Pete: This beach trip was at the perfect time (between me finishing my internship and starting school), so I managed to do some traveling and acquire some beers from random places. Normally, I would not try to hold onto this many beers in growler/crowler form, but I figured the time from the fill to the beach was short enough that I could swing it. Nothing tasted off, so it was a good experiment to see how far you can push those “drink within 48 hours” restrictions breweries will note to you. I obviously would still suggest drinking any growler fresh, but, depending on the style, you can store some growlers for closer to 2-4 weeks if you really want to save some stuff. I also dove into my cellar to try some of my Dogfish 120 Minute IPA that has been aging. I will write about aging a little more in the future, but to be safe the 18-20% beers are probably some of the safest beers to try to age, because the alcohol content and body allows them to keep from being watery.
Shane: This was an interesting batch of beers for me. I’ve actually had two of them before (the Aslin Gose and the 120 Minute IPA), so I knew exactly how good they were. The aging of the 120 Minute added a whole new twist though, and, never having aged an IPA, I was curious to see what the flavor difference would be. I’ve had the chance to sample some beers from RaR before, and I’ve enjoyed them quite a bit. And Tired Hands...well, Tired Hands needs no introduction. They are world famous for a reason, and any day I get to sample something from them is a good day. I’m guessing it will be hard to top a double IPA from them.
York: I didn’t know much about any of these beers going in other than their reputation as power players in the region. The Tired Hands saison that Pete brought to our first Beercation was one of the highlights, so the fact that their DIPA is included in this has me pretty excited. Also looking forward to trying something different from Aslin, and having my first brew from RaR. Both are places that have really come to the main stage since I left the area, so they’re particularly fun in that respect. The progression of the DMV beer scene is so much fun to follow, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that they’re consistently putting out top notch brews!
Brewery Name: Black Sands Beer
Type of Brewery: BrewPub
Location: San Francisco, CA
Facebook: Black Sands Beer
Background: Black Sands is located in the Haight, a neighborhood in San Francisco known for eclectic storefronts, gorgeous historic houses, and a bit of a hippie vibe. It's also known for breweries like Magnolia and legendary beer bars like Toronado. I first got a taste of Black Sands Beer at a beer festival last winter, and was extremely high on a Black IPA they had tapped. When I looked them up to plan a visit, I realized that this wasn't anything like a traditional brewery visit, and really wasn't much like a brewpub even. Black Sands is a really great restaurant and coffee shop on top of being a small batch craft beer provider. Being so high on the Black IPA made me interested enough by itself, but the prospect of this being a totally unique experience for craft beer in San Francisco made it a must try.
Growlers: No growlers from what I saw, and it's totally understandable. They don't brew much beer at a time, so taking a half gallon makes a dent. The positive side of that is you know the beer is ultra fresh and constantly rotating.
The Beers: When I visited, Black Sands had three beers on the menu, although one had just recently kicked. I got to try two SMaSH IPAs, one of which was a double, so I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I've tried four others at various events, and my praise holds true for all of them as well. All have been Pale Ales, IPAs or doubles.
Vibe: This is what the Haight feels like. I went on a weekend during the day and the place was packed with a brunch crowd. Everyone seemed to have an amazing looking plate of food with a beer in one hand and a coffee in the other. Service is friendly and familiar, with plenty of hands on deck waiting to help.
The space consists of a trendy interior that is like a nice restaurant and a fancy coffee shop had a baby. Lots of really cool stone, art, and a view into both the kitchen and the brewing tanks. Outside is a huge seating area that is right on one of the Haight neighborhood streets. I’ve become aware since visiting that they've actually got a setup across the street where they sell home-brewing supplies as well, so I'll have to check that part out next time and report back.
The beer comes from taps that are front-and-center behind the bar, and the separate beer menu gives a little background on each one available. Being at Black Sands, you can really appreciate how amazing the beer is given such a relatively small brewing area. They hand-stamp their logos onto coffee cups per order, and clearly take a ton of pride in their brand.
Dogs: Outside not only allows, but welcomes dogs. It's a very dog-friendly part of the city, and you can see from the picture above that even horse-sized dogs have a place at Black Sands.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$. A tough call here. The foods is priced extremely affordably for what you're getting and where you're getting it. The beers go about $7 per 10 oz pour, so the beer itself is a little on the high end with the rest of San Francisco.
Food: Goodness yes. As I mentioned, I was there midday on a weekend so the brunch menu was out and everything I saw looked amazing. They've got full lunch, dinner, brunch, and Sunday special menus that are all full of really great cross-cultural food combinations like Pork Chili Wontons, Spicy Fried Chicken, Pozole, and tons of craft cocktails and hot drinks to add on.
Final Thoughts: Truly unique "brewery" experience for me so far. Very highly recommend for a great spot to start a Saturday of drinking with a top tier beer and an impressive lunch. That said, and totally by design, this is not a place to go when you want the craft brewery vibe in a more traditional sense. It doesn't feel like industrial space or a place where you might see the brew masters mixing in giant tanks. If you like a good hoppy beer though, this is a spot to get to in the city.
