Sunday, 30 October 2016

Sin Tax

To close out a heavy evening, I selected a 1pt 6oz bottle from Vista, CA's Mother Earth Brew Co. and an Arturo Fuente mini-corona. The beer was called Sin Tax, an 8.1% imperial stout. It poured midnight black, with a creamy head. In the cold light of day, the Mother Earth website told me this was actually an Imperial peanut butter stout.

To my admittedly compromised nose, there were rich chocolate and coffee aromas--very sweet and sultry. The taste was chalk full of cocoa notes, as well as a hint of tobacco (and that wasn't just the cigar). Mellow and smooth to the mouth, with a fairly sizably bitter finish, though this played second fiddle to roasted malts and chocolate notes.

Sin Tax was a wise beer to finish a sudsy evening. It was strong and sweet, with a hearty flavour. Typically too sweet for me and with less bitterness than I prefer, the beer managed to really hit the spot. The subtle tobacco flavour played nicely with the peppery cigar to create a nice combo. My stout was bigger than the tulip glass I was given, so the helpful staff at Cuban Cigar Factory provided me with a glass full of ice to chill the remainder--a really nice touch that kept my strong stout cool, but not too cold.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Lupulin Thrill IPA

During my two-night residency at San Diego's Cuban Cigar Factory, I spent an enjoyable time with Lupulin Thrill IPA, from SD's Bootlegger's Brewery. My 22oz draft showed up looking fresh and fine--golden orange and hazy, though it had only a ring of eggshell head.

Lupulin Thrill had that classic West Coast IPA nose--fruity and strong, with a nice level of hoppiness. The taste was sweet first, with a boatload of citrus and tropical notes. LT finished with some bitterness, but not as boldly as I'd have wished.

LT wasn't the hoppiest IPA I tried during my West Coast travels, and that hurt it a bit. It was enjoyable, though, and well worth a try. It definitely left me curious about Bootlegger's and their other offerings.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Ruination Double IPA 2.0

Stone Brewing Company is one of the leading lights of San Diego's ENORMOUS craft brewing scene.. Only recently (and occasionally) available in Canada, I had to settle for a trip to Southern Cal to lay my grubby paws on a bottle of their Ruination Double IPA 2.0, a beer that sells itself as "a liquid poem to the glory of the hop." Heady stuff.

I purchased a 12oz bottle of Ruination 2.0, and paired it with a Punch cigar at a Gaslamp Quarter cigar lounge. The brew contains a hefty 8.5% and a plethora of IBUs. It poured orange-gold and cloudy, with a little ring of off-white head--I'd have poured it a bit heavier, but my host was trying to be conscientious, so I could hardly fault his gentle tip.

The aroma was bold, with enormous citrus hops and a whole lot of booze. Through the waft of my dark cigar, the flavour stood up nicely, with a classy blend of grapefruit stank and resin, built around a quartet of lush hops. The beer was undeniably sweet and strong, but managed to be nicely balanced against a potent bitter backdrop.

Ruination 2.0 was a class act double India--strong but not fierce, sweet, but not saccharine, and thoroughly tasty. A great beer to end an evening on, though mine was still young. Critiques were hard to come by. Though I've had a few better doubles, there haven't been many. Added to that, my beer tasted fresh and fun. While I understand that Ruination 2.0 is fairly widely available across America, I wasn't about to leave SD without typing up one of that city's premier DIPAs, and I wasn't disappointed.

It would be unconscionable to leave this review without putting in a plug for the cigar lounge, too. While a smoky room won't be to everyone's taste, San Diego's Cuban Cigar Factory was my kind of place. Staff were friendly and knowledgeable, and I had a good enough time that I dropped by on consecutive nights.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Monday, 24 October 2016

.394 Pale Ale

During a lunch break from the conference I was attending in Southern California, I ducked down into the hotel pub for a bite to eat and some suds. The beer I chose was .394 Pale Ale, from San Diego's AleSmith Brewing Co. Given that this trip was my vacation, I opted for the 22oz draught of the 6%, 26 IBU brew.

Brassy and mostly clear, my beer arrived with a thin covering of white head. To my nose, there were lots of juicy citrus notes, some bitterness, and a touch of tinniness. That pattern was replicated in the flavour--fruity and hoppy, with nice balance. Tangerine notes make for a mellow ale.

I was surprised by the listing on the bar menu that this stuff had only 26 IBUs, because it seemed much more bitter. Very nice pale ale, and a good shoutout to San Diego legend Tony Gwynn. and his amazing 1994 season. This tasty brew proved to be a frequent companion during my week in San Diego.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Bolt Brewery Flight

After arguably making a mistake at San Diego's Bolt Brewery by ordering a strong and sweet double chocolate stout on a hot afternoon in Southern California, I opted for a flight of 4oz tasters for my next Bolt experience. The four I selected were Bolt's Hefenweizen, Loca Lemon, Hoppy Lager, and Deez Hops DIPA.

