Special – Travel: Beer and Food in Southern California Pt. 2

After trying more than my fair share of Beers at Stone the night before, it was time to go to Ballast Point Taproom and Kitchen at India Street, San Diego. Everyone told me that this is the best of the Ballast Point Taprooms, so I chose this to sample some of their beers and get some grub to line the stomach from the day before! The Taproom and Kitchen do fantastic food, we shared some Crispy Duck Nachos (Blue Cheese Sauce, Duck Confit, Pickled Onion, Arugula (Rocket) and Port Reduction) and as I was in San Diego, I went for the Fish Tacos. Both dishes were absolutely delicious, and very reasonable. As we had to drive back to LA (luckily I wasn’t doing the driving) later on in the day, I decided to try as many beers as possible before we had to go.

I started with a Sculpin IPA, the classic Ballast Point brew, which in my opinion is the IPA it’s hyped up to be and then moved on to a flight of Grapefruit Sculpin, Habanero Sculpin and the Black Marlin Porter. The Grapefruit Sculpin is coming up in my reviews next month but is a truly a World Class beer. The Habanero Sculpin was interesting, as I’m a self confessed Chilli Head I had to try it and I absolutely loved it. The nose is full of Citrus Fruit, Orange Peel and some resinous Pine in the background. On the Palate, there’s a nice initial Citrus and Pine from the hops with the Habanero building in the background. The Chilli isn’t for the weak hearted, but is a nice burn that builds as you drink. The Black Marlin was an equally good Porter, with Big Roasty notes on the nose with Raisins, Stone Fruits and a touch of Citrus on the finish. On the palate, a big Roasty Chocolatey note, with Caramel and Brown Sugar. Fantastic Mouthfeel on this one. Next up, I had a Ginger Big Eye IPA and the Sour Wench Berliner Weiss with Apricot and Peach. On the Nose the Sour Wench has a huge Apricot and Peach Aroma, with a little bit of woodiness from the stones of the Fruit and that familiar funky wheat and Lactobacillus Sour odor. This one is very tart to start off with, followed by the Sour Peach. Apricot lingers on the finish. As for the Ginger Big Eye – where do I start? Big Eye IPA is just as legendary as Sculpin. On the nose there was a big Ginger hit, with Grapefruit, Citrus and a little Soapiness. Although this has a huge hit from the Citrus, Grapefruit and Pine from the Hops, the Ginger is very prominent and compliments the Fruitiness from the Hops.

After this, we headed down to Pacific Beach to visit a smaller Brewerys Taproom – Twisted Manzanita. I got a flight here as time was running by and tried the Gillespie Brown (Brown Ale), Hot Chocolate (Chocolate Stout with Ancho and Habanaro Chillis), Rustic Horizon (Red Ale), Prospect Pale (Pale Ale) Iron Mountain (IPA), Enlightenmint (Milk Stout with Peppermint). I started with the Brown Ale, it pours with a Small Head but with great lacing. On the nose some Pine Nuts and Roasted Malts, when you taste it, it’s warm and boozy with Rasins, Piney Hops and a touch of Chocolate. Apart from the Enlightenmint, which I’ll be posting about on Friday, the Hot Chocolate was my favourite. It’s black as night with a tan coloured ring around the glass. On the nose you get big Chocolate and Coffee aromas and the Chilli is hidden very well, very sweet. On the Palate is where the Chilli comes into play, first a nice smooth Chocolate note that carries all the way through, then the Chilli kick, lots of Citrusy and Hot Spicy notes. Finishes smooth and spicy. The Rustic Horizon was a standard, well balanced Red Ale with Big Pine Notes and a nice Caramel Malt Backbone, The Prospect Pale was very well balanced also, with big Citrus aromas and a bready Malt Backbone. I’ll be Posting about the Enlightenmint on Friday, as it was probably my favourite of the entire San Diego trip!

I really liked Twisted Manzanita Taproom’s vibe, the staff were very friendly and knowledgeable and the decor was quite industrial and basic. The music in this place, and Ballast Point were the best of the entire trip. Although it was a short visit, it was time to leave San Diego.

