Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

November is the month we traditionally spend time remembering to be grateful. Squeezed in with the football games, family gatherings, and massive amounts of food, we take a moment or two to express our thanksgivings.

I have many things for which to be thankful, and strive to express my gratitude more than one day each year. I am thankful for each of the many local craft breweries to which I have such easy access. For example, it is a great gift to be within driving distance of the vast number of choices in San Diego County. In particular, I am grateful for, and to, my friend Beth and her family who allow me to intrude on them every so often so Beth and I can explore area breweries.

I recently drove down to spend just over a day with Beth, and we were able to visit nine places on a Friday afternoon/evening and Saturday. We began in Ocean Beach, because we had not really visited there before, and because Beth surfs there.

We started at the OB Brewery, which opened in July, is three stories tall, and includes a rooftop deck that overlooks the ocean.

It was an excellent, sunny Friday afternoon, a great opportunity to drink beer and watch the ocean. We sampled several, keeping in mind we were just getting started. Our choices included a B. Right On pale ale, which, with its pale malts and light bitterness, was perfect for a sunny day at the beach. We also tried a Long Time Coming agave cream ale, which was light, crisp, and refreshing, and their Night Moves oatmeal stout, which was roasty, yet still light bodied.

Our next stop was the Helm’s Brewing Company satellite tasting room, just down the street. Helm’s is a San Diego brewery, brewing in Kearney Mesa, which established their tasting room in Ocean Beach in May. Helm’s has a long history of community involvement, including participating in weekly beach cleanup every Thursday.

Our choices at Helm’s were wide ranging. We tried a Moulin Range Belgian Tripel, an unexpected seasonal Samuin Harvest pumpkin amber ale, an excellent Red Velvet red stout, a Batten Down Brown American style brown ale, a Wicked as Sun which is a unique IPA in the San Diego community, their Carpe Lupulin New England IPA, a delicious Black Pearl black IPA, a Dark Waters Belgian dark brown ale, their great Beeruccino coffee porter, and a Hispaniola golden stout on nitro.

After taking our time at Helm’s, it was time for a brief interlude. After two breweries, I took the opportunity to visit Hodad’s, home of the world’s best burgers. What more do I really need to say?

After the culinary and cultural experience that is Hodad’s, Beth and headed to the Mike Hess Brewing tasting room. People were friendly, helpful, and gave us a free glass for finishing a flight.

Our glass-worthy flight included a Coffee Grazias, a Vienna cream ale, a Habitus, a double IPA, a Solis, Hess’ dynamic San Diego IPA, a Hop-To-It-Us, and their Umbrix rye imperial stout.

Our next visit was to Belching Beaver Brewery’s brewhouse. We had both already tasted their Peanut Butter Milk Stout, so we focused our attention on other brews.

Belching Beaver is a happy, friendly place. Our choices included several IPAs; I Love Juicy, Hop Highway, Damned! Double IPA, and Pound Town triple IPA. They were all great, but I think Belching Beaver comes into its own in the dark end of the pool. Beaver Buzz Coffee Stout nitro was amazing, as was Viva la Beaver Mexican chocolate milk stout and Golden milk stout with coffee. My only regret is that we succumbed to temptation and tried the seasonal Pumpkin Spice milk stout rather than Old Dirty Barrel Russian Imperial stout.

Culture Brewing Co.Our fifth and final brewery of the day was Culture Brewing Company. Where Belching Beaver is about craft beer with a sense of humor, Culture is more serious and focused.

The people at Culture know their stuff, and the beers we tasted were created for flavor, not necessarily entertainment. With brews like Amber Ale, Sour Medley, and Milk Stout, Culture is all about the taste. Tart Cherry Wit certainly was.

Culture’s wheel house is their IPAs. This is San Diego County, after all. The flavors are incredible, and they are straight for the tongue. We sampled their Amarillo SIPA, Double IPA, Mosaic IPA, and Wet Hop IPA.

That was the first day of our two-day pilgrimage. That was just Friday. Who knows what Saturday would bring?

Thank you, Beth!

Greg Richardson is a leadership and organizational coach, and a spiritual life mentor, in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney, executive, and university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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