Tag Archives: breweries

Temecula Breweries


When I was planning our trip to California, I thought it would be a great surprise to take Rob to a few craft breweries. I started out on this California Craft Beer website and zoomed in on the greater Los Angeles area. I wasn’t sure if we’d have time to hit any before heading down to Temecula, but I noted a couple, just in case.

Then I remembered that one of our faves, Stone Brewing Company, was in Southern California and tried to figure out if we’d be able to hit it. As I zoomed in on Escondido, where Stone is located, I noticed on the map that there were a few craft breweries right in Temecula! With a little more help from The Google, I found the Temecula Breweries website!

I made a note of the hours and locations of all of the breweries, in hopes that we could hit a few while we were in Wine Country. Yes, I intended to drink beer in Wine Country. I knew it was quite probable that we would get wined out. And we did.

With the help of the same locals recommended wineries, we were able to plot a route and pick some breweries that were near each other. This was not unlike our plan for Wine Tasting!  We picked five breweries and intended to visit the one furthest from Old Town first so that we could end by having dinner in Old Town.

Note: Brewery Tasting Rooms in Temecula are generally open from 4pm to 8pm. Some are not open Monday and Tuesday.

This was perfect for our trip because after a day of tasting the previous day, we had time to sleep in, have a late breakfast, pack for the next day’s early morning departure and have a late, late lunch before hitting the breweries.

And so I give you the Temecula Breweries we visited, in the order of visiting them. Rob collected a pint glass from each.

1) Ironfire Brewing

“Ales for Outlaws.” Ironfire does a great job of encompassing that Old Southwest feel that you’ll still find a bit of in Old Town Temecula. I love the names of their beers! And while you can’t read them at all in the photo below, I loved that they looked like they were burned into wood and hung on the wall, just like you might expect during those times.

093They offer beers by the pint, half-pint and flight (sampler) in their small, standing-only tasting room. Rob enjoyed a half-pint each of the Viscious Disposition Imperial Porter and the DOA Double IPA. I had a half-pint of the Six Killer Stout and snuck a taste of their Cucumber Ale. That would be such a refreshing beverage in the summer!

Ironfire is a newer brewery and the bartender was excited to show us the growlers they just got in! Of course, we couldn’t take one with us, so I snapped a photo. How fitting with their theme!
095And in the bathroom, I found a reward poster for Billy the Kid…


We liked this place so much that we weren’t sure how the rest would compare! But we ventured onward anyway.

2) Black Market Brewing

According to a bartender on our first night in town, Black Market is the oldest brewery in Temecula. But I’ve just learned that it opened in 2009!

098The bar where these brews were served did not have a seat available. This place was busy! So I told Rob to order two beers that he wanted to try and I’d just have a few tastes. It was my turn to drive!

So we grabbed our Revolution Oatmeal Stout and the Scottish Export 80


It was Happy Hour, so these pints were only $3.50 each!

…and wandered into the overflow room where we sat at some picnic tables. I liked how the barrels below separated the sitting area from the tank room.

3) Wiens Brewing

Yes, this is the family who owns Wiens Winery. We weren’t impressed with their wines, so we were curious about their attempt at beer. When we walked into Wiens, it was completely empty. There was no one there. Hmmm… I did like the layout of their beer menu on the wall, though.

102I proceeded to order the Chocolate Porter while Rob ordered a Bourbon barrel-something-or-other called Descend.

103I am so into bourbon barrel-style ales right now! However, they are very high in alcohol, that I knew they wouldn’t be on my menu for the evening! The aroma of this one was right on par with the ones I like. However, the chocolate in my porter tasted forced – almost like someone added Hershey’s syrup to it. I had half and gave the rest to Rob to finish.

We were there for almost an hour and I can tell you that during that time, only one person stopped in. I’m not sure why that is. But almost across the road {within walking distance} was…

4) Refuge Brewery

Rob wanted to skip this one because they are known for their Belgians, of which he is not a fan. I told him to give it a chance. There is no reason to not stop when we were so close.


This place was hoppin’! It appears that this was the happy hour place to go. It only got busier while we were there.

