Beer Travels

A Must-See: Avery Brewing Company

If you're traveling to Denver or GABF (the Great American Beer Festival), you have to go to Avery Brewing Company. It's a bit of a trek, yes, but it's worth it. If you have just one free afternoon, spend it here.

Craft brewery in Boulder, Co

I did zero research before coming to Avery, so I was surprised to see how large it was. In San Diego, we are accustomed to small breweries in business parks. But Avery is expansive and well designed, nestled in the suburbs of Boulder.

Avery Brewing Company

A friend that I was with remarked that Avery reminded him of Stone Brewing Company, and I think the comparison is spot-on. Both breweries have excellent beer made with high-quality ingredients and an overall attention to detail.

Menu at Avery Brewing Company

There's a smattering of food options available at the brewery. Some items are a little on the pricier side, but many ingredients are locally sourced and the menu changes regularly.

Craft beer at Avery Brewing Company

Disclaimer: there were four of us present! We ordered several tasters and full pours while we kicked back and enjoyed lunch in the tasting room.

Food at Avery Brewing Company

The food was amazing. I chose the Sloppy Seitan, a vegetarian-friendly option, along with some mashed potatoes. We split the How Many Layer Dip between our group.

Rumpkin at Avery Brewing Company

Rumpkin, a rum barrel-aged pumpkin beer, on tap. I debated for a few minutes about whether or not to order it -- it clocks in at 17.5% ABV -- but when in Rome, right? Verdict: delicious.

Outdoors at Avery Brewing Company

The outdoor area has several shaded tables and lawn games. It was crowded on our visit so we opted to dine at a table indoors, but this would be a lovely space in the spring and summer.

Boulder, CO craft brewery

After spending several days exploring downtown Denver breweries, heading to Avery Brewing Company was a welcome change of pace. You probably already get the gist - but seriously - go!


Sampling Beers at Dragoon Brewing Company

After a busy summer, I've needed some R&R. What better way to unwind than with a road trip to a cute desert town? Over Labor Day weekend, I hopped in the car and drove east for six hours to Tucson, Arizona. Did I know much about the city? Nope. Was I excited to explore? Always!

The goal of the trip was not to plan anything. When it comes to vacations, I'm typically overcome with Obsessive Planning Disorder, but this year has made me value downtime more than ever. And I'm happy to report that I stuck to that goal! I visited a few breweries and did some sightseeing, but all at a leisurely pace.

My favorite Tucson brewery was Dragoon Brewing Company.

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I had seen the Dragoon IPA at several bars and restaurants around town, so I wanted Located on the west side of town in an unassuming industrial park, the brewery has a large tasting room. I wasn't sure what to expect when I walked in, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-designed space with plenty of tables and bar seating.

Dragoon Brewing Co

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The bartenders were friendly and guided my boyfriend and me to the flight cards which allowed us to get four tasters for less than $10.

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I sincerely appreciated the amazing beer names, puns, and descriptions on the large chalkboard. A beer called "Ohaygrrl!" with the description, "Here gose nothing, bro"? Yeah, sign me up.

We also tasted the El Baja Especial (American Blond Ale), Unihopper 10 (Single Hop Pale Ale), No School (Double IPA). Pale Ales are typically my go-to, but I enjoyed the gose and double IPA the most. All four were delightful, though.

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Thanks, Dragoon! I'm hopeful we'll come back soon.


Feelin' the Love at Deep Ellum Brewing Co.

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas

I grew up in Dallas and spent my teenage years going to concerts in Deep Ellum, the area near downtown filled with music venues, brick warehouses adorned with street art, cute boutiques, and some of the best barbecue I've ever had. So when I heard that a brewery had opened, I added it to the top of my "things to do when I visit home" list... And it stayed there for quite some time, unfortunately, because I never got the chance to stop by during my quick long-weekend trips.

But I'm happy to say that I finally made it to Deep Ellum Brewing Co., and I was charmed by its industrial decor and tasty beer.

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. opened in 2011 and is a trend-setting, top player in Dallas's craft beer scene. Late last year, they filed a lawsuit against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for the unfair legislation that prohibits Texas breweries from selling beer to-go to consumers. While wineries, distilleries, and brewpubs have the luxury of allowing visitors to buy their products, breweries don't. You can read more about the issue here: Deep Ellum Sues Texas Over “Archaic” Law and on my previous post: What's Happening in Texas Craft Beer.

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas

My boyfriend and I started out with a flight of four tasters, but there were so many styles we wanted to try that we decided to get another flight.

The Dallas Blonde is a nice light, balanced option for those who are just entering the craft beer scene, while the Hop Seeker and Deep Ellum IPA are perfect for bitter-loving hopheads. My favorite was the Play Date, an American sour ale that uses Dallas Blonde as its base, then ferments it to dryness and with dates. A close second was the Oak Cliff Coffee Ale, a brown ale made with beans from Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters.

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas

There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating at the brewery. I'd love to come back during a warm summer night--well, before the Texas heat really sets in--and sit on the patio.

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas

We were fortunate to meet up with Michael Roberts from Brews Travelers 365 during our visit, and he pulled some strings to let us get a quick behind-the-scenes tour. Above is part of the original tasting room set-up.

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas
L-R: my boyfriend (hi Brian), me, and Michael from Brews Travelers 365

The Brews Travelers guys are seriously the best.

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas

love this mural on the outside of the brewery that features several of its characters.

