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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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New York City Beer Adventures Part 2 – The Stag’s Head

As a craft beer fan I had to make sure I could walk from our hotel in New York City to a bar with a good selection of craft beer. I thought this wouldn’t be hard to find but then it turned out that a number of the bars were boring Irish pubs without any IPA but Goose Island (a New York brewery that was purchased by one of the big beer companies recently). Once I found The Stag’s Head and looked at the beer list online I knew I had to stay at the nearest hotel. Thankfully, they had a solid tap list and a good selection of local beers in bottles to choose from.
The first night I got to try Greenpoint Gobsmacked IPA. It had a nice mellow citrus flavor with a light amount of bitterness. It didn’t particularly stand out but it was enough to satisfy me for a few hours.
New York Beer 01
The second night I got to try Peak Hop Blanc from a Maine brewery. I had tried their IPA down here in San Diego thanks to Trader Joe’s so I was glad to try some of their other options. They also had a simcoe pale ale but it wasn’t hoppy enough for me at the moment. The Hop Blanc was a nice Belgian style IPA with a strong Belgian yeast flavor at the front and some pine/citrus flavors at the back. I sipped this one for quite a while because before ordering my next beer.
After the Hop Blanc I ordered the Ithaca Flower Power based on a suggestion from the bartender and the name, which suggested a floral flavor. The beer was served in a 12oz bottle and I poured it into a pint glass. It had some nice floral aromas and some malts to balance out the flavor. I was quite satisfied by the strong floral flavors and overall very impressed.
Flower Power IPA

Flower Power IPA

The Stag’s Head is a fairly loud and rowdy bar with a sports bar type atmosphere. The bartenders are knowledgeable about their beers and know how to party as well. I enjoyed my time there on Sunday night because there were a number of rowdy drunk patrons putting on a good show. If you aren’t going to be able to get outside the city to explore what New York has to offer, you will get a good taste of the area with The Stag’s Head.

New York City Beer Adventures Part 1 – Random Beers I Tried

I recently made a short trip to New York City with my husband for sightseeing. Of course one of the most important sights is beer. This series of posts will focus on the different beers I was able to try while I was in the area. Part 1 will discuss a few of the single beers I ended up drinking at certain places. Part 2 will discuss a bar called The Stag’s Head where I spent a good amount of time. Part 3 will discuss Brooklyn Brewery, a huge draw because it has been around so long.

To start with I enjoyed some local beer while at the Embassy Suites near Newark Airport our first night. The hotel has a fantastic happy hour that we just barely missed with $2 pints. They have a few local beers on draft and others in bottles available. I got to try Cricket Hill Lager while I was there. It had a nice smooth hop flavor and was overall a solid lager. I didn’t find out until later that I could have gotten an IPA from the same brewery.

Tap list at Embassy Suites.

Tap list at Embassy Suites.

Later at Heartland Brewery in the Theater District of New York City, I ordered their IPA. It had a high amount of bitterness, possibly up to 70 IBU. A tropical fruit flavor came out pretty nice on the front. I was quite satisfied with this one though it did seem that the bitterness left it without much to taste. At the same brewery my husband ordered the oatmeal stout. He enjoyed the coffee and chocolate flavors and thought it was one of the better stouts he has had.

Heartland Brewing IPA

Heartland Brewing IPA

For a video review of these beers, check out this video I took while we were in Heartland Brewing.

After biking around Central Park New York City, we stopped by 3 Monkeys for a pint. They had a fairly large tap list with a number of different IPAs. I eventually settled on Single Cut Billy 18 IPA from Watt NY. It had a good pine hop flavor and tropical fruit with a mellow bitterness around 40 IBU. I enjoyed this one but it wasn’t anything particularly special.

 

Pacific Brewing Company a Solid Start for a New Brewery

I like to keep up with new breweries when they open. Thankfully, with Pacific Brewing they announced their grand opening on Facebook so I was able to check it out on the first day. There was a solid crowd for a new brewery and yet parking wasn’t an issue. Pacific Brewing presented a solid lineup that will serve as a good baseline as they expand into different styles of beers.

Pacific Brewing 01

I started with a flight and added an additional taster so that I could taste all of the beers in one go. They offer a blonde, pale ale, IPA, strong ale, and rye double IPA. The blonde was a solid version of the classic style without much variation. It is up there with some of the best San Diego blondes. The pale ale is more towards the English style and has many similarities to the ESB style. The pale ale presents many caramel flavors on the front with a light hop flavor on the back end.

Left to right, Blonde, Pale, IPA, Strong Ale, Rye IPA.

Left to right, Blonde, Pale, IPA, Strong Ale, Rye IPA.

The IPA has a powerful citrus nose. The flavors are heavy on citrus and pine, in line with other San Diego IPAs. I would estimate this beer has around 70 IBUs so it is fairly bitter. I really enjoyed the IPA and ended up with a pint after all the tasters. The strong ale is almost 8% and yet is very drinkable. The flavors are primarily in the sweet caramel range such that it might satisfy some who are mostly fans of porters and stouts.

