I had been to Half Door brewing a few times but never got around to writing a full post about them. Recently they expanded into brewing hazy IPAs and I featured them in my list of San Diego breweries making hazy IPAs. Half Door serves beer in a restaurant in Downtown San Diego where they also offer a modern take on pub grub. I visited them recently on a Sunday morning and tried a flight of tasters.
All of the IPAs I tried were of the hazy style known to some as the North East style of IPA. I started with the Hoban House. It was fruity and soft with a light acidity and low bitterness, exhibiting notes of pineapple. The Hype Machine single-hop Nelson IPA was soft with subtle grapefruit and a mild bitterness that lingers on teh back of the tongue. It is a great example of what a Nelson IPA should taste like. The Buzzwords double IPA is an intensely fruity double IPA, soft and hazy with very mild hop acidity. This stood out from the rest on the list as the best of the IPAs for the day.
I tried the IIIPA, which was an insane hop bomb with little alcohol flavor or sweetness, and mild bitterness. The only reason I didn’t like it as much as the Buzzwords IIPA is that I got some herbal notes in the IIIPA that I didn’t care for. Otherwise, it is an exceptional example of what a IIIPA should taste like. I also tried two stouts. The Coleman’s Stout is their dry Irish stout on nitro. It is dry and roasty with a smooth body and a mild floral hop kick. This is one of the beers I tried the first time I visited and it is still just as good as it was then.
The Coleman’s on Craic imperial stout with coffee was smooth and roasty with notes of chocolate and coffee excellently balanced. I slightly preferred the dry version though they are both delicious. Before leaving I got a taster of the tripel just to see how well they handle Belgian styles. It was one of the more impressive San Diego tripels, lacking in the ester notes that tend to overpower American-brewed Belgian-style beers. It had a bready malt character with some earthy malt notes and a well-attenuated finish (not too sweet). If the hazy IPAs weren’t so good I might go back for this one.
Half Door brewing is one of the few San Diego breweries, maybe the only one, that doesn’t sell bottles or growlers to go. This is due to their license and hopefully will change soon. Though I didn’t eat anything when we visited, my friends who joined me were very impressed by the food they had. Parking can be crazy around Half Door during the weekdays but it is worth visiting if you are already downtown or can park nearby and Uber in.
Coleman’s Dry Irish Stout
Bend Oregon is a town that has become known as a beer destination for many years thanks to the success of the local brewery Deschutes, that has grown so large it is fairly widely distributed and has additional locations outside of Bend. More recently, Bend has gotten popular thanks to the fantastic IPAs brewed by Boneyard. I spent two days in Bend recently and I realize that there are a lot more breweries I could have visited than the ones that I am including in this post. However, like anywhere else I tend to visit the breweries that many consider must-visit while leaving the rest of the breweries to those who are local.
This is one visit where I did not take notes on the individual beers I tasted. This is because when you visit Boneyard there is no where to sit and no where to set down your taster flight. This will change when their brewpub opens at some point in the future but for now this means that if you visit the brewery it is a very crowded experience intended to enjoy a quick flight, fill some crowlers, and get out of there on to the next brewery. Because I did not take notes the following will be based solely on memory.
The taster flight at Boneyard consists of every beer they have on tap and they go through the tasting giving you 2 tasters at a time until you have gone through the full set. Every beer I tasted was tasty, as expected but some were better than others. Out of the five hoppy beers I tasted, two stood out as super fresh at the time, Hop a Wheelie and Notorious. Because I was looking to get the best beer possible, I left with six crowlers of Hop a Wheelie, which was tasting slightly better than RPM at the time for my tastes, and two of Notorious, because it is one of the most delicious triple IPAs you will find.
I was also a bit surprised to find a black ale that resembled a black lager and a doppelbock because the second style is especially rare to find made well at American breweries. Surge Knife, the Imperial Stout, was also quite delicious, with a heavy mouth feel and a great balance of smoke, chocolate, and roast. As you will read below, I spent a lot more time at Crux while I was in town simply because they have a place to sit and room to breathe.
