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New York City Beer Adventures Part 3 – Brooklyn Brewery

I made the mistake of visiting Brooklyn Brewery on a Saturday because it turns out that is when they offer free tours. I was a bit annoyed while I was there at how crowded it was and didn’t realize why until after I left. It is a huge brewery and has been around for quite some time. Getting there from New York City on the subway can be a challenge because there are quite a few sections of walking required before you reach it. Even more walking is required if you decide the food truck isn’t up to snuff and go in search of Brooklyn Pizza instead.

Brooklyn Brewery 02

I was disappointed by their use of plastic cups. I also didn’t like how they charged 2 tokens ($5 each) for the double IPA while everything else was one token. They also don’t offer taster flights so if you are planning on trying all of the beers in one visit you better bring a bunch of friends.

Brooklyn Brewery 03

Despite all of the negatives, I went straight for the double IPA because I didn’t want to try to order both the IPA and the double IPA on an empty stomach. The double has a nice citrus/grapefruit bite with some smooth caramel malts flavors. Though I really enjoyed it I’m not sure I would suggest paying $10 for a pint of it.

Brooklyn Brewery Double IPA.

Brooklyn Brewery Double IPA.

I ended up eating at a nearby pizza place called Vinny’s Pizza because I didn’t want to wait for the food truck. Though it was a decent walk to get there, it was worth the distance because the pizza was fantastic. I suggest you stop by Vinny’s on your way to the brewery so you are able to stay as long as you want once inside and don’t have to leave to grab something from a food truck.

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Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA

The word stochasticity sounds like something my dad would make up. It turns out it actually has a scientific meaning, one that Stone decided to use to explain a new series of experimental beers. If I am understanding the explanation on Wikipedia, something that is stochastic is so random that you can only predict what is next using probability. Stone calls this series an “unpredictable series of beers, where exotic notions, ingredients, and ideas coalesce.”

To start this series of unpredictable beers we are given Grapefruit Slam. Hop heads should be well familiar with the grapefruit flavors that come from some of the most common hops used in San Diego IPAs. A number of delicious IPAs put grapefruit flavors at the forefront of the hop profile. To give a truly knock-down strong grapefruit flavor to this beer, Stone added grapefruit peel to the final beer. This gives it a flavor unlike anything you’ve had before.

Grapefruit Slam in front of an orange tree.

Grapefruit Slam in front of an orange tree.

At 8.2%, this beer was already pretty bitter before any grapefruit was added. The addition of grapefruit gives it a powerful punch and a sneaky aftertaste that will excite most hop-heads. Though I don’t particularly care for fresh grapefruit, thankfully this doesn’t get as insane as some Japanese and Filipino beers that I reviewed earlier. It is still a San Diego Double IPA at heart and should satisfy Stone fans who stumble upon it when searching for the latest version of Enjoy By. I happened to buy a few bottles of this beer when I realized I couldn’t find any Enjoy By 4.20.14.

Lagunitas Brewing Company, Huge Hop Flavors

Outside craft beer fanatics, Lagunitas is probably more well-known than Russian River because their beers are widely distributed in Southern California. I decided to not get tasters of some of the more commonly available beers while I was there so that I could try some newer ones.

Lagunitas is also a brewpub, meaning it is open earlier in the day, and the crowds can get pretty crazy. Since we got there a little bit later and had already eaten, it wasn’t too crazy to find a spot at the bar. The outside seating area surprised me because it looks like you are visiting a ranch, complete with sandy floor and picnic tables.

Outdoor Seating Area

Outdoor Seating Area

I ordered a taster flight of Nelson IPA, Maximus Double IPA, SF Beer Week Double IPA, and Hop Stoopid. Of the four, Maximus and Nelson were my favorites. The Nelson IPA has all the grapefruit flavors you might expect from the Nelson hops. Some sweeter flavors recognizable from the regular IPA on the back end round it out nicely.

Taster Flight, A knockout punch of hops.

Taster Flight, A knockout punch of hops.

The Maximus Double IPA has plenty of tropical fruit flavors on the front end combined with some more earthy hop flavors on the back. The San Francisco Beer Week Double IPA is made with Nelson, Mosaic, and Hop 366. The beer had a slight soapy flavor combined with the citrus flavors from the other hops. Heavy pine flavor comes in the back from the Hop 366. I probably would have enjoyed this one a little more without the Hop 366.

Lagunitas 02

I ended it with the Hop Stoopid. It was so strong that it became thick and syrupy. The flavors leaned heavily towards the tropical fruits. I recognize the style here but it isn’t for me. Lagunitas is such a big brewery that you are likely to find most of their core beers all throughout California and many other states. It was nice to finally stop in for a visit but I don’t think I’ll be back. Like Stone, I can get most of the best beers in bottles almost everywhere I look.

