Stave and Nail has been in the works for a while. It is an offshoot of Rip Current headed by the same person who runs the sour program at Rip Current. The two spots are so close that you can easily visit both in the same visit. Though today’s visit suggests most people coming for Stave and Nail are not interested in going to Rip Current in the same trip. Most of them have likely already been there many times and so it no longer interests them.
I visited mostly to try various sour beers they had available. The beers were fairly standard for a new brewery starting out a sour program, indicating they are on the right track and should develop further given time. I started with a pink guava and raspberry beer that had a prominent guava flavor with a funky bitter finish. The peach sour was strongly tart with mild notes of white cake behind it. A second guava sour, the one released in bottles on the day of my visit, was funky and nicely balanced with a dry finish though overall quite subtle.
During my visit I also tried a few sips of their double IPA and imperial milk stout. I got the IPA for my mom to try and found it overly sweet with lots of vanilla notes and grassy hop character. The milk stout was strongly bitter with notes of molasses and lingered on the tongue in the finish. It blended nicely with the coconut flavors. I was surprised to see so many people grabbing four packs of these beers without even trying them. After tasting them, I wasn’t excited to leave with either of them. I certainly recommend you visit them for sours over IPAs or stouts.
Stave and Nail is a solid new operation and a welcome addition to San Marcos now that Toolbox has left. Given the lack of breweries in the area offering sours except Belching Beaver and a few sours at Rip Current next door it should be well received. I didn’t find the beer to be so exciting that I would suggest you take a special trip to visit them if you are in another area of San Diego. This is especially true as it seems the number of sours showing up in liquor stores from around California and surrounding states continues to increase regularly.
Known for: Come if you are interested in trying a variety of small batch barrel aged sour beers. Some of them are spontaneously fermented using locally harvested yeast. All of the sour beers had fruit added when I first visited.
Note: Stave and Nail is a small operation and as such will be only open one weekend a month initially. They are planning on releasing new beers in bottles each month.
Grimm is one of the more hyped Brooklyn area breweries, almost to the level of Other Half. They are also the one brewery I visited that we get in distribution in San Diego, often for their pop series of beers, fruited kettle sours made with lactose for sweetness. The tasting room was a moderate walk from KCBC and while busy was not excessively so. Knowing now how busy Threes can get, I would have preferred to have stayed a bit longer before moving on.
I wasn’t in the mood for hazy IPAs at the time so I skipped the hazy double IPAs and went straight for some barrel aged sours. I had previously had only their kettle sours. I started with William of Okham, a nice oak aged golden ale that had notes of lemon and white cake with nice restrained acidity. I finished with a taster of Spooky Action, a beer inspired by the Belgian Oud Buin style, a sour red ale often brewed with cherries. It was much more mellow than most versions, lacking the intense acidity or strong vinegar taste that it often exhibits. The beer was a lovely blend of caramel malts and mild cherry notes.
I left Grimm with a bottle of one of their pastry stouts, a beer inspired by pecan pancakes. I am excited to share this beer with my Husband. Like Other Half, Grimm appeared to have a variety of beers left over from prior releases so there was a wide selection of beers available to go.
Known for: Come for fruited kettle sours, big pastry stouts, and hazy double IPAs.
Threes was the closest brewery to my Airbnb. What I didn’t expect was just how slammed it would be on a warm sunny day. Because they have an outdoor seating area, they get especially crowded on a warm sunny day. Perhaps this time was more so because rain was forecasted for the next few days. This was one of the most crowded brewery experiences I’ve had. It was standing room only and even more crowded in their outdoor area. A few lucky groups with tables were also those who had ordered food.
I ordered a pint of the table beer, a delicious session saison with mild citrus notes. I quickly finished the beer and bought two four packs to go, one of the pilsner, and one of the foeder fermented pilsners. I was eager to get out and sit somewhere. I had a can of each of the two pilsners back in my room and enjoyed both of them, especially the foeder fermented one.
Given you can find cans from Threes at grocery stores around the city, I may not visit the brewery directly again. It gets quite crowded, even more than Other Half.
Thanks to a tip from Jeff Alworth (known on Twitter and elsewhere as Beervana) I had Von Ebert on my list of spots to visit while in Portland. Since I had a day in Portland, I decided to visit a few Portland breweries after Pfriem rather than exploring other Hood River spots. Von Ebert has a massive indoor spot with tons of seating. As one might expect from the size, it gets loud quickly and can be a bit chaotic.
I ordered a very interesting sounding beer first, a smoked rye beer aged on coffee. In the wrong hands this beer could be overly smoky, have prominent rye character, or too much coffee. The beer was perfectly balanced with subtle notes of smoke, a mild rye bite, and light nutty coffee on the finish. I would have ordered a crowler of this beer to go but they ran out shortly after I finished my pint.
