Tag Archives: Craft Beer

The 30 Best California Breweries to Visit

Figueroa Mountain Brewing - Santa Barbara, California - 30 California Breweries to Visit

A craft beer journey and road trip through the Golden State – your guide to the best California breweries to visit, from San Diego to Eureka.

With 570 California breweries up and down the state, the Golden State has more craft breweries than any other state in the USA. Born and raised in California, it is also the place where I had my first experience with craft beer – Arrogant Bastard from Stone Brewery to be exact.

California is known for its craft beer culture, specifically in San Diego and San Francisco, but there are so many other breweries within the state that are worth a stop.

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A Guide to the Best Missoula Breweries

A Guide to the best Missoula breweries

A Guide to the Best Missoula Breweries so you know where to drink (and what to drink) while you’re in town.

I had no idea about the craft beer scene that would welcome me when I arrived in Missoula, Montana.

I had heard from a friend living there that craft beer was getting bigger around town, with quite a few recent Missoula breweries opening up, but every person and their mom says their city has the best craft beer scene in America these days.

So, I landed in town with a skeptical mindset. I mean, everyone said Portland had the most AMAZING craft beer scene too before I moved there, and that wasn’t at all the case in PDX.

However, what we found in Montana, and especially Missoula, far surpassed the quality of most breweries you’d find in Portland. I could not have been happier to spend four days in town exploring the best breweries in Missoula.

The unique aspect about breweries in Missoula, MT is the fact that most of them don’t have liquor licenses.

Liquor licenses cost a bundle (sometimes up to a million dollars), and they’re very limited in Montana because there is only a small number up for grabs in any given city.

Instead of the Missoula breweries, it’s mainly just the local Missoula bars that have been there for ages that hold liquor licenses and the freedoms that come with them.

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A Guide to Eugene Breweries – Where to Find the Best Beer Around Town

A Guide to Eugene Breweries

The ultimate guide to Eugene breweries! This is where you can find the best beer around town, from someone who has visited Eugene over a dozen times.

With the quality hops that come out of the Willamette Valley and the clean water supply, it’s no big secret that Oregon has a solid craft beer scene. Portland is hyped up – a tad too much in my book – and Bend gets a nod as well, but have you heard of the other fantastic craft beer scene in the city of Eugene?

Eugene gives Portland a run for its money in terms of quality over quantity. You’ll see brews from here all over Oregon, as guest taps in dive pubs to classy craft breweries. Overall, the Eugene breweries are versatile, hopped up, and delicious.

You don’t get the wacky creativity that comes out of a select few breweries in Portland, or more likely, California, but there is an abundance of very well brewed beers around Eugene.

I’ve had the chance to explore the craft beer culture in Eugene because my dad and stepmom live just outside the city, in Veneta. Luckily, my dad is a big beer drinker as well, so I was able to have some father-daughter bonding while doing this “research” around town.

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A Guide to the Best Victoria Breweries & Brewpubs

A Guide to the Best Victoria Breweries in BC, Canada

A guide to the best Victoria breweries and brewpubs in BC, Canada, so you can spend more time drinking good beer and less time researching.

I didn’t have much in the way of expectations for Victoria breweries and the craft beer scene as a whole in Victoria, BC. If I’m being honest, I’d only heard mediocre reviews of Canadian beer from American and Canadian friends alike in the past.

However, I found myself impressed with the craft beer scene once I arrived in Victoria. It was a nice break for my taste buds to try easy drinking Canadian beer, not at all like the heavy IPAs you usually find in the Pacific Northwest.

I wanted to write up a guide to the underrated Victoria breweries I came across, so you know exactly what to expect, both with specific breweries and brewpubs and the unique liquor laws of British Columbia.

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Grand Rapids Breweries | A Guide to the Best Brews in Town

Grand Rapids Breweries | A Guide to the Best Brews in Town

A detailed guide to Grand Rapids Breweries, so you can take full advantage of everything Beer City USA has to offer.

I took out the map, tracing my finger from Chicago to the possible neighboring states I could visit for my upcoming birthday trip through the Midwest.

My pointer finger easily fell on Michigan. I started looking at the city names to see if any jumped out at me, when I saw Grand Rapids. It wasn’t a city that rang a bell but one that intrigued me, Grand Rapids – it sounded adventurous, didn’t it?

I researched the city and found that there are some great Grand Rapids breweries and a thriving craft beer scene. I Googled what the place looked like and as soon as those images popping up on my browser, I was sold.

