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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Alesmith’s Speedway Stout has been one of the premier Imperial Stouts in San Diego for some time. The coffee-forward versions have been previously mostly relegated to special tasting flights and special releases (like the Vietnamese Coffee Speedway that shows up here and there on tap). This Jamaican Coffee version of the Speedway Stout is a special release that will have limited availability in bottles and otherwise be available only at the tasting room on tap.
Alesmith is releasing bottles of the Jamaican Speedway on March 3rd and then having a release party on March 8th. When I stopped by today they had a small amount available only on tasters. I was quite impressed by this new beer. The coffee was very strong on the nose, making me want a cuppa. It had a rich coffee flavor that I really enjoyed. At the same time on tap Alesmith had a special cask version of their Robust Porter with cacao nibs. I got a taster of this and really liked how it was smoothed out by the cask and the chocolate flavors came through nicely. They also still have the bourbon barrel aged wee heavy available, which is worth trying if you haven’t.
I will have to miss the bottle release and release party for the Jamaican Speedway but I hope you get to taste this delicious beer before it is gone. I expect it will be a hit and will show up again later but it is always more fun to try it when it is first available.
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.
It was just last week that Green Flash released their Black IPA, a wickedly bitter brew. This week they released the Ristretto Black Lager, the perfect balance to the Black IPA. I saw no mention of celebrating Black History Month on Green Flash’s Facebook page but that might have also been a consideration for the timing of these releases. I was expecting a bitter brew from the Black Lager but instead I was greeted with a deliciously smooth brew that is less bitter than the Double Stout.
The Black Lager has a strong coffee flavor that is complemented nicely by some chocolate and roasted malts. This is certainly on the sweet side so it won’t be for everyone but it is a great option for those who find most Green Flash beers to be too bitter. It is certainly on the low end of the IBUs, maybe around 30 or 40. With it I got to try the cask they had available, the West Coast IPA with Simcoe added. This was a refreshing beer because the cask and added hops really put the hops on the front of the flavors. I only had an 8oz of this one though because I had to experience more of the Black Lager. Overall, I was quite impressed by this one and will likely be back to have a few more of these before they run through it all.
To start off I want to mention that I did get my flight for no charge thanks to the generosity of the server. This is not going to impact my views as you will see here. Helms is an interesting brewery that most people probably haven’t been to before. Despite having an idea before where it was I was a bit surprised when I actually arrived at the brewery. A number of breweries I have been to were a bit out of the way but this one is pretty obscure and might confuse a few people the first time you go. Thankfully, the beers are so good that you won’t mind a little side trip to get there.
There were more beers on tap than I got to review here but I had already stopped by another brewery before and didn’t have the stomach or the interest to try everything. I include a picture of the rest of the offerings in case you like different styles.
Captain’s Pale ale
I was quite impressed by this one. It is a bit stronger than I might have liked for a pale ale (it isn’t a session like I have been searching for.) Still, it has some nice citrus flavors and has a nice balance despite the malts that are there like we typically see in an American Pale Ale. The tropical fruit flavors come forward nicely.
Wicked as Sin Rye IPA
This IPA hit the spot quite nicely. It has some amazing hop flavors with the Citra and mosaic hops. The rye balances it out nicely. This might be a new favorite of mine. I left the brewery with a 22oz bottle to enjoy later. The rye makes it taste somewhat similar to the blazing world from modern times and gives it a nice contrast to the hops. This is one of those IPAs that might interest your friends who hate IPAs, or in my case my husband. Though he typically hates all IPAs, he said this one was “not bad.”
Hop the RIPA
Though typically RIPA might stand for rye, this one stands for red. It has an interesting flavor but weighs heavy towards the malts. The flavors are based on an Irish red style, though for me it was a little too malty. The flavor is a bit on the syrupy side and sadly the hops don’t come through as much as I would like.
Beerucchino Imperial Coffee Porter
True to its name, this is a beer for coffee lovers. It has a nice smooth coffee flavor at the forefront with a light chocolate flavor on the back end. I wasn’t able to taste the pepper and almond wood that it says are in here but they might account for some of the mellow flavors it has. This beer really goes down easy despite its ABV of 7.2%
Chocolate night Imperial Stout
Hard to say what I don’t like here. The chocolate isn’t very prominent and the vanilla seems a little sour. Perhaps the malts were what got to me but I didn’t find that it had the flavors I like out of an imperial stout. Though my husband was quick to devour this one and thought it was nice because it wasn’t too bitter, I didn’t find the flavors hit the right spots.
