Tag Archives: alesmith

San Diego and a Long List Of Beer

18 Apr

A long weekend in San Diego for the First Annual SD Bike & Beer tour expanded naturally into a broad beer tour of that fair city with 51 new-to-me beers (thank goodness for tasting flights and friends to share). This isn’t quite the “tasting 100 beers in belgium” adventure that was the original impetus behind this blog a few years ago…  but it’s good to see I haven’t changed much.

San Diego beer, first in photos:


A cafe with about 30 interesting beers, mostly local… and all in cans. We’d already been to three bars that night so we didn’t even squeeze in a beer here, but I had to take a photo:


Brewery in an old brick Wonder Bread factory:


Hess Brewing, in what I hear used to be an Evangelical bookstore:


Not quite beer, but kvass (fermented dark rye bread, less than 0.5% alcohol, in a Russian restaurant):


Taps and fish tacos at the nautically-themed Ballast Point brewing in an office part North of the city (“Warning: contains shellfish”, said the beer brewed with oysters).


Small $1 tastes at Societe to work our way through them quickly:


Alesmith had by far my favorite beers of the trip:


Pizza Port– Port Brewing’s outpost down by the beach, with a variety of Port and other beer and a fun mix of the surf crowd, biking crowd, and beer-exploring crowd:


Stone Brewing at Liberty Station– beer (of course) and decent lunch during the bike ride:


Modern Times, probably my second favorite brewery (venue and beer) after Alesmith. With a post-it mural:


Drinking beer is serious business and requires notes:


And for the excessively long list of beer notes / opinions, recorded for my future memory…

at The Pig Pen (a small beer garden behind the Carnitas’ Snack Shack)

  • Oceanside Strong Golden, 9% ABV: malty, strong, quite good. [B]
  • Thorn St IPA: generic Cascade-hopped IPA. [C]

Toronado (yes, there’s a second one in San Diego)

  • Allagash White: a classic, but always nice to see on draft.
  • Societe Harlot:  a pale ale with a really interesting hop flavor (mild but slightly earthy, spicy, mysterious, but almost no bitterness)– I wonder what it is. [B]

Belching Beaver (seriously?)

  • Me So Honey: generic honey ale, also with a terrible name [C]
  • Tommy Callahan: English bitter, a solid example [B]
  • Saison de Beaver: nice taste and bitterness, a little too much residual sweetness [B]
  • Beaver Milk: milk stout, coffee flavor, one-note [C]
  • Beaver Milk randalled on tamarind, oranges, and chiles: interesting… a little weird but surprisingly restrained. Wouldn’t have wanted more than a tasting glass of it [B]

Modern Times

  • Lomaland Saison– everything I want in a saison– funky, slightly spicy, earthy, farm-fragrant, and not at all sweet. [A]
  • Monster’s Park special Imperial Stout– Strong, bold, good balance between volatile alcohol and a little sweetness and hops, but  with a wide range of grain flavors. A well-made imperial stout. [A]
  • Blazing World Amber and Fortunate Islands Wheat– both solid, though I just tried a sip. [B]

Stone Liberty Station (also had a nice sit-down bar / dining room)

  • Polaris Single Hop: Very good, an interesting non-Pacific-NW hop flavor, fragrant but not pine or citrus, couldn’t place it. A palate awakener almost like an apertif. [A]
  • Oaked Bastard: sweet / strong. Fine, in-your-face. [B]
  • Stone Russian Imperial Stout: solid, good balance between alcohol, roasted malt, and sweetness though didn’t blow me away [B]
  • Matt’s Cherrywood Smoked Saison: Great! A solid dry saison with a light hand on the wood and cherry… it would have been easy to go overboard. My note says “delicious horsesweat, rolling in wood chips”. Ok… [A]

Mission Brewing

  • The blonde, saison, and pale ale were all fine but unmemorable. [C]

Hess Brewing (good space and people, though loud… and none of the beers quite took off for me)

  • Ficus: fig saison. A schtick… that was decent, not too heavy-handed on the fig (though not as funky/dry as I like). [B]
  • Cream Ale: reasonable but bland (San Diego gives me high standards). [C]
  • Kolsch: a good crisp kolsch, refreshing after a long day of beer tasting [B]

Wayfarer Public (a bar nearby, for the post-bike-ride celebration)

  • Port Brewing Dawn Patrol: a sessionable (3%) English Bitter. Excellent– plenty of flavor, distinct grain, slight bitterness, bready/biscuity, an ideal English-style ale for me. [A]
  • Modern Times White IPA: generic hop-heavy IPA. Meh. [C]