The hefe was a 4.2%, 13 IBU brew. It was somewhere between yellow and milky. It had a yeasty, tart nose. The flavour maintained the yeastiness, but not the tartness. It was actually a pretty mellow, mild-mannered little brew. I'd have liked a bit more oomph, but it was fine.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

The Loca Lemon checked in at 5.3% and 13 IBUs. It was a pale, straw-coloured beer with little head. It had a lemon-lime soda scent--sweet and citrusy, with a slightly chemically aroma. It's flavour was along the same lines--very sweet, fizzy, and lemony. 

Way too saccharine for this guy to revisit, it was still a refreshing and interesting ale--something full strength for fans of radlers and shandies. It should be said that it was also wildly refreshing.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

The third entry in my Bolt Brewery flight was their Hoppy Lager. A pale and fizzy golden brew, the HL was clear and packed a floral hops aroma. It had a thin, crisp mouthfeel and a moderately hoppy flavour. Dry through the finish.

Bolt's Hoppy Lager was one of the better offerings that I sampled during my visit to their satellite brewery. It was unique and innovative, although it not without its flaws. I did like the floral hops drive, though.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

The final entry in my Bolt Brewery flight was their formidable Deez Hops Double IPA. At 9.2% alcohol and 83 IBUs, this was a pretty jumbo brew. It was a clear and brassy India Pale Ale, and arrived with very little head.

Deez Hops had jumbo bitterness through the nose, with resinous, slightly sweet hops properties. Boozy and sweet initially, but bitter and bold to the finish, this was definitely my favourite Bolt beer that I sampled during my hour in their establishment. It was a tad sweet, but this was balanced against a juicy bitterness that sold me hard.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Dan Stouts

In San Diego's Little Italy neighbourhood, I stumbled upon a satellite location of that city's Bolt Brewing Co. Obviously I stopped in. First order of business was an amazingly-named double chocolate stout--Dan Stouts. There was a nitro version and the original. Based on my server's suggestion, I I had a pint of the original l on tap. At 7.6% and 30 IBUs, this sweet stout was almost certainly the wrong choice for an unseasonably warm (for Southern California!) day, but I had to try a brew named in honour of the hirsute quaterback-turned-broadcaster

Dan Stouts was a jet black brew. It turned up with little head, but a jumbo chocolate aroma. It's taste was sweet, chocotastic, and full of roasted malts. The back end packed a pretty hefty hop wallop, too.

As expected, this beer, while well-made and tasty, was the wrong choice for a sweaty, sunny afternoon spent near the Mexican border. I should have ordered a taster size instead of a pint. However, I'm glad I tried it. It was a fine example of a double chocolate stout with a bit of bitterness behind it, and the name was dope. I'd have liked a slightly bolder front end, though. 

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Victory at Sea Imperial Porter

Before leaving San Diego's Ballast Point Brewing, I wanted to be sure to try one of their dark ales, so I went with the one I thought had the best name: Victory at Sea Imperial Porter. Given its potency--10%--I had a sensible 8oz. pour. My beer showed up looking black, with some ruby highlights. According to BP's tap list, this big porter was brewed with vanilla and Caffe Calabria coffee produced in San Diego.

Mocha is the most obvious aromatic note. The beer smelled strong and sweet, with coffee and chocolate leading the way. To my palate, Victory at Sea was rich in roasted malts, coffee notes, and booze. Lots of vanilla, too. It moves from very sweet to slightly bitter, and left me feeling WAY mellow and pleased with myself.

Rich and full, but a touch too sweet, I found Victory at Sea to be an enjoyable, filling beer. The heavy use of vanilla in the process way a bit much for me, but the coffee flavours came through beautifully.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 16 October 2016


I did a fair bit of beery damage during my visit to Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits in San Diego, California. One of the beers I sampled was an APA called Grunion. Trying to be responsible, I limited my intake of the 5.5% brew to an 8oz. pour. The beer showed itself to be a cheery golden ale, with a slight haze and a white head. According to the tap list, this brew is a mosaic hop number and it won gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014. On to the beer!

Papaya and juicy, juicy mango were the dominant aromas on display in this brew. As for flavour, tropical fruit continued from bow to stern, culminating in an unexpectedly dry, bitter finish. This was a class ale--really fruity and fun, but seriously well made. Of the beers I tried at BP, this was the one that'd give the valedictory address.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Big Eye IPA

My good pal MM turned me on to Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits and their Grapefruit and Pineapple Sculpin IPAs. So when I found myself in San Diego, their Little Italy location was a must-see spot.

I arrived mid-afternoon with a powerful thirst and a hunger to match. While I waited for my shrimp tacos, I kept myself amused with a pint of Big Eye IPA, a 7% alcohol job. Served on tap, my brew arrived sporting a copper hue, relatively clear, and topped with a thin white head. The nose suggested a well balanced India Pale Ale, as it featured a goodly amount of woodsy hops as well as a sturdy malt streak. The flavour proved quite bitter, in favour of crackling dry hops, built atop a malty base.

