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Friday, July 28, 2017

San Diego 2017 - Part 4: Mista Vista

Today, the plan was to head north to Vista, where a large number of new breweries began popping up over the last few years. This craft brewery boom is partly the result in aggressive tax breaks given to breweries for opening in Vista. While I can't back this up with a citing or quotation from the Internet (or otherwise), somebody from one of the breweries out there told me. Or perhaps it was Nicole's husband Jon. Or perhaps I read it somewhere. Either way, it seems to be true.   

But first, we made a quick detour to Green Flash Cellar 3, which is "kind of" on the way up to Vista. Regardless, it's worth a stop. We discovered Cellar 3 two years ago on our last trip, and fell in love with this place. For those not in the know, Cellar 3 is Green Flash Brewing Company's experimental and barrel-aging facility, where you'll find racks of assorted barrels, many foeders, and a huge list of sour and wood-aged treats. In addition, they also serve Green Flash and Alpine's core brands, none of which we imbibed during our visit. Because wood. Wood, Jerry. Wood. 

Wood is good! Foeders at Cellar 3. 

If you want to try a variety of beers here, then I highly suggest you do 4oz. pours. Some of the beers are pretty hefty in ABV, so be warned. Check out some of these tantalizing selections we sampled:
  • Brilliant Sauvage - wild ale aged in red wine barrels with passion fruit.
  • Lustrous Frumento with Coffee - 13.1% ABV black ale (aka Imperial Stout) matured in freshly-emptied Old Forrester bourbon barrels for 30 months, then steeped with cold brew coffee made from a blend of Brazilian and Sumatran beans from San Diego coffee roaster, Mostra. Think lots of spicy oak, smooth vanilla, caramel, and rich coffee notes. Probably my favorite of the lot. 
  • Natura Morta with Boysenberry - Belgian-style saison aged in wine barrels with Brett and boysenberry.
  • Sepia Frumento - 13.5% ABV bourbon barrel-aged barleywine with orange zest and cherries.
  • Lustrous Frumento with Luxardo Cherries - See above + Luxardo (gourmet Maraschino) cherries.
  • We Were Here First! - 11.6% ABV bourbon barrel-aged golden strong ale brewed with crimson raisins. 

Pleeps chillin' with my Kool-Aid.
Needless to say, this place has risen to the top of our "must-hit" places in San Diego. Green Flash is doing some amazing experimental, barrel-aged and sour beers at this beautiful facility, so I can't imagine a trip to San Diego without stopping here, despite it being off the beaten path.

Small batch on the left, standard stuff on the right.
Shadowing its elegant beers, the space of Cellar 3 itself is equally as refined. The place is neat, tidy, and upscale without coming across as stuffy or pretentious. It kind of reminds me of a winery run by beer geeks. The whole vibe of the place conveys an artistic vision of the beer itself. I guess I mean that the beer is the art, but the art is the beer. OK, that sounds dumb. Perhaps this photo will better illustrate the point I'm attempting to get across:

One of my Instagram pics that turned out pretty cool!

Bottom line: If you're visiting San Diego and like beer, do yourself a favor and go there! It definitely is one of the more memorable beer destinations in the area.

Our next stop was Second Chance, a new brewery for us. Inside, the floor plan is massive, with a wide-open seating plan, various games, and space for private gatherings. One such gathering was actually taking place when we arrived, so we grabbed two seats at the bar. After perusing the beer list, we decided to share a sampler flight.

Splintered sunlight outside Second Chance.

Here's the skinny on our flight:
  • What Gose Round Comes Around - Gose brewed with pink Himalayan sea salt. Collab with the Pink Boots Society, an organization created to assist, inspire and encourage women beer industry professionals to advance their careers through education.
  • Seize the Coffee - special version of the flagship Seize the IPA infused with local cold brew coffee from Monstra Coffee. 
  • Tabula Rasa - porter brewed with toasted oats. Nuts, coffee and chocolate. 
  • CoCo Rasa - porter with vanilla beans, cacao nibs, and toasted coconut. Yum!
Obligatory Pour Travelers sampler flight shot with Pleeps.

While we were there, we ended up having a nice conversation with an older fellow who turned out to be a local. He even offered to buy us a beer, but unfortunately we had to get moving, because our itinerary included another full day of brewery visits.

In digging a little bit post-trip for some additional brewery information (including some background on the name Second Chance), it seems like the brewery's moniker is a fitting one, considering its proud support of charitable non-profit organizations (some of which are no-kill animal shelters offering a "second chance" on life) as well as the refurbished items used to built its tasting room. You can read in-depth about all of this here. This made me smile! :-)

I don't know that we've ever skipped Lost Abbey/Port Brewing during one of our trips to San Diego. It's long been one of our favorites, and the tasting room actually hasn't changed much since our initial visit. We've had virtually every beer they've done, so we decided to share a 375mL bottle of one of Brewslut's favorites, Red Poppy. I like this beer quite a bit, but she LOVES it. Needless to say, her face lit up when I suggested we split a bottle of it for our inaugural Lost Abbey beer of the visit.