107Rob made a detour to the restroom and I pulled up to the bar. It was time for a sampler. I explained to the bartender that my husband didn’t like Belgians. I asked him to put together a sampler of beers that just might change his mind…

108Blood Orange Wit {Belgian Style White Ale}, Rampart Red {American Red Ale}, Pumpkin Saison {Farmhouse Style Ale}, Vertigo {Belgian Imperial Style IPA}

Ding! Ding! Ding! The Vertigo won in Rob’s book that night! But I totally missed that they had some Bourbon Barrel “Reserves”!

109After whining that I totally missed those, our bartender gave us a couple little tastes of the Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Ale as well as the Four Roses Bourbon Barrel Ale, which was my favorite. I’m so glad that he gave us tastes because I wouldn’t have been able to drink a $6 glass and then drive and Rob probably wouldn’t have been able to drink a $6 glass and stay awake!

You could also learn a thing or two at the Refuge Brewery…

5) Aftershock Brewing

For us, Aftershock was kind of an Afterthought. I almost skipped it because I just couldn’t find it. That is because it’s in a warehouse-type complex all around the back and I didn’t see any signage. I had to call them to get some landmarks. It was a quick visit because we were in need of some dinner. I believe Rob chose a unique beer with strawberry or something of that sort. He had already had the Jess y James Imperial Stout at a bar in Old Town on our first night. So good. At the local supermarket, we could easily spot their beers, marked in green and gold and all. 😉

So we bought our pint glass, she threw in some coasters and we made our way to dinner…


In the end, we didn’t make it to Stone Brewery, even though we love their stuff. But that’s okay. We can get their beers back at home. And we had a few specialities on tap while in Cali. The way a local put it, “In California, it’s the battle of the North and South: Lagunitas vs. Stone. I’d rather support the local, little guy while I can.”

What’s your favorite local beer where you live?

I just may have to give it a try when I’m in your neck of the woods!


Charlotte Breweries


Did you know that National Beverage (containing alcohol) of the United States of America is Bourbon? Yes, Bourbon. We learned this on the Beer Trolley Tour we took in December. We were told that “They” are trying to get this changed to craft beer. There are more craft beer varieties and breweries in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world!

And guess what? Next week is…asdfad

When we visited our friends in Charlotte, North Carolina, it was North Carolina Beer Month!

TripC-NC Beer Month

And, boy, did we celebrate! Tay and Brendan took us on a tour of the city’s breweries. I never knew that North Carolina was such a brew-happy state! First, we sampled some great local beers while dining out… First at Mac’s Speed Shop, then at Mellow Mushroom. {Not to mention the beer we stocked up on for back at the house!} The Mellow Mushroom Beer Menu stated,“North Carolina boasts more craft breweries than any state in the American South.”

Let us compare with some of those other southern states, shall we?


Each numbered black dot represents a brewery! It looks like there are at least 80!

Now check out Alabama:


Not quite as many, you think?

Even Tennessee and South Carolina have considerably less:


Quite a difference, don’t you think?

Hooray for North Carolina! While breweries are popping up quickly everywhere across the country, it seems North Carolina breweries do really have their mark on the map. We had the opportunity to stop at five of them!

Brewery Stop #1 – Four Friends Brewing

Our first brewery stop was on our second night in Charlotte after dining (and consuming a few beers) at Mellow Mushroom.

This taproom reminded me of the ones that we have visited in Minnesota… Kind of off the beaten path, nothing too fancy, just a garage opened up for tasting. The dog above was just one of the dogs we saw, met and petted. Most of the breweries we visited were very dog friendly. We LOVE this!

At Four Friends Brewery, I had my first Jalapeño Beer!


Tres Hombres Jalapeno Beer

Nothing else looked interesting to me that night, so I almost just ordered a glass. Everyone warned me that I should sample it first. I loved it! And I did order a glass. {…With one of the brewers in the background, tee hee!} Some said that the jalapeno was a little too much for them, but I found it very well balanced. If you’ve ever read my posts on cooking like a Homesick Texan, you’ll know that I like heat in terms of spice, not necessary overbearingly-hot. And this is exactly what this beer offered. Plus, I had never had a jalapeno beer before… Why not try my first one in North Carolina, of all places!?

Rob says that this place was the least commercialized of the ones we visited and felt more like you were stopping at a friend’s place, who just happened to have a back warehouse where he made beer. 😉


The next night, we continued our beer tasting tour of Charlotte…

Brewery Stop #2 – Birdsong Brewing Company


I like the bird logo. Can you point it out?