If you're planning a trip to Dallas, pencil in a few hours to walk around the historic Deep Ellum district. The brewery is open every day except Sunday, and you can take a tour during one of their open houses on Thursdays or Saturdays.

 

Visiting Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas, Texas


An Afternoon at Jester King Brewery

As I was preparing for my trip to Austin, I put out a request on social media: What breweries should I visit? I received several recommendations, and there was resounding agreement: Jester King Brewery was a must.

An Afternoon at Jester King Brewery in Texas Hill Country

When the people speak, I listen (as long as they're intelligent, beer-loving folk). I had seen Jester King frequently listed in round-up articles about the best breweries to visit in the U.S., so it was my first brewery stop when I arrived in the Lone Star State.

 

An Afternoon at Jester King Brewery in Texas Hill Country

Set in the Texas Hill Country--about a half-hour drive from Austin--Jester King is an authentic farmhouse brewery famous for its wild and sour ales. Its brewers use spontaneous fermentation, a technique developed in Brussels that begins with brewing all the normal ingredients (grain, hot water, hops) except the active one: yeast. The mixture is left exposed overnight, which allows it to be fermented by natural bacteria and yeast in the air. Those natural bacteria continue to live in the beer as it ages in Jester King's barrels.

Fascinating, right?

An Afternoon at Jester King Brewery in Texas Hill Country

On my visit, it was an unusually cold day so we quickly ducked into the tasting room to order several tasters. Jester King's list is extensive, and because the beers are unique, it's hard to know exactly what to order! We went with five different options for the reasonable price of $12.

Jester King also has guest beer, cider, and wine by the glass.

An Afternoon at Jester King Brewery in Texas Hill Country

An Afternoon at Jester King Brewery in Texas Hill Country

I'm really appreciative of the generous taster size!

I tried: Das Wunderkind!,  Le Petit Prince table beer (one of their flagships), Mad Meg, Vulgar Affectation, and Kollaborationsbier. The latter actually had about two dozen more letters in the name, but I'm lazy. My favorite was Das Wunderkind! which is a blended saison described a "freshly hopped young beer blended with sour barrel-aged beer." Perhaps more reflective of Jester King's options, though, is this description of Vulgar Affectation: "Farmhouse ale brewed with dried horehound and freshly picked lemon beebalm from our fields." Pretty sure I hadn't had horehound in my beer up until this point.

There is so much variety and so many tastes that are incomparable to traditional styles like IPAs, pale ales, browns, etc. My advice is to be adventurous!

An Afternoon at Jester King Brewery in Texas Hill Country

Also: Come hungry. Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza is an independent pizzeria right next door to Jester King, and they have wonderful wood-fired pizzas.

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We stayed until dusk when it just got too chilly! I can't wait to return on a warm Texas day sometime soon.

Have you been to Jester King or any other Texas Hill Country breweries? I'd love to hear about your experience!


Q&A with Brews Travelers 365

Last year, I heard about Brews Travelers 365, two guys from Texas who were taking a year to travel the U.S and visit 365 breweries in 365 days. I was simultaneously fascinated and jealous -- what a cool idea! Beer + road trip + a year off of work? I could deal with that. Brandon Wurtz and Michael Roberts successfully completed their journey in 2014 and more than doubled their goal by visiting an astounding 789 breweries. They documented their travels on their website and social media so fans could live vicariously through them and see all the awesome breweries our country has to offer.

I'm thrilled to share this interview with Brandon and Michael from Brews Travelers 365 today. They were so gracious to answer my questions and share their story.

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All photos c/o Brews Travelers 365

So, you guys pretty much lived my dream for a year! I’d love to hear about your planning process for your journey. How much time was there between the first time you discussed the idea and the first day of your year-long journey?

Michael: On Christmas Day of 2012, we got together and talked about the idea of doing this. We were both immediately 100% into it. It was exactly a year from the time we initially talked about it and the time we made our list [of breweries to visit]. During all of 2013, we were saving up and mapping out breweries to get a general idea of how many breweries were in each state.

I read an interview in which you said that this was your version of the typical “backpacking through Europe” trip that most college grads take.

Brandon: We thought we would have to wait to retirement to do this, but we just went for it.

Michael: Yeah, we were both just about to turn 30 and so the timing was right.

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How did you determine all the brewery stops?

Michael: The planning happened as we went. We knew how many breweries in each state we wanted to go to—for instance, in Louisiana we knew we wanted to go to 5—so we’d talk to people in each state when we got there and decide which ones to visit. We were originally sticking to one brewery a day but realized we were missing a few. So some were deemed “bonus stops.”

Brandon: Yeah, we had a few in mind. We talked to people we would meet at bars to get opinions. On a whim, we ended up going to lots of breweries that had just opened, so plenty of stuff was brand new. Our goal was to find spots that didn't have nationally0distributed beer.

Michael: Right. We did have some big names on our list, though, like The Bruery, New Belgium, and Sierra Nevada. We knew we wanted to go to those.

How did you save for your trip?!

Michael: I was working in the corporate world before the trip. I moved in with a roommate and we didn’t have cable so out went my cable bill, and before we left, I sold my car. We bought a minivan and split payments throughout year we were gone, then we sold it when we got back. Overall, it was about cutting costs and not going out as much.

Brandon: I already had a fair amount of savings and am more frugal.

Michael: We were extremely frugal during the trip as well. We very rarely paid for a place to stay; we usually stayed with someone we met or family friends, or we would park at Walmart in the van – whatever we could do to cut costs.

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And I assume you were pretty sparse in the things you packed, too?