Russian River Brewing Company, The Legend

Best known for its Blind Pig IPA, Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger, I had to stop by the brewery to try some beers. Because I was going to Lagunitas on the way back I only tried a few half pints while I was here and the single hop pales were my favorite.
Russian River 06
Before I get to the beers, I should note that this is a brewpub, not a pure brewery and tasting room. When you arrive there it is pretty obvious that the zoning wouldn’t permit a barebones brewery. Being a brewpub means you can stop by earlier in the day for a pint because they are open for lunch. However, this also means that it gets crowded pretty fast and seats don’t clear out very quickly.
Even though my husband and I arrived at around 1:30PM, the lunch crowd was still hanging around. The service was pretty slow, though with only a few bartenders pouring beer this wasn’t surprising. We ended up ordering their version of a works pizza. It was quite tasty and very greasy. The other thing keeping everyone around was the insane taster flight that would take even seasoned brewery nuts quite some time to finish with friends (19 tasters!)
Insane Taster Flight

Insane Taster Flight

I started with Row 2 Hill 56, a single hop simcoe pale ale and Hop 2 It, a pale ale made exclusively with Hop 366. I love single hop pales because I get to really understand the flavors of individual hops. Simcoe is used pretty commonly in IPAs. The lemon and pine flavors come through nicely in this one. Hop 366 is a new experimental hop related to the warrior hop. It was much more earthy with a hint of tropical fruit on the back.
Two Single Hop Pales.

Two Single Hop Pales.

I moved on to Blind Pig IPA, one that has been listed on numerous “Best IPA” lists. It certainly had a nice balance to it but was far too heavy on the pine/earthy flavors for my taste. Though there was some strong grapefruit taste in the background, it was still pretty overpowered by the other hops. It is certainly a good IPA but not my favorite hop profile.
My favorite hop profile comes through a lot more with Pliny the Elder, a fairly widely distributed double IPA. I’ve had Pliny the Elder a few times on tap in San Diego at various bars. Finding it in bottles is not so easy. Even at the brewery, they limit the number of bottles you can purchase of both Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder.
 Russian River 05
Pliny the Younger has much of the same hop profile as Pliny the Elder but is a Triple IPA. I am a bit disappointed that Russian River decided to make Pliny the Younger a once a year special release because this leads to long lines wherever it appears. Flavor wise, you will get much of the same beer from Stone’s Enjoy By series, Green Flash’s Green Bullet, and Saint Archer’s Double IPA. I waited in line for Pliny the Younger last year and it was delicious but I probably won’t wait in line for it again.
In all, I found Russian River to be insanely crowded (very similar to visiting Stone Brewing) and not hugely worth the trip. It is a shame that they don’t widely distribute bottles of their famous beers because there is enough demand from the craft beer drinkers around the country for it.

Stone Enjoy By 02 14 2014

Stone’s Enjoy By Double IPA is a great way to educate the general public about the importance of freshness when it comes to IPA. A good IPA will last for about 2-3 months before it becomes skunky.  It can be so significant that a beer that was really well done at first is hard to enjoy six months down the road. With the Enjoy By series from Stone, Stone gets the beer out to stores within a week of brewing so that you know it is going to be fresh while you drink it before the enjoy date.

Stone Enjoy By 02 14 2014

Stone Enjoy By 02 14 2014

Rich grapefruit and citrus flavors from the hops come through good and strong. This beer is light on the malts compared to the ordinary Stone IPA that I find a little too strong on the malts. The delicious flavors are made even better because you know it is going to be fresh when you drink it. I buy this over other similar beers because I don’t always know how fresh my IPAs are. Hopefully this will get other breweries to start posting enjoy by dates on the bottles. Freshness is so important that I love to buy IPAs from smaller breweries that don’t last long enough to become bad.

If you love hops you probably already wait with baited breath for the next batch of Enjoy By. If you haven’t tried this beer yet, you will find it to be a delicious adventure in hops.

Mission Brewing Shipwrecked Double IPA

I remembered enjoying the double IPA from Mission Brewing the last time I was there so I couldn’t resist the idea of two 32oz cans when I saw them at Costco. The beer pours thick and amber. First thought on tasting it was “where are the hops?” I can taste some strong caramel flavor followed by some tropical fruit and citrus hops in the background.
Mission Brewing Shipwrecked Double IPA

Mission Brewing Shipwrecked Double IPA

I’m not sure what it is that leads double IPAs to be made so malty but this one is far too malty for my tastes. If you enjoy the flavors of Green Bullet I would stay far away from this one. I can’t believe I bought two 32oz cans of this. It is a bit too syrupy sweet for my flavors. Glad I had someone to share this can with. I couldn’t even drink a pint before I was ready to move on to something else.