I have gotten more used to crowds but there is something I find quite difficult when it comes to standing in a tiny brewery stuffed full of people so much that even though it is 40 degrees outside, it feels like someone turned on the heat. That being said, if you want to fill up crowlers from Boneyard visiting the brewery directly is the way to do it because you are probably only going to find their flagship IPA, RPM, on tap elsewhere around town. Prices for crowler fills are quite reasonable at $6 a crowler for the lighter stuff and $14 for the stronger stuff.
I really enjoyed the feel of Bend itself and with such a short flight to get there I hope to return after Boneyard has opened their brewpub so I can spend a whole day drinking nothing but their delicious brews. If you only have the time to visit two breweries while you are in Bend, you should absolutely visit Boneyard and then spend the rest of your time at Crux and you will see why below.
Top 2 at Boneyard
Hop a Wheelie IPA
Notorious Triple IPA
Crux Brewing Company
I was told by some locals that Crux is run by the original brewer from Deschutes who eventually decided he wanted to be back at a smaller place. If this is true, I now understand how Deschutes was able to get so popular. However, if you don’t like the hoppy beers Deschutes makes because they are very traditional don’t let this keep you away from Crux because they have taken hoppy beers to a whole new level that in some ways you could say is better than what Boneyard does. Where Boneyard makes fantastic IPAs that are up there with Cellarmaker, Russian River, and Alpine to name a few, there is an extra smoothness and subtlety of flavor in the beers brewed by Crux that makes even their 10% double IPA have a body that is closer to a 6% IPA and a flavor profile that is pure aroma.
When I visited Crux I tried 8 different beers the first day. These were the pale ale, sugar daddy pale ale, experimental IPA, nitro stout, brown porter, enigma saison, impass saison, and Half Hitch Double IPA. When I came back at the end of my second day I tried one more that I had missed, their red wine barrel aged quad.
The pale ale was super smooth and balanced with plenty of citrus hops and bready malt background. The sugar daddy is a malt-forward 7% pale ale yet the malts stay in the background nicely leaving room for intense tropical fruits to come out in the finish. The experimental IPA was amazingly smooth and hoppy considering the alcohol percentage. Once again this was malt forward while being fairly light body and insanely smooth and dry on the finish. Flavors came through nicely with plenty of pineapple and mango.
The nitro stout was super smooth with lots of roast and chocolate notes with a subtle smoky bitter finish. My husband wasn’t too big on this when we first had it with the flight but when we came back later in part so he could order the stout brownie, he had no trouble finishing a 10 ounce pour. The brown porter was also incredibly smooth with milk chocolate flavors. Given the lower alcohol content and subtle flavors this is one you might want to taste before going to the IPAs. The enigma saison was super fruity with a banana finish. Though it claims to feature a specific hop variety I didn’t taste much hops at all. The Impass saison also had banana but some citrus and floral tastes going for it that made it a more balanced beer though it was still lacking the earthy finish I like in a good saison.
The Half Hitch double IPA was surprisingly smooth and delicious even after all those smooth IPAs. For a 10% beer it lacked the alcohol flavor at the end or the intense sweetness that can kill a good double. I left with 3 bottles of this beer though I learned later that I could have picked them up at home because they now distribute down to San Diego. Finally, the wine barrel aged quad was absolutely wonderful and a fantastic mix of flavors. The beer lacked the overly sweet syrup taste that quads usually have and had a great balance between smooth belgian and red wine finish without being tart.
I enjoyed Crux so much that I came back a second evening rather than visiting some other brewery that I wasn’t sure about. I figured since I won’t be back in Bend for a while I should enjoy more of this delicious beer and I was glad I did come back again. My husband really liked the stout brownie we came back for and I got to try the barrel aged quad that I skipped the first time.
Top 2 at Crux
Half Hitch double IPA
In part 2 next week I will explore Riverbend Brewing, Silvermoon Brewing and Deschutes to see if the brewery is any different at the original pub.