Brandon: We each brought a duffel bag with about two weeks’ worth of clothes. We were fortunate enough to find laundry. We tried to travel lightly.

Michael: I’m pretty sure there was a month I was wearing the same pair of jeans! Luckily we were given a lot of brewery t-shirts, so I’d say our wardrobe nearly quadrupled. Aside from clothes, we traveled with beer coolers and some camping gear.

It seems like you had meetings scheduled with several breweries you visited. Did you contact each brewery before you visited, or just a select few?

Brandon: We did contact the ones that were on our one-stop-a-day list. We tried to give them a week’s heads-up either by email or phone--that was time consuming. Sometimes we didn’t have wifi so we posted up at the library. Nearly everybody was responsive and welcoming. At one brewery—Jackie O’s in Athens, Ohio—we hung out with the owner and brewer all day!

We saw a tight knit community that was developing here in Dallas, where we're from, and we wanted to see if it was the same all across the country. We found that every area has that type of community around their local breweries.

Did you notice any beer trends in different regions of the country?

Michael: If we were at a brewery out in the boonies, they’d have at least one sessionable beer to appeal to the MillerCoors crowd. Cream ales are big in the East. The South likes sessionable ales. Up north, it’s lagers. There's definitely a clear distinction between East and West. Site note: overall, we noticed that there are a lot more brewers working on barrel-aged and sours beer.

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I’m so glad you got to visit some of my favorite San Diego area breweries: Alpine Beer Co., Ballast Point, Fall Brewing, Societe, Mother Earth… What was your impression of our craft beer scene?

Brandon: I was impressed with the number of breweries and the quality. What surprised me was that it’s still growing so fast. You’d think it would be slowing down, but it’s not. We spent more time in San Diego County than we did anywhere else.

Michael: I loved Stone, and Ballast Point’s new location is beautiful–lots of their experimental beers are on point. I also liked Toolbox and Council; those new, smaller breweries are doing great stuff.

Okay, I have to ask this… When you spend an entire year with someone, you learn a lot about them. What would you each say is the other’s worst habit?

Michael: We both snore! Brandon actually snores really loudly, but I’m a hard sleeper so it didn’t bother me as much. I’m a spitter, too, but I don’t know if that bothers him. I also threw out a lot of awesome, awful puns.

Brandon: We really didn’t discover anything new. I mean, I’m a smart ass and cynical, but that’s a known fact. I will say that the longer we were on the road, the less we had to talk about—which was fine for me, because I’m a little more introverted. It was exhausting meeting so many new people every day for me, so it was nice to get back on the road and be in silence.

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I know you’ve been home for several months now. Do you have any plans to go back on the road?

Michael: I definitely want to do it again. Not on the same scale because it was draining emotionally—it drained my entire body and core and mind—but I want to take 3 months and do it in Europe or somewhere else. I want to continue beer traveling for the rest of my life.

Brandon: Yeah, it would be a little too much to try to do again. I’d love to continue traveling and visiting new places while checking out the beer culture, though. Right now, it’s back to reality—we both came back to no work and depleted savings. We’ve had to readjust to the real world. Of course, we’re both working at breweries now.

Michael: It’s exhausting work, but I’ve never been happier.

 


Sipping a Pilsner at Firestone Walker

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Earlier this summer, I went on a road trip along the Central Coast of California with my sister and brother-in-law. (Check them out if you want a serious case of wanderlust.) When I discovered we'd be passing through Paso Robles, I knew we'd have to make a pit stop at Firestone Walker Brewing Company. It's the 16th largest craft brewery in the country!

Interestingly enough, news of Duvel's acquisition of Firestone Walker broke just before our trip. The brewery is now owned by the company that owns Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City and Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York. The variety of merger, acquisitions, and overall movement in the craft beer industry these days is cause for a separate post, but this article provides a good synopsis of the Firestone situation: "This deal is about enabling Firestone Walker; it’s not about trying to find great synergies or integrating the companies."

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Now that we have all that technical stuff out of the way, let's get into the fun...

We visited the Taproom Restaurant for food and drinks. The actual brewery is right next to it on the same side of the street. We were on a tight schedule so we didn't get a chance to take a brewery tour, but they are offered every day. You can learn more about tours here.

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The interior of the restaurant reminded me a lot of Stone Brewing Company: high ceilings, lots of wood and steel, and an overall nice, modern design.

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But let's not forget why I was here! Once we were seated, I quickly scanned the beer list. I had hoped to try one of the taproom-only beers, but they were sadly out of what I wanted to try: the Taproom Brown and Hammersmith IPA. No big deal, though. I chose the Pivo Pilsner instead, and you guys, I can't say enough good things about that beer. There's one currently in my fridge -- that's how much I love it.

IPAs certainly get a lot of love in Southern California, but I just read this fabulous article that praises lighter, crisper styles like the Pilsner. It's a great go-to beer for those looking for a low-hop, low ABV option.

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For lunch, I chose the fish tacos. My sophisticated review? Om nom nom. So stinking good. Firestone has a range of lunch and dinner options, including salads, sandwiches, and pizzas. I'm happy to report that they also have several vegetarian options, too, as I tend to eat mostly vegetarian (this day was an exception, obviously--I'm not strict about it).

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You could easily spend a full afternoon exploring the brewery and enjoying a meal, or you could just stop in for a pint.

If you're in the Paso Robles area, visiting Firestone Walker is a no brainer. Let me know if you've been, or if you plan to go!