Pacific Brewing 02

The double IPA is a little low on the alcohol compared to some you might see in San Diego but not short on flavor. At 8% it isn’t that much stronger in alcohol than the IPA but the rye gives it a unique flavor. The rye manages to be mellow enough that it doesn’t overpower the hops. Most of the hop flavors are more on the back end and the citrus and tropical fruit flavors mix well with the rye.

Pacific Brewing has a similar feel to other small breweries inside though the wood used for the bar sets them apart with some distinct colors. Fans of hoppy beers will find a lot to love in the IPA and the Rye Double IPA. Fans of sweeter malt beers will enjoy the pale ale and strong ale. If the strong ale isn’t enough, you can always head next door to 2 Kids for some chocolate stout. I look forward to trying the different styles of beer that Pacific Brewing comes up with in the future.

 

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 Go To IPA is Everything I’d Hoped For, Tons of Hops in 4.5% Beer

I’ve been saying for a while that we need a good Session IPA in six packs. Stone Go To IPA hits all the right notes and was released just as the Session IPA demand has gotten fairly large.

I’ve been hooked on Modern Times Fortunate Islands because it was available in four packs of 16oz cans. Then Lagunitas recently released their Session IPA.

Unlike a few other Session IPA beers, Stone Go to IPA is not a good introduction for the IPA hater. Through a technique they call hop-bursting, which sounds like double-dry-hopping on steroids, they cram as much hop flavor into the beer as they possibly can. In true Stone fashion, this is not a beer for everyone. It is more heavy on the citrus hops than the Lagunitas variety, which makes it more my style. Still there is something refreshing about the Fortunate Islands because it only uses a few varieties of hops.

I haven’t yet compared it side by side with the Fortunate Islands but I can see myself returning to this much more than the ordinary Stone IPA or Pale Ale, both of which I consider to be a bit too malty for my tastes. If you haven’t yet gotten over the insanely strong double IPAs you will consider this a sissy 4.5% that should be reserved for the weak. It will be here when you get that craving for IPA at 1PM on a Sunday and don’t want to be weighed down by a 7% IPA.

Craft Beer in Japan, My Adventures and Failures

My exploration of Japanese craft beer was mostly a failure. In total I tried three Japanese IPAs and beers from a total of four different Japanese breweries. I visited only one brewery. I didn’t have the patience to search for the craft beer bars even though I knew exactly where they are. This is because getting around Tokyo can be a huge pain. In the end I drank more sake than beer in Japan and I would suggest you do the same.

I’m not sure the exact age of craft beer in Japan but it is clear that it is still very young or at least hasn’t gotten to be very popular. Most bars still heavily feature the big beer brands that you have probably seen in the United States (Asahi and Kirin). Like big beer brands around the world they are in the pilsner style. Though they aren’t bad, they are a bit boring for the IPA fan (me) or the stout and porter fan (my husband). Every restaurant that serves alcohol has plenty of Asahi, Kirin, and Sake.

The first full day in Japan I got to visit a small brewery on Tokyo Bay called T.Y. Harbor Brewery. This brewery is on a small island on Tokyo Bay that you have to take a few train lines to get to from either side. It is located at 〒140-0002 Tokyo, Shinagawa, Higashishinagawa, 2−1−3. They are open for lunch and dinner and if you arrive in between meals they will only serve you beer (perfectly fine for us). They are small enough that I got to speak with one of the owners there a little bit.

T.Y. Harbor Brewery Taps.

T.Y. Harbor Brewery Taps.

4oz tasters are not available like you might find in the USA so I only got to try the IPA and a small taste of a beer made with cherry blossoms. My husband got to try an Imperial Stout. The IPA was a different flavor than I typically expect in San Diego. It tends towards the tropical fruit and caramel malts, giving it a light sweetness. It was probably the best IPA I tried in Japan. Hy husband described the stout as having lots of coffee and roasted malts flavors.

T.Y. Harbor IPA.

T.Y. Harbor IPA.

The beers here cost about 800 yen (around $8) for 420ml. 500ml would be a pint but they compensate for the fact that the head of the beer typically means you don’t get a full pint of beer. From what I read online this is similar to the price at other major craft beer bars in Japan. Before I left I got to try a seasonal beer brewed with cherry blossoms. It was light on alcohol and color with a nice cherry flavor and some flavors similar to drinking tea.

I also got to buy an IPA from a convenience store somewhere. It was an IPA from Aooni brewing in Japan. It tasted like it was on the lighter end and seemed to have the same tropical fruit hops as the one from T.Y. Harbor Brewery above.

Aooni IPA can.

Aooni IPA can.

I then had another Japanese IPA I bought when I was in Manila, Philippines. It was an Imperial IPA from Baird Beer called Surugu Bay. It had a flavor heavy towards the malts and possibly rye with some seriously strong grapefruit flavor. It seemed different from the Nelson hops you typically taste and more like eating actual grapefruit (including the part of the flavor I could never enjoy).