The next day we made the long drive up to the Central Coast to Visit Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks in Buellton. Unfortunately due to the famous California Traffic, we missed our tour which was a shame. Luckily, Firestone Walker have a Taproom and Restaurant attached and we thought we’d take full advantage. By this time we were really hungry, and there was a table free for us straight away. I dived straight in with the Spicy Chicken Drumettes as an appertizer and a small measure of Velvet Merkin – a barrel aged version of their Velvet Merlin stout. Though I’d had it before when they came to visit in London, it really is a great beer and I wanted to try it fresh.  It’s Jet Black, and the Aroma was a little different. Lots of chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar, and toasted bread. The Palate had big brown Brown Sugar, Vanilla, Cocoa, Coffee, and Fig notes. There’s a distinct woody finish on this one. 

It was time to order the main course, and I went for the Sirloin Coulotte Steak with Shallot Butter, Fried Fingerling Potatoes and Chili-Lemon Broccolini and an Union Jack IPA. I must say again, that the food is truely delicious in this place and I really recommend having some if you visit. As for the Union Jack IPA, it was just as good as I remember. On the nose there was lots of Earthy Pine, Grapefruit, Citrus and a touch of sweet malt. The taste really is what makes this beer, some Pine Sap, Citrus, Grapefruit, Tropical Fruits with a great Malt Backbone riding throughout. What an IPA. I decided to skip dessert and go for an Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale and a Velvet Merlin on Nitro next.

The Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale was interesting, the fact it’s unfiltered really changes the aroma of this. Loads of Oak on the nose with Nutty Malt and a little bit of Vanilla Spice coming through. It tastes a little different too with big hits of Vanilla and Oak as well as the lovely Pale Malt backbone and fresh Bread Dough notes. What a great, simple beer! Next up was the Velvet Merlin on Nitro, I’ll start unusually by commenting on the Mouthfeel. The Nitro really improves this beer! The mouthfeel was like a Guiness, but this has way more flavour and aroma. On the nose there’s Roasty Coffee, Chocolate and a Milky Sweetness. The Palate is a tiny bit tart and dry, but with big hits of Milk Sweetness, Coffee and Chocolate. What a great way to end. After this I popped into the Barrelworks shop and picked up a bottle of the well known Parabola, which I’ll be reviewing in the future after it ages a little while!

Last, but definitely not least, we visited the Libertine Brewpub in Morro Bay which was Excellent. Unfortunately I was driving, but still managed to taste one of their Sours along with two other very good beers. I started with the Libertine Framboise, a beer I’d wanted to try for a long time. The Sours Libertine make are famous, if not notorious with people that have tried them! On the Nose a lot of Belgian funk and Sour Strawberry, the taste was great. If you haven’t tried a Sour, I wouldn’t recommend this as the first one, but it is delicious. Lots of Sour Strawberry and Funky Lacto notes with a great Wheaty backbone throughout. A great beer, I witnessed someone else try it and pucker. The Barman pointed at the sign above the Bar – “Ya, We Know It’s Sour.”

Next up, we decided to share a small measure of the Lost Abbey 10 Commandments – As you can see above, it’s got Honey, Raisins and Rosemary. Lost Abbey make Belgian inspired beers, and this one is a 12% Dark Strong Ale. It pours Jet Black, on the nose Chocolate, Molasses, Ginger, Honey, Coriander, Light Coffee and Nutmeg. The Flavour on this one is so complex, Raisin, Caramel, Gingerbread, Thyme, Molasses, Pink Peppercorn, some toasted Rosemary notes and a touch of Anise.

Finally, we shared a Firestone Walker Wookey Jack, a Black IPA I’ve been wanting to try for a while. Partly because of the name, and partly because Firestone’s IPA’s and Maltier offerings are great and I was interested on how they’d do a Black IPA. It pours Jet Black with a Tan Head, on the Nose plenty of Roasty Notes with Pine and Citrus coming from the Hops. They must’ve put a lot of Hops in this one, because they really cut through! There’s also some traces of dark fruits. The Palate on this one is lovely, it starts with a big Roasted Malt kick and as it fades into the background the Clean Citrus tones from the Hops come through, building up to a Roasty, Bitter finish. What a great beer!

That’s it for California. I had a great time. The vibe in all the beer-centric places I went were amazing, the food’s great even if you’re trying to eat healthily and great Beer is everywhere. Join me next week for my adventures in Arizona. Sorry this post was late, we had some Computer trouble!

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