Every beer has a distinct personality. So does every football team. Each week, we’ll take a look at the Monday Night Football matchup and discuss which beers best represent each team.
Denver Broncos (4-2)
Shane: Anomalous, Garrison City Beerworks. Most great teams are built around the quarterback position. The Patriots have Tom Brady. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers. The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger. Likewise, most great breweries, no matter how prolific they may be, are built around a flagship beer. The Alchemist has Heady Topper. Tree House has Julius. Russian River has Pliny the Elder. Both the Denver Broncos and Garrison City Beerworks buck this trend. The Broncos currently start something called a "Trevor Siemian" at quarterback, but their defense plays such lights-out football that they remain one of the best teams in the league. Similarly, Garrison City doesn’t really have one flagship beer to rally around, but just about everything they put out is similarly outstanding. Since both of them are notable anomalies, it seems only fitting to use Anomalous to represent the Broncos. It’s one of my favorite Garrison City brews. Much like the Broncos, it’s very tough to beat.
York: Morph, Night Shift Brewing. Nobody was more surprised than I about the Broncos starting off 4-0 this season. When the Super Bowl champs watched their QB retire and several other key pieces move on to new places, I assumed it was time for the Broncos to have a down year. Instead, they morphed into a new kind of contender built on a more structured offense and a wildly productive defense. Seeing styles change, combine, and build on one another is a really fun way to see football. Coincidentally, it works for beer too. We visited Nightshift during our first beercation and I immediately fell in love. They've got plenty of impressive big names in their brewing history, but one of the beers that stuck out the most for me was the Morph. It's a rotating brew that changes with each recipe iteration but seemingly always becomes a top beer. The hops change, the malt changes, additions, subtractions, aggressive hopping, juice bombs, they do it all to this beer and it always turns into a winner. As with Morph, the Broncos look like they'll be contenders regardless of their current ingredients.
Pete: Rumpkin, Avery Brewing Company. This beer is 18% ABV and is an imperial pumpkin ale aged in rum barrels. Some would say making beers that are so strong misses the nuance of balance. How can anything like that ever be good? It's like the Broncos. Too much defense. Too much focus on that side of the ball. Have you considered watering down the defense to balance out the offense? Tell that to their Super Bowl victory, pulling a broken Peyton Manning across the finish line. Balance is overrated. Big, bold flavors will always be appreciated, and defense will always win championships. I love this beer. It punches you in the face with so much pumpkin and rum flavor it really knocks you for a loop. It's an amazing cold weather beer that fits the season perfectly.
Houston Texans (4-2)
Shane: Pale Ale, Omission Beer. Omission is a brewery centered around making gluten-free beer. As someone with a girlfriend who can’t eat gluten, I have, on occasion, decided to sample some gluten-free beers for the sake of curiosity. Omission’s Pale Ale isn’t a bad beer by any stretch of the imagination. It’s pretty middle-of-the road, and relatively drinkable. But it definitely feels like something is missing. That just about sums up the Texans, who are a fairly decent team with a lot of talent, and a "MISSING" sign hanging from the quarterback position. I don’t understand the people who choose to be gluten-free when it isn’t medically necessary. It’s a fad that people are obsessed with, and I can’t figure out why. Which is about how I felt about Brock Osweiler last year. Everyone seemed to love him. Everyone seemed to want him. And I absolutely did not understand. Omission clearly has talented brewers, but their curious decision to latch onto the gluten-free fad leaves me scratching my head, much like the Texans and their decision to attach the hopes of their franchise to Osweiler.
York: Chocolate Milk Brown, Fieldwork Brewing Company. I never know what to expect from the Texans. They seem to fluctuate between looking like Super Bowl contenders and looking like a team with lots of work to do faster than any other club. Catching a game with them playing at their peak is a real treat, and it made me think of my constant search of good dark beers on the West Coast. I've found a few, but they aren't easy to identify, and you never really know what you’re going to get when you order a stout or porter from a local brewery. I took a flyer on a brown ale from Fieldwork and I'm happy to say it was my favorite beer they had. This was Fieldwork playing at its peak. The Texans (like brown ales in California) seem to get forgotten about quite often, but when they're hitting on all cylinders, they’re top of the list.
Pete: On the Wings of Armageddon, DC Brau. This Texans team looks so good, soooooo good if you go back to week one. Now? Watt: injured. Osweiler: can't hit the broad side of barn. But they looked like they were going to be the scourge of the league. They were going to be the bringers of Armageddon onto the league with their well rounded team. But, much like every end of the world prophecy, they have failed. On the bright side, this beer is a lovely, rich, tropical fruit bomb. It was originally brewed in 2012 for the Mayan doomsday and has been consistently re-brewed because it is so good. Unfortunately, the quality of this beer will do little to turn the Texans fortunes. But it does have cool label art, so that's a plus.