I visited Seattle recently and recently with the hope of visiting some local breweries. Sadly, I only ended up visiting four. Still, I will provide my thoughts here on Bellevue Brewing, Redhook, Triple Horn, and Fremont Brewing.
Bellevue Brewing was the first place I visited near Seattle and some of the beers were quite impressive. I tasted the pale ale, ESB, scotch ale, oatmeal stout, IPA, Triple Wheat Ale, and Malt Liquor.
The pale ale was slightly sweet with a nice citrus back to go along with the typical pine hop flavors. The beer was nicely balanced so that the malts did not dominate like they do in some pale ales. The ESB was a bit too light on the flavor for my tastes. It didn’t have any interesting flavors that I noticed.
The scotch ale was interesting because the first thing I tasted was a sort of sweet grape juice flavor. I didn’t really detect much of the caramel and toffee flavors the brewery described it as having. The oatmeal stout was quite nice on the lighter end of the stout spectrum. It was good and creamy and sported some light caramel flavors.
The IPA was bursting with flavors. I found out that this beer is brewed fresh every six days, which explains why it had that fresh taste. The IPA was on the lighter side and bursting with citrus and floral flavors. It reminded me of the San Diego style of IPA I had previously missed while visiting Seattle.
The triple wheat IPA was a powerful brew and had plenty of intense flavors from similar hops as the IPA. I also got a nice tropical fruit flavor from it. The use of wheat malts kept it from being overly malty like many triple IPAs tend to get. The malt liquor was very strange because despite its 8% alcohol it was very light in bitterness and had almost no body to it. Perhaps some people will enjoy having a strong beer that has very little taste but it seemed like a total waste to me.
Overall Bellevue Brewing was a fun place to visit and had some fantastic IPAs. When I found out that my sister had not yet visited there despite living in Seattle for quite some time now we stopped in for a pint a few days later. They had added a rye version of the IPA by then and it impressed me so much that I had a pint of that rather than the regular IPA.
I probably never would have stopped by Velo Cult if I hadn’t gotten a groupon. Velo Cult is a bike shop where they decided to set up a craft beer bar that can offer a good variety of beers. The taps offered plenty of variety when I stopped by and because I had the groupon I ended up trying a few that I wouldn’t normally order. Sadly, the people I went with didn’t end up sharing the beers all that much so I ended up drinking the majority of the 8 tasters and 2 pints.
In total I got to try a dry-hopped cider, the Caldera Porter, a dry-hopped Saison from Commons Brewing, Terminal Gravity IPA, Little Saison, La Guillotine Belgian Blonde, Boneyard Triple IPA, and Evil Twin Lil B Porter. I really liked the dry-hopped cider. The hop flavors helped balance out the tart flavors of the apple. The Caldera Porter was a solid chocolate and coffee porter in the middle range.
The dry-hopped saison from Commons Brewing was really good. The Belgian yeast blended perfectly with the citrus hops to create a drinkable middle of the road beer. I ended up coming back to this for one of my two pints. Terminal Gravity IPA lived up to its name with flavors mostly leaning towards heavy malts. I wasn’t very fond of this one.
The little saison was a lighter version of a saison with lighter flavors similar to a session. The flavor was a bit too light for me but it would be very sessionable for sure. The La Guillotine Belgian Blonde was one of my favorites out of the set. It was strong enough that it was almost a triple. I loved the sticky sweet flavors that reminded me of burnt sugar like in a creme brulee. This was a nice change of pace from most stronger Belgian style beers that tend to lean towards heavy spice flavors.
Boneyard Triple IPA was so delicious that I wish I had gotten a chance to drive out to Bend Oregon to visit the brewery. At 12% it is one of the strongest IPAs I have ever tasted. The higher alcohol made it a bit more on the sweet side but it still had plenty of citrus, tropical fruit, and grapefruit to balance everything out. This was the best beer I tried while visiting Portland and I really savored the 12oz pour that I ordered after I was done with all the tasters.