Birdsong Brewing is located in the NoDa (North Davidson Street) area of Charlotte. The nice back deck was crowded with folks sipping brews. Inside, we pulled up seats to the tasting bar and listened to some music by a guy strumming a guitar with Eddie Veddar’s voice. I found the ambiance quite relaxing, something people might not associate with a taproom or brewery.

But look again closely at the photo above… They had a Jalapeno Beer, here, too! Why hadn’t I been introduced to these before Charlotte? However, here, I went with the Lazy Bird Brown. I just wanted something different from the IPAs, porters and stouts I’d been enjoying as of late.

Look at the photo above for a third time. I wondered why a brewery wouldn’t offer flights (small pours of samples of some/all of their current beers). It seemed a little strange to me. However, before I emptied my glass, the bartender flipped the sign over to read “flights.” My guess? They were out of sample glasses! Once washed, they can offer them again.

With our glasses empty, we had no problem sauntering over to the next brewery, as it was right next door!

Brewery Stop #3 – NoDa Brewing Company

Appropriately named, considering it is located in Charlotte’s historic arts district of the same name, no?

Building Mural at NoDa

Building Mural at NoDa Brewing Company

This place was packed! We threaded our way through the crowd to the bar to find this overwhelming beer menu!

NoDa beers

Beers on Tap? Beers in the bottle? Kombucha? Guest taps? Where to begin! Eventually, I chose the CoCo LoCo, a porter made with organic coconut. While I would never turn it down, there’s something a bit better about the Kona Brewing Company Koko Brown I had in Hawaii. Maybe it’s just location, but coconut does really take me back to Hawaii, not usually North Carolina! {On another note, the Koko Brown has proven to be a somewhat lucky poker beer for me since I’ve found it on tap and in bottles in Eagan!}

We spent much of the time outdoors, although it had just rained, sipping our brews in the cool air away from the crowds:

Rob and our lovely hosts Tay and Brendan

Rob and our lovely hosts Tay and Brendan


We hopped in the car to make the five-mile trek to hit the last brewery (of the night).

Brewery Stop #4 – Triple C Brewing Company


Sure, it looks like the night is just beginning as we make our way to the door. However breweries and taprooms in Charlotte generally close at 8 or 9pm. I think this is a good thing. Most don’t serve food. And people need food before and/or after consuming a few too many beers.

The first thing I noticed at Triple C was the TV screen connected to their beer menu:


Since Charlotte is the home of NASCAR, it’s only natural that they’d be televising races right next to the beer menu! Since there were two IPAs on tap, Rob and I decided to order one of each for comparison.


Greenway and 3C IPAs

You can’t tell because of the color of the table behind them, but these two IPAs were very different in color. Which one did I like better? I have no idea. We were having too much fun… listening to this band {which happened to include an old friend Brendan hadn’t seen in a while!} and sitting at this long table….


… And taking blurry, cheesy photos of ourselves!

We did do just one more brewery… but for brunch the following day. Come back tomorrow to read about our Heist Brewery Brunch!

All I can say is that after this fun beer tour, Rob and I think we are ready to do this one in The Cities. Well… almost.

What is your favorite local brewery and why?

(It just make our must-do list while traveling!)


Living Social Beer Trolley Tour


Last night I spent the evening wrapping gifts and talking with my mom and my 5-year-old nephew on the phone. I wished I could hug him right then and not have to wait until Christmas when we go back to visit.

Although I mentioned it in my post on the Top 5 Gifts for the Hard-to-Buy-for Person Who Has Everything, I fell like that now, more than ever, giving the gift of your time is one of the most precious things you can give.

For my husband’s 40th birthday, I threw him a “40 days before your 40th” surprise party {time with friends}. Then, on his actual birthday, I had 40 little gifts wrapped. The first one was a timer set to 15 minutes because the intent was for him to open a gift every 15 minutes so that he’d be opening them all day long! I also gave him the freedom to watch football, uninterrupted, all day long {time for himself}, though it was nice to reconnect with him every 15 minutes so that he could unwrap the his next gift. “Hurray!” he’d shout. I’d swear this man had not just turned 40!

One of those gifts was a gift of experience, but he would have to do it by spending time with me!