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A Few More Portland Breweries to Visit

I wrote about my top three favorite Portland breweries a few weeks ago, but it was hard to narrow down my list. There are so many fun craft beer spots in that city! So today I'm writing about more worthwhile places to grab a pint in Portland.

PROST 
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My boyfriend and I stopped by Prost, a cute bar and restaurant in the Mississippi District centered around all things German, right after getting into town. We were hot and dragging around our suitcases (we couldn't check into our VRBO until 3pm), and Prost was the only place we felt would be semi-acceptable and only semi-awkward to perch with our luggage. With a few Pilsners in hand, our journey suddenly seemed much more manageable. They have a great German beer list and good appetizers. There's also a food truck pod right next door. Insert thumbs up emoji.

HOPWORKS URBAN BREWERY
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Hopworks

Hopworks Bikebar in Northeast Portland was a late-night stop for us. We chose to visit because the brewery seemed unique. Its team has an overall dedication to doing good; they have some impressive sustainability initiatives to reduce water consumption and use locally-sourced and/or organic ingredients whenever possible. They also recycle or compost 89% of their waste! 89%! I love that.

We were also drawn to the fact that they have stationary bikes outside that you can pedal to generate electricity for the building and take money off your bill in the process (less than $1 - but hey!). I tried the Hopworks IPA while my boyfriend had the Radler. We both enjoyed them quite a bit.

The brewery also has a full restaurant and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. We wished we could have stayed longer and tried more beer, but this was our last stop of the night and we were pretty tired.

DESCHUTES BREWERY AND PUBLIC HOUSE
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Oh Deschutes, how I love thee. The Mirror Pond Pale Ale is a go-to of mine and I've written about my fondness for the Fresh-Squeezed IPA, so I was excited to try some more of their beer at the downtown location. We sampled several in a taster flight--IPAs for my boyfriend and some lighter options for me. I was a big fan of Twilight Summer Ale, Pine Mountain Pilsner, and Pinedrops IPA, but all were very good. I really don't think you can go wrong with Deschutes -- it's all just a matter of selecting the style you like.

We originally visited Deschutes on a Saturday afternoon, but it was too crowded and there was quite a wait. We made our way back on a Monday afternoon and had no problem finding a spot at the bar. If you're trying to plan for the optimal visit time, I highly recommend choosing a weekday if you can. We didn't have any food during our stay, but they have a variety of appetizers, salads, and sandwiches.

Sidenote: Can we talk about how great Deschutes' rebranding is? It was time.

ROGUE ALES DISTILLERY & PUBLIC HOUSE 
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And last but certainly not least, we stopped by Rogue Ales right before leaving for the airport to go home. We actually walked here from Deschutes--it's only three blocks away. We wanted to eat before our flight, so I had some amazing fish and chips, and my boyfriend had the Not So Plain Jane pizza that we're still dreaming about. Rogue has some pretty darn good food! We also had a taster flight of the XS Imperial I2PA, Cold Brew IPA, Marionberry Braggot, and Fruit Salad Cider. My favorite of the bunch was the cider--it had just the right amount of sweetness without being overbearing.

Of course, we had to pick up a bottle of PDX Carpet IPA before heading home. We saved a spot in our suitcase just for it. (For non-Portlanders, here's a crash course in the wonder known as PDX carpet.)

Again, the atmosphere here was nice because we visited on a Monday afternoon. I'm sure later in the week it gets pretty rowdy. If you're in downtown Portland, though, give Deschutes and Rogue a try.

...And this completes my comprehensive Portland wrap-up! I can't wait to get back soon and try some more fun places. As always, feel free to leave a comment below or email me if you'd like to talk more about Portland breweries!

 


Beer Tasting in Cambria, California

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In late July, I met up with my sister and brother-in-law in San Francisco for a long weekend roadtrip. We drove to Monterey, through the picturesque coastal town of Big Sur, then down to Cambria and Paso Robles. Naturally, we visited several wineries and breweries along the way.

The most charming brewery we stopped by was Cambria Beer Company. Offering "pints by the sea," a visit to the brewery is the perfect way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon. After a day of stopping all along the coast to take in the amazing views in Big Sur, we were ready to get out of the car and kick back with a beer!

Cambria Beer Co sign

I'm told that the brewery will soon undergo a name change, which is why I believe the logo is faded/almost non-existent on the awning below. But for now we'll still call them Cambria Beer Co.

Cambria Beer Co outside

The three-and-a-half-year-old brewery is family-owned and sits in the heart of the West Village of Cambria. The tasting room makes you feel like you're relaxing at a friends house--there are several rooms to sit in, a few games to choose from, and faint music pulsing through the space as people wander in and out.

Cambria menu

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I ordered a flight with the Robust Porter, German Lager, American Amber, Double IPA, Saison, and Dakota Pale Ale. My favorite of the bunch was the saison. I've been loving the style lately, and this one was no exception. The lager and double IPA were also really good. My sister, who doesn't like beer (gasp!), had a pint of the homemade root beer and it was excellent, too.

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We arrived toward the end of the day on a Sunday (after visiting Black Hand Cellars for a quick wine tasting), but the owner, Aaron, was serving beers and answered several of our questions. One of my favorite things about visiting different breweries is getting the chance to interact with the mastermind behind the beers. It's always a nice little surprise, and I usually get starstruck!

Cambria flight

I certainly recommend stopping by if you're near the Central Coast. We stayed at Sand Pebbles Inn right by Moonstone Beach and had the best experience. Cambria is a cute, seaside town with many fun activities--not to mention a fair share of natural beauty.