I finished with their dark lager, a traditional German style beer that I love when it is done well. The beer was a bit thicker and more chocolate forward than the traditional style but quite delicious; It had prominent notes of dark chocolate and raisins. I hope to visit Von Ebert again on a future trip. The two beers I tried indicated that the brewers are quite talented.
I decided to leave Von Ebert after two pints and made my way to Little Beast, where they had a variety of delicious sour and wild ales on draft. Little Beast is much smaller than Von Ebert, and has a more intimate vibe with a small bar area and some surrounding seating.
I started with a full pour of Field Folk, a brett saison. The beer was dry and balanced, with prominent brett funk and mild citrus notes. I then got a few half pours so I could try more styles. The Ferme Rouge was lovely with notes of cherry, mildly tart, with low acidity. It was nicely balanced and easy drinking. The Dutchy was a lovely restrained aged sour with notes of cherry and dark chocolate. My husband surprisingly enjoyed this one. The Belgian dark strong was thick with notes of chocolate. I would have preferred this to be less dry, but it was solid.
I really enjoyed tasting the beers at Little Beast and was glad to see how restrained in acidity some of the sours were. They are worth checking out for fans of Belgian styles and sours.
Pfriem is in Hood River Oregon, about an hour east of Portland. It is a lovely drive along the Columbia River. I expect we missed some of the true majesty of the drive because it had recently snowed. Pfriem is a restaurant and so you may have to wait for a table if you plan to visit on a weekend. Thankfully we ended up in the upstairs area because it was a little bit quieter up there at least before it filled up.
I already expected excellent beer and was pleasantly surprised by the excellent food as well. For the hardcore beer nut, it may not be worth a visit given you can find so many of their beers in bottles and cans around town. As of this writing the cans are expected any day now but they seem to have focused the initial runs of cans on their local market rather than distributing them to San Diego.
I visited having previously enjoyed the delicious pilsner and a few sours so I mostly wanted to enjoy the beers at the source. The pilsner was as excellent as I remember. It is a gold winning beer for a reason. The beer was easy drinking with light notes of honey and hay with a crisp dry finish. This is certainly a beer for drinking as opposed to sipping. The traditional saison was lightly sweet and chewy with notes of cloves and tons of Belgian yeast character. The yeast dominated the beer here and any hops were barely detectable.
Given how high quality Pfriem’s other beers were, I ordered the hazy IPA without trying it. It was about as much of a miss as has become common in San Diego. While the beer was hazy in appearance it was not soft or pillowy as one might expect from the style. It had some notes of melon and tropical fruit but the boozy alcohol character dominated, making it mildly unpleasant. I don’t recommend you seek out this hazy when their traditional IPAs are so much better.
Come for excellent interpretations of classic styles including some lambic inspired barrel aged sours. You can find their beers in bottles and cans around Oregon and even down into San Diego.
Rowley is located in Santa Fe and if you are in Albuquerque it would be about an hour drive in between. I really enjoyed the atmosphere inside. It was rustic with wood on the walls and small enough that it didn’t get too loud. They also have a full kitchen. They did an excellent job both with my vegetable risotto and my husband’s impossible burger.
I started with the berliner weisse which turned out to be my favorite of the day. It was funky and complex with notes of bitter gourd and tropical fruit. I didn’t realize at the time but the bitter flavors that were subtly present in this beer were much more prominent in the various saisons. I got a flight for the rest of my beers, mostly because saisons are so hit and miss with me, but also because they price them so that they are almost the same price per ounce as ordering a larger pour, a rarity these days.
The two saisons both featured prominent herbal hop character. It took some adjusting before I could fully taste the beers. I generally don’t care for saisons that use herbal hops so take any criticisms of these beers with a grain of salt. Sarlac was dry and funky with prominent herbal hop notes and a bitter finish. The rye saison was the sweeter of the two also featuring prominent herbal hop character. Both beers were well made but not something I would order again.
Chantal was an interesting beer. They made an imperial saison and added raspberry. The beer was brewed as a fundraiser. It was surprisingly drinkable and dry for the higher alcohol but the raspberry was barely hinted at in flavor. I got some herbal hop notes with this beer as well though slightly covered up by the raspberry. I finished with the 2nd Anniversary, a dark sour aged in wine barrels with raspberry. The fruit again took a back seat to other more prominent flavors. The beer was thick with prominent red wine and oak notes finishing with hints of molasses and a prominent acidity. While a huge step up from the others in the flight, I did not feel like ordering more than a taster.
Overall, I found the beers at Rowley fairly underwhelming and average at best. If you like sours and wild ales, Bow and Arrow was much more impressive to me, and where I recommend you drink. Though if you are in the area and like a good Berliner Weisse I do recommend you try that one.
Come for farmhouse ales and the occasional sour. They also have guest taps if you like other styles.