This beer, inspired by the state flower of California, is Lost Abbey's interpretation of a Belgian Flanders-style red ale. Red Poppy celebrates the cherry in all its glory, resulting in an explosion of sour cherry pucker with traces of cinnamon, oak, and vanilla around the edges. While it's always a pleasure to share this with the wife, I definitely prefer Cuvee de Tomme over this one by a pretty favorable margin.

Pleeps guarding our bottle of Red Poppy.

Up next, I opted for a pour of the Hop Concept: Citrus & Piney. I'd sampled one of these on our previous trip to San Diego, and I'd just assumed that these were a line of Port's experimental offerings. However, I recently learned that Hop Concept is, in fact, its own operation based out of San Marcos, CA. Its "Hop Freshener" series features four different beers designed to allow the prospective drinker to select a beer "in the now" based on what IPA flavor profile he or she prefers. You can read more about the Hop Freshener series here

Pleeps is down with hops, too!

Something new we hadn't had from Lost Abbey yet was its new Ex Cathedra, a barrel-aged Quad. This decadent beer begins with Lost Abbey’s Belgian Quad, Judgment Day, which is aged in Bourbon barrels for over a year before being spiked with orange peel, ginger, and a variety of spices. Overall, it was quite enjoyable, although it was perhaps just a bit too heavy on the anise, which gave a slight licorice finish. Luckily, there was plenty of other interesting flavors whirling around my palate to be too sidetracked by the anise. Overall, I'm glad we got to try this one!

We had gotten in touch with Nicole and Jon since they lived in the area. Last time, we met Nicole at Mother Earth (also in Vista) but we skipped it this time in lieu of some newer, uncharted territory. We decided to meet at Latitude 33, yet another brewery occupying an industrial park.

Outside Latitude 33.

The beers here were pretty solid but not as memorable as ones from some of our other stops throughout the day. Perhaps the most memorable thing about Latitude 33 was their sampler flight presentation. Here's what we sampled:

  • Mangoveza IPA - fruity and tropical IPA with a hint of habañero heat.
  • Lifted Embargo IPA - flagship IPA with a dry, crisp, citrusy character.
  • Ocean Grown IPA - DIPA hopped with Motueka, Nelson, Citra and Mosiac.
  • Breakfast Stout - Oatmeal coffee stout brewed with Ryan Bros. Coffee. I smell dark roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, and a cease and desist from a little brewery in Grand Rapids, MI. 

Sample glasses served in cupcake tins!

After Latitude 33, we took a very short two-minute drive to our next stop, Toolbox. I wasn't sure what to expect with a name like Toolbox. I always think of "toolbox," "toolbag," etc. as derogatory terms. You don't want to be associated with a tool (unless you're talking about the band; then it's open for debate). Turns out this place is totally legit, and they've carved out an interesting niche for themselves in the largely IPA-saturated beer scene of San Diego. Toolbox is churning out some incredibly complex sour and barrel-aged beers in the same vein as Lost Abbey. They have a knack for brewing Belgian-inspired wild ales, and while their tap list was dominated by these types of beers, they did have a pair of hazy IPAs on tap (which we didn't try). Instead, I wanted to focus on what they considered their forte: barrel-aged sours.

Inside the Toolbox.

Brewslut started off light with Bog Sauce, a light, tart Berliner Weisse brewed with raspberries and cranberries. I can't recall if I've ever come across a cranberry Berliner Weisse in our travels, so this was a welcome surprise. I find it to be one of the more tart berries out there, so it seems like a no-brainer for a brewery to toss some into a sour wheat beer such as a Berliner Weisse. Right?  

For my first beer, I chose La Cuvée Concorde (The Harmony Blend), a barrel-aged blended saison. This sucker was super-complex, boasting notes of cherry pie filling, grape tannins, oak, and some barnyard funk. To learn more about this beer (including the different barrels, yeast and bacteria used to create this gem), click here.

Looks like a science experiment.

Next, we enjoyed Eau d' Vine Rouge, a barrel-aged American wild ale with Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. They age this beer for 6 to 18 months in French oak barrels with a mixture of wild yeast strains and bacteria. The result is an incredibly vinous beer with lots of ripe grape flavor and fairly sharp acidity. A really dry Cab Franc is probably my favorite type of wine, so it was a joy to see a beer aged on this kind of grape.

We finished up with Flavor of Love, a barrel-aged American Wild Ale with passion fruit. I couldn't help but think of Flava Flav (yeah booooooooooiiiiiiieeeeee!) when I ordered this beer. Truth be told, this beer may have been even more complex than the inner-workings of N.W.A.'s beloved "hype man" California Chardonnay barrels for 14 months and fermented with golden passion fruit.

Toolbox is sportin' some serious wood!

Up next, we decided to hit up a place that had been recommended to us from our bartender at Bay City Brewing. In addition to some tasty beers, she promised wizards, dragons, and other blasts from my role-playing childhood past. I must admit, the D&D geek inside of me couldn't resist paying a visit to the newly opened BattleMage. She had also mentioned, "If you like Magic the Gathering, then you'll love these guys!" While I never played this fantasy card game, I was still intrigued.

Yes, that's Magic the Gathering cards wallpapering the walls.