As I may have mentioned a time or two, we’ve been blessed with new craft and  micro breweries popping up all over the Twin Cities metro since the Surly bill was passed a little over a year ago. Having lived in Seattle for a good five years, my husband is a fan of such beers and has turned me into somewhat of a beer snob.

So when I received an email from LivingSocial with an offer for a Beer Tasting Trolley Tour, I knew I had to snatch up a couple of tickets and put them in Rob’s birthday box. I didn’t know how good the tour would actually be, but I thought getting him to Lucid Brewing {one of his faves} with perhaps an opportunity to talk with the brewers would be a gift in and of itself.

Our tour included:

  • Lunch at Pizza Lucé with a Pint of Beer
  • Guidance by LivingSocial Adventure Staff
  • 12 Tastings of Local Craft Beers
  • Tours of 4 Local Breweries
  • Take-home LivingSocial Pint Glass
  • Round-Trip Transportation Aboard Vintage Trolleys

There were 60 of us in our tour group, split up onto two trolleys.


It didn’t feel like that many people; however, except at the beginning, while dining at Pizza Lucé. We sat there for a good 20 minutes or more before someone came to take our beer order. It was sort of frustrating because we knew that the pizza wouldn’t be out right away, but it would have been nice to have something to sip on while we were waiting.

On top of that, the server was so unfamiliar with the beer menu. He couldn’t tell the difference between an IPA and stout. When he finally came back to the table with our beer, he said that he had three Surly Furious IPAs, but it was obvious that two of the beers were darker and were the stouts Rob and I ordered. He was so confused and had to go back to the bar to find out what was wrong. Seriously, if you are going to serve good local brews at your restaurant, train your staff already. {He wasn’t the only one clueless.}

This was our first time enjoying Summit Oatmeal Stout on Nitro!

Rob and I have concluded that we aren’t fans of Pizza Lucé crust. There is just no flavor there. Season It Already!

But truly, that was really the only complaint of the 5 and half hour tour. There was much fun to come! Our first stop was at Excelsior Brewing Company in Excelsior, MN:

Soup of the Day = Beer & Jumbo Jenga at Excelsior Brewing

Soup of the Day = Beer & Jumbo Jenga at Excelsior Brewing

We really *wanted* to like this place. But we just weren’t that impressed with the beer. Their new Summer Solstice was very strange, too. It had an aftertaste that I couldn’t place. Later, I realized it reminded me of a wine I once had, with an overwhelming eucalyptus finish.

After our three tastes there, we bought a glass of their Porter. Even that fell flat for us. There were many people who enjoyed the beers, though, and even bought Growlers for the trolley ride. {Yes, we could drink on the trolley!}

Don’t worry, we’ll still give Excelsior Brewing a chance. They are still very new. I believe their opening week was only back in July. I still really want to like the place.

Our next stop was at Lucid Brewing where they also share the facility with Badger Hill.

Lucid & Badger Hills on tap from this cooler!

Lucid & Badger Hill beers on tap from this cooler!

As expected, Rob loved being able to talk with the brewers at Lucid. {Another gift SUCCESS!} We had time to chat with the gal who owns Badger Hill as well. We talked with them about our favorites and at what restaurants we like to enjoy a pint or two of their beers.

Our favorite samples:


Lucid Foto IPA – The dry hoppiness is something we both love in our beer.

Badger Hill Foundation Stout

Badger Hill Foundation Stout

Rob emptying sample number, uh... ??? while sporting the pretzel necklace we were handed upon entry. GENIUS!

Rob emptying sample number, uh… ??? while sporting the pretzel necklace we were handed upon entry. Genius!

They even tapped a firkin for us!

They even tapped a firkin for us!

At this point, Rob could have cared less if we hit another brewery. He was content. However, the next stop was Steel Toe Brewing in St. Louis Park. We had just tried the brewery’s Dissent a couple weeks prior at the Pig & Fiddle and were quite impressed.

Steel Toe’s facility was small enough that they only wanted one trolley-full of people in their facility at a time. Our LivingSocial tour guides were fun and sociable. They had trivia and prizes prepared for us on the trolley while we waited for the first group to tour. I learned a thing or two! Like…

Did you the official national alcohol of the United States is Bourbon?!

I had no idea! It sounds like “they” are trying to get that changed to beer. The U.S. does has more craft breweries than any other country.

