San Diego is literally one of my most favorite places to visit and I come as often as I can, which is not enough. Since San Diego has also become a mecca of craft brewing, I also try to hit up as many local breweries as I can. However, I never get tired of Stone World Bistro and Gardens. The original is in Escondido, which is a 45 minute drive from downtown San Diego, BUT they just opened a new location in a cool little area that has been converted from an old Navy base to a collection of cool restaurants, shops and galleries called “Liberty Station.” Stone is not only about good beer, but the food is also out of this world. Some might say the prices are a little high for brewpub food, but my fine feathered friend, this is not just brewpub food. This is what they call “foodie food.” I came by with a buddy on my latest trip and had an appetizer of crispy Brussels Sprouts with a sweet and sour sauce and pancetta lardons. I don’t know what all of that is, but it was outrageously good and if you can make Brussels Sprouts good, you are good! My dinner buddy had the wild boar ribs, which were similarly outrageously good and spicy. We both had the chicken schnitzel with mashed potatoes and carrots (I didn’t eat the potatoes since I am on the Paleo diet). I could not have been happier with my choice. My buddy said the mashed potatoes were very good. The carrots were awesome. The service was very attentive and friendly as well. One point to note. The mens and womens bathrooms have a window to each other at the sink (the stalls are behind a wall and not visible), but it was weird to hear women talking to guys in the mens room while they were washing their hands. It didn’t bother me, but I could see some people not liking this feature. While I’m talking about the beer I had the chance to try the Ruination Ten IPA. This is the Tenth Anniversary of their juggernaut Ruination IPA. For this bad boy they added five POUNDS of hops to each barrel and upped the malt profile to balance it, increasing it to imperial strength (10.8% ABV). It pours an apricot-y color with a small white head. It has a resiny nose with a grapefruit-y bitterness followed by other tropical fruit flavors like mango. It is very smooth in spite of the large ABV. Very drinkable. Good thing it comes in a small tulip glass. I give it 5 out of 5 proper pints.
Silver City Brewery, as I mentioned in my review of their Whoop Pass Double IPA, is one of my favorite breweries. It is a small brewery, I think of it as a brewpub, in Kitsap County, WA. It was one of my favorite places to go when I lived in that area a few years ago. Whoop Pass and Fat Scotch Ale (which I think used to be called Fat Bastard), were my two favorites. This one pours a nice deep brown with a medium white head. The aromas are of malt, caramel and toffee. With its 9% ABV, there is a little hint of booze in the flavor, but it’s well masked by the other flavors. It drinks very smoothly with a slightly creamy body. It actually reminds of me drinking scotch, though it is much more smooth without the alcohol bite. There is a hint of smokiness too, like some scotches. I give this one 5 out of 5 proper pints.
Coronado, an island in San Diego harbor, is literally one of my favorite places on Earth. When I go there, I always make it a point to stop in on the Coronado Brewing Company. They have a beautiful brewpub on the main strip, a little ways from the beach, but very nice nonetheless. I ordered this beer from Letspour by mail because I have never seen Coronado available in my area. I was excited when I saw they had it. I had never tried this beer before. I have to say it was good, but I was expecting a little better. I’m not saying it was at all bad, but just good. The beer poured a dark brown to black with a small off white head. Since it was made with coffee, not surprisingly there was a strong aroma of coffee with a little smokiness. The beer was medium bodied and very dry. I would call it a dry Irish stout. In fact, other than the coffee flavor, it reminded me of Brooklyn Brewery’s Dry Irish Stout. I would certainly have this beer again, though I’m not sure I would order it sent across the country again. I give it 3 out of 5 proper pints.
Dortmunder Lager originates from the German city, “Dortmund.” It originally came in two strengths, Lagerbier and the stronger Export. Export was the more popular. Prior to 1970, Dortmunder Lager Export was the most popular beer style in Germany, until it was overtaken by Pils. Great Lakes has taken on this style in fantastic form. The style is similar to a Pilsener, except that it is a lager. It is made in a gold color and contains a little bit of a hoppy bite, but also has strong malt notes. The flavor is less brightly hoppy than a Pilsener, with a maltier profile. It is still a light-ish refreshing beer that pairs well with summery meals. It does have a slightly higher than average ABV for a gold, light-ish beer at 5.8%, but it will still not incapacitate you after 2 or 3. There are not many others on the market that you find in this style. I have had the Gordon Biersch Golden Export and I’ve read that Two Brothers in Illinois also makes a Dortmunder. I give this one 3 out of 5 proper pints.
Scottish Ales were taxed according to their strength at one time and so you may hear references to 60 shilling, 80 shilling, 90 shilling ales in Scotland. Scotch Ales are usually characterized by being slightly sweet and very malty. The stronger ones can taste a little boozy. This one was had at Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza in Clarendon. While they have great pizza, they also have a fine beer selection. This happens to be the first Port City beer I’ve had, even though the brewery is only a few short miles away. A mighty fine Scotch Ale it was too. It poured a nice mahogany color, with a small off white head. The aroma was very malty. The taste was not sweet, as I had expected, but smooth with caramel and a hint of hops. The body was medium with medium carbonation. I would say overall the flavor that stuck out most was caramel, but there was a hint of wood and a bit of fruit as well. Very nice. I would give it 3 out of 5 proper pints.
After drinking this Imperial Red Ale, I am a Believer! No, not a Belieber, a Believer. Seriously this is a very good beer. You can’t get Ninkasi in the DC area, where I live. So I ordered it online from Letspour. I’d read raves about Ninkasi in general, so I leaped at the opportunity to order it. This one poured a beautiful red color with a thick white head. It had a nice bready, malty aroma. The carbonation was light and the body creamy. There was a slight hop bite, but not to the degree of an IPA. There were some definite caramel-y, nutty notes in the aftertaste. I would get this one again. I give it 4 out of 5 proper pints.
“Bitter” is a very popular style of British Ale. I may not be exaggerating to say it is the most popular style in Great Britain. One thing that sets it apart is that it is intended as a “session” beer. This means it has a low alcohol content so that you can sip several of them over the course of a session of hanging and talking to friends without getting stinko drunk. 21st Amendment set out to create such a beer for America with Bitter American. The ABV of Bitter American is only 4.4%, which is lower than most mass commercial beers. However, it does not suffer from a lack of flavor. It has a healthy dosing of Warrior and Cascade hops, giving the slight hoppy bitterness of a mild IPA. Nevertheless, it is still well balanced with a hearty malt backbone. This is a nice session beer to have while grilling or sitting around chatting with friends. It goes well with burgers, watermelon and corn on the cob. I give it 3 out of 5 proper pints.
I’m glad I got the opportunity to review Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. I have liked this beer for a long time, but it has been a while since I’d had it. It is technically an IPA, though IPA is not in the name. This is not a West Coast IPA. It does pour a light orangey copper color with a large white head. The aroma is bright floral. However, this is not a West Coast IPA. It will not punish you with bitterness. This is a nicely balanced beer that will take you by surprise. It does carry 7% ABV, so watch out. It is very smooth and drinkable. This is one of my all time favorite beers. I give it five out of five proper pints.