My third and final Torrance area brewery during my recent visit was Phantom Carriage. Phantom Carriage is located in Carson, slightly between Torrance and Long Beach but close enough to Torrance area to make it a natural next stop for the day. It just so happened that they were celebrating their grand opening that day so how could I not stop in!? After getting my IPA fix at Smog City and my Belgian fix at Monkish I was ready for some sours. Many Southern California breweries that make sours focus on fruit sours (beer with fruit added) but Phantom Carriage had wild ales and sours on tap, in the form of both dark and light varieties.
I started with a flight of the Muis wild ale (a sort of brett blonde ale), Old Muis aged wild ale, and Bergman sour ale. The Muis was a solid beer with plenty of tropical fruit and light hoppy flavor with a mild amount of tart flavors. The beer was overall quite enjoyable. The Old Muis, which was an aged version was quite a lot more tart and had a light flavor of bourbon or whiskey.
The Bergman was very light and not very sour or tart and had a light fruit flavor and light sweetness. Compared to the others it didn’t taste like much. Subtle beers are hard to enjoy when others are such knockouts. As you can see in the pictures below, Phantom Carriage uses a unique style of taster glass that gives you a good chance to enjoy the aromas of the beers.
Second flight I tasted the Rathrbone dark sour, Lugosi barrel aged sour, and Dolores dark farmhouse ale. The Rathbone was a flavorful beer that was much more tart than the Bergman with plenty of good dark fruit flavors and a nice overall tartness. The Lugosi was quite tart and that did a good job to balance out the flavors of the barrel that gave it a nice boozy flavor.
The dolores was quite smoky and had plenty of roasted malt flavors and a little bit of dark fruit. Though on its own it had a strong smoke flavor it was great when compared to the others.
Overall, I was quite impressed by the beers at Phantom Carriage to start and look forward to what they will do in the future. Their tasting room is fairly large with enough room to handle a good number of people. They also have some food they serve as well, a rarity for new breweries. If you live in the area and like horror movies they also have a small theater where they will be playing horror movie classics. I couldn’t tell if this is going to be something they do all the time or only certain scheduled events. I will certainly be stopping in the next time I am in the area to see how things are progressing.
This post has been updated now to reflect some changes that took place in May of 2015. Update is at the bottom.
The area around Alesmith, Green Flash, and the new Ballast Point is increasingly becoming crowded. Recently added in that area is a new brewery called 32 North. The owner partnered up with a brewer who previously brewed for Karl Strauss and White Labs and opened up with a nice-looking tasting room and a solid selection of beers to start. The Karl Strauss influence is especially noticeable in the peanut butter cup porter and imperial stout, both very similar to Karl Strauss’ offerings of the same style.
One thing that sets this brewery apart from many of the places around the area is its operating hours. They are open every day from Noon to 10PM. For a while most breweries closed on Mondays and many also close on Tuesdays. Plus this is one of the few that remains open until 10PM. Also impressive is the lineup of beers to start. I didn’t get to try everything in my first visit but I came back the next day to try the other three. I always like to see a brewery that focuses on a few core beers.
The four core beers are a 3.8% berliner weisse, a 5.5% pale ale, a strong 7.5% IPA, and a 6% coffee milk stout. Also on tap when I visited on October 28, 2014 was a 4.5% toasted coconut English mild, 6.3% rye pale ale, a 5.5% peanut butter cup porter, and a 10.5% imperial stout.
The berliner weisse is an interesting light-bodied beer that is quite tart. It really isn’t my thing but I was glad to see something from a wheat beer that is a bit different than the usual. Since there has been some mention of future sours in the works, I expect this would be the basis for those sours. The pale ale is quite tasty with a lot of peach and citrus flavors going on. It is lightly malty, which sets it apart from many of the malt bomb pale ales around.
The rye pale ale was a little strange tasting to me. It had plenty of the rye flavors but the hops used didn’t seem to mix properly, giving it a really herbal flavor. There is some room to tweak this one, maybe with a different type of hops. Especially when comparing this to something like Aurora from Modern Times there is a way to go. The IPA was solidly flavorful and bitter. It boasted plenty of tropical fruit and citrus and a powerful bitterness. This is a great start and a solid beer to have as a core.
The peanut butter cup porter was very similar to the Karl Strauss one and had a good mix of nutty flavors and sweetness. The milk stout had some solid coffee flavors and a little more sweetness than I typically prefer but that is balanced by some roasted malt flavors. I would personally prefer a little more pronounced coffee but then I did try it after the imperial stout, mostly because I didn’t realize the milk stout had coffee in it until I chatted with the bartender. The toasted coconut mild was especially tasty on nitro. The mild underlying beer takes on the flavor of the coconut really nicely, giving it a strong lightly sweet coconut taste.