By this time of day, we were extremely hungry, but hadn't had the opportunity to eat since we'd been visiting "tasting rooms" with no food. Much to our chagrin, BattleMage was also devoid of foodstuff. Luckily, there was a nearby pizza place that delivered directly to the tasting room, so we ordered subs and fries. Good enough for us to help soak in more beer!

I kicked off with a beer that might have the most matter-of-fact name I've come across: The Beer Is Dark And Full of Caffeine. One could only surmise that this would be a coffee stout. I was correct in my assumption. This was a solid milk stout with a fairly strong coffee note. I rarely pass up the opportunity to try a new coffee stout or porter when I come across one in our travels. This one didn't blow me away, but it was respectable for a brewery that had only been open for less than two months. These guys are so new, their Untappd page hasn't even been claimed yet.

The other beer I sampled was Hopdouken, BattleMage's stab at a West Coast IPA. Again, respectable but not mind-blowing. This is fine, by the way. I don't expect to be pleasantly bitch-slapped by a new beer or brewery every time. I'm just glad to visit a new place with its own niche that's brewing drinkable beers. These guys are definitely following their own - to use the parlance of the Middle Ages - quest.

The BattleMage guys were happy to chat about beer with us, and they offered us a few samples of their other offerings, which was nice of them. By this time, a bathroom break was in order. I'd snapped a few interesting pics of brewery bathrooms in the past. A few that come to mind are Diamond Knot outside Seattle (the impetus for Al's keg urinals) and Bunker in Portland, ME (sign reading "Employees must carve Slayer into forearms before returning to work"). BattleMage joins the short list of intriguing bathroom pics in my collection. Here you go:

Even the TP dispensers fit the theme at BattleMage.

I gotta admit, Booze Brothers wasn't even on my list of places to stop. I was kind of turned off by the name of the place. It reminded me of two Frat brothers butt-chugging Jagermeister just to get wasted. While I enjoy partaking from the occasional shot or cocktail, I'm obviously a "beer guy" (hence the blog). However, the guys at BattleMage said this place had hands-down the best atmosphere of all the breweries in the area. So we decided we had one more stop left in us before heading back to Dano's.

Inside Booze Brothers. Some of the best ambiance of the trip!

Turns out the BattleMage guys weren't just right about the atmosphere, but the people and beers were great as well! Here's what we enjoyed during our visit, which turned out to be a bit longer than we'd anticipated:
  • Buena Vista IPA - Booze Brothers' flagship IPA hopped with Eureka, Citra, and El Dorado.
  • Bella Goat - Red Belgian IPA with hints of stone fruit and pine. Got this one just for the name!
  • Crow Jane IPA - IPA with pineapple and tropical notes. 
  • Raspberry Deliverance - Raspberry ale brewed with wild yeast and Mosaic hops. Brewed for the Beer to the Rescue fundraising campaign.
Fifteen taps, little man...

I don't even remember how it happened, but shortly after we walked in, I got to talking music with the bartender, and we quickly bonded over Frank Zappa. He then proceeded to change the music to Zappa for several songs. This place had a sort of western ranch or barn vibe and boasted a huge floor plan with many different tones of wood and plant life, a sweet bar, and even a cozy open-air beer garden in the back reminiscent of horse stalls.

Beer Garden area outside Booze Brothers.

We may have had one more place on the list for this evening. We had tried to swing by Bear Roots, but they were closed to the public for a private event. We overheard a few jokes being told by a comedian inside, and honestly we were glad we couldn't get in... if you know what I mean. We'll definitely keep them on our list for next time.

Speaking of next time, be sure to tune in again soon for another day's beer adventures in San Diego. Until next time, Pleeps gets the last word...

Pensive Pleeps.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

San Diego 2017 - Part 3: All roads lead back to OB

Our day began with a visit to 32 North. I didn't remember visiting there two years ago, but as soon as we walked in, I remembered the place. Turns out our last visit occurred shortly after they opened in 2014, so they hadn't been open a year. I remembered not being completely sold on their beer, but I liked the place. Seems as though the last two years were kind to them, as their space grew to accommodate more tanks. Those tanks are churning out some pretty tasty beer these days.

I started the day with a pint of Best Coast IPA, the brewery's flagship IPA. This particular version was cask conditioned with whole cone Simcoe hops and served via beer engine. It did not disappoint. They bill this as a "throwback to classic IPAs" and I definitely agree. This took me back to a decade or so prior when we'd first visited San Diego and sampled a variety of West Coast IPAs for the first time. The mouthfeel of this beer was pure cask bliss, soft and supple with a sweet Simcoe nose of citrus fruit and pine sap. It even looked great in the glass. This one was meant for the cask!

My view from the bar at 32 North.

Brewslut grabbed a pour of Mighty Mouse, a session IPA brewed with more than 2lbs. of hops per barrel, giving it an invigorating hop aroma. It was pretty solid overall, but I was digging the Best Coast so much that I kind of shrugged it off. We completed our visit with a pint of Hello, Darkness, an oatmeal stout brewed with local Nomad Donuts coffee and served via nitrogen.

