As a sour fan, Cantillon is considered one of those places that you need to visit at least once. After spending half a day there with great company I totally agree. Getting to Cantillon is pretty easy. The metro drops you off a short distance away from the brewery so you don’t have to walk too far. The tour is short but worth paying the 7 euro fee (cash only) for because of the tasters you get after the tour is finished. The real fun comes when you start sharing bottles of archive beers with the various people around. Ideally you should gather a group of five or six people to share bottles with so that you can each buy one bottle and you can all share beers. You will have to buy bottles for on site consumption with cash only. I ended up getting together a group of six people and we each bought one bottle to share with the group.
If you are lucky, Cantillon will have something unique and interesting on the to-go bottle list besides the standard Gueuze (a blend of different aged lambics), Kriek (brewed with cherries), and Rose de Gambrinus (brewed with raspberries). When I was there they happened to have the Cuvee St Gilloise, a dry-hopped lambic as well.
The prices for beer to go are very reasonable. The 375ml bottles are 4 euros on site and the 750ml bottles are 7 euros. The beers are packaged in cardboard holders that don’t have the strongest handles so if you choose to leave with more than 6 bottles, you should take a cab back to your hotel to avoid breaking. Even then, some of the handles started to break by the time I got up to my room. If you can, bring two large cloth shopping bags with you so that you didn’t have to worry about the handles breaking on the way to the room. It is worth the trip so that you can bring back plenty of bottles to enjoy at home. The beers are much less expensive on site than they are if you find them in other places outside of Belgium.
If you don’t stay to taste at least one bottle on site, it might seem like a waste of time to come all the way out to visit. Many reviews from people who came just for the tour expressed this view. Keep in mind as well that they are only open from 10AM to 5PM and they sell the last bottles for on site consumption at 4:15 so you should plan to get there shortly after Noon, after a hearty lunch, if you want to make the most of your experience. In general the people who arrive earlier in the day are at Cantillon to try as much as they can while they are there so you can easily get a share going. Of the bottles we shared, the Fou Foune (brewed with apricots) was the agreed upon favorite. I also really enjoyed the grand cru.
Visiting Cantillon was everything I expected and it was a great time hanging out with the group of people I shared bottles with while we were there. The crowd appeared as Cantillon was about to close so those people could only do the tour and weren’t able to try any bottles. You should also make sure you enjoy sours before making the trip so you know what you are getting into.
I make a point of going to breweries on my trips directly rather than going to bars. Utah has a few restrictive laws that limit the alcohol content of beers they can serve on tap. Any beer on tap must be less than 4% alcohol and anything higher than that must be served in bottles. This severely limits the ability of breweries to do taster flights because most breweries aren’t going to want to pour taster size pours from a bottle. Though certain breweries I have visited in other states choose to do that they may be limited from the option in Utah as well. The two breweries I visited were Epic and Uinta.
Uinta has a fairly large number of beers on tap despite the 4% alcohol restriction. I tried five of these and then ordered a bottle of the IPA because I couldn’t taste it on tap. The Gose was crisp and mildly tart with some light citrus notes and a light salty finish. I enjoyed the gose quite a bit. They also had a fruited version called Flamingose with pineapple added, which made the beer more cloudy with a darker yellow color. The beer was nice and fruity and had grapefruit notes and a bitter finish. The Baba black lager was smooth and light body with a mix of mild smoke and roast. I have had better black lagers but this one was not bad considering the alcohol restriction.
The Session IPA was smooth and crisp with mild citrus notes and not overly bitter. I liked it better than the Wyld Extra Pale which while smooth and balanced had a bit more malt forward character and was overall too mellow. Hop Nosh IPA makes its way down to San Diego regularly but I wanted to try it fresh from the source, even if that meant in a bottle. The IPA was super smooth and nicely balanced with a solid malt backbone without being a malt bomb. The beer had good dank hop character and hints of juice and citrus. I didn’t try the double IPA or the other stronger offerings because ordering 12 ounces of each would be quite a bit much.