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3 Portland Breweries You Need to Visit

At the beginning of the summer, I ventured to Portland, Oregon. I spent a glorious four days exploring, eating awesome food, and reveling in all the weird goodness of the city. Some of my favorite things? Slappy Cakes, Prasad, Powell's City of Books, and the world's tiniest public park.

Some of my other favorite things: Portland breweries! I visited quite a few during my trip, and here are the top ones I advise adding to your list.

BAERLIC BREWING CO.
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I came across Baerlic Brewing Co. on a whim. It was hot, and I was looking for a place to duck into for some AC. I was so happy to step inside and find this gem!

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Baerlic is just adorable. As someone who appreciates nice design and attention to detail, I fell in love with the brewery's charming aesthetic. Even the wood on the taster flight boards is engraved with a small message.

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I tried a flight with the Cavalier Classic Cream Ale, Invincible IPA, Primeval NW Brown Ale, Shop Class IPA, and Nice and Easy Salted Oat Gose. My personal favorites were the cream ale and the gose, but we didn't have a bad beer.

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From the get-go, the staff was very friendly and informative. When I was choosing beers, they did their best to help navigate me to the styles I'd like. That doesn't always happen, so I always appreciate and recognize excellent customer service! The brewery doesn't serve food but welcomes guests to bring their own.

If you're planning a trip to Portland, I highly recommend you add Baerlic Brewing Co. to your list. And for extra credit: Impress your friends by letting them know "baerlic" is of Old English etymology, meaning "of barley."

BASE CAMP BREWING COMPANY

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Oh, Base Camp, I love thee.

Before my visit, I had seen a photo similar to the one above, which I thought encompassed all of the brewery. I expected it to be pretty small. But that is just part of the property--it's actually pretty sizable and has an indoor space with plenty of seating.

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Base Camp's theme is adventure and the outdoors, as evidenced by beer names like In-Tents IPL, Ultra Gnar Gnar IPA, and S'more Stout. The tasting room houses a collage of cool nature photos, too, along with an upside-down canoe that hangs above the bar.

Base Camp's bottles differentiate them from other breweries, too. The aluminum 22oz bottles are impressive--they are lighter and more versatile than glass, more environmentally friendly, and chill beer quicker.

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Anyway, onto the beer! I mentioned the S'more Stout earlier, and holy moly... It is so good. It's served with a tiny roasted marshmallow which is the cutest touch ever. (Gotta admit, that's what originally drew me to Base Camp).

I also tried the Red & Wit witbier, Celestial CDL black lager, Night Riders imperial Pilsner, and Ultra Gnar Gnar IPA. I loved the In-Tents IPL so much that I got a bottle to bring back home. I also bought a bottle of the Eagle Cap Lager, a Vienna lager barrel-aged with candy cap mushrooms. Sounds different, right? It was delicious, and I'm sad it's gone!

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Base Camp's "kick ass food cart partners" KOi Fusion and Gonzo Falafel and Hummus are right outside the brewery for those who arrive hungry.

CASCADE BREWING BARREL HOUSE

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And now for something completely different...

Cascade Brewing Barrel House is a pioneer in the tart, barrel-aged beer movement. The brewery houses hundreds of French oak, Kentucky Bourbon and Northwest wine barrels filled with wheats, blonds, reds, browns, and porters that are aged and blended into delicious concoctions.
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My boyfriend and I were running on fumes by the time we got to Cascade, so unfortunately we only tried a few tasters. We had the Noyaux, Apricot, and Elderberry. The Noyaux was our favorite--again, so much so that we had to buy a souvenir bottle! It's a blend of blond ales that were blended in oak for over a year before further aging on raspberries and apricot noyaux for another seven months. I appreciate that precision and dedication to the craft!

I can't wait to spend more time here someday soon. They have 15+ taps, so there's always something different to try.

Cascade has a decent food menu with small appetizers, sandwiches, and salads. It would be a perfect spot for a weekend date!

Overall, you can't go wrong with any of these Portland breweries. I could wax poetic about Portland for days, so feel free to shoot me a message if you're planning a visit and want recommendations!


A Second Visit to Barley Forge

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I first visited Barley Forge Brewing Co., a relatively new Costa Mesa-based brewery, over the New Years holiday. And due to some poor customer service, I didn't have a great experience. I wanted to write the place off.

However, I'm always one to give companies a second chance if they acknowledge mistakes and truly want to make things right.

Barley Forge wanted to make things right. So I made the trek back up the coast and gave it another shot. Turns out, it was a really good decision to do so.

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Beers + popcorn? I'm a happy camper.

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One of my favorite things about the brewery is the decor. Though Barley Forge is in a business park, once you walk through the doors you definitely don't feel like you're in suburban Orange County. They've done a great job with their branding and artwork.

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With a range of German- and Belgian-style beers plus a few IPAs, an amber, and a stout, there's something here for everyone. They also have sarsaparilla, which I'm bummed I didn't try on either visit. Too busy trying all the beers, I suppose...

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My top choice at Barley Forge is the Patsy, a coconut rye stout (get it on nitro if you can!). Some coconut stouts are too strong for me because I'm not a huge fan of coconut, but the chocolate/coconut combination in the Patsy was really delicious.

They also had a mango hefeweizen on tap which would be a good choice for someone just stepping into the world of craft beer.

Barley Forge also has a kitchen with a variety of different options. I opted for the pulled pork sliders, and my boyfriend got an amazing grilled cheese with avocado.