Pleeps loves his stouts!

Dano referred us to our next stop (although he hadn't been there yet). Thunderhawk Alements is a new kid on the block of the ever-expanding San Diego craft beer scene. Only open a few months, they are situated in a small industrial park in the midst of about a dozen other small breweries in the Miramar area. The name struck me as kind of odd for a brewery, but it was easy to remember because I once sat in with a country band called Thunderhawk for a few shows. True story! With about seven beers on tap, we decided to go with a sampler flight for four beers. Here's the low-down:

  • Westworld - pale ale dry-hopped with Cascade and Chinook.
  • Torreyana - saison brewed with orange blossom honey and ginger, and fermented with American oak.
  • Electric Youth - Coffee pale ale with Pacamara beans. I couldn't help but get the Debbie Gibson song stuck in my head for a while thanks to this beer's name!
  • Prince of Zamunda - chocolate stout with cacao nibs and Madagascar vanilla beans. This may very well have won the "best beer name" of the trip award... if such an award existed!

View from my barstool atThunderhawk.

For a start-up brewery, it appears that they're off to a great start! We enjoyed talking with one of the owners (unfortunately his name escapes me, although he reminded me of Tom Morello, guitarist for Rage Against the Machine). Rather than pick our favorite of the line-up, we decided to share a half pour of Over There, classic German dunkelweizen that was nice and roasty with minimal smokey character. Brewslut ain't down with smoked beers. This was a good interpretation of the style and stuck to the basics. I'd read about a big West Coast IPA called Punt Gun when I checked out their web site. Sadly, it was on recently but had kicked, so we wouldn't be trying it this time. The English major in me just loves the assonance in that beer name (plus I love using the word "assonance," so it's a win-win)!

Up next was a spot we visited many, many times in the past. However, on this particular visit, a new brewery moved into the premises. Since our last visit, Mikkeller had recently inhabited the old AleSmith brewery in Miramar. Yes, the renowned Danish brewery now has a tasting room in San Diego. And talk about a tap list! When we arrived, we were greeted to a veritable smorgasbord of interesting sounding beers. See?

Look familiar? 

Small pours and sample sizes were definitely appreciated, as we wanted to try an assortment of the beers available. I began my journey with Windy Hill, Mikkeller's interpretation of a hazy NE-style IPA with Mosaic hops. (Editor's note: I'm getting sick of typing hazy NE-style IPA... damn, there I go again!) Despite that fact, it was my favorite beer of the bunch. Hazy Hazemith was another hazy NE-style IPA we sampled, and yet another beer going after the "haze craze" with a clever name to boot.

20+ beers on tap at Mikkeller's tap room.

One of the owners of Thunderhawk mentioned Foggy Figures, NE style Black IPA with Columbus, Simcoe and Chinook Hops, so I had to try that one as well. I must admit that I hadn't yet come across a hazy NE-style black IPA in my travels, so this was a first. This one was pretty dank and roasty, and not bad in the grand scheme of things. Up next was Don't Call Me Ol' Fashion, a dark lager with raspberry, tangerine, cherry and vanilla sugar. Weighing in at 11%, we felt it prudent to get a sampler size pour of this sucker. Overall, this beer sounded better on paper, although it was still enjoyable. I think the flavor profile would have worked better in a lighter style such as a cream or amber ale.

There were a lot of high octane beers on tap in the 10% ABV range, which we unfortunately (albeit understandably) avoided in lieu of allowing for more quantity and thus more brewery stops during the day. Our last beer was a hoppy pilsner called Midwest Dream that was well-done.

Cool, colorful mural at Mikkeller.

Pure Project is located right next door to Cy's new Amplified location in Miramar. I'd read good things about this new brewery, which was not in existence during our last visit. They had plenty of variety on the tap list, so we opted for a shared sampler flight. Here's the deets:
  • Sunset Crush - cream ale with organic strawberries and vanilla.
  • Valle Pura Vida - blonde ale with ginger and orange peel.
  • La Vie En Rosé - hibiscus saison with local honey.
  • Evangeline - Gose brewed with 100% European barley, organic California grapefruit, organic coriander from Egypt and pink Himalayan sea salt from Salt Farms in San Diego.
FIVE... five beers... a ha ha ha haaaaa!

If you notice, the picture above shows five beers. However, when I consulted my Untappd check-ins after the trip, I only noticed four beers listed. D'oh! Brewslut seems to have also missed one, so the fifth beer here is a mystery. Perhaps Pleeps chugged it when our backs were turned. 

After spending some time at Pure Project, it was off to another new brewery. Longship Brewery opened its doors in June 2016 and joined the ranks of dozens of other small, hopeful breweries in the area. I'd gotten in touch with my old high school friend, Nicole, who'd been living in San Diego for several years now. We'd gotten together two years ago at Mother Earth for a beer after having not seen each other since high school graduation. Turns out her husband Jon is really into the beer scene as well, so he was happy to join us at a few breweries in their backyard.

Digging the fonts at Longship.

