Beers in Chicago

I was in Chicago for work, but had a little time to explore. Chicago is an awesome city, but this post is dedicated to drinks.

Although I continue to believe San Diego makes the best IPA’s, Revolution Brewing‘s IPA was not bad. It’s entirely a thing of preference, but I like west coast IPA’s – super hoppy and aggressive. IPA’s hailing from other parts of the United States tend to be a bit less pungent.

On Saturday night, we bought a 6 pack of pick-your-owns at the closest grocery store (pictured above and below). I tried to get non-California beers, but caved on the Stone Pataskala Red IPA because I had never seen it or heard of it before, so it counts as something new. Whenever encountering a pitiable hotel room that features no fridge space, or no fridge at all, the sink and a trip to the ice machine is all it takes:

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Ironically, I made 3 laborious trips to the ice maker per my usual routine in hotel rooms because so many of them don’t have refrigerators these days… then looked down under a shelf and discovered there was a completely empty mini-fridge in the room.

Later on in the night, we went to an awesome pizza and cocktails place called Pi Gallery. The pizza there was absolutely amazing. To my husband’s initial disappointment, we were in Chicago, and this was not deep dish, but this was actually to my great delight, because I really think thin crust is the best. This kind of statement likely is akin to blasphemy/sacrilege in Chicago, but I’ve left the area now so they can’t get to me. We ordered the veggie pizza which had a balsamic sauce. We both really liked it and I’ll say that it was one of the best pizzas I ever had.

My first beer was Archer Avenue Pale Ale by Blue Nose Brewery. This was a lovely and flavorful pale ale. This beer is so new (and/or obscure) that it only has one review on Beer Advocate, and does not yet have a score.  This does not surprise me, because the owner of this awesome joint introduced himself, and we learned that he is really into music and the arts, so it would make sense that he would have good beers on tap “before they are cool.” The next beer I had was an amber ale that tasted slightly floral, slightly hoppy, and reminded me of candy. We tasted a couple of other beers, did some shots of Jameson with the owner, chatted with him about music, and this was a really great night.

Pi Gallery seems like it may have only recently opened, as it only as 21 Yelp reviews, but I thought it was a gem of a find. It doesn’t have a flashy entrance, and is located upstairs, so you sort feel like you’re walking into a mystery. If you’re in the area I highly recommend this joint.

Other notable beers while on this brief weekend sojourn included the Matilda (Belgian strong pale ale by Goose Island) and The Poet (stout by New Holland).

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Coming Back From The Desert

Sometimes you get greedy. You have a good weekend and you don’t want it to end so you delay by stopping at random places on the way home to extend the good times. This is not a bad thing.

On our way home from Anza Borrego, we stopped by Hill Top Winery in the Valley Center area. shareBearPic895 shareBearPic897

Cute location, though the day was a bit overcast and cold. It was nice to have a couple of glasses of wine to warm up.

After that, we hit up Valley Center Brewery. This was an unpretentious place with a divey-feel, located in a nondescript strip mall. They are able to do this and still have great reviews because their beers are pretty damn good.

Woods Valley Cream Ale: 4.3% ABV. Nutty, vanilla, smooth, light. Very nice cream ale.

Hunza Hill Hefeweizen: 7.2% ABV. Quite the bold one and quite the alcohol content for a hefeweizen. Saison flavors, fruity, warm, with a little bit of a tart edge.

Burnt Mountain Road Smoked Ale: 6.5 ABV. This is a barrel-aged smoked red. It tasted a bit like campfire and leather, in a good way, if you can imagine it. It was unique.

Hellhole Canyon Stout: 6.5% ABV. Smoky, full, deep, tastes of bourbon and coffee.

Morning Star Circle: 5.0% ABV. Belgian IPA. Smooth, creamy, floral, and slightly nutty. It was apparently dry-hopped with lavender which is pretty interesting.

Our bartender was very friendly and helpful. We had a fun tasting experience here. The bear sitting at the other end of the bar was quiet, but I think he was having a good time too.

