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Allrighty, I just realised that I still havn't blogged about my recent trip to the US of A, so what better time than now :o) Sorry I dont have any pics but no internet at home so cant upload them...
I guess I should start by saying that all of the storys are very much true, yes there is an awful lot of craft beer in the US, and it is readily available, so available in fact that every local 7/11 or convenience store I went to at least had SNPA 6 packs for $8!! Heaven!!
We started our trip in LA, not a place I like very much at all, but I guess you have to go at least once in your life so you can say you did haha. My first stop after picking up the rental car was to get some beers, before even checking into the motel of course :o) So we drove to "Fresh Food Markets" or something, an organic supermarket with a killer beer range, I had to make my way through their wine cellar, which in itself was the size of a small super market, and then stumbled across their beer fridge before my jaw dropped hard to the floor!! I saw their beer fridge, about twice the size of Vic Park New Worlds!! Soooooo much selection, soooo many beers at such amazingly low prices, and to my pleasure the usual crap like Heineken, Stella etc was lined along the very bottom of the fridge, with all the craft beer prominently displayed proudly above it!! I got myself a couple of 6 packs and a few single bottles to keep me happy :o) Realising I didnt have a glass and had to pay extra for a fridge in my room however was not so fun, next time I will be prepared!
The next day it was all on, a 7 hour drive to San Francisco ahead of us, I remember cracking my 650ml Bottle of Alesmith XPA on the drive and thinking it was delicous, even if it was sipped from a plastic 7/11 coffee cup!! The drive was relatively boring, straight road for 99% of the drive, but when we arrived San Fran looked beautiful with its massive bridges and jam packed city! We did the sight seeing things like alcatraz and other non-beer related things before going to the Rogue Taphouse for dinner, and to be honest, I expected more! It was a quiet rather small pub that didnt look as flash as say Hallertau or the Malthouse, but the beer selection was awesome!! I ordered a tasting tray of various Rogue beers, some hazelnut brown ale bread which was amazing and the best cheese burger ive had in my life!! I love how most, if not all beer bars have such a wicked selection of food! My favourite beers of the night being Brutal Bitter and Old Crusty, Old Crusty being a standout, thick, rich and so savagely bitter I could taste hops half way through the next day!!! Ive never tried anything so bitter before in my life, it actually hurt!!! Awesome!!
Following on from that we proceeded to start our trip to Las Vegas, all up about 10 hours driving and a solid 9 of that on straight roads, but the trip included a stop at a shop called "Bevmo" which I swear had close to 1,000 different beers in stock, it was just wicked! So many beers ive either heard of and allways wanted to try, and even more that id never even heard of, all with bright and colourful labels (something the american craft beers do really well!), I brought myself a bottle of Unibrou La-Terrible for a mere $9!?!?! $9!!! Would you believe it??
Not alot of good beer in Vegas that I could find, despite staying in a motel that was right next to, and I quote "Americas 3rd biggest Craft brewery" but to be honest it wasnt very good, not only did they not have an IPA in their line up but I tried their Pale Ale which reminded me of mega swill, it was clean, but boring, however it was still alot better than the Budweiser most of the casino's were serving up!!
Then we drove to heaven, San Diego, OMFG, I would live there and will definately be going back one day!! We only had time for one brewery tour, so of course I went to Stone Brewing and was in awe with how flash their brewery and bistro was!! They offered free brewery tours, but you had to line up 3 hours before the tour starts to get a ticket 2 hours before the tour time, so we lined up for an hour, then went and had lunch while we waited for the tour to start. I had a Ruination Garlic Soup that was absolutely devine, who thought IPA could go in a soup? I sure as hell didnt but cant stress how awesome it was, i would love to make something similair, you could actually taste the bitterness in the creamy soup!!! YUM!! To wash it down was a Cali-Belqique IPA which is just their standard IPA with a different yeast, completely different too! I also had some cask conditioned brown ale which had it all, fresh hop aroma and malt all served through handpump!! Sadly I was cursed with having to drive so had to finish after that, being on the other side of the road and all :oP haha
We proceeded to do the brewery tour, ive never seen so much stainless steel in my life, not to mention the flash equipment they had like their apparantly 140 bottles per minute bottling machine!! They also ran through the process of how their beers go from fermenter, to bottle, to cool room, to refrigerated truck, to cool room in the liquor shop, so I guess Greg Koch does ensure strict temp control throughout the whole process! I also picked up a few pamphlets telling me that I could have done a 30 brewery San Diego bus tour, next time eh? lol - I also noticed on the way out that the brewery does keg refills, so you can get a corny of say, Ruination for a mere $60 and take it home with you!! I ask, why would you brew if you lived in America??
We went back to Anaheim afterwards where I couldnt really find anything apart from SNPA, but that kept me happy enough!! We then flew to Florida and got on a princess cruises ship where I thought I wouldn't have a chance in hell to get anything other than Budweiser, but was pleasently surprised when I saw they had not only one, but two of Alaskan brewery beers, their Summer ale and their Amber, so most of my 14 day cruise was spent drinking Alaskan Amber, with the odd bottle of Corona in Mexico, however it tasted so much better, nice and fresh and went down a treat in 30*c plus temperatures!!
So yeah, I want to go back, and didnt want to leave, and didnt have enough room in my suitcase to bring back all of the awesome beers available! I tried so many new and awesome beers while I was over there, but from what I can remember these were the ones that stood out :o) I started to get a bit sick of IPA by the end of my trip and leant towards more malty beers
Bear Republic - Racer 5 IPA and Red Rocket - The red rocket was a fave, a malty hopped up scotch ale, Racer 5 was nice but not exactly one of the best IPA's I had in my time over there.
Rogue - American Amber, such great balance with good lashes of hop and malt!
Stone IPA and Ruination - What else can I say that hasnt been said?? Such awesome beers, and sold by the 6 pack?? How can you lose!!
Sierra Nevada - Wet Hop Ale - So good, such a fresh wet, resinous hop aroma, good bitterness, just awesome!
Stone - Arrogant Bastard - I thought this was quite meh, it was a good beer and I wrote it down so mustve been good enough, but had too much of everything, sorta like they just threw in heaps of malt and a shitload of hop and hoped for the best... I was surprised it gets raved about so much, not the best offering to come from Stone brewing...
Green Flash IIPA - Most resinous beer ive ever had, it was like chewing on a hop pellet, amazing percieved hoppyness, it blew me away!!
Cheers, hopefully ive encouraged some of you to get your ass over there!!! You wont regret it!