I didn’t do any sort of tasting at Epic because I was more interested in their higher alcohol stouts. Though we did end up buying two bottles, one of the Oatmeal Stout, and one of the Imperial Stout, to enjoy in our hotel room. We also later shared a bottle of Big Bad Baptist at the Annex restaurant Epic has in Salt Lake City and later that evening opened a bottle of the Son of a Baptist at home since Epic beers make their way to San Diego as well.
The oatmeal stout was super smooth and delicious and scary easy to drink quickly. It had notes of marshmallows and a mild roast with a really velvety background. I found the imperial stout to be a bit too molasses forward. It had some hints of chocolate and roast under it but the molasses was overwhelming and killed it for me. The Son of a Baptist is a smooth and light bodied delicious coffee and chocolate stout that features coffee prominently with some mild bitter chocolate under it. In comparison to this, the Big Bad Baptist, aged in Bourbon Barrels was thick and sweet yet balanced perfectly without bourbon dominating too strong. Coffee and chocolate notes were both much more subdued here giving it a delicious balance.
Of the four i would soonest search out the oatmeal stout and the big bad baptist for future consumption. They are both delicious well-crafted beers.
While the two breweries listed aren’t the only ones you can visit in Salt Lake City, they are the two most prominent. If you do plan to visit either of them it might make the most sense to bring a bottle or two to your hotel room rather than drinking at the brewery because there is a fairly high markup to drink the big bad baptist at the brewery rather than taking the bottle to go. Though the brewery experience was not ideal it was a great companion to the hiking I did in the area that was quite gorgeous.
In San Diego most new breweries aren’t going to get very far without an IPA unless they focus exclusively on sours and wild ales. Burning Beard has been open for a few months and has already attracted a large following thanks to a solid lineup of hoppy beers and a punk vibe that comes through in the beer names, the logo, and the music played at the tasting room. Located in a small industrial area just outside the center of El Cajon, and not too far from the 52 freeway, on a busy day you will likely find yourself parking on the street but once inside you are greeted by the smiles of the various beertenders who all know their beers and are led by Shannon Lynnette, whose involvement as tasting room manager instantly signals to her friend and fans that the beers are going to be awesome. Many locals know her from her time at Alesmith.
Side note and disclaimer: I was not charged for the eight tasters that I will discuss in this post thanks to the awesome hospitality of Shannon and the newest member of her team. However, I will be giving them the same treatment as I would any other brewery. I have not been in any way obligated to give them a positive review.
This was actually my second visit to the brewery, after I made the drive out a month earlier only to realize my cold left me unable to smell and thus unable to experience the hops they pull off so well. Though I couldn’t experience their beers that day, trusting Shannon’s recommendations and a super fresh IPA I came home with a crowler (32 ounce can to go) of their Hopmata IPA. A few days later, when my senses had returned, I opened the crowler and posted on Instagram, “Delicious IPA with tangerine notes and super sticky and dank, very impressive IPA.” At the time when I opened the crowler the beer had been only on tap for four days and the freshness was noticeable. Some responded to my post on Facebook and indicated that they preferred the Dankness Visible IPA and I can see why and will explain below now that I have tried it.
On this most recent trip I stuck mostly to the hoppy beers with the exception of the saison and the imperial stout. The coffee stout they have was out at the moment, which was the beer my husband preferred when we stopped by the first time. I tasted the pilsner, rye pale, ESB, Circle of Hops pale ale, saison, Dankness Visible IPA, Hopmata IPA, and Insoc imperial stout. Starting a tasting with a pilsner I have rarely experienced one so flavorful and delicious. To me there are two things that set apart a good pilsner, one is the clean pilsner malt and the other is the right amount of hop character to balance it out. This had both with notes of fruit and floral hops that balanced nicely with the slightly sweet pilsner malts. I later ended up ordering a pint of this beer before I left.
