2014 in Review

Derek & Erin

2014 was a year of new experiences. We moved from Sonoma County to Sacramento to be closer to family. We started new jobs in new industries and have continued to travel to various beer destinations. We added 102 new breweries this year, more than any other year. Our most memorable were San Diego, Los Angeles, and Southern Oregon. Here is our best attempt at a “Top 10” list of 2014.

Our Top 10 New Beers:

1) Sourtooth Tiger – The Rare BarrelFramboise de Amorosa

2) Framboise de Amorosa – Lost Abbey

3) Cellar Palette Raspberry – Sante Adarius Rustic Ales

4) Earl’s Grey Dinghy – Noble Ale Works

5) Bourbon Barrel Double Milk Stout -Bike Dog Brewing

6) Black House – Modern Times Beer

7) Double Dry Hopped General Sherman IPAHochata Imperial Milk Stout – Tioga Sequoia

8) Cap Tap’s 2nd Anniversary IPA – Device Brewing

9) Xocoveza Mocha Stout – Stone Brewing

10) Horchata Imperial Milk Stout – Belching Beaver Brewing

Our Top 10 New Breweries:

1) Noble Ale Works – Anaheim, CANoble Ale Works

2) Modern Times Beer – San Diego, CA

3) Golden Road Brewing – Los Angeles, CA

4) Anchor Brewing – San Francisco, CA

5) Sante Adairius Rustic Ales – Capitola, CA

6) Beachwood BBQ & Brewing – Long Beach, CA

Golden Road Brewing7) The Bruery – Placentia, CA

8) Fall River Brewing – Redding, CA

9) Smog City Brewing – Torrance, CA

10) Klamath Basin Brewing – Klamath Falls, OR

Top 5 Beer Moments:

1) Reaching 300 Breweries! – 300 sounds way better than 200

2) A whole week in San Diego and Los Angeles dedicated to beer

3) Meeting fellow beer travelers Brandon Wurtz & Michael Roberts of Brews Travelers 365

4) Earning my 2500 Unique Beers on Untappd

5) Finally getting to tour Anchor Steam Brewing. They don’t lie when they say 6 months out. We have been trying for a couple years and finally got in!

Happy New Year!

25 Beers of Christmas

Christmas beers and winter warmers are some of my favorite styles of beers. The clove orange peel, and Christmas spices just get you in the mood for the holiday. From bigger body to hoppy hoppy, everything was included. Here is my list of #25beersforchristmas from Instagram from December 1st to 25th.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale Hopworks Abominable Winter Ale Elysian Bifrost Winter Ale Laurelwood Vinter Varmer Ninkasi Sleigh'r Bison Gingerbread Stout Abita Christmas Ale Deschutes Jubelale Hoppy Brewing Hoppy Claus Boulder Slope Style New Belgium Frambozen Anchor Our Special Ale Alaskan Winter Southern Tier Krampus Wychwood Bah Humbug Rouge Santa's Private Reserve N'lce Chouffe Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Bruery 7 Swans a Swiming Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper Double Mountain Fa La La La La Golden Road Back Home Gingerbread Stout Monkish Brewing Magnificat Corsendonk Christmas AleSt Bernardus Christmas Ale Merry Christmas!

Southern Oregon Beer Travel

Opposition BrewingA return trip to Oregon has been on our list for a while. The last time we were in the state was four years ago for our honeymoon, which was also beer focused. This time we were going to visit Southern Oregon, specifically the towns of Medford, Ashland, Grants Pass and Klamath Falls.

We woke up at dawn with all the Black Friday shoppers, but beer was the only focus. Luckily a lot of the breweries opened earlier that day because of Black Friday. Our first stop was Opposition Brewing, formally known as Apocalypse Brewing in Medford, OR. They had to change their name in 2013 over trademark issues with 10 Barrel Brewing. Brewer Dennis Poncia showed us around their 1.5 barrel system. It was defiantly an operation of love with the owners not only brewing and serving, but wearing all the other hats of a small business. Their beers ranged from Cream Ale to Pale Ale to Stout and my favorite was their Devastated Sky American Stout and Pull the Pin Imperial Red Ale. This brewery was one of are favorites of the trip from character to quality of beer.

Southern Oregon BrewingAnother reason why we loved this place was because it was the intersection of beer travelers. We met Brandon Wurtz & Michael Roberts of Brews Travelers 365 who are on a year long beer journey of the United States. I have been waiting for them to end up on the West Coast and luckily are paths crossed in Southern Oregon. It’s always a treat to meet other beer travelers and compare stories. We both were off to do what we do and planned to meet up later that night.