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Duck Foot Brewing

Stopped here after some skeet shooting recently. I forget how massive San Diego county is sometimes. Going shooting on the other side of the county was a bit of a trek, and we decided after hitting some clay pigeons to go hit up some beers at Duck Foot on the way back.

They seem to be a fairly new establishment (I believe I saw a sign stating they were founded just in 2015), but have obviously hit the ground running because every beer I tasted was pretty solid.

Red Ale: 5.6% ABV. Nutty, amber style, well-balanced, malty, and slightly smoky.

West Coast IPA: 6.5% ABV. I was of course looking forward to this one the most. It is very hoppy, floral, and is a lovely golden color. Its texture is light, and it would be a fantastic summer beer. It tastes like it would hold up better in the heat than other thicker IPA’s. It’s also a bit crisp.

Irish Stout: 4.7% ABV. Smoky, well-balanced, and I thought I tasted a little bit of peanut butter.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Amber: 5.9% ABV. Interesting combination. I’d never had a peanut butter amber, but it was decent. Malty, amber-style beer, enjoyable, though I wish I had tasted it before the Irish stout. I think the Irish stout flavors sort of washed this one out. I’d be willing to give it another go on another occasion.

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Booze Brothers Beer

I’ve been to Booze Brothers a few times now, but haven’t written anything about it until now. At the risk of sounding all, “I was here before it was cool…” The last couple times I came was probably almost a year ago, and there was hardly a person in sight when I came in on a weekend. The beers were decent then too, but when I showed up here recently, this shit was bumping! There was loud music, a huge crowd, two long lines at both bars (I don’t even remember there being two bars before).

Good Guy Session IPA: 5.2% ABV. Fresh, hoppy, well-balanced, and a fairly typical tasting session IPA. I hate to say it this way, but it tastes good in sort of a generic way, as nothing about it stands out particularly. I am starting to like these session IPA’s to start off though. It’s kind of like a warm-up before you get serious.

Crow Jane IPA: 6.2% ABV. Maltier than Good Guy. Yeasty. A warm and nutty flavor, which isn’t particularly characteristic of IPA’s.

Black Hills Black IPA: 7.2% ABV. Coffee (and a little coffee-like tartness along with it). Smoky and reminiscent of campfire, but bordering on cigarettes. Not sure I got a whole lot of IPA in there.

Sundown Stout: 7.5% ABV. Stouty. Coffee. Deep.

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Some Beers In The Bay Area

We were up in northern California for a wedding recently. The wedding itself was in a sleepy and quaint Mill Valley, but we ended up spending some time in San Francisco as well as Walnut Creek, since we were there for a long weekend.

I’d like to say we came upon Resolute, a wine bar, after walking by its highly compelling sign (“HAPPY HOUR EVERY DAMN DAY!” pictured above), but the truth is we found it on Yelp. I believe this place is fairly new, as I had been in the neighborhood for work just a couple of months prior, and had not noticed it. We came by for happy hour. I had the “Hella Lite” pale ale, which was as juicy and citrusy as its description promised it to be. It was hoppy despite the fact it was “hella lite.” This would have been a great summer beer. Too bad the weather was already starting to cool down. The low ABV of 3.8% was probably also appropriate considering all the wedding festivity drinking from the night before. The rye saison by Henhouse Brewing wasn’t bad either. After that, we shared a glass of tempranillo, which was also lovely. Also had a cheese plate (manchego) to go with it all. Very nice.

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While up in the area, we also popped by to visit some dear friends, who had just returned from their honeymoon in Belgrade, London, and the Amalfi Coast (so jealous – if I ever make it back to Italy, it’s the Amalfi Coast for sure). We hit up a sort of Indian fusion joint called Kanishka’s Neo-Indian Gastropub in Walnut Creek. I can be slightly wary of fusion places, but when I looked up “beer” this is one of the first places that came up, and the thought of Indian food and beer was simply too enthralling to pass up.

