a bar called Beer Time where beers flow so freely that four kegs were finished during the hours we sat drinking. The beers on tap were mostly from Czech Republic though I did get to experience a satisfying Slovak ipa called 15 years in hell. Beers were mostly under 2 euro 50, the price I would normally spend on a can at home. A sour option was more, almost four euros but still a steal. Our night of revelry complete with appetizers and later sandwiches was only 60 euros and would have been even less if the sour hadn’t been tapped.

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While I started with ipa my friend ordered round after round of a Rauch beer. I’m told that the typical American way of pronouncing Rauch generally means something you smoke like a cigarette whereas if you say it with the proper German accent it means something lightly smoked. Before the grill was fired up my friends enjoyed some meats. One had some head cheese and another some pate while I enjoyed a local delicacy of camambert cheese aged in oil with red pepper and served with fermented long green peppers. Eaten on toast it was fantastic.

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Though I’ve been eating vegetarian at home, few options exist to continue that diet here in Slovakia where meat is consumed in portions only dwarfed by the Germans. Meat and cheese are commonly served along with bread and pickles. I don’t mind a little cheat from my diet because we eat many meals at his home where he generally eats vegetarian as well.

Richtar Jakub

Richtar Jakub is a pub but also brews some of their own house beers. Their lager was described to me by my friend as the best lager in Bratislava. Though the batch on tap when we visited was a little off, I did really enjoy their session lager, the Anna, because it was quite clean and delicious. They are also a great place to visit if you want to taste some of the other local beers on tap.

Stupavar

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My other favorite place to visit during my trip was Supavar, a brewery that has a solid lineup of various styles of beer. Their IPA is a bit more malty than my preference but it was also very clean. This is the one consistent brewery in town. I ended up coming back a few times to have more of their delicious smoked porter. While it originally shocked me with the high amount of smoke, after a few sips I was able to enjoy the chocolate and roast notes that balanced it out. This is the closest thing to an imperial stout that you will be able to find from the local breweries.

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Despite the issues I had with a few of the local breweries keeping things up to the level they had reached before, I enjoyed the chance to experience more quality lagers. Stupavar and┬áMestiansky Pivovar are both places I would soon return to if I was back in the area. If you really can’t get enough of your local style of beers I suggest bringing some with you in your checked luggage. I shared a number of San Diego beers with my friends while I was out there.

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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Valley Center Brewing – Complex Beers Worth the Drive

If driving to Oceanside the previous weekend to visit Bagby was far, I especially was not very excited about driving all the way to Valley Center to try a brewery. Though Oceanside is right off a major highway, Valley Center is only accessible by a few smaller roads where you aren’t going to be driving very fast. Though, after tasting some of the really tasty beers, I was glad I made the trek. I visited Valley Center Brewing on February 1st 2015.

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Because I visited with a groupon, I started out with a bunch of tasters. Though I also had two full pours to look forward to, also included, since my husband, who was driving back, was only going to help me a little bit with those. I was intrigued by the selection once I noticed some styles that I don’t expect.

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To start with I ordered a flight of Rusty Pail Pale Ale, Farmhouse Ale, Oaked Red Ale, Hell Hole Cayon Stout, Smoked Porter, and Evening Star Barrel Aged Stout. Later I also tried the Belgian IPA, the Coffee Stout, and the Coyote Run IPA.

First taster flight. Note how dark the beers in the back are as well.
First taster flight. Note how dark the beers in the back are as well.

The farmhouse ale was quite tasty, offering plenty of mild tart flavors and a little crisp fruity bite at the back end. The brewers describe this as having apple flavors. Rusty Pail pale ale was a very typical pale ale flavor like a Sierra Nevada Pale though the malts were a little less intense and didn’t overpower the hops. This one was just OK to me.

The oaked red ale was the first beer I noticed that really had some different flavors at the beginning compared to the end. Later I noticed that a lot of the other beers had flavors that changed over the course of a taster sometimes very significant. At first the red ale was too smoky but when I got closer to finishing the taster I started to notice the smoke balanced much better with the rest of the beer.

Next came the smoked porter. This was interesting because the bourbon flavor was much lighter than you typically see in San Diego bourbon aged beers, giving it an almost sour flavor. Combined with that was a light smoke flavor to balance it out. This is certainly not your typically roasty porter and my husband was not a fan.

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Then I tried the Hell Hole Canyon stout. This one was so good I had to stop my husband from drinking the whole taster before I got to try it. This was also the second of my full pours later. Flavor wise, I was quite impressed by all the different things I tasted from coffee to bitter chocolate and plenty of roasty flavors. I hope this one sticks around for quite some time.

The Belgian IPA was also very tasty. At first I got a ton of spice with mild citrus hops but over time the spice seemed to mellow out, leaving me with some fantastic citrus flavors and a little bit of ripe fruit. This was later my first full pour and still very enjoyable. The Coyote Run IPA started out with a powerful ripe peach flavor with plenty of tart and as I progressed through the taster the malts became more prominent. Though I wasn’t immediately drawn into this beer it seemed to be quite popular among regular visitors. Sadly the other IPA they usually have was gone when I stopped by, perhaps due to popularity.