Shane: Both teams have dismal quarterbacks, but the Broncos will pull it out, 23-10. (current record: 1-0)
York: Broncos take this one 31-13. (current record: 1-0)
Pete: Broncos, let’s say 24-3, I will give the Texans a field goal. (current record: 0-1)
Brewery Name: Highway 1 Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Brewpub
Location: Pescadero, California
Facebook: Highway 1 Brewing
Background: The coastal highway is hundreds of miles of gorgeous sea cliffs, beaches, and forests along the Pacific Ocean. The drive is largely free of commercial zones, which keeps it extremely serene and truly beautiful. That, however, does mean a lot less in the way of food and drink options along the trip. Highway 1 Brewing Company is nestled in right between San Francisco and Santa Cruz (about an hour from each) in one of the most picturesque sections of the drive. I've passed by a few times, normally too early in the day or with somewhere else to be, but this time we made a point to stop in and enjoy the scenery and beer.
Growlers: Highway 1 offers a couple different size growler formats that you can purchase on premises, and you can get all of their house beers to go!
The Beers: There are four house taps available with a nice range of styles. It seems that they run fairly small batches, so the beers cycle in and out regularly. Here's what was pouring when we visited:
Vibe: Highway 1 has created a gloriously chill environment that fits its location perfectly. The exterior maintains a coastal beach house style aura that helps it blend nicely into the scenery, and inside is homey through and through. They set the bar up to take advantage of amazing views of the ocean and serve flights on pieces of driftwood.
The brewery section is open to the bar side of the venue, and there is additional space in more of a restaurant style set up in the front of the building. They proudly display that there is no wifi and make the crazy suggestion of talking to each other or simply sitting back and enjoying the view. Their space is also in a complete cellular dead zone so don’t plan on trying to get around the no-wifi situation. (sidenote, they do have a payphone outside which is impressive solely because of its rarity these days).
We had great service from the bartenders who were helped by one of the brewers who was there the day we stopped in. This is a place designed to be chill, and they definitely nail it.
Dogs: Dogs are welcomed in the outdoor beer garden, but not in the indoor section. The good news there is weather is pretty much a non-factor in this part of Cali, so outside is almost always viable!
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$. Flights are available and standard pours come in at $7, so it's right about average for a California brewpub. The food menu is fair, and is a great option on the drive.
Food: Highway 1 has a pretty wide food menu with burgers, sandwiches, wings, and a slew of appetizers and desserts. We didn't partake in food on our stop, but the large kitchen and comprehensive menu point to all things good in the food department.
Final Thoughts: What a gorgeous place. If you are on the coastal highway, or a fan of places where you can turn-off from the world at the end of your day, this is the spot to go. Everything steers you toward relaxation, and, at least for me, a few minutes there and a good pour of their Stout had me forgetting all about everything else and staring out into the Pacific without a care in the world.
Brewery Name: Crooked Goat Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: Sebastopol, CA
Facebook: Crooked Goat Brewing
Background: Sebastopol is a small town in wine country that has a SHOCKING amount to do. It’s nestled into the mountains near Russian River and Sonoma, so wine is aplenty and there are some top notch breweries popping up (plus the legendary Russian River Brewing, of course). I was visiting the region for wine, but couldn’t resist checking out Crooked Goat, a young brewery with tons of innovative brews and a venue right up the craft beer lover's alley.
Growlers: Crowlers are canned per order for anything except the Double IPAs.
The Beers: Crooked Goat has beers that will make two types of people very very happy: those who like IPAs, and those who like rich, dark brews. Here are a few of the ones I snagged while visiting:
Vibe: Just plain nice. Clearly mainly a local spot, the venue is built to let people see and appreciate the beer. The brewing section is visible from the entrance (and most of the seating), and the beers are all listed, chalkboard-style, high above the bar. Seating is mainly in a warehouse/garage door-style space that takes advantage of the wonderful weather in the area and lets in tons of natural light. A few TVs let you watch the game without taking over the place.
The service was about as good as I have ever had. Our bartenders were all incredibly attentive and took time to chat with us about the brewery, the beers, and where we were visiting from. Before asking about our next beer, they always asked how we felt about the one we just finished and chatted about it before going for the next pour. A+ on customer service for craft beer fans.
Beyond the great service, the folks at Crooked Goat seem to be a really humble bunch. Their website tells stories about them completely flunking on early iterations of their IPA, and then competing in competitions against the likes of breweries like Stone. It's always nice to see the editorial side of a brewery, especially when they can have fun with it.
Dogs: Saw a doggie water bowl, so I’m going to bet on yes this time!
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$. Perhaps a bit high for location, but totally in line with prices I typically see near San Francisco. Tasters are offered for only 3 bucks, but they truly are just tasters at 3 oz. The full pours will run you between $6 and $8, with crowlers at $12.
Food: There's no kitchen at Crooked Goat, but they offer a menu of pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and apps that are delivered from neighboring kitchens right to your seat at the bar.
Final Thoughts: I absolutely loved this place. The venue was impeccably clean and bright. The branding is phenomenal and the logo is simple but perfect. It was also in the industrial style that I’ve written about before referencing places like Burlington Beer. Add to that the amazing service, huge IPAs and delicious dark beers, and what more could you ask for? An absolute must stop whenever nearby and definitely on the list to find when touring the area for wine or beer.
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
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