All in all, I'd edit my former list of top Orange County breweries and add Barley Forge. It's a graphic designer's dream, and its owners truly care about the quality of their beer and customers' experiences. If I lived in Orange County, I'd be a frequent visitor.


Q&A with Michael Peticolas of Peticolas Brewing Company

After my visit to Peticolas Brewing Company earlier this month, I connected with owner Michael Peticolas for a fun Q&A interview. He was so gracious to spend time answering my questions and shedding more light on the Texas craft beer scene. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was drawn to Peticolas Brewing Company because of their recent collaboration with Green Flash, so I know both my Southern California and Texas readers will be interested in his commentary.

Let's get started!

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Michael, I know you were in the legal field before opening up Peticolas Brewing Company. What made you make the switch from attorney to brewer?
Before I went to law school, I put together a list of goals I wanted to accomplish in the legal industry. After 12 years of practicing law, I realized I had accomplished everything on there. I realized I needed a challenge; I needed something new.

My two main passions in life are beer and soccer. Becoming a professional soccer player wasn’t in the cards, so I thought, “Let’s give a brewery a shot!” I had been homebrewing in my backyard for years, so I enrolled in Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering course with the American Brewers Guild and figured how to scale my production from 5 to 500 gallons.

I actually still have my law firm, but I’ve been focused on building up my brewery. And I’m having so much fun now!

What has been the best part of running Peticolas Brewing Company?
That’s a hard question! Ultimately, seeing the satisfaction and enjoyment people get from trying our beers has been the best part. When people come out and say they love what we’re doing, that’s really cool; it’s great feedback to receive.

When I started the brewery, I wanted to contribute something to Dallas other than what the city already has: restaurants, shopping, and sports teams. And I feel like we’ve done that. Dallas/Fort Worth residents always come up to us and are so excited about our beers. I get excited about their passion. I get excited by things like this interview! I like talking to new people and participating in the craft beer community. The camaraderie is great.

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Tell me about “Operation Collaboration,” the IPA you created with San Diego brewery Green Flash. How did it come about? Was it your idea?
A friend introduced me to Chuck Silva, Green Flash’s brewmaster, at the end of last year. We met at the Great American Beer Festival and hit it off. We literally started writing the recipe on festival floor. It was great because we both won medals the next morning! There was a lot of back and forth after the festival, obviously, but that was the genesis.

I leaned heavily on Chuck for the hop selection. He came up with the experimental hop varieties (editor’s note: the hops are simply known as 07270 and 06277. If they are successful commercially, they will be assigned names). We ended up using two hops and two English malts which gave it a really unique character. There’s not another beer in its class, which is very hard to do, especially in a style like an IPA.

How would you describe the craft beer scene in Dallas?
The quality of beer coming out of North Texas is exceptional. There’s a true movement here. I have some friends that have been going on beer "pilgrimages” to California and through the Northwest twice a year for years. Now there’s so much beer available locally that their trip is actually a little less exciting.

As far as brewery operations, for years we really only had one option at Peticolas Brewing: conduct tours and give out samples. But that is changing and we have more options now. You’re seeing more taprooms open up in Dallas. Unfortunately, I still don’t have the ability to do what I really want to do: sell beer at my brewery for off-premises consumption. You can’t go to a brewery and buy beer to take home with you in Texas.

Do you see that changing any time soon?
Over the next several years, lawmakers will realize that constituents want them to start focusing on these laws.

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Last question: What beers are in your fridge?
In my kegerator, I have our Royal Scandal. I also have some Operation Collaboration. In my refrigerator, I have all types of California beers including some from AleSmith and Port Brewing. I also have several beers from Chicago and Wisconsin, and some from all over the Northwest. The beauty of this job is that people are always bringing me beer!

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Thank you so much, Michael! I look forward to more trips to your brewery when I make it back to Dallas.


A Visit to Peticolas Brewing Company

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When I was in Dallas a few weeks ago, I stopped in at Peticolas Brewing Company. Though I was only in town for about 72 hours, I wanted to explore the Dallas craft beer scene as much as I could.

As I've mentioned, Dallas is my hometown, but I've lived in San Diego for nearly a decade. A lot has changed in the two cities over the past 10 years, and there's been a veritable explosion of breweries in both places.
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Peticolas Brewing is only open on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month from 1-3 p.m for tours. Upon entry, you pay $10 and receive a complimentary glass and three wooden nickels that you can exchange for beer samples throughout the two hours. Not a bad deal!

Side note: though it is called a "tour," there was no official tour on my visit.

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The first beer I chose was Golden Opportunity, a 4.6% Kolsch. I was with my mom, so I wanted to start off something light! Golden Opportunity pours a typical gold color with a white head, and has a light wheat and floral aroma. The flavor is similar and overall, it's a clean, sessionable beer.

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Next I chose the beer that I came to Peticolas to try: Operation Collaboration IPA. The brainchild of Chuck Silva from Green Flash in San Diego and Michael Peticolas, Operation Collaboration combines two varieties of experimental hops and two English malts. It pours a dark gold/orange color with an aroma of citrus and pine. The taste is unlike any IPA I've had as the hop bitterness is balanced with plenty of malt along with orange, grapefruit and tangerine-like flavors. It has a smooth, moderately bitter finish.

(Check back later this week for more details about this beer!)