The rye pale was a solid pale with notes of tangerine, lemon, and melon from the hops and a nice mild bitterness on the end. The ESB was super smooth and delicious with a great caramel malt backbone and a light apricot hop flavor that is detectable but stays back to avoid overpowering the rest. There are a handful of local breweries that have impressed me with their ESBs but Burning Beard joins the group. It is no surprise to me that this beer recently won first place at a beer festival. Circle of Hops is the more traditional pale of the bunch, offering a chewy malt backbone and with hops primarily providing bitterness with some dank and sticky character coming in at the end. Of these first four, the pilsner and ESB stood out for me though many people around were really digging the Circle of Hops.
The saison is super fruity with notes of banana, pineapple, and ripe tropical fruit with just a light funk behind it all. The beer had none of the traditional pepper or earthy notes that can sometimes make a saison. Before I describe the two IPAs I should note that the Dankness visible was noticeably the fresher of the two so that gave it an edge at the time. Both IPAs have distinct hop profiles that may appeal to different people. The Dankness Visible is super dank and has lots of pine and resin notes. I really enjoyed the balance of flavors here and the hops were strong and in your face without making the beer too bitter. The Hopmata IPA is more fruity and sticky with notes of mango and tropical fruit and a slight wheat malt flavor to it. This one was a bit more bitter of the two but still a very tasty IPA.
The Insoc imperial stout is primarily bitter and roasty with notes of dark fruit dominating. I tend to prefer more chocolate or coffee notes in my imperial stouts and more sweetness so I wasn’t too big on this. My husband, who also prefers more chocolate and coffee in his stouts wasn’t huge on this one either. It is clearly well made but not the type of stout I would order much of. After tasting my 8 tasterts and sipping on a pint of the pilsner, I was ready to head back home so I picked up a crowler of the Dankness visible to have in a few days. I don’t usually do a lot of growler fills with breweries but I can see myself stopping by when I’m in the area fairly regularly to bring home some of their delicious IPAs. It is nice to see a small brewery offering crowler fills since you don’t have to worry about bringing your growler with you to stop by for beer to go.
I should also note that while I really enjoy Burning Beard, they are most impressive for their hoppy beers. They do have a few tasty Belgian style offerings as well as the stouts and are working on some sours so that eventually they will truly have something for everyone. For a brewery that has been open only a few short months they clearly fill a void for the locals in the area who filled up the place as early as 4PM on a Thursday. The place does have quite an echo so when it is crowded it can be difficult to hear the music under the roar of all the talking but it doesn’t get so loud to make it uncomfortable and they do have a section of outdoor seating if it gets to be a problem. They also regularly have food trucks during the evenings so keep an eye on their Facebook page to see if a food truck interests you.
Bay City Brewing has been open for three months or so and I have heard nothing but praise for their San Diego Pale since they opened. Quite a few friends of mine have visited them with regularity whenever they can. I was excited to see what I would find when I visited on on November 15, 2015. They had a number of beers on tap but at $12 a flight of four tasters (ouch!) I only tasted four plus the additional taste the bartender passed to me. I had the stout, San Diego Pale (7.7!), Sour Brown, and Sour Wheat. I also had a taste of the coffee pale ale that the bartender brought over.
The stout was thick and a mix between a light smoke and a heavy roast plus some medium amount of bitterness. My husband wasn’t very impressed by it and thought it had a sour aftertaste. I found it to be a solid example of the style though I probably wouldn’t order more than a taster. The San Diego Pale was very much the typical West Coast style IPA, a mixture of fruit and citrus hops though this specific batch had a bit too much simcoe in balance to the rest of the hops, giving it a sticky sweet finish that I didn’t care for. Others came in and ordered pints without complaints so perhaps I just don’t like simcoe as much as everyone else. It is also possible that this batch turned out a little different than what everyone else was raving about, but I don’t see it.