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A Guide to the Best Breweries in Bend for Any Beer Enthusiast

A guide to the best breweries in bend

Looking for a guide to take you through the best beer options in Bend, Oregon? These are my picks for the best breweries in Bend for any beer enthusiast.

I have to admit, I hadn’t even heard of Bend before I moved to Oregon. Once I arrived in Portland; however, I kept hearing about a faraway mountainous outdoor-loving place that could arguably rival Portland’s craft beer scene.

So, when I had the chance to take a road trip from Santa Cruz back up to Portland, I knew I had to include Bend in my travels and try and discover the best breweries in Bend – for research purposes, of course.

Last time I checked, the greater Bend area has about 28 different breweries, although there may be another one or two that have popped up in the last month.

You never know these days! This is pretty impressive with how much smaller Bend is than Portland, with a population of 81,000 vs. Portland’s 609,400.

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Experiencing a Portland Ghost Tour (And Getting the Creeps)

Portland Ghost Tour

Going on a Portland ghost tour is a unique way to learn more about the sordid and dark past of this Pacific Northwest city (with craft beer in hand, of course).

Before I moved to the city, I mainly pictured Portland as an outdoorsy hipster-capital that was all about unique fashion and the 90’s.

It still definitely adheres to those things, but what I wasn’t expecting was the amount of crime found around the city, the abundance of teenage “gangsters”, and the underground culture that still exists from Portland’s seedy past.

Because of its dark past and present, a Portland ghost tour is a unique experience to have to learn more about the city’s less talked about history.

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Experiencing a BrewCycle Portland Tour

Brewcycle Portland, Oregon | PNW Travel

Brewcycle Portland offers an affordable and easy way to brewery hop around a city that’s known for its craft beer.

I first came across BrewCycle when I was in Sacramento, California. I was heading to Rubicon Brewing when 10 people on a bike passed by shouting and cheering as they made their way down the street at snail speed.

When I found out that it wasn’t just a Sacramento tour but actually a worldwide phenomenon, I immediately signed up for my own BrewCycle Portland experience.

It just looked too unique and ridiculous of an experience to pass up, and I do love my craft beer.

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Tales from my first craft beer convention: Beervana

Some of you readers who have been following me for awhile probably already know how much I love craft beer, especially due to the fact that every bar I’ve worked in since moving abroad has specialized in the craft beer of that country.

The Bruhaus. Wellington, New Zealand.
The Bruhaus in Wellington, New Zealand.

I even go to craft beer courses in my free time, and still get excited when a new brewer pops up whom I’ve never heard of, or a wacky new beer is put on tap at work that I’ve never tasted. My joy of craft beer comes from my fondness of flavors and different ways to use my tastebuds, it’s why I love trying new food so much too.

Craft Beer College at Hashigo Zake, in Wellington, New Zealand
Craft Beer College at Hashigo Zake, in Wellington, New Zealand

I have a multitude of friends in New Zealand and back home in California who home brew themselves. One of the interesting aspects I’ve found about craft beer in New Zealand is that it’s all over the place, and not necessarily in a bad way.

Experimentation within a beer style is so common over here that it’s expected. There can be two beers from the same style, say an amber ale, and those two beers will taste completely different from one another. Of course, that’s not always the case, but compared to how much more we stick to certain beer style guidelines in the States, it comes off as apples and oranges to me.

My Kiwi friend commented on the fact that it’s most likely because of how small scale the brewing culture is over here. Some of the big name brewers in New Zealand still very much carry the home brew attitude of experimentation to batches, and much more than you could normally get away with if you worked at a huge brewing company in the States.

Related: How to Easily Get a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa as an American

Stone Brewery in San Diego, California
Stone Brewery in San Diego, California

All of this experimentation and partiality to not always sticking to the rules makes for some very interesting beers. As I write this, there is a salty seaweed gose ale on tap at work from a local brewery in Wellington, and it is delicious.

So, when Beervana came into town a couple months ago, I was keen to go but weary of the price tag. Admission price alone was $45 for a 5 hour session, and once inside you still had to buy all of your own food and drink.

75 ml tasters, depending on alcohol content, could be anywhere from $2.50 to $6, and 250ml glasses could be anywhere from $6 to $8. With that said, you were also able to meet the brewers, and be some of the first people to taste brand new beers and collaborations.

There were beer seminars as well, if you were willing to pay a little extra, that taught you anything from home brewing and making barrel aged beers, to why the right glassware matters for different styles of beer, and even beer and cheese pairing for the classier folk. Truly, a place for beer geeks around the world to rejoice!

Even with all of the craft beer goodness involved, I still wasn’t convinced to attend because I was wanting to save money. Instead, I worked an early shift at the bar, to serve breakfast and some cheeky craft beers to those heading out to Beervana.