We then headed a few miles down the road and ended up at Southern Oregon Brewing. This brewery had one of the best pilsner’s I have ever had. Their Na Zdravi Czech Style Pilsner was the standout with bright aromas and a fuller then usual body. The brewery was full of locals and the sampler had a vast variety of beer styles. You could see the 20 barrel brewery through a large window behind the bar. Quick stop because we had 3 more breweries planned.

Portal BrewingThe next stop we could have skipped honestly. Walkabout Brewing didn’t have social media accounts or even a website. This might have been a sign. It’s located across the street from a beer distributor, which might explain why half their taps were Budweiser. We were able to try their lineup and it was average at best. No real standouts and it didn’t help that the server hated beer.

Luckily all the breweries in Medford are a few miles from each other so we were quickly on to the next. Portal Brewing is located in downtown on a corner. It was small, cozy and just kind of funky. It was a place to grab a pint and settle down with a board game. It was a great setting, especially while it rained nonstop outside.

Our last brewery of the day was Swing Tree Brewing in Ashland to meet up with Brandon & Michael again. Sadly they only had one beer of there own on tap, but the one beer they had was delicious, an English Brown Ale called Two Shilling Ale that came in at 3.4%. Love full flavored beers with low ABV, helps for traveling. Wish we could have tried more from them. The night progressed with shuffleboard challenges and beer travel stories.

Beer TravelersSwing Tree Brewing








Cheers, Sparklinglover


Breweries Visited:

Opposition Brewing – 545 Rossanley Drive #106, Medford, OR 97501

Southern Oregon Brewing – 1922 United Way, Medford, OR 97504

Walkabout Brewing – 921 Mason Way, Medford, OR 97501

Portal Brewing – 100 East 6th Street, Medford, OR 97501

Swing Tree Brewing – 300 East Hersey Street #7, Ashland, OR 97520



Breweries on the Border (not that border)

Pigeon HeadI love living closer to the mountains. It gives us an escape, while only being a couple hours away. Also, there are breweries in the mountains…are main destination. Our first stop labor day weekend was to Reno, NV which we had visited back in April, but a new brewery had just opened. Pigeon Head Brewery is in the industrial area of Reno east of the downtown casinos. They are the second brewery to open in that area after Under the Rose Brewing in late 2013. With two new breweries also in planning the city is talking about naming that area the “Old Brewery District” more info here. Another example of how the brewing industry has been revitalizing towns. Pigeon Head was carefully thought out before they opened from the design to the beer. What makes them unique is they focus on lagers not ales. I’m a west coast girl, but a nice lager can be just as balanced and complex sometimes. The standouts were the Pilsner and the Weibbier. Overall the whole feel from the hospitable staff to the design felt right.  The brewery is visible behind a black chain-link fence from the tasting room. Take a seat at one of the picnic tables and watch the brewers in progress. We’ll defiantly be back again once the other breweries open in the area. Brewing LairSometimes it feels like you were never at a place long enough, but we were on the road to Blairsden, CA to check out The Brewing Lair. The drive was quick and easy and under an hour taking us back into California. It ranged from dry and rocky to mountain pines. Our only indicator of the brewery was a sandwich board sign which led uphill to dirt road. We parked below because the place was busy with vacationers playing cornhole and disc golf. The brewery and tasting room looks like a small lodge on top of a hill. You grab a pint or sampler and find a place on their porch that overlooks a big grassy area. You could tell this was a regular place because people were prepared with packed lunches, games and lawn chairs. This was my kind of brewery and the beer was delicious. Favorites were a really hoppy blonde, Tres Solo India Blonde Ale and their Ambush IPA, really I could have done the whole sampler again and just laid out in the sun. Lassen Ale WorksOur last destination was Lassen Ale Works in Susanville, before that we stumbled on Eureka Peak Brewing in Chalet View Lodge. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any of their own beer yet because they had just changed brewers. We continued on the road, which paralleled the Nevada border and headed north to Susanville. For a town with a population of around 17,000 it was even smaller than I thought with one main drag. Lassen Ale Works is located at the historic Pioneer Saloon. This was a saddle up to the bar kind of place and gaze at all the livestock branding symbols that looked like modern art above the bar. The sampler was loaded with different styles and the favorites were the Spring Bock and the Extra Galactic Pale Ale. The nice thing was they bottled almost every style. three forks brewingThe next morning we drove home with all the Burning Man traffic, remind me next time to stay away from hwy 80 during labor day. We did stop at a new brewery that just opened in Nevada City, CA a couple weeks ago called Three Forks Bakery & Brewing. This is a new combination for us and honestly it just makes sense. Beer before noon and baked goods, I’m in. Had two quick pints that were travel worthy and left us planning a return visit. All in all a quick overnight beer trip to North Eastern California and a pit stop in Reno, NV. One of our most relaxing and beautiful beer trips. Go escape into the woods…just make sure there are breweries there, always the main destination.