Surugu Bay Imperial IPA.

Baird Beer Surugu Bay Imperial IPA.

Also at one point in The Philippines I found beer from Kiuchi brewing. I tried an interesting 7% beer made from Red Rice that had a nice fruity flavor without a strong alcohol taste. As far as I could tell the brewery didn’t make any IPA that I found.

If you do decide to visit Japan to try local craft breweries, I would suggest venturing outside of Tokyo. Hopefully Tokyo’s confusing street configuration doesn’t exist as much once you leave Tokyo. I didn’t ever get outside of Tokyo except when I was at Narita airport. Otherwise, I would try taking a taxi to one of the bars if you get confused. I don’t know how well the drivers know their way around but it isn’t too expensive for short trips that it might be worth it.

For most casual craft beer fans who can appreciate good sake, I would suggest you instead enjoy Japan’s rich selections of sake and possibly some single malt whiskey (though they are very expensive).

Sublime Tavern in Del Mar, Great Food and Exhaustive Beer Selection

As a sign that I have become too hooked on craft beer, or maybe just lazy when it comes to visiting breweries lately, I tend to go straight to The Westcoaster (San Diego’s Craft Beer Magazine) whenever I am looking for some place to eat. Wanting to find a place in Del Mar to meet a friend? Check The Westcoaster and find an interesting place like Sublime Tavern.

A little off the beaten path and further inland than you might expect to go in Del Mar lies Sublime Tavern. It isn’t where all the other Del Mar restaurants are, but instead is a few miles inland from the 5 freeway in what looks like an office building. Thankfully, once you make your way inside you easily forget its outer appearance and find yourself drawn in by the beer selection and food options.

The server seemed to have a decent knowledge of his beers. I was more interested that the bartender came out to deliver things himself. His enthusiasm and knowledge of his beer styles was quite impressive. My husband was trying to decide on a stout to order and he was quickly informed that the Old Rasputin on the menu was on nitro (a huge plus for an imperial stout) and that the Yeti (Great Divide’s Imperial Stout) was aged in oak barrels. This was not your typical presentation of beers by any means. He ended up with the Old Rasputin and quite enjoyed it.

I was also quite impressed that they served most of the stronger beers in 11oz pours, in contrast to most newer beer bars that serve pints of everything including Alesmith’s 12% Speedway Stout. IPA wise there were a number of available offerings, though I started with a Belgian Session IPA from Belching Beaver called Ivan The Terrible. I finished off with an Ommegang beer called Chocolate Indulgence, a delicious dark Belgian style beer with just a hint of chocolate to the taste.

Other memorable beers on tap included a special Mayan recipe beer from Dogfish Head that was an interesting twist on the traditional Saison thanks to the introduction of cacao nibs that I tried a small taste of. There was also an Oak Aged version of Stone’s Double Bastard that I didn’t get to taste. Like any other restaurant with a large tap list, the beers will likely rotate fairly regularly but if they continue to keep this variety I will likely be back. Price wise, the beers ranged from $6 to a little over $8 for some of the specialty brews. The prices were largely in line with what I would expect at similar restaurants.

On the food end, my husband ordered a pizza called Sublime Pizza that tasted very similar to the Mac N’ Cheese I was sad to have not ordered that evening. Since I had been overdosing on carbs earlier in the day I went for a single sausage from a sausage platter that normally came with two with a side of garlic roasted kale ordered separately. The sausage was delicious and came with some tasty grilled peppers. The kale was a good sized serving with nice big chunks of roasted garlic here and there. Both were just what I was looking for.

Considering the lack of breweries in the area and beer pubs in general, Sublime Tavern was a welcome find. You can’t go wrong with their beer selection or food if you are looking for craft beer in Del Mar.

Lagunitas DayTime Ale Session IPA

Lagunitas might not call this a Session IPA on the bottle, and I don’t blame them, but for hop-heads out there that is pretty much what it is. Session beers are anything under 5% in alcohol. Session IPAs are made by dry-hopping these lighter beers like you would with a stronger brew. This hits all of those parts nicely, coming in at a light 4.8% and 54IBU, this beer pours lighter than a pilsner and yet has all the delicious hop flavors I’ve come to crave.

Lagunitas Daytime Ale

 

All the dry-hopping gives this a delicious hop aroma that might make you think you are going to get an IPA. When I first tasted this, I thought it was a bit too much pine in the flavor. Over time I came to taste the tropical fruit and citrus flavors that I love so much. Though they don’t tell you the hops used here I expect it has mosaic hops in there somewhere. This is one of the first Session IPAs to hit six packs in San Diego and it blows away almost all of the competition. I still prefer the Modern Times Hoppy Wheat but it is different enough that I can enjoy both of these on regular rotation. With Stone’s own Session IPA set to release soon it has some serious competition.