After my shift, when my coworker said he was looking for someone to go with, I was half ready to jump on board. When he told me he would pay for all of my alcohol once inside the venue, if I paid for my $45 entry ticket, I was sold.

Commence an epic day of drinking really good beer from New Zealand, Australia, and the US.

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At first we wandered around aimlessly, taking in all the breweries and seeing what they had to offer, and even chatting with some local brewers.

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One of the brewers from Fiasco

We were having a good time of it, but eventually realized our beer time would be better spent if we glanced through all the breweries in the event guide, and marked off which beers we wanted to try.

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Garage Project Brewery

The event guide had an easy to read map, and a section for each brewery that listed which beers they were serving and tasting notes to go along with them. Most of the breweries I had heard of before and therefore had already tried a lot of beers that were on tap, but there were still a good amount of beers I had never tried, and so focused on those specifically.

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My favorite booths of the day had to be Liberty Brewing (already one of my all-time favorite breweries in New Zealand), which had a fantastic oatmeal stout called Darkest Days on tap, and surprisingly enough, the Portland Bar.

The Portland Bar consisted of a collaboration of breweries from all around Portland, Oregon in the States. My favorite beer of the day came from there, The Flemish Kiss (pale ale with Brettanomyces – basically a sour pale ale) from Commons Brewery.

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The Flemish Kiss

Later in the day we actually ran across the Commons and the Widmer Brothers brewers, both from Portland, and they were the nicest fellows. When they saw my friend buying some of their beers for takeaways at the Merchant Tent, the brewer from the Widmer Brothers bought him one of their expensive bottles, and gave him a free t-shirt as well. Score.

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Meeting up with the brewers from Portland and trying their beers, made me even more keen to live there for a bit when I get back to the States. Seriously, the craft beer culture in Portland is phenomenal (although San Diego’s not half bad either).

There was live music and food stands sprinkled throughout the convention as well, and volunteers walking around with water jugs on their backs and signs for free water on the front. It was loud, festive, and tasty as.

I had an excellent and unexpected day at Beervana, and would very much recommend it to anyone who happens to be in Wellington at the right time. Craft beer is so much a part of the Wellingtonian culture that it’s just another way to experience Kiwi life, and the good beer that flows from it.

Funk Estate Brewery Tattoos
Funk Estate Brewery Tattoos

Here’s a list of the beers I tasted (and the tasting notes provided by Beervana) to give you an idea of the variety present, and maybe some ideas for your next round when you come to Wellington.

  • Fiasco Fiesty Wheat – American wheat style. 5.0%
  • Mountain Goat Fancy Pants Amber Ale (AUS) – fruity hops, caramel and toffee malts. 5.2%
  • Pink Boots Unite Pale – brewed with all New Zealand hops. 4.0%
  • Commons Flemish Kiss (USA) – Pale ale with Brettanomyces. 6.5%
  • Yeastie Boys Stairdancer – Chuck Norris meets Van Gogh for beers. 6.8%
  • Deep Creek Dominatrix Double IPA – hints of grapefruit, orange, pine and caramel. 7.3%
  • Three Boys Mt Hutt Gingernut – Biscuity, floral tea flavor, dry finish, peppery gingerness. 6.0%
  • Liberty Darkest Days Oatmeal Stout – Bitter cacao, burnt sugar, fruity chocolate, piney hops, dry finish. 6.0%
  • Renaissance Great Punkin Ale – A red/orange medium bodied ale with pumpkin pie notes. 7.2%
  • Cassels & Sons Alchemist Pale Ale – Citrus as the main component, a pleasant lightly hopped red ale. 4.6%
  • 8 Wired Wild Feijoa – Barrel aged pale sour beer with feijoa. 9.5%
  • Garage Project Wasabi Sour – Yuzu honeydew imperial sour ale. 7.8%

Looking for more craft beer inspiration? Check out my beer guides for California, Grand Rapids, Victoria BC, Eugene, Bend, and Missoula.

Craft Beer 101

Craft Beer 101 - The Atlas Heart

It seems like everyone is talking about craft beer, hops, and malts these days. Or is that just me?  I first got into craft beer in college, a friend introduced me to big hop American IPAs via Stone Brewery and I was sold from my first sip. My Coors Light party days from freshman year were long gone by the time I started working as a bartender at the craft beer pub on campus my senior year.

I was blessed to go to school in San Diego, California. Not only does it have some of the best year around weather in the world, beaches, and people, but one of the best microbrewery scenes in the nation.

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