Pizza Port Brewing

  • Bob Loblaw Lager– dry grains, crisp, good start… but a weird old-hops aftertaste, not bright [B]
  • Vinsanity– a golden ale with lime peel and persimmons. Light and drinkable, malty, lime comes through on the sides of the tongue. Refreshing. [B]
  • Beer Hunter #1: a Belgian golden ale aged in wine barrels on Ranier cherries. A nice modestly-sour acetic taste…  while not the most complex sour, quite good. [B+]
  • Beer Hunter #2: a saison, but with a slightly medicinal aftertaste I didn’t like. [C]

Ballast Point

  • Calico – mild amber, lightly bitter, fragrant. [B]
  • Pescadero – a pilsner, a little bitter [B]
  • Piper Down Pequin- their Piper Down scottish ale infused with pequin peppers. The kind of experiment that could end up over the top, and the peppers produced a strong, slow burn… but it really came together nicely. The strong malty scottish ale plus the peppery (not actually that spicy) slow burn and aftertaste were fascinating. [A]
  • San Salvador (dark lager brewed with raw oysters)– smells like a lightly sour stout, taste reminds me of a grilled fish filet and toast. Interesting. [B+]
  • Navigator Doppelbock – a nice, solid, bready/sweet doppelbock. [B]
  • Indra Kunindra – “curry export stout”. About what that sounds like. Curry, coconut, cumin, hot pepper, maybe turmeric in a stout? Not subtle… I applaud them for brewing creatively, but I don’t need to try it again. [C]

Societe. It was late in a long day of beer tasting with a flight to catch so we rushed through this a bit, unfortunately.

  • Publican — hoppy, blonde, “dank” as they say… but I appreciated the dank hopness was mostly in the aroma and the taste was dry and not too bitter. Well done. [B+]
  • Dandy — IPA. Bitter pine bomb. Just the style that’s not my style… [C]
  • Pupil — IPA, dank, bitter [C]
  • Apprentice — IPA, bitter, very bland aroma [D]
  • Debutante — Amber belgian, a little sweet [B]
  • Madam — smells like warm corn mash (in a good, unuusal way). A Belgian pale, apparently. I should try it again. [B]
  • Widow — strong dark, generic [C]
  • Butcher — very dry imperial stout? Didn’t even taste that high in alcohol. Interesting, would try again [B]
  • Bellowsman– a smoked stout. Chimney sweepings, ash, old London, dry… and decent, interesting [B+]

Alesmith — the best hour of beer tasting all trip:

  • Little Devil – Belgian Pale Ale (modest 5% alcohol compared to their other beers) with aromas of coriander, orange, esters (likely all from the belgian yeast rather than any additions), creamy and effervescent, tiny bubbles. [A]
  • Horny Devil – Belgian Strong Pale Ale (10% ABV), golden malts, moderate ester / banana and pepper nose (again, from the yeast). Not some one-note banana wit, instead an amazing smell that opened up over time to become more spicy, almost bergamot. [A+]
  • Grand Cru – dark belgian, 10%, but didn’t stand out as much to me, I didn’t write any notes [B]
  • Old Numbskull – Barleywine, citrusy hops, strong, complex… but also more bitter than I like, and I’m generally not a barleywine fan [A- though probably outstanding to someone who likes the style]
  • Decadence 2013 — A different style every year, 2013’s was a German-style Doppelbock. This was one of my favorite beers of the whole trip. A rich barley smell and many different overlapping malt flavors from sweet to lightly roasted. A particular kind of malt taste I associate with doppelbocks though I’m not sure what it is. It was suggested this would be great with fruit. [A+]
  • Old Ale 2014 (Barrel Aged) — All I wrote was “excellent, strong, dry, solvent” [A-]
  • Old Ale 2014 (Cask) — Fantastic served on cask– smooth, creamy, light carbonation, a little dried cherry and chocolate sort of sweetness, strong dark malts but balanced, not overly bitter. Bravo! [A+]
  • Wee Heavy — a scotch ale, strong, a slight coffee flavor, a great beer though a bit sweeter than I like. Fans of scotch ales would love this, though. [A-]


Condensed, ten of my favorite beers of the trip were Alesmith (Old Ale Cask, Decadence 2013 Doppelbock, Horny Devil, Little Devil), Ballast Point Piper Down Pequin, Port Brewing Dawn Patrol, Modern Times (Lomaland Saison, Monster’s Park Imperial Stout), and Stone (Polaris Single Hop Pale, Matt’s Cherrywood Smoked Saison).

Whew. I’m exhausted just remembering it all… yet it renews my appreciation for the vast variety of interesting beer being made these days.