They arrived at the tail end of our visit to Longship. While we were there, we encountered a mixed bag of beers (including one that was unfortunately not enjoyable due to heavy diacetyl). Still, I enjoyed the Funeral Pyre, one if not the only smoked porter I encountered during our trip. The other beers we sampled were Topaz SMASH, a hazy (there's that word again) juicy IPA brewed with Topaz hops. Olaf the Stumbler (another awesome beer name) was the other. This dry, hoppy India Pale Lager featured tropical fruit notes, but if memory serves me correctly, this was the one that was flawed.

We also encountered an awesome, chill brewery dog at Longship whom garnered much of my attention. Sadly, I can't recall the mutt's name. But this is him.

Coolest dog of the trip... besides Stubby, of course!

Nicole and Jon joined us at Green Flash, another place that has blown up since we first started visiting San Diego. Their new-ish brewery and tasting room seems to keep expanding every time we visit. As you probably know, Green Flash acquired/joined forces (whatever you want to call it) with Alpine Beer Company, one of favorites of the old guard. Their hoppy beers used to be some of my absolute favorites. Sadly, beers like Nelson and Duet just don't have the same impact on me since Green Flash and Alpine became one entity. Of course, I always hate when people complain that "Nugget Nectar isn't as good as it was when they brewed it in Harrisburg," so I guess I can chalk it up to my ever-changing palate and not - as many would think - changes in beers' recipes.

Jon was talking up a new IPA called HFS. Brewed with Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe hops, I assumed this is an acronym for "holy fucking shit." It was good, but not that good! Brewslut opted for What's Golden IPA, a collaboration with Parallel 49 Brewing based out of Vancouver, BC, Canada. To quote the breweries: “We’ve matched a West Coast style IPA with techniques common to the newly popular New England IPA. Hop aromas of citrusy tropical fruit combine with a smooth and creamy mouth feel for a winning East-meets-West collab.” So there you go.

After a fun stop at Green Flash, we parted ways with Nicole and Jon and headed back to Dano's to regroup and plan our evening. Turns out we were heading back to OB again for another romp around Newport Avenue. Fine with me!

First up, of course, was PPOB. I never turn down an opportunity to stop here for a beer. On this occasion, I went with Same Hops Different, a... wait for it... hazy NE-style IPA. This particular one was hopped with Mosaic and Citra. Can't go wrong with those hops. This style has become so popular that even Pizza Port took a stab at brewing one. This was tasty as expected, but I'll stick with their West Coast style IPAs, which are some of the best out there.

Back at Kilowatt, it was packed. Cy and some friends were out at a nearby restaurant and ended up here at the same time as us, so we hung out for a bit. Luke was also working his shift, so we got hooked up. On this particular visit, I opted for the Red Wine Barrel Aged Wheat Wine, which I was eyeing up the other day. This rich, high gravity ale aged in red wine barrels boasted bready wheat and fruity yeast flavors. I enjoyed it, but not as much as the Gin Barrel Aged Tripel, which was phenomenal. During our visit, we enjoyed a pour of the Passion Fruit Green Tea Ale, a pale ale infused with green tea and passion fruit as the name would imply. I also tried the 250 KWH IPA, Kilowatt's flagship and best-selling IPA. This IPA features a bunch of rarely seen hops including Kohatu, Rakau, Southern Cross, and Falconer’s Flight to produce a melange of piney, floral, fruity and citrus notes. (Editor's note: Sorry for the lack of pictures for the last few paragraphs. I was too busy being social with, you know, actual people!)

Somewhere along the way, I grabbed an amazing vegan hot dog from a street vendor. By this time, I don't remember much about it other than it was the greatest thing I ever tasted. This happens quite often after I've been drinking all day. I can't tell you how many times I've had "the best INSERT FOOD HERE in my life" after a full day of drinking. At some point, we also stopped at another bar for a quick cocktail, however both Brewslut and I abstained and rested our livers, if only for a brief amount of time. Dano's girlfriend Jen doesn't drink beer, but she will imbibe in the occasional wine and mixed drinks. Fair enough, especially since she has to hang out with three beer geeks all night.

Our final stop of the evening was OB Brewery. This was our first visit to OB Brewery, as they were not yet open during our previous visit. Brewslut decided to follow the lighter path and ordered a pour of Long Time Coming, a straight up cream ale. Me? Not so much. I settled on Malicious Journalist, a dry-hopped DIPA hopped with Citra, Simcoe and Cascade. Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about the beers since I had them at the conclusion of a long, productive day of brewery crawling. But we did have an awesome view.

View from the rooftop at OB Brewery overlooking Newport Ave.

See? Great view, right? After a fun night bopping around Dano's old stomping grounds, we Ubered back to his place and, to be honest, I don't really recall much of what else happened that evening. Must have been fun, I suppose. Until next time, I'll leave you with this...

Another drunken selfie at unknown whereabouts.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

San Diego 2017 - Part 2: Welcome to the Flavordome

Our second full day in San Diego just may have been our most ambitious day of the trip. Kicking off the day with breakfast, we were bummed to learn that our favorite spot, Rancho in OB, was no longer open. Apparently some racist landlord caused the owners to vacate the premises. Turns out they are operating under a new name at the same location and with the same menu. D'oh! Unfortunately, we found out about this on our last day in San Diego, so next time we'll need to make up for it. Today, however, we grabbed breakfast at a sweet little nook called Breakfast Republic. It was 10:30 a.m. and they had a pretty solid tap selection with some choice local nuggets. Never one to utilize a "drinking clock," I subscribe to the rule that "it's always 12 o'clock somewhere." That somewhere was here and that someone was me. I needed a beer...Now.