We loved the time we had talking with the brewer at Steel Toe. He was a laid-back-down-to-earth guy. But come to think about it, really, they all were. I think it’s a requirement to become a brewer.

Steel Toe Brewing.

Steel Toe Brewing

We came away from that place with two Growlers: one of the Dissent Darlk Ale {really, a stout} and another of the Steel Toe Size 7 IPA. Guess that means that we’ll be back! {Every time you purchase a Growler somewhere, you pay a deposit for the glass jug. You can come back for a refill any time!}

Upon arrival back at Pizza Lucé, the LivingSocial staff came around the trolley, offering to take our information down and call cabs for us. Talk about prepared! They wanted to make it very easy for us to get a ride if we needed one.

We had such a good time that we would highly recommend a beer tour with LivingSocial. In fact, I’d recommend any event they offer. Most people think about the half-price restaurant and salon deals, but they really do put together great events. {I did a Champagne pairing dinner once and the food and pairings were incredible!}

We thought that this would have been even more fun if we had invited friends to join us. However, I bought the tickets on a whim the week prior and had no idea that it would be as good as it was. Now we know!

It took one little email offer to find the perfect gift for my husband. One where we could spend time together enjoying a fun experience. Thank you, LivingSocial!

What is your current favorite local brew where you live?


Wine vs. Beer


Things sure have changed in the Twin Cities since I moved here in 2002 and met my husband-to-be in 2003. He had moved here, too, from Seattle. It was quite a change for him not having a bunch of craft brews on tap. His best bet for local beer in the Twin Cities at the time was Summit.

I was more of a wine girl teaching him about wine and he was beer guy turning me into a beer snob.

Carrie meets Rob.

Carrie meets Rob.

Then came the Surly Bill.

Surly is a local craft brewery established right around 2005/2006. The vision to expand into a brewery/restaraunt where they would serve their own pints challenged Minnesota laws. But the bill passed in the spring of 2011.

And many local artisan and craft breweries have been popping up all over the Twin Cities since.

We are so spoiled now!

It used to be that when we’d dine out, we’d order a bottle of wine. However, over the past few years, I’ve learned that the quality has gone down. It’s really hard to find a good value when enjoying wine with a meal.

You all know that I prefer quality over quantity. However, finding a quality wine by the glass is virtually unheard of {more detail on this in the coming weeks}. But most “value” wines by the bottle average about $40 in a restaurant. That’s about $8 to $10 per glass. And buying by the bottle is always the better way to go because you know that the wine hasn’t been sitting around open for days or weeks on end. Besides, most wines by the glass average $7 {if you’re lucky} to $12.

Here in the Twin Cities, local tap beers are a much better value. Well, it’s always been a better value if you are Michelob Golden Draft Light drinker. However, if you want an adult beverage with character to go with your meal, go for a pint of something different.

Ales, nut browns, IPAs, porters and stouts can be intimidating to those who haven’t tried them before. But when you are in a restaurant, there is no better opportunity to try them out, especially here in the Twin Cities. Why?

  • I’ve never had a bar nor restaurant not allow we to have a sample {just a taste} of a beer from the tap before ordering it. In fact, I often forget about it and they offer me one if I inquire about a beer.
  • It’s cheap. Pints these days run about $4 to $7 each. This is much cheaper than a mediocre glass of wine. Some higher alcohol beers will come in smaller glasses, but there’s no complaining as to why.
  • They may not advertise it, but a many bars/restaurants will offer a half-pint.
  • Furthermore, if there are lot of different kinds of beers on taps, a flight or a beer sampler is often offered for a surprisingly low price. Try many styles at once. It’s great for people like me who just can’t decide!
  • Whenever possible, support the locals.

Since beer can be confusing, I will be talking about specific beer types and maybe even reviewing local breweries over the coming months.

But don’t worry, my heart still lies with the wine. It’s just that there’s lots of local crafts to choose from on tap right now when I’m out. And for four pints of excellent local beer, we’ll pay $16 – $28 versus $40 for a bottle of mediocre wine sporting four glasses? It’s kind of a no brainer.

Right now, I’m in beer country… and I’ve learned well that I should drink wine in wine countries and beer in beer countries.

How ’bout you? Beer or Wine? Why?