This place did not disappoint. Lots of lovely beers of all types on tap. Good Belgians, good IPA’s, not much more a girl can ask for. The lamb sliders were probably more akin to wraps, but it doesn’t matter; they were heavenly. The tikka masala fries were also to die for and paired so nicely with IPA’s. All I want for Christmas is for someone to replicate this place and drop it off in San Diego.

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Alesmith’s New Location

Alesmith Brewing Company, which makes some delicious beers, opened up a new location recently. They didn’t move very far; the new place is just down the street, and it’s beautiful. There’s plenty of lounge space and seating, and a fire table outside.

By a stroke of luck, our real estate agent who sold us our condo just a few months ago had the ins with the owners of Alesmith, and invited us to a special pre-opening event at the new beer garden. I was super excited and fought through cross-county traffic (woe is me) to get there after work.

I ordered a flight of 4 tasters, including the IPA, the Double Red IPA, the scotch ale, and the Velvet Speedway Stout.

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They were all fantastic beers, and don’t require a whole lot of explanation. The IPA was hoppy, citrusy, fresh, and well-balanced. The scotch ale was excellent. It was darker, more full-bodied, and more substantial than most scotch ales I’ve had. The double IPA was intense, but great. Velvet Speedway Stout was really nice, although I think I actually prefer the original. I also had a chance to taste a couple of the Belgian-style beers, including the Horny Devil and a quad, which were also very good. This is probably one of the few breweries that does several styles of beer very well.

After we finished a round, we were taken on a tour of the brewery by one of the co-owners of Alesmith, who served as our lovely tour guide, providing interesting information about the machinery, origin of the barrels, and other aspects of the brewing process.

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Seeing the bottling machine, the aging barrels, and the kegs in the massive fridge sort of made me feel like a kid in a candy shop.

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Really cool brewery. I can’t wait to come back soon.

 

 

 

A Weekend Of Beer And Wine

Had a beautiful weekend in Malibu. Stayed at a charming bed and breakfast called the Topanga Canyon Inn. This place had a lovely view and was reminiscent of the Italian countryside. The inn is run by a family, and their daughters greeted us and checked us in. We hiked up to Eagle Rock and enjoyed the view from up there too. Later in the day, we had a couple of Chainbreaker White IPA’s by Deschutes:

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I don’t recall the Chainbreaker being as tart it was on this occasion, and wondered if it’d gone slightly bad in the heat. It’s been extraordinarily hot, and it was like 98 degrees most of the day (even during our hike – slightly painful, but the view was worth it).

Later on in the day, we stopped by Malibu Family Wines and shared a bottle of Saddlerock Sauvignon Blanc while listening to some live music. At night, we had dinner at Moonshadows and shared a bottle of Saddlerock Cabernet Sauvignon. Moonshadows is a restaurant that can only be described as magical: you can feel the waves crashing underneath the restaurant as you eat, and the seagulls glow a bright fluorescent white in the ocean night.

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Biking To San Diego Beer Works

A couple of weekends ago, we took a nice bike down Pacific Coast Highway and stopped at San Diego Beer Works. I’d been wanting to check this place out for some time now. On our way, we stopped at the beach in Cardiff and took a dip. The weather was beautiful and perfect. The flat, coastal terrain was also perfect because my bike is a piece of crap from Wal-Mart.

My flight of tasters at San Diego Beer Works –

Batch #1 IPA: Brewed by 21st Amendment. 7.2% ABV. The tart hits you first. Then some citrus. Full-bodied, and a malty finish.

Hop Shovel IPA: Brewed by Bear Republic. 7.5% ABV. Hoppy, very floral, and crisp. The color is light for an IPA. There’s something about it that stings a bit, is almost spicy.

Summer IIPA: Didn’t catch the name of this IIPA. It’s by Bottle Logic. 9.0% ABV. It was an orangey golden color. The flavor was almost syrupy, and there was something in there that was slightly reminiscent of rubber bands.

Nitro Milk Stout: By Artifex Brewing. OMG, so amazing. Smooth like water. Smooth like cream. A beautiful, light, puffy, head. I was really in love with this one despite my usual preference for IPA’s.

