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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.

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