The two sours were not particularly impressive either. The sour brown they said had some sarsaparilla and bourbon chips added, which I could tell maybe two sips out of the whole taster but for most of it I got a generally off-putting sour taste that missed all of what I tend to like about sours. It may benefit from some time in a barrel aging but as it was didn’t do anything for me. The sour wheat was fairly typical to what smaller breweries have put out when doing their first berliner weisse. It was a light bodied wheat with heavy citrus punch primarily lemon. This one at least had a clear flavor that it was trying to present, though I have had better. The coffee pale ale was tasty, mixing a mildly bitter low malt pale ale with a smooth coffee.
Located a good mile behind Modern Times (I expect most people will come visit them from the 5 Freeway and go past Rosecrans to get there), Bay City Brewing needs to do something unique to get people to visit them over Modern Times. I didn’t find much that stood out from them. You can also hear the cars driving by the nearby freeway while you are there, which takes away from the whole experience. Plus while I was there they had some pounding techno on in the background that I wasn’t a fan of either. As a young brewery they certainly have some time to perfect their sours and get their San Diego Pale to be consistent but for now I don’t see much reason to visit them over Modern Times when I am in the area.
Second Chance is one of the newest breweries to open in San Diego, and only the third in the small area of Rancho Bernardo, joining Abnormal Brewing and a recent addition to Karl Strauss. The head brewer spent 15 years brewing at Rock Bottom brewery locally before going out on his own. The tasting room is just off Caramel Mountain Road, a quick hop for me, and easy to find. There is plenty of space inside, with many different tables set up for people to sit and/or stand while enjoying their beers. I tasted everything that was available on October 24, 2015 except for the blonde ale. I started with a flight of the English Brown, Red IPA, IPA, and Toasted Porter. I finished with the two specialty beers, the mocha porter and coffee IPA. Tasters are a little expensive, with the specialty beers a whole $3 a taster, but the beers are overall solid.
The English Brown pours a dark amber colored brown. It is very smooth and roasty with a nice dry finish. It has a medium amount of English hops there as well along with some caramel malts, giving it an overall balanced flavor. The Red IPA was quite hop forward, and medium bitter. The hops present grapefruit and apricot with a bitter aftertaste. The beer has a nice clear amber color and malts aren’t overpowering. I found the bitterness a little too strong for my tastes, though it has a nice caramel malt at the back.
The IPA had a nice fruity mango and peach on the nose, nice golden yellow color. Mango and peach come through nicely on the taste without too much bitter. This is more mellow than the Red IPA and fits right in with other local San Diego IPAs. The Toasted Porter had a creamy head and pours really dark. This porter has a nice roasty flavor with a mild coffee blended in nicely.
The Coffee IPA had a mellow coffee flavor that blends nicely with the IPA. I assume it is the same underlying IPA as they had on before. I can still taste the peach and mango from the IPA with it. Though I wouldn’t have thought the flavors would go together they really do. The Mocha Porter has a strong coffee and chocolate flavor but it isn’t particularly balanced. The beer is a little too bitter and doesn’t have much sweetness or roasty. I prefer the regular Toasted porter to this one.
I was impressed by the size of the tasting room and the quality of the beers when visiting Second Chance. They are still early in their operation so they have a ways to go before they get to their full potential. The brewery has a nice open area with plenty of seating and tables for people to set the beers and hang out. They also have a few couches in the front area. There is no air conditioning so it could get hot if it is a really hot day but the brewery generally has nice ventilation when they open both the front and side doors. I will certainly keep up with their progress as they grow to see what they do next.
Update November 2015: I visited Second Chance Brewing again on November 28, 2015 because I heard they had a few new beers. I was able to taste their double IPA and imperial stout that were not previously available. Both were very impressive.
The double IPA was thick and tasty with a juicy mango/tropical fruit flavor. The imperial oatmeal stout was available on nitro and was a nice mix of roasty flavors, a hint of bitter chocolate, and caramel. It is great to see that they continue to come up with new beers. I hope the double IPA will stick around as a core beer.