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As beautiful as that beach is, it’s not actually the beach we biked by. This is actually some 10 miles up the 101. Close enough though.

Pizza Port

I have been a big fan of Pizza Port since I moved down to San Diego for law school some years ago. My tastes in beer have changed since then. Back then, anyone would buy any pitched of some random Port Brewing beer and I’d love it. This is probably still somewhat the case, but I heavily lean toward IPA consumption.

I love this place, even though I don’t even like the pizza, and I’m pretty sure I got food poisoning from the kale salad there recently. Oh well, doesn’t matter. The beer makes up for it. NO REGRETS. We hosted a good friend’s wedding rehearsal at our house once, and a big keg of Ponto IPA by Port Brewing arrived in our yard. The keg was not finished that night, but we enjoyed it for the rest of the week. Even though it’d been sitting in the yard. In the sun. STILL NO REGRETS.

2-Step IPA: By Pizza Port Bressi Ranch (I didn’t know they were making a distinctions between the brewing operations at different locations). 6.8% ABV. Very hoppy and bright, but a bit thin. Thin might not necessarily be a bad thing though – this beer would probably hold up better in the blazing sun. This is a flavorful beer, but less hoppy than many West Coast IPA’s.

Solana IPA: By Pizza Port Solana Beach. 7.0% ABV. Thicker than 2-step. Golden, full, very hoppy, bitter, subtle floral tones. Deep, almost sweet, and a bit dull.

La Flama Dorada: By Pizza Port Solana Beach. A tripel with 9.6% ABV but you’d never know by the taste (those damn Belgians!). Golden colored, floral, bright, with a bitter ending. Lovely. Reminiscent of spring and roses. A little sexy and feminine.

Local’s Only IPA: By Port Brewing. 6.8% ABV. Smooth and nutty. Not as IPA-ish as I’d like. Smooth and creamy head. Gets a bit hoppier as it warms up. There’s something about it that’s almost cream-aleish.

X-Port: By Pizza Port Bressi Ranch. 6.0% ABV. A coffee stout. The coffee is incredibly prominent. Also chocolate. My description here doesn’t distinguish it from many other coffee stouts, but sometimes the point is to drink the beer not to remember every detail about it.

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I came back to Pizza Port not 2 weeks later, and had some more stouts and IPA’s. But sorry, no notes from that time.

Belching Beaver

Belching Beaver is another nearby brewery. Often, I see the ocean on my way to work and feel fortunate to have such a view so close by. Just as often, I cruise over to one of the many beer tasting rooms near me and feel insanely lucky to be so close to so many good beers.

Easy Beaver: 4.7% ABV. Session IPA’s are all the rage now, so lots of local breweries have started making them. This one was hoppy and floral, and finished with a bold bitterness. It was light and perfect for a session. Definitely a fantastic summer beer. IPA’s, although amazing, can get a bit heavy after a couple; their textures are also prone to changing when the sun’s out and the beer warms quickly. Sessions sort of solve this problem.

Great Lei: 6.5% ABV. Haha, get it? Funny, but the beer itself is sort of cute and sweet, as opposed to sexy. It’s an IPA, but with coconut and pineapple flavors. It’s much more pina colada than IPA. It’s definitely fruity, and a little too sweet for my tastes. It does transport you to a tropical island for a bit though. You’ll know what’s coming before it hits your lips too; it smells strongly of coconut and pineapple. Another good summer beer, if this type of beer is your thing.

Hop Highway: 7.3% ABV. Another IPA! They just don’t get old for me. Piney, fresh, hoppy, sassy, and a bit carefree.

Beaver’s Milk: 5.3% ABV. I finally switched it up from the IPA’s. This is a very smoky milk stout. Full and smooth. Not as good as their peanut butter stout, though well-balanced.

Sour Puss: 3.9 % ABV. A Berliner Weisse beer. Still open to trying new things. Still not really liking sour beers. This was fruity and very tart. Reminded me of a really crisp, unripe, tart apple. Which isn’t always a bad thing – but just not really a beer to me.

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