Favorite San Diego Beers of 2013

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.
Green Bullet fresh at the brewery.

Green Bullet fresh at the brewery.

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.
Stone Crime and Punishment.

Stone Crime and Punishment.

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.
Stone Enjoy By IPA 2013.

Stone Enjoy By IPA 2013.

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.
Humbly Legit west coast style IPA.

Humbly Legit west coast style IPA.

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.
Intergalactic Perseus IPA (right).

Intergalactic Perseus IPA (right).

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.
Evil Dead Red

Evil Dead Red

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.
Devil's Share Victory at Sea (Left), Bourbon Barrel Aged Black Marlin Porter (right)

Devil’s Share Victory at Sea (Left), Bourbon Barrel Aged Black Marlin Porter (right)

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.

Wet N Reckless Brewing

I had visited this brewery a few times before starting this blog but I wanted to make sure to wait until they had some stuff I enjoyed before writing an entry. Like many smaller breweries, the lineup changes pretty regularly and the beers are sometimes hit and miss. Wet N Reckless doesn’t bottle any of their beers for sale in the grocery store and they still use plastic cups for the tasters. If you want to have a glass to use to enjoy your pints, you have to buy one and put your name on it. Despite all that, when you find something you like there, it is usually quite good.

Wet N Reckless Inside.

Wet N Reckless Inside.

From the outside it is your typical small brewery in an industrial area. When you get close, the breweries signs help guide you to the parking lot. Otherwise you might miss it and wonder where you went wrong.

Wet N Reckless 03 Wet N Reckless 04

As you can see from the names, Wet N Reckless likes to use creative names for beers. The selection is broad and has something for everyone. Though I don’t appreciate some of the beers heavier on the malts, the honey badger, or the mead, these beers are what sets them apart from other breweries. If you like honey in your beer or are gluten intolerant, you might find something to love about some of the different brews here.

Wet N Reckless 05

I went with three tasters, the Floral Pleasure, Harmless Fun, and More Cowbell. Floral Pleasure is an interesting beer that is different from what you might expect. It is not an IPA and it isn’t an IPL. Instead, it is a beer with heavy floral hops on the front end. This is the closest beer you will find here to a traditional San Diego IPA. While they have an IPA, it is too malty for my tastes, so I prefer floral pleasure. The Harmless Fun has a nice wheat flavor but not enough hops for my tastes. It is described as a wheat beer dry-hopped with Citra hops. I don’t taste enough citra to give it the flavor that I would like to taste.

Pint of More Cowbell.

Pint of More Cowbell.

Then we are up to the most interesting beer of the night, the More Cowbell. Somehow I hadn’t tried this beer before today. I always love a good double IPA and this one was just what I liked to see. At first I was a bit unsure if I would like it but by the time I finished my taster I was ready to order a pint, and then another one. Made with exclusively with Summit hops, this is a grassy IPA and at times I was ready to call it too malty but I could taste enough hops in the beer that I was hooked. As I could tell, everyone else who was visiting knew exactly what they were getting and was back for more.

To show how addicting this beer is, there is a cowbell on the bar that has a sticker on it reading “More Cowbell” I was ready to ring it a few times though after two pints I was satisfied. I saw a number of people ordering multiple pints of this delicious beer while I was there. Clearly, I had missed something and I will be back to try some more. If you love your hops, make sure you keep an eye out for Floral Pleasure and More Cowbell. Follow Wet N Reckless on Facebook to make sure you get notified when the beers are available.

Iron Fist Brewing Company

I’ve had Iron Fist beers on tap at other places a few times but never made it up to the brewery itself.

Iron Fist Brewing.

Iron Fist Brewing.

Iron Fist had a large selection of beers on tap and a number of specialty brews. Since my husband doesn’t like most of the styles, I had to stick to the hop-heavy beers so I could taste what I like. Sometime I may come back to see what the Belgian styles taste like. To finish off my flight my husband got a taster of the stout on nitro.

Iron Fist tasting flight.

Iron Fist tasting flight.

The pale ale was a bit disappointing after Stone’s Lavender Pale Ale earlier in the day. It was too light for my tastes. There was no regular IPA available to try so I went straight into the Double IPA. I had three versions of the Gauntlet Double IPA, the regular, one dry-hopped with citra hops, and one with coffee. The regular Gauntlet was a bit too heavy on the darker fruits and pine for my tastes. It seemed like the malts overpowered the hops a little too much.