The Evil Twin Lil B Porter was a really thick chocolate and plum porter though I thought the plum flavors were a bit too heavy. I don’t think plum mixes very well with the chocolate though I tasted a number of beers blending those two styles in Portland. This beer was also quite sticky sweet, good and solid.
I really liked the atmosphere at Velo Cult and the mini skateboards that they used for holding the tasters. The bartenders were both knowledgeable about beers and enthusiastic about certain ones. I also appreciated the ability to do flights at a bar that isn’t a brewery because that is the best way to try a bunch of different beers.
I am not exclusively including beers that were first introduced in 2013 but I limited this to San Diego beers because otherwise I would never be able to come up with 10. I also excluded any specialty versions of existing beers. This means cask or nitro versions of certain beers are not eligible, nor are barrel aged beers that are only available on tap for a day or two and then gone.
1. Green Bullet – Green Flash (Triple IPA)
This is my new gold standard for insane hops in a beer. I was lucky enough to try this when it was first debuted in late 2012 for a very short time at the brewery. For most people though, this is a 2013 beer because it was made much more broadly available in bottles. It is pure New Zealand hops all the way and gives me all the hop flavors that I am addicted to.
2. Stone Punishment (Double Bastard barrel aged and infused with spicy peppers)
This is the only barrel aged beer on the list and it counts because it was bottled and made widely available. Though it would be a favorite simply because of how spicy it is what gets this on the list is the complex flavors that it has besides the heat. Some sweetness is present from the barrel aging as well as all the complex flavors of double bastard itself. Though this was the most expensive beer I had all year it was totally worth it.
3. Stone Enjoy by IPA (Double IPA with a clear enjoy by date)
Though half of what makes Enjoy By so good is that it is going to be fresh when you have some, it is also just a deliciously balanced double IPA. The brilliant thing about this beer is that the batches are kept small enough so that it sells out pretty quickly. The next batch comes out pretty soon so make sure you grab a bottle of the first Enjoy By batch of 2014.
4. Humbly Legit IPA – New English Brewing
I wasn’t expecting this to blow me away as much as it did. When I first had it on tap I just loved the hop-forward flavor of this beer. For a brewery that originally focused on English styles of beer, this one is up there with the best IPAs in San Diego.
5. Perseus IPA – Intergalactic Brewing
One of my favorite IPAs comes from a newer brewery that knows how to satisfy those who prefer a lighter colored IPA. Because the brewery is fairly small, it doesn’t last long enough to become skunky. I had quite a few growler fills of this beer throughout the year and can’t wait for the next batch to show up.
6. Blazing World – Modern Times (Hoppy Amber)
I left the brewery with a four pack of cans as soon as I tried this one and I already bought a few more since then. The nelson hops are prominent and give this a delicious flavor that would satisfy any hop head.
7. Evil Dead Red – Alesmith (Imperial Red with some strong hop flavors)
It was a toss up between this and the Winter Yulesmith. Both gave me plenty of hops in a satisfying darker brew. I ultimately gave the spot to Evil Dead Red because it was so unexpected. If you liked this one, make sure you get out and buy a bottle of My Bloody Valentine, already in stores.
8. Hop Therapy Double IPA – Rough Draft
I really enjoy a lot of the IPAs Rough Draft makes but I ultimately gave the spot to the double IPA because it is nice to see a solid double that is always around. There is a huge difference in taste if you have this one fresh so if it doesn’t have enough hop flavor for you give it another try.
9. Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter
Though I love a lot of different Ballast Point beers, this one got the spot because the coffee flavors were just what I needed. Another favorite that almost made this list was the Fathom India Pale Lager, which has now become a mainstay.
10. Green Flash Symposium IPA
I’ve always found the West Coast to be a bit too heavy on the malts so this lighter colored IPA was just what I needed. I hope to see it available in bottles with a fresh batch in 2014.