Cue Magical & Delicious, a Pale Ale from one of our favorite finds from two years ago - Fall Brewing. I couldn't help but think about the Lucky Charms cereal commercial. They're magically delicious, you know. Thankfully, this beer carried me off to a far-away land completely devoid of annoying, messy children - much like the ones that were at the table directly next to us, but I managed to mute them somehow. I'm much better at this than my travel mate, Brewslut. She need some kind of mantra when we encounter these little shitballs while we're trying to be productive (i.e. out drinking). Although the place was loud and booming, the food was bangin' and filling, and the coffee was good. A lot of the places we visited had hot coffee and little dixie cups outside while customers waited for tables. What a splendid idea! Plus, its logo is a big cock, so that's a plus in my book.

Early goat gets the beer.

We arrived at Toronado to "officially" kick off our day right when they were supposed to open. That would be 11:30 a.m. However, the bartender was a bit tardy, so we had to wait outside for about five minutes until she unlocked the door. C'mon! Your cuttin' into my drinkin' time, Toronado! Seriously, though... don't let it happen again! All kidding aside, we were the first customers to show up, although a few stragglers wandered in shortly after we arrived. I'd noticed that several of the beers had changed since we visited less than 48 hours ago. More hazy NE IPAs have infiltrated the San Diego scene. Like I said, I can't help but order these when I see them on tap. We settled on two pints -
Hitched on Haze from the unknown-to-us Burgeon Beer Co. and 28 Haze Later from the more familiar Beachwood. Perhaps the word "haze" will end up getting overused for the names of these beers, much like "Gose" (i.e. "There Gose the Neighborhood") or "Hop" for IPAs (i.e. "Hop" then insert any word here to indicate it's an IPA). Both satisfied my curiosity and craving for hops, but they were essentially the exact same beer with virtually no discernible differences other than a subtly different hop finish only an advanced palate such as mine could detect. OK, that sounded kinda cocky. But you catch my drift.

Pleeps is in a daze... I mean haze.

After a pair of pints at Toronado, it was off to one of our favorite spots, the Modern Times "Flavordome." What a great, evocative name for such a hip place. Like she always does, Brewslut recognized the bartender from two years ago. After jogging my memory, I remember that we talked to her last time and also realized that her best friend was our tour guide at Stone several visits ago (she now works at Modern Times). Go figure!

What to get... what to get...

On our last trip, we visited each location twice so we could try everything they had available. Yeah, that's how much we liked this brewery. This time, I came up with an ambitious scheme to visit one of the Modern Times locations each day of the trip for at least one beer each. Sadly, that never panned out. A few years ago, we did actually visit Pizza Port OB every single day of our 11-day trip and had at least one beer each. If that's not commitment, I don't know what is!

The many different shades of Flavordome.

For this particular visit, we'd limit ourselves to two half pours each, then share them. That way, you drink the equivalent of a single pint but get to check in four new beers on Untappd. See? We have this shit figured out. First up was Orderville, described as its "most palate-crushing IPA to date," and City of the Dead, a foreign export stout loaded with bourbon barrel-aged coffee beans. Let's just say it was good to be back.

I noticed a guy sitting at a nearby table wearing a Bitter Brothers shirt and baseball cap. They were on my list of "new places to hit" based on recommendations from a few on-line San Diego magazines I checked out in advance. I thought it might be prudent to research the highest-rated new breweries of 2015 and 2016 prior to our trip. Bitter Brothers was one that had opened within the span of our last trip. I asked about the beer, and he revealed that he was a sales rep for the new brewery. Needless to say, he thought the beer was good. But he also said he was a fan of Modern Times, (hence him being there and, you know, drinking their beer) so I knew he had good taste. He gave me his business card and said to give it to the bartender for a complimentary sampler flight. That was mighty nice of him. His name was Corey, by the way. But more on Bitter Brothers later.

Pixelated diskettes plaster the walls at Flavordome.
For our second beers, we opted for Fruitlands, their rotating Gose fermented with different types of fruit. This one featured blood orange and hibiscus, and the two flavors played together quite nicely, like 6-year-old best friends in a sandbox. Promising to take my palate to "Party Town," Tetra City DIPA featured an abundance of hops - namely Citra - for a punch of tropical fruit. (Editor's note: Check out Modern Times' beer descriptions on Untappd. They're pretty funny.)

"I get the rest!" - Pleeps

Fall Brewing was another great find for us two years ago. This place is about as DIY and punk rock as you can get (although I loathe punk rock and consider it "anti-music"). We actually though the brewery had closed since our last visit because Fall didn't appear on the San Diego Craft Beer Guild map we were using. Turns out this actually served as an "F-you" to the establishment. Like I said, punk rock.