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My final beer was the Velvet Hammer. It pours a dark red with a sweet caramel aroma, and the flavor is initially sweet with hints of brown sugar and toffee. A slight hop bitterness arrives late with an alcohol finish. Here's an interesting comparison of Velvet Hammer to Lagunitas' Imperial Red.

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Overall, I really enjoyed my time at the brewery. It was larger than I expected, and there were several different areas for visitors to explore: a main room with picnic table-type seating, the actual brewery with all the equipment, an open space toward the front of the brewery with several coaches and chairs, a back room with reading materials about the brewery and its accolades, and an upstairs level with TVs and air hockey/foosball tables.

There were probably 200 people there for the tour, but with so much space it didn't feel overly crowded. It also made for some quality people watching! For $10, three beers, and a fun afternoon, I'd recommend giving Peticolas Brewing Company a try.

Stay tuned later this week for a Q&A with owner Michael Peticolas!


What's Happening in Texas Craft Beer

There's so many articles on current events in the craft beer industry that I read every day that I'm going to start sharing the issues that I find the most interesting. I hope they will spark your interest, too, and open up room for conversation about all the different elements of the craft beer world. So without further ado, let's get started!

When it comes to craft beer, California has it good. So does Oregon. And Colorado. And Massachusetts. And Vermont. Et cetera, et cetera...

But a lot of states aren't so lucky.

In a few weeks, I'm headed to my home state of Texas, and though I'm very excited about my trip, it's been a pain to try to plan any visits to local breweries. Many are only open to the public on certain days, and even then, you can't just stop in for a taster flight. You have to pay a small fee to go on a brewery tour, and then you receive tokens for beer samples after the tour is complete. You can't buy beer to take home on the premises, either.

Basically, you have to go to a bar instead of a craft brewery to enjoy craft beer. I'll be the first to say that my poor home state is a little bit backwards.

Here's an overview on current legislation in Texas that craft beer fans in the state are paying close attention to: Bills brewing in Austin could help or hurt Texas craft beer. There's a few things going on here: a) There's a bill proposed that would allow limited beer sales at the breweries and sharply limit how much they could self-distribute. Luckily, there are a lot of people speaking out against this. As the article says, the number of Texas brewers grew 44% in 2013, and it's obviously a huge state. And b) There's a bill proposed that would allow brewery visitors purchase beer on site to take home with them. Um, yay! I like that one.

I'm obviously keeping my fingers crossed that none of the bills that make life harder for brewers make it through. Living in San Diego, I've seen the positive economic impact that the craft beer industry can have on a community, and I'm hoping that will occur in Texas, too. And, let's be honest, I can't wait for the day that I travel home and get to go straight to my favorite brewery for a pint.


The Three Bs: Brewery Touring in Orange County

To celebrate the New Year, my boyfriend and I planned a tour of breweries in Orange County. San Diego is clearly a hub for good craft beer, but other Southern California cities also have burgeoning breweries. [This post is brought to you by the letter B.]

Here are our top three recommendations if you're in the Orange County area. These are doable all in one day or can be spread out over two days.

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Our first stop was Bootlegger's Brewery in Fullerton. We had driven all morning and were eager to arrive. We got there right after the doors opened and started choosing the beers for our taster flights.

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I chose the Palomino Pale Ale, Rocco Red, Chocolate Porter, and Tig Ol' Bitty double-hopped pale ale (because duh.). My favorite was the Rocco Red, which the bartender told us was their most popular beer. I also enjoyed the Palomino and the Chocolate Porter, but all were very good.

If you're new to craft beer, I'd opt for the Palomino Pale Ale or the Rocco Red. If you like something more complex, go for the Rustic Rye IPA. And if you want something altogether different--and it's on tap--try the seasonal Mint Chocolate Porter. It's delicious, and the mint isn't too overpowering like it is in many mint chocolate beers.

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Bootlegger's is the perfect place to start your Orange County brewery tour. It has a cute patio with stringed lights, a few arcade games and eclectic memorabilia, and beers in mason jars. It's a very relaxing environment. I'll definitely go back.

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Next stop: The Bruery in Placentia. I'd been wanting to visit for a long, long time. Known for its experimental and barrel-aged beers, I knew we would find some interesting new favorites.

Again, we planned our trip so that we arrived at noon, right as it opened--and that turned out to be the only way to truly enjoy our experience. After just half an hour of being open, it was packed. Luckily we snagged our flights and a table and set to work on trying our samples.

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My favorite of the day was the Couverteur, a Belgian dubbel with cacao and vanilla. I also really enjoyed the Loakal Red, an oak-aged, hoppy, American red ale (#alltheadjectives). Other good ones included 7 Swans a Swimming: a Belgian-style quadruple, and Coffee Smoking Wood: a bourbon barrel-aged smoked imperial porter with vanilla and coffee.

The beers all had pretty high ABVs, so we sat and enjoyed the ambience for a while, ordered some food from the food truck, and coincidentally ran into a couple we had met at Bootlegger's. It was a popular day for OC brewery tours!

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And the final B on this leg of the tour: Bottle Logic Brewing. Nerdy references abound at this Anaheim brewery, and combined with the slick design, my boyfriend was in heaven.

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I was in heaven, too, because this brewery had a small library! Anywhere that combines books and beer has a pretty strong hold on my heart.

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Since we had tried so many beers earlier in the day, we took it pretty easy at Bottle Logic. We tried tasters of the Pog Juice IPA, Grasshopper chocolate mint stout, High Octane milk stout with Portola coffee, and Calf Life milk stout. I loved the Pog Juice and Calf Life, but you really can't go wrong.