Big Eye had to compete with pretty lofty expectations, and performed reasonably well. Less fruity and memorable than the Sculpins, but well built and solid. In truth, had I ready access to both choices, I'd likely buy more of the Big Eye, in spite of the fact that the Pineapple Sculpin in particular is a more interesting and higher-rated brew.

It should also be noted that my shrimp tacos were scrumptious.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Scripps Pier Oyster Stout

Scripps Pier Oyster Stout comes from San Diego, California's South Park Brewing Co., a little outfit that I checked out with my father during a recent trip to Southern California. Nice place, too. Good vibe in a cool neighbourhood.

The beer was black and pretty, topped with a very thin off-white head. According to the South Park website, the beer had a modest 5.2% alcohol and it's brewed using "filtered salt water available to the public at Scripp's Pier". Very malty, sweet and slightly chocolatey through the nose. The flavour walked a similar line, with roasted malt playing lead, a bit of sweets, and a touch of tobacco, before it turned a bit bitter at the finish.

Pretty nice little stout--light-bodied but flavourful.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Deep Tracks

New, or at least new to me, is Deep Tracks, an American Brown Ale from the "normal is weird" crowd at Barrie, Ontario's Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery. Sold in 473mL cans featuring a guitar-wielding lad walking a dirt track, this ale contained a heady 6.2% alcohol and 45 IBUs. The beer poured with an impossibly fluffy off-white head. Beneath that, it proved to be a dark brown ale with ruby highlights.

To my nose, Deep Tracks had a very mild smell--caramel maltiness leaning on a faintly bitter foundation. The flavour had a bit more oomph. It started sweetly, with caramel goodness leading the way. Behind that came a mellow finish, turning up just slightly at the very end with a crackle of hops bitterness. In terms of mouthfeel, this ale was creamy and smooth.

While Deep Tracks wasn't as bitter and assertive as many of the American Brown Ales I've sipped in the past, it did have a lovely character that left me feeling peaceful and jolly. If Flying Monkeys keep brewing this stuff, I'm sure I'll keep buying it--it has the cache needed to worm its way into my semi-regular Ontario beer purchasing repertoire.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Hey Day

A hefeweizen from Vancouver, British Columbia, Hey Day is a representative of Granville Island Brewing Co.'s "Under the Bridge Series." Sold in 473mL cans, the hefe is a cloudy orange grog with a thick white head. It contains 5% alcohol and 15 IBUs.

To my nose, this wheat ale smells potently of bananas. The flavour has a similar bent, though supplemented by a light spice note. The mouthfeel is mellow and mild, with little bitterness and much refreshment.

I liked this beer alright, but found it to be a bit too sweet for comfort. All in all, a fine wheat that I may well repurchase, but nothing remarkable or momentous.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Black Bellows' White

In an extremely stylish 500mL bottle comes Black Bellows' White, a 5% alcohol beer brewed in Collingwood, Ontario by Black Bellows Brewing Co. Billed as a take on the Belgian wit, "with a hint of elderflower", this stuff sounded pretty good to me.

The brew initially poured clear, but after a swirl and a secondary pour, the beer took on the cloudy, yeasty look of a conventional wit. It's aroma was yeast-focused, but built around a potent fragrance of spices. Thin at first, the mouthfeel picked up steam on the back end. Flavour was spicy, yet refreshing.

Black Bellows' White was a tasty take on the popular Belgian style. Not particularly memorable, but certainly not flawed in any way, this was simply a well made beer.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Delicious IPA

Bit of a hiatus while I vacationed in San Diego, but now I'm back with a vengeance.
Delicious IPA is an interesting innovation from Southern California brewing giant Stone Brewing Co. on its face, delicious looks like many others--cloudy, orange brown grog, thin off-white head, 7.7% alcohol, 355mL bottle. However, according to the label, this brew was "crafted ... in a revolutionary way to make it gluten-reduced." That's pretty rad, especially since there are no unusual ingredients like sorghum. Just beer, somehow magically gluten-reduced. Witchcraft? Maybe.

The beer itself is possessed of a punishingly bitter citrus nose--lots of grapefruit notes here, as well as a bit of tangerine. The flavour, too, is aggressively bitter and decidedly inclined toward citrus elements. The mouthfeel is a bit curious, however--unusually thin and quite short. As well, the finish, which is mostly hoppy and grapefruit-focused, has a slightly odd chemical subtext to it.

Overall, Stone's Delicious IPA is certainly that. It's innovative and tasty, with, as might be expected, a few quirks. I'm all for making good beer available to more people, so this magical gluten-reducing process is to be commended. While it might result in a few questionable notes, these are truly minor, and easily masked by a beer that hits the three Bs: bold, bitter, and boozy. The finish is, it should be noted, a wee bit thin.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.