First on the agenda was Weekend Pirate #8, part of its IPA series they've dubbed "a random IPA adventure." So the pirate theme is fitting. For this particular outing, Fall utilized Nelson, Dr. Rudi, Mosaic, Denali, Calypso, Southern Cross and Simcoe hops to create an overload of fruit on the palate. Any time I see Nelson hops used, I tend to order it. Some of the others were new to me or rarely seen (Denalo and Dr. Rudi, for example) while others are tried-and-true favorites (Nelson, Mosaic and Simcoe). Needless to say, this one was pretty enjoyable.

Apocalypse Pony was up next. Fall brews this rich Imperial Stout with local Dark Horse coffee and real vanilla beans, then serves on nitro for a creamy texture.

Then came Nuclear Strategery, a blended (bourbon and rum) barrel-aged Imperial Stout with coconut. This was one of my favorite beer names of the trip. Any time a brewery can make a great beer and simultaneously poke fun at George W. Bush in the process is OK by me. Because idiot.

Walking back to our car, Brewslut wanted to slide in to a small tasting room called Living Tea, which featured an assortment of kombucha. We'd been to a few kombucheries in the past, most notably Urban Farm in Portland, ME. While I enjoy it, I decided to sit this one out and let Brewslut enjoy a few samples before moving on to the next brewery.

Reminds me of Yellow Submarine.
The boasted an extensive of interesting sounding concoctions including Cherry Chai, Mango Green Tea, Apple Pie, Coconut Peach and a number of others. They also featured an assortment of tea and coffee, as well as something called Kava. We didn't ask about it, sample it, or even research it during the trip. We probably didn't even notice it. Either way, here's what it is. Thanks Wikipedia. Brewslut enjoyed her samples, but alas it was time to move on to more urgent matters.

Variety abounds at Living Tea.

Moving on from the North Park area, it was time to head north to Miramar where the new Amplified Ale Works location is housed. We were happy to see Cy and his brewery growing by adding a new taproom in this beer-soaked area of San Diego. The new digs were less than a mile away from AleSmith (slated as our next stop) and in close proximity of Saint Archer, White Labs, Hess, and one of Ballast Point's many locations. We'd be skipping all of those in lieu of getting some hang time with our pal, Cy. The first time we met Cy, he was working at Ballast Point, and I had the pleasure of sampling some of his tasty home brews at the Homebrew Mart location. I hadn't even started blogging yet. He later moved on to Alpine before finally venturing out on his own with Amplified. (See L'Eggo my San Diego! for reference.) The original location is along the main strip in Mission Beach, a trendier, not-as-laid-back-as-OB beach community. With tourist and beach traffic at its peak near the brewery and parking difficult to secure, I was always less than thrilled about the drive to get there. The destination... well, that's another story.

Outside Amplified's new Miramar digs.

It was great to see Cy and catch up after two years. I had been following the brewery on social media, and was excited to see Amplified hook up with a recent East Coast favorite, Ocelot, to brew a collaboration beer during the Craft Brewers Conference (which was in DC earlier this year). Cy was also quick to offer up some beer, which we were of course happy to sample!

I started light with Power Chord, a Galaxy hopped extra pale ale, which went down too easily. After that, he started with some serious heavy hitters. To quote Dudley "Booger" Dawson: "Step aside mama, I wanna see some of that muff!" Big Muff, that is. Named after a guitar effects pedal that creates a fuzzy, distorted tone, this Big Muff is a rich, boozy barleywine. We tried this side by side with the bourbon barrel-aged version, which was fantastic. Think caramel, toffee, chocolate, and nougat with a slight alcohol tang and you might get a feel for the muff.

Speaking of barleywines, we sampled another one while we were here. This one was named Harmony. The name was fitting considering it is a blended barleywine aged in vintage barrels. All of the flavors were working harmoniously to deliver a complex, malty delight.

Harmony by Amplified Ale Works.

Next up was the barrel-aged version of Rare Form, a Belgian-style Quad. We had the standard version during our last visit, which Cy graciously shared with us. But this barrel-aged version (the 4th release of their annual Quadruple) was off the hook! It was definitely one of my favorite beers of the trip. I'll include the description of the beer to give you an idea of the complexities found inside this bottle:

Aged for 6 months in bourbon barrels, Rare Form is adventurous. It starts out with black cherries, raisins, and figs, and then elegantly transforms into burnt caramel, dark chocolate, and brown sugar before finishing with a kiss of alcohol. 

As if that wasn't enough, Cy whipped out a bottle of Drunken Barrel Reserve #1, a sour Belgian pale ale brewed with Amarillo hops and aged in Cabernet barrels for 15 months. This was indeed a special treat and put a cap on a great visit to Amplified's new tasting room.

Slow down, Pleeps!

Every time we visit AleSmith, it seems like they get bigger each time. The new tasting room is a far cry from the original tiny room we'd first visited 10 years ago. Each time we return to San Diego, it seems as though they've continued to grow. This visit was no different. As a matter of fact, this was easily the most impressive metamorphosis AleSmith had experienced between our visits.