Full pour of the Belgian IPA.
Full pour of the Belgian IPA.

The coffee stout, made with local roasted Sumatra beans, was a tasty coffee beer with plenty of coffee flavor at the forefront. Though to me compared to the Hell Hole Canyon it was hard to ask for more. Finally, the bourbon barrel aged stout called Evening Star, like the smoked porter had an interesting intense tart flavor that I don’t normally find in this sort of beer. This sort of tart flavor tends to come from something aged in wine barrels.

When I asked the head brewer about these two tart aged stouts I was told that they used barrels that had already been previously used by another brewery, so they didn’t have the same intense flavor of bourbon that tends to come from first run use. I didn’t find either of the barrel aged beers to have the sorts of flavors that typically get me excited about bourbon aged beers so they aren’t for everyone.

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From what I tried, I was glad I made the drive up to Valley Center. I still can taste the delicious flavors of the Hell Hole Canyon Stout and the Belgian IPA. They also had four lighter beers that I wasn’t able to try, a Kolsch, Blonde, Cream, and Summer Ale. I’m told that these were added due to local demand and since I am not a big fan of those styles I stuck to what I enjoy. At some point I may make my way back there, possibly while I am in the area for some seasonal event, so that I can try the other IPA that was not available when I stopped by.

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Valley Center Brewing is also interesting because they had a few experimental beers on tap to try. I didn’t end up tasting the experimental beers while I was there either, but it sounded like there were some interesting beers available on there. If you are in the area and want to have a beer, Valley Center Brewing offers a great lineup of interesting IPAs, Stouts, and even a solid farmhouse ale. The Belgian IPA and Hell Hole Canyon both stick out as great beers that have just the right flavors.

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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O’Sullivan Brothers – San Diego CA

O’Sullivan Brothers is the second new brewery I’ve visited recently that started with everything they need right off the bat and a clear vision in place of where they want to go. Started by five Irish brothers who wanted to re-create the beer styles they love, O’Sullivan Brothers focuses on porters and stouts but they also brew a solid brown ale, pale ale, and amber.

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This is one of the smaller tasting rooms in San Diego. The front area is especially small and has two tables with a little bar space. There is some more seating past the bar into the brewing area but when I visited it was quite hot back there. The air conditioning is all in the front space. Still, I was glad to see that they started things out with six beers to try, a pale ale, amber, brown ale, porter, smoked porter, and stout.

OSullivan Brothers 02The Amber has a nice light hop kick that combines nicely with the malts to give it a good balanced flavor. The pale ale is similar to something like an Alesmith pale at 5.5% using mosaic hops to give it a light citrus kick. The bitterness here is not too intense either but it has some solid flavors. Both of these are as hoppy as you will get for now. Though they talked about possibly doing an IPA in the future to meet with local demand, that isn’t a priority. Thankfully, these two hit the right notes in that flavor profile.

Taster flight. Front left to right, amber, pale, porter, brown ale. Back smoked porter, stout.
Taster flight. Front left to right, amber, pale, porter, brown ale. Back smoked porter, stout.

We had a bit of a mix up between the porter and brown ale when I got my taster flight. The server wasn’t sure if she might have mixed up the two and I had a difficult time telling the two apart. The nice thing about this is that both beers have a good roasted malt flavor. When I talked to one of the owners in the back he said they add a little bit of hops on the back of the brown ale to give it a little extra kick.

The smoked porter was a little too much like drinking mesquite. This was one taster we didn’t finish. However, I heard a guy comment about just how much he loved this one before we left. So if you like smoked beers, give this one a shot. Finally, the sweet stout was the highlight of the place for me. Despite the name, this is not a sticky extra-sweet milk stout. There is just enough sweetness here to get you to notice it and the rest of the beer is full on delicious roasted flavors you expect from a good stout.

Yes the tasting room is that small.
Yes the tasting room is that small.

I don’t normally do tours when I review breweries but I happened to go back on a tour here and was shown the great brewing setup that they have going at O’Sullivan Brothers. A computer system monitors most of the process and they have a quality control lab in the back. Besides all that, the guy I spoke to mentioned that they also make a point of trying to mimic the water from different parts of the world when brewing so that an English beer has English water.

With a system that is a step above some of the new breweries with glorified home-brew setups and a clear vision I expect great things in the coming years from O’Sullivan Brothers. They also mentioned that their first Imperial Stout should be out in December. This won’t be a coffee or chocolate-forward imperial stout but just a good strong traditional imperial stout. I’m curious to see how this differentiates them from the trend of coffee and chocolate flavors in most San Diego imperial stouts.

Update 2-21-15:

I came back to O’Sullivan Brothers in February of 2015 to try their newer stronger stout. They call it Old Shillelagh Triple Stout Porter. The beer is not as full bodied as you might get from something a little higher in alcohol but it has some delicious toffee flavors and roasted flavors that border on coffee. I really enjoyed this new offering and look forward to what they might have in the future.

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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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