Iron Fist 02

 

Next I tried the double IPA with citra hops. This was closer to what I tend to like in San Diego double IPAs. The citra hop flavor comes out nice and strong in front of everything else and has a nice flavor. The coffee double IPA was pretty much like drinking an iced coffee. Despite the strong flavor of the double IPA the coffee was all I really tasted. It was quite nice.

To finish things off, I tried a special version of the stout with ghost peppers and vanilla beans. I was really impressed by this one because it had a delicious sweet vanilla flavor at the front and some spicy kick at the back. It was spicy but not particularly so, and not as hot as the Habanero Sculpin some might be familiar with. If you don’t like sweet though, you should stay away from this one because it almost tastes like chocolate chip cookie dough iced cream at the front end.

I would have liked to have an option for a middle of the road IPA here. I probably won’t be buying the Gauntlet anytime soon on tap other places because of the heavy malt flavor but I would really like more of the Gauntlet with citra hops.

Modern Times Brewing, Hoppy Beers for Hop Heads

I’m going to try to eventually hit all the breweries out of my area but as you can understand with so many good breweries so close together it is hard to find motivation to make it down to other breweries. Today I went to Modern Times and Acoustic Aleworks because they are so close together. At first I wasn’t sure that I was in the right place even though I knew I had followed the directions exactly. Like many breweries, Modern Times doesn’t have much fancy signage outside. You might walk right past it if it isn’t very busy. Thankfully it is right behind a few nude bars that you see every time you drive down Rosecrans. The parking could be better but considering the area it isn’t surprising.

View of the brewery from outside.

View of the brewery from outside.

Thankfully, the brewery looks much better inside. As soon as you step foot in the door you can feel the unique vibe of the place that comes from the stacks of books under the bar, the comic books on the wall to the left, the 8-bit-inspired art on the wall to the right, and other unique decorations all around. It is unlike any other brewery I have ever visited. If it wasn’t for the few tables near the larger window in the wall it would be as dark as a speak-easy.

Wall of comic-books.

Wall of comic-books.

8-bit-inspired artwork on the wall.

8-bit-inspired artwork on the wall.

The brewery has a fairly small selection compared to some of the places I frequent, but it isn’t hurt by it. The four mainstays offer enough variety that most people should find something to enjoy and they had two seasonal offerings that rounded out the selection nicely. Though they did give me a discount because of my blog I did not learn of this until after I had already written about the beers. It was also small enough that it wouldn’t influence my writings.

I started things off with a flight of four tasters. Though the offerings at first seem typical, I can assure you they are not. They have a saison, a hoppy amber, a hoppy wheat bear, and a coffee stout. The saison is the only one that is what you might expect. I’m not typically a fan of saison beers so I can’t say if it was a good or bad one but it was more drinkable than some I have had elsewhere.

Taster flight. Saison (top left), Hoppy Amber (top right), Hoppy Wheat (bottom left), Coffee Stout (bottom right)

Taster flight. Saison (top left), Hoppy Amber (top right), Hoppy Wheat (bottom left), Coffee Stout (bottom right)

Modern Times tap list as of December 28, 2013

Modern Times tap list as of December 28, 2013

I quite enjoyed both the hoppy wheat and hoppy amber. The hoppy wheat reminded me most of a session IPA or an extra pale ale. It had a nice hop flavor up front and a mellow flavor with the lighter alcohol. This might be a good way to introduce your friends to hops. The hoppy amber most closely resembled a San Diego IPA with the up-front Nelson hop flavors. Nelson hops deliver the familiar grapefruit taste and it was quite prominent here. I left with a four-pack of 16oz cans of the hoppy amber because it was my favorite of the night. To round off the flight, we had some coffee stout, which was a nice lighter alcohol stout. Flavor wise, it was on the bitter side and was close to having a cup of iced coffee. This is not for people who prefer sweeter stouts.

Books stacked up under the bar.

Books stacked up under the bar.

I also tried the IPA, made with bread yeast, and the double IPA before I left. I wasn’t very big on the flavors of the IPA. I tasted a light bitter flavor at the front with a little pineapple behind it. The double IPA was quite drinkable but a bit too heavy on the pine/resin flavors for my tastes. It certainly is well balanced but I prefer double IPAs with more citrus flavors.

Modern Times Brewing Dec 2013 01

Modern Times is one of the first San Diego breweries to offer to fill blank growlers and sell their own growler-cozies that you can slip onto a growler from any other brewery. Eventually we should see both of these become standard but for now they are the first that I am aware of. If you like San Diego IPAs, it is worth stopping by Modern Times for some of the Blazing World hoppy amber. Look for the Blazing World in stores as well and be sure to grab some.