Belle Marie Winery

It’s true that this is mostly a beer blog, but wine drinking adventures are just as fun. I’m pretty sure my palate is too crude to deeply appreciate the complexities of wine, but I do enjoy it almost as much as beer (sometimes). We were driving back on the 15 when I noticed a castle from the freeway. Driving on the 15 is not exactly a rare occurrence, so I must have seen it before, but this time we decided to stop and check it out.

The location is charming, and the grounds are pretty neat. Unfortunately, the photos I took don’t do it justice because I am not a great photographer, and on top of that, the sky was overcast. If you can use your imagination, trust that would be a really cool and romantic place for a picnic and a bottle of wine.

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We had a flight and all of them were pretty good. I particularly liked the 2012 Barbera, which was fruity (berries), smooth, peppery, and a little smoky. The 2013 Grenache had a similar profile – berries, and smoky, but was a bit more tart than the Barbera, and lacked the nice peppery touch. I’m less a fan of the whites, but did like their 2014 Chardonnay, which was buttery, smooth, and light.

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Nice little detour. Next time, I’m stopping by with a picnic basket.

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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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.

 

 

 

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.

Yosemite 2015

Just because my last post was 2 months ago, doesn’t mean I’ve taken a break from diligently drinking beer. I had a series of crazy work days, followed by a beautiful and much-needed trip to Yosemite. We spent the night in Mammoth on our way up, and pictured above, I am indulging in one of my favorite Stone beers while hanging out in The Village. Unfortunately, once we actually made it inside a bar (specifically, the Lakanuki) the beer selection wasn’t so expansive and satisfying.

In Yosemite, we had the chance to stop at the Ahwahnee Hotel after a short hike to lower Yosemite falls. This hotel has a seriously gorgeous view and a charming mountain resort ambiance (as long as you ignore the fact the style is vaguely reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining).

After enjoying some tea time with cookies in the Winter Room, we went to the bar and I ordered a Tuolumne Meadow IPA. I kept some notes on decent beers brewed by Mammoth brewing while I was there, but they were lost in the shuffle, or maybe on a hike. It’s OK; the beers were good, but none of the beers were as good as San Diego beers anyway. Yosemite is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, not brews:

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Oh, and as of recently, Yosemite is also known for the bubonic plague.

 

Barrel Republic Beer By The Ounce

My friend told me about this place a while back, but I just now got to check it out. This place has like 40 beers on tap and charges by ounce. You show your credit card and ID when you get in, they give you a bracelet with a sensor in it, and you scan the bracelet before every pour. They have a wide variety of glasses available for different types and quantities of beer.

They have a wide selection, including Belgians, IPAs, pale ales, lagers, you name it. There’s something for everyone; I suppose that’s the point. You can pour as little or as much as you want, so if you don’t like it, you can quickly move on. The catch is that it’s not a great deal. Most of the beers on tap end up being $7-$8 a pint which is what fancier joints charge for beers.

They even have a few wines. Although, there was some Adam Corolla-promoted wine called “Mangria” and I’d pretty much rather die than drink anything recommended by Adam fucking Corolla. Oh, I get it – MANgria.  YOU ARE SO FUCKING WITTY ADAM COROLLA. No thanks.

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After trying a whole host of delicious beers, none of the names of which I can recall currently, I ran into Thing 1 while waiting for the Coaster. Not sure where Thing 2 was. Speaking of the Coaster, it sucks now because they have banned alcohol. Because freedom and shit. ‘Murrica.

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Ballast Point Little Italy

Ballast Point makes Sculpin IPA, which is one of my favorite beers of all time. We used to go to their tasting room/Home Brew Mart in Linda Vista when we would go there to buy grains and other brewing supplies. I only recently went to the restaurant/bar they opened in Little Italy. The place is huge, which is great. It was fairly easy to find seating, even around lunch time on a Saturday. We easily found several seats outdoors on the patio for ourselves and a couple of friends. They also were showing a soccer game, and not one of the many other sports I don’t give two fucks about, so that was cool too.

I was totally unoriginal and ordered the grapefruit Sculpin. I posted about this heavenly beverage before; I didn’t think it was possible for Sculpin to be any better, until I had the grapefruit version. I have also heard about a mango version which I have yet to try.

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My second beer was the regular Sculpin, but I did also get a chance to try some other beers. The Tongue Buckler with lemongrass and ginger was lovely and interesting, but it’s probably reasonable to serve that in an 8-ounce serving. The Victory At Sea Imperial Porter was also fantastic – standard coffee and vanilla flavors, but really great.

Biking To Local Breweries

After a hard week, a decision was made to bike to a couple of close by breweries to blow off some steam. The thing with biking to breweries is you can drink beer but feel like you deserve it because you are engaging in some kind of exercise. This was especially the case with some of the hills we encountered on our way.

First, we went to Latitude 33:

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I’d tried a few of their beers at various bars at some point or another. Their beers were not bad at all; however, they also weren’t really outstanding either. Each beer was a solid, well-balanced beer, but nothing that would blow you away.

American Wheat: It looks more filtered and clear than the usual wheat beer. It’s golden in color, and a little bitter at the end. It’s vaguely fruity. It’s almost got some lager tones, but enough to put me off (I don’t like lagers). It’s well-balanced, though not pungent or strong enough for my tastes. 5.0 ABV.

Belgian Witbier: Looks less filtered (more opaque), light yellow in color (think Hoegaarden color). It’s a little bitter on the end also. Some citrus and tartness in there. 4.9 ABV.

San Diego IPA: The pine smell is immediately apparent (a good thing). Citrusy, bright, with a very bitter finish. Fresn. 7.8 ABV.

Honey Hips Strong Blond: I have a friend who loves this. She specifically has said that it’s strong as hell, but doesn’t taste like it. However, I beg to differ. I can smell the alcohol before I even put it to my lips. It’s a deep golden color, with a slightly toasty/roasty flavor.

Vanilla Porter: Shit starts to get good around here. This one was far better than its predecessors. Creamy, but a bit tart on the end,

Breakfast Stout: I got preoccupied playing pool, because they have a pool table you can play for free. All I can say was I liked this a lot. Tasters were not cheap considering this is not a well-known brewery – $2 for the standard 4-ounce tasters. However, the pool made it worth it.

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Next, we made our way to Toolbox Brewing:

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This was probably a mistake, as we were unaware this place specializes in sour beers. Neither of us are sour beer fans. I hear it’s an acquired taste, but I’m not quite there yet. I tend to either like something immediately or dislike it. For instance, I immediately liked coffee and IPA’s, though for most people, these beverages are a matter of gradual liking. Anyway, I wasn’t in the mood for experimentation, and we ended up ordering Last Call IPA and the Mini Mudder Milk Stout. Last Call was a fresh and hoppy IPA (6.5 ABV), but quite standard. The milk stout on the other hand was quite exceptional. It was creamy, full, and had the familiar coffee taste. Beautiful milk stout.

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