The Imperial Stout is very similar to the fantastic Karl Strauss Imperial Stout sporting plenty of coffee and chocolate flavors. 32 North uses fresh roasted local coffee from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters in both the imperial stout and the milk stout, and it tastes great.
With a spacious amount of seating inside and a good set of core beers, 32 North is off to a great start and seems poised for great things. The initial lineup seems to indicate a recognition of the demand in the local market where a solid IPA and solid imperial stout are both essential.
Update May 23, 2015:
I hadn’t visited 32 North in a while so I thought I would drop in to see how they are doing and I was surprised by the lack of core beers on tap and the number of sours available. I had dropped by previously to try some of their fruit flavored berliner weisse beers before but found that they were way too tart for me before. This time when I dropped in the tap list was pretty sparse but they had a Black Currant Berliner Weisse, a Passion Fruit American Sour, and a key lime gose.
I got a taster of each of the three sours on tap to see how they were. I started with the Black Currant Landfall, which was my favorite of the three. It had a nice blend of sweet and sour with a bit of citrus tart flavor and sweeter berry. The Key Lime Gose was pretty much like drinking limeaid. It was interesting for sure but surprisingly not very tart and mildly sweet. Finally the passion fruit had a nice wild flavor going with a mild passion fruit flavor and very little tart going on. I think both the key lime and passion fruit could be a bit more tart while the black currant was the right balance.
As for how regularly we will see the core beers around, it seems that they are doing smaller batches now and many of them don’t stay on very long. Hopefully these sours will continue to become a main thing for them because it is nice to have someone so close by doing sours.
One of the interesting things about the Beer Bloggers’ Conference was getting us to write about beers as we taste them. But for those of you who weren’t following along on Twitter, lets take a look at how this looked to someone following the feed.
Getting ready for some live beer blogging. Hope it keeps things interesting. #bbc14#craftbeer
The Lost Abbey Deliverance was an amazingly delicious beer. It combined two different styles of beers and had one of them aged in bourbon barrels. If you want a chance to drink those bourbon-barrel-aged beers at home this might be worth the extra high price.
Rough draft brought their session ipa. Nice to compare to green flash session. #bbc14#craftbeer
The Mexican Hot Chocolate style stout really tasted very different than all the other stouts Stone has put out so far. Stone brought this for us in their modern-looking growlers you can now get at the tasting room. This collaboration beer will be available in 22oz bottles in stores starting September 8, 2014.
Rogue brought a marionberry beer for us to try. Not really grabbing me right now. Thick malt flavors. #bbc14#craftbeer
We were blessed with so many breweries showing off their bourbon barrel aged beers. I have seen this becoming popular lately but I am not sure that you can easily go back to more subtly flavored beers after something so strong.
If you enjoyed my post about live blogging, consider following me on Twitter where you can see all the photos I take on Instagram and possibly catch my next live blogging attempt.
Little did I know before visiting Portland but there is a growing sours scene. The best place to experience sours is to stop by Cascade. The tasters were a little bit more expensive than I was used to but I could see why once I realized that many of the sours were barrel aged for a time. Sours are like IPAs in that most people hate them when they first try them. I’m still growing to like sours but I appreciated the chance to explore the style further here. I ended up tasting their IPA, Red IPA, Apricot, Blueberry, White Stout, and Cantaloupe sour.
I wasn’t all too impressed with the IPA but mostly because I don’t really like cascade hops that much on their own. The IPA was fairly light and primarily focused on the pine from the cascade. The Red IPA was primarily thick and resiny from the heavy malts, with a lot of the plum flavors. The beer seemed to be a little too heavy on the malts for my tastes though there was some nice light hop flavor at the back end.
The apricot sour was quite tart and had a nice blend of flavors. I preferred the blueberry sour because it wasn’t as tart. The blueberry blended very nicely with the sour flavors from the wine barrels for a good overall beer. The white stout was closer to a coffee-infused session IPA. Flavors were very similar to an iced coffee.
I ended my sour tasting with the Cantaloupe. This one was poured fresh while aging. The cantaloupe gave it a good sweetness that I really enjoyed. I expect that with aging the sweetness would fade and be replaced with more sour flavors. The flavors of the cantaloupe really came through quite nicely. Overall, I am glad that I stopped by Cascade so that I can start to explore the varieties of flavors of sours. This is a place to come visit if you are also intrigued by the idea of sours because that was where they shined.