"How can less be more? That's impossible. More is more." - Yngwie J. Malmsteen

This time, I was happy to see a few of the Speedway Stout variations on tap, namely the Nibs & Beans and Thai versions. Speedway has long been a favorite of the Pour Travelers since our first introduction to AleSmith through Deuane many moons ago. Needless to say, we tried both. The Thai version featured notes of lemongrass, ginger and coconut. The aroma was quite pungent and the flavors definitely overpowered the base stout. Nevertheless, it was still an enjoyable variation of this San Diego staple stout. The cacao flavor really shined through in the Nibs & Beans version. Since Speedway is already a coffee stout, I didn't really notice any additional coffee "oomph" with this. But the chocolate was a nice addition and softened it up even more.

Now that's a tap tower!

Since we missed the release of the brand new AleSmith /PPOB collaboration, Logical Choice Triple IPA, I was glad to see it on tap during our visit to AleSmith. This was a sweet, juicy hop bomb of a beer that was actually quite balanced despite its hefty ABV and abundance of hops. I would have liked to have had a full pour of this at some point during the trip, but this wasn't the place, especially with not one but TWO Speedway variations available (both ~ 12% ABV).

The always photogenic Pleeps.

Back near home base, we swung into Bay City, which Dano recommended as a good new brewery. He typically drinks there before and/or after hockey games, which take place in the nearby Valley View Casino Center, just a short stumble from the brewery.

Since we went a bit overboard at Amplified, we decided to stick with a shared sampler flight. Here's the run-down:
  • Coffee Pale Ale - one of my new favorite styles. Coffee flavor and aroma with a light body and hop presence. The coffee really shines through without all of the additional dark malts. 
  • In My Younger Haze - Another "haze" name. See what I told you? This one's a... yup, you guessed it... a hazy IPA. 
  • The City - Double IPA
  • Power Play IPA - a Citra-hopped IPA.

All of the beers were solid, and the place had a casual, spread-out feel. I can see why Bay City is a great spot for hockey pre-gaming. The bartender was also super friendly, and she referred us to a brand new brewery called Battlemage. Apparently, these guys were into Magic the Gathering. I mean, really into it. But more on them later. Since we were only following a very loose itinerary, it was great to get recommendations from the locals, which happened several times on this particular outing.

Mood lighting at Bay City Brewing Co.

We discovered Thorn Street on our last trip two years prior, when we were spending the afternoon brewery hopping with Luke and a group of his friends. I remember the beer being pretty good, but most of my memories of that place involve reading Trivial Pursuit cards with the bartender for like an hour. For some reason, this place feels like I'm drinking in Philly. I don't know why.

Thorn Street, yo.
This visit would be a quicker one, because they were approaching closing time. After perusing the beer board, I opted for a pour of Cocomotive Coconut Porter. Brewslut decided on the Caneros Crush, a kettle soured Saison. Both were pretty tasty, but we were a bit rushed during our visit, so we hung at the bar and chatted with the bartender for a bit. We had met him earlier in the day at Modern Times, the same visit where we met Corey, the sales rep for Bitter Brothers. Seems like everyone in town knows that Modern Times rules!

Just up the street, we stopped in at South Park Abbey to close out the day. Dano had also recommended this beer bar as a potential good stop near Thorn Street. We entered, and this place struck me as your typical craft beer bar with a better than average tap selection mainly consisting of local and regional Cali beers. We snatched two seats at the bar and felt at home with the group of friendly beer drinkers among us.

Random pic I have no idea why I snapped.

I picked one from a brewery with which I was unfamiliar. The beer was Sink with California, a pale ale from King Harbor Brewing based out of Redondo Beach, CA. I typically have difficulty remembering the last stop or two of any given brewery tour day, and this day was no different. I do remember that we enjoyed some comical discussions with a disparate group of what seemed like regulars. Of course, the topic of conversation is a little (OK... a lot) blurred due to my haze (there's that word again) from drinking all day. Trust me, though. It was funny.

All in all, it was a memorable day in San Diego. We set the bar pretty high for the rest of the trip after this day. Thankfully, San Diego has no shortage of amazing breweries. And it was our job to hit as many of them as possible. I mean, who better than us? Sometimes I feel embarrassed when someone asks me, "What did you do on your vacation?" and I reply, "Went to breweries." To which they reply: "Cool. What else?" My response? "Um... that's it." Usually, most people think that's cool. Then I realize that we have no kids, no pets, no "real" responsibilities other than the average everyday ones like bills, mortgage, etc. So I suppose it's OK for us to spend a week or so in a great city and dive deep into its beer culture. One of these days we'll get around to doing some extracurricular activities while traveling. We did, after all, go on a hike in the Rocky Mountains when we visited Colorado. We even went to Ben & Jerry's on a Vermont beer trip. So I suppose we CAN find other things to do. The question, though, is this: Do we want to do anything else? The answer, more often than not, is no. So continue with us on our adventures around San Diego and perhaps you'll come across a few more picture like the one below. Until next time...

Me at the end of the day.
But since we want you to come back and read more, I'll leave you with something a bit more palatable, like this shot of the Mrs. and I:

Thanks for reading.
Or even better, this one:

The REAL star: Pleeps being Pleeps!