Overall, I was quite impressed by the lineup and look forward to seeing some of these beers in a six-pack sometime in the future, especially the Pale Ale, Rye IPA, and Beerucchino. The Wicked As Sin has the types of hops I have come to love lately and would be worth picking up if you see it in stores near you.
When Green Flash came out with the Black IPA a while ago I wasn’t familiar with the style and it seemed a bit strange. I probably had a small amount of it at first but forgot it was there. Now in 2014, Green Flash decided to start the year off with 22oz bottles of the beers from the Hop Odyssey series. Black IPA is the first such beer and it is a bitter brew.
It pours black as stout but lacks any of the sweet coffee or chocolate flavors that might bring some people to like stouts. My first thought upon tasting this beer was “Wow that is bitter!” Other people I talked to at the brewery didn’t find it particularly bitter so perhaps the roasted malt flavors that I tasted came off to me as bitter. I would expect that this beer is probably a minimum of 80IBU and perhaps even up there into 90IBU. I couldn’t immediately tell what hops I tasted but my best guess is that they used the New Zealand hops that Green Flash uses for the Green Bullet. Before I left I picked up a 22oz bottle so I’ll see if I like it more in the bottle. This isn’t a bad beer but it didn’t immediately grab me. I think it could have benefited from some chocolate flavors.
Though this is a beer blog, when breweries decide to expand into spirits I can’t help but cover their endeavors. Ballast Point recently started spirit tasting but with some restrictions. In order to taste these delicious spirits you must pay for a tour and then go back and taste. Each taster is 1/4 an ounce and served in a glass that makes it possible to get a good idea of each drink from that small amount. For now the spirit tasting is only available at the Old Grove location in Scripps Ranch. You have to stop by on the same day as the tour to sign up and pay for everyone you expect to join you. They charge $10 for the tour and tasting combined.
The tasting lets you experience the vodka, gin, two kinds of rum, moonshine, and bourbon. Ballast Point spirits are different from what you might find in the stores otherwise because the vodka and gin are both distilled and then reduced to the percentage you taste. Most vodkas are not distilled by the companies but made using mass produced ethanol. This gives them a delicious smooth flavor that you don’t usually see with these.
The vodka was not my thing, though it was a bit smoother than others I have had in the past. The gin is infused with their own selection of botanicals and gives it a delicious flavor heavy on the floral side. The clear rum was not really my thing, a bit too mellow for my tastes. It has a sweet flavor that comes from the sugar cane they use as the base. This is used instead of molasses that most rums are made from. The aged rum was a delicious smooth drink aged in American Oak barrels. It has many similar flavor characteristics that you might be familiar with in bourbon and whiskey. The moonshine was a bit on the sweet side and pretty similar to the white rum. We ended with a flavor of the Devil’s Share Bourbon, a rare commodity that you probably won’t be able to buy outside of this tasting tour. Keep an eye on their facebook if you are interested in catching the next release of whiskey. Until then, I would suggest you stick with the aged rum if you are into that style of drink.
Tonight I decided to stop by Karl Strauss in Downtown San Diego to see what they had on for Cask Night. I was excited when I saw that the cask beer was a mosaic session IPA. I always enjoy trying beers with single hops because it is a great way to familiarize myself with specific hop flavors. In this case, the mosaic hops were delicious and had a nice crisp grapefruit flavor that really gave some nice flavor to this beer.
After devouring this delicious cask, I went for the pale ale because I have been exploring local pale ales lately. I’ve already become quite familiar with most of the IPAs that Karl Strauss brews so I wanted to see if I could try something I might have overlooked before. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavors from the pale ale though it was still slightly more malty than I might have preferred. The hops give it a delicious amount of citrus bite that you can really feel in the mouth. Some of the hops go a little heavy on the piney flavors for my tastes though and so I wasn’t completely blown away. Still, it is one of the better San Diego pale ales out there.
If you are in the mood for something stronger, the Tower 10 IPA is always a great west coast IPA and they occasionally have some delicious double IPAs on tap as well.