If this had been the only brewery we were visiting that day, we could have spent hours here. This was my favorite brewery of our whole Orange County brewery tour, and I can't wait to go back.

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If you have any recommendations about breweries to visit in Orange County, or if you've tried any of the three Bs, let me know in the comments!


Sampling Golden Road's IPAs

A few weekends ago, I visited some friends in Los Angeles. Naturally, that means I made some time for a pit stop at one of my favorite LA breweries: Golden Road Brewing.

I've visited this brewpub several times before and have sampled their dark beers (like Get Up Offa That Brown and I'll Have Another Stout) along with a few lighter ones (like the Golden Road Hefeweizen and famed Carry On Citrus Ale.*)  However, I hadn't tried any of their IPAs. Until very recently I've deemed myself Not An IPA Girl... and, well, labels are dangerous, kids.

To help open my mind, I decided to try the Golden Road IPA flight. It came with four beers, meant to be enjoyed in this order: Wolf Pup, Point the Way, 2020, and Wolf Among the Weeds.

Here's my assessment:

Wolf Pup: This is their session IPA, meaning that it has a relatively low ABV--5%--and is literally meant for drinking "sessions" or over a long period of time. It's the toned down version of Wolf Among the Weeds, the final beer on this flight. Simcoe and Chinook hops give it a piney undertone, but it's balanced with a nice fruity aroma and taste from Cascade and Columbus hops. If I lived close enough to the brewery, I would drink this all summer.

Point the Way: This is a solid IPA that's a bit more hoppy than Wolf Pup. It has an ABV of 5.9% and tastes like grapefruit and tangerine with a touch of pine and some light caramel malt sweetness. I don't dislike this beer, but I liked Wolf Pup so much that I would opt for that over Point the Way. Not a bad IPA, though!

2020: A dark red, very hoppy IPA clocking in at 7.4% ABV. It features an interesting variety of hops including Warrior, Palisade, Cascade, Chinook, Simcoe and Ahtanum. Like most of the other Golden Road IPAs, this had citrus and pine notes, but I don't think I was used to the combination of hops so this wasn't my favorite of the lineup. However, the 2020 IPA was created in partnership with the LA River Corp to help raise awareness for their Greenway 2020 Project, an initiative that will breathe life back into a 51-mile stretch of the LA River, so that's a cool back story.

Wolf Among the Weeds: This is a West Coast Double IPA with 8% ABV. In my notes, the only thing I wrote was, "super, super hoppy." My descriptions usually get a lot less wordy by the fourth taster! According to Golden Road, "This beer is a balanced showcase of the majestic hop specie, in Latin, Humulus Lupulus, which translates “Wolf Among Weeds." Because I liked Wolf Pup, I obviously liked this one. If I was out at a bar, I'd choose this IPA out of all the Golden Road options. 

Do you have a favorite IPA I should try? I'm on a quest to try all the good ones now. Leave me a comment and I might just write about your suggestion next!

* Carry On was the first craft beer to be made exclusively for airports. I think that's nifty.


A Tale of Two Plinys

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Pliny the Younger. Weird name; serious business. Because it's only available in February, there's a mystique around it. People wait in line for hours for this beer. They camp out for it. There are even websites dedicated to the best locations to find it.

What's all the fuss about? Here's some background on it according to Russian River Brewing Company, the creator of this magical liquid: "Pliny the Younger, the man, was Pliny the Elder’s nephew and adopted son. They lived nearly 2,000 years ago! Pliny the Elder is our Double IPA, so we felt it was fitting to name our Triple IPA after his son. It is almost a true Triple IPA with triple the amount of hops as a regular IPA. That said, it is extremely difficult, time and space consuming, and very expensive to make. And that is why we don’t make it more often! This beer is very full-bodied with tons of hop character in the nose and throughout. It is also deceptively well-balanced and smooth."

I was lucky enough to experience both Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder, the aforementioned double IPA available year-round, on Valentine's Day weekend. (Yep, my boyfriend's a keeper.) I was also lucky enough not to have to wait in any line. Downtown Johnny Brown's in San Diego sold tickets for Pliny the Younger several days in advance so that customers could purchase them online and then show up between 2 and 8 p.m. on the official day it went on tap.

We parked, walked in, and were able to quickly redeem our tickets--and get a Pliny the Elder to boot. It was like Christmas.


Pliny the Elder (left) and Pliny the Younger (right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Downtown Johnny Brown's wasn't crowded at all. We found a space to sit outside and kick back right away. I had expected a much different experience based on what I read online.But nope, this was easy peasy.

As far as the beers... Holy Hosannah. I'm not a huge IPA fan (just being real here), but Pliny the Elder is an amazing double IPA. Clocking in at 8% ABV, it's smooth and well-balanced with hints of grapefruit and orange. I'm not normally a big IPA fan, but this beer has just the right amount of hoppyness without being overkill. It reminded me a bit of Heady Topper.

Pliny the Younger, though, was my favorite. It's a dangerously drinkable triple IPA! I expected it to be extremely bitter, but I was pleased with the balance of citrus and pine hops. This beer is super smooth. You definitely don't feel like you're drinking a 10.25% beer--the alcohol is well hidden and Pliny the Younger is extremely drinkable.

So there you have it: two of the most highly-rated beers in one afternoon!

I see what all the fuss is about now. I'm looking forward to continuing to drink Pliny the Elder year-round, and here's to continuing the hunt for Pliny the Younger next February! Or sooner, maybe...There's still a few days left this month...


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