Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hop Highway Beer Tour

Our ride down  Hop Highway



Highway 78 in Northern San Diego has earned the name of "Hop Highway" over the last year.  On this northern most highway in San Diego are some of the most innovative breweries on the planet.  My buddies wife decided that for his birthday she would "Man Up" and rent a 14 passenger van and drive his buddies from Chula Vista down this "Hop Highway" in the search of perfect beer.



The goal was simple, only go to new breweries that we haven't been before.  We had 5 on our list, but lets be honest, we wanted to hit 4 of them before the deadly mixture of beer wounded us incapable of drinking.  I tend to shy away from Craft Beer reviews but this trip was way to awesome not to brag about. 




Iron Fist Brewing


Iron Fist Brewery

This was our first stop, on the west side of Highway 78.  Iron Fist has built up a great branding of beers in San Diego over the last 2 years.  Owned by a 24 year old brewer and his family.  They have a solid line up.  I tried the 4 sampler flight to start.  All the beers at Iron Fist are solid, having a great layout for beer fans this is a awesome place to hang out and have a couple beers.  Also being so close to LegoLand it's a great pit stop with the family before a long drive home. 

Flights at Belching Beaver


Belching Beaver 

Besides the horrible name I expected this place to be a bust.  I haven't heard anything good or bad coming out of this place.  Expecting to see a tiny nano system with a couple of homebrew like beers on draft I was shocked to see a modern, well laid out brewery.  It looked like a 7 barrel system with 4 brite tanks located on the right of a square bar.  


I also ordered the 6 sample flight.  Which came in a really nice looking carrier made out of rod iron.  That balanced well when I carried it to the table.  The glassware was formed in a very dramatic V shape giving the impression of a bigger pour.  

I found their beers well made and very clean.  Rabid Beaver Rye IPA was one of my favorite beers of the day.  I found it very dry and well balanced.  This style is quickly becoming my personal favorite style to brew.  They also had an IPA that was Randell'd stuffed with Grapefruit and Kumquats.  This beer was amazing.  The difference between the normal IPA and the Randell'd version was night and day.  I was so impressed with this version that I ordered a pint.  In fact it was the only pint I ordered the entire night.  (Having an all Citra IPA in the keg, ready to be primed makes me want to pull out my hopback and split the batch)

They also had a very good Red IPA called Blushing Beaver this beer, ranking in third for the day, was cleanly brewed and fermented.  With a great blush red color. 

This spot was my personal favorite of the trip.  Honestly my mind was made up before we even left for the next spot on the tour.  Another thing to comment on was the clarity of all the beers at Belching Beaver Brewery.  (The name is so horrible I cringe even typing it.) They have mastered the art pouring clean beer, hands down.  I didn't see any filtering equipment laying around so I have to assume they are using gelatin or some other chemical finings.  Which if they are, "Well done". 









Walking in to Latitude 33


Latitude 33 Brewing Company

This is the point that I started to feel the effects of my unquenchable thirst.  The final pint of the beautiful beer at Belching Beaver was catching up to me.  So while I thoroughly enjoyed the beers at Latitude 33 Brewing I am not going to go into to much detail on them.  With that said, I did really like my 1st beer, their Coconut Rye Stout.



Latitude 33 was the biggest brewery in fermentation capabilities from what I could tell, they also had the oldest feel to them, being located in a older building with no real front entry into the tasting room.  They also had the most friendly staff out of all the placed we visited.   Knowing this was the start of my demise, I tried a meat pie from the street vendor located in the bay door along side of the brewery.  It was good, to good for my buzzed state.  So I had to investigate them further with another meat pie.  It passed the test.  After my coconut rye stout I moved onto another great beer Camel Corps IPA.  


Mother Earth's BS Tasting Room

Mother Earth Brewing Company

I've read nothing but great things about this brewery, they've even gone as far as saying they are some of the best owners in the area.   If that is true, which it may be, they had the wrong staff Saturday night.  Located away from the production brewery, Mother Earths Tap Room feels like they are trying to hard.  The craft beer movment in San Diego is all about tastings and food trucks located outside,  surrounded by friends tasting a flight of beer you normally don't get to.  Mother Earth was like a bar wanting to be a craft beer pub.  I hated it from the moment I walked in.  In fact, we all felt bitter about the place.  It's the simple things, you couldn't create your own flights of beer.  They had days of the week flights that were set in stone.  Unable to change them, I settled on a taster of the house IPA and quickly left.  




Rip Current Brewing

So things are better left unsaid, but I'll be honest.  After leaving Mother Earth we consumed another round of beers in the van before arriving at Rip Current Brewing.  Which by all accounts was a bad idea.  This last bit of consumption quickly changed me into a highly buzzed craft beer fan.  Now remember, we had a DD, a van full of guys, a random chick plus a pregnant wife rolling with us. (Not Mine) We had all the bases covered responsibility wise.  The one thing that we couldn't control was the intake of beer, starting at noon and traveling into 4 and now 5 breweries we were done.  Luckly I'm cheerful when drunk, so trouble was adverted, so I'll save the reviewing for another time.  


With over 65 Breweries in San Diego County alone it might be a while before we are able to get up to the Hop Highway anytime soon but it was a great ride. 






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