Cheers, Sparklinglover

Breweries Visited:

Pigeon Head Brewery – 840 E 5th St, Reno, NV 89512

The Brewing Lair – 67007 CA-70, Blairsden, CA 96103

Lassen Ale Works – 724 Main St, Susanville, CA 96103

Three Forks Bakery & Brewing – 211 Commercial St, Nevada City, CA 95959

The 300 Mark!

Petaluma HillsWe made it to 300 breweries since we started beer traveling 5 years ago. Our current stats, which I just love looking at.

California – 246 / Nevada – 16 / Oregon – 12 / Arizona 11 / Pennsylvania – 9 / Maryland – 4 / Virginia – 2 / DC – 1

2010 – 40 Breweries Visited
2011 – 53 Breweries Visited
2012 – 57 Breweries Visited
2013 – 74 Breweries Visited
2014 – 77 Breweries So Far

These milestones aren’t always easy to achieve. We almost didn’t make when we drove an hour to a brewery that just wasn’t open. No notice, nothing. Beer traveling has it’s mishaps just like all travels, no matter how much you plan.

We chose Petaluma Hills Brewing in Petaluma, CA for our big 300. Their tap room may be new to the Sonoma County beer scene, but their beers have been around for almost a year and they have been solid from the start. Most new breweries we go to have adolescent starts, probably a better world that, but most linger from the early stages of opening a brewery and replicating their beer recipes. We try to revisit them after the kinks are worked out and their beer pretty much always improves.

Not the case at Petaluma Hills Brewing. The standouts were the Portluma, a smooth and balanced Porter and the East Side Bitter, a mixture of malt and subtle bitterness. I’m very excited to try their upcoming Pumpkin Patch Traffic Jam Ale, rightfully named for anyone that has experience the rubbernecking pumpkin patch traffic……really people? it’s just a pumpkin patch.

All in all we couldn’t have picked a better place to reach 300 because they were genuinely excited and celebrated our milestone with us. I see only good things for this brewery. Come visit them at their great location across the street from Lagunitas in Petaluma, CA.

Cheers and Happy Beer Travels!


Lancaster Breweries

Kinetic Brewing I have to say we have pretty much avoided LA in our beer and baseball travels and have always drove past to San Diego. We decided to curb our wasteland stereotypes and on Memorial Day weekend we visited the town of Lancaster, CA in Northern Los Angeles County. A town historically known for aviation and breaking the sound barrier. This town is very proud of their past with murals, flags, and life-size jets on display, but we came for the beer and our first stop was Kinetic Brewing. Our friends Jess Poshepny Valley of Moxie Lady & Tim Vallery of Half Ass Beer Blogger raved about them on their past trip to LA.

After a 5 hour drive we arrived at opening and ordered a sampler. They were out of a few beers, but said you can get them at the beer garden at the Lancaster JetHawks Stadium, which we did later. The sampler board is a cog and their tap handles our spinning gears all representing Lancaster’s aviation heritage. The standouts was their Ignition New Zealand Pale Ale that was so bright and fresh and their Fusion Porter that had the perfect balance. The beer was heightened by their great hospitality. We probably talked to four different employees and every one was so nice and hospitable. They really value their customers and cared about social media. They had a board that looks like chalk, but is actually projected. It tracks all the social interactions of Facebook, Twitter, Untappd and Foursquare. As soon as I checked in I was on the board. That’s pretty awesome.

We then visited the second brewery Bravey Brewinglocated in Lancaster about 10 miles south Bravery Brewing. Their brewery is dedicated to the armed forces and it shows in their beer names, décor, and the huge American flag on the wall. They also have the drill sergeant uniform from Full Metal Jacket worn by Brian Avery, R. Lee Emery who is actually part owner with Dave Conett. With so much focus towards their military branding I have to say I didn’t think the beer would be up to par. My complete mistake, the beer was terrific. We ordered a pick your own taster set of 4 and then immediately ordered another one so we could try all their beers. The Old Rat an English Style Brown Ale was so full of flavor, while retaining its origins. Also really loved their Allegiance IPA a perfect west coast style. Ohh and their Morning Cup a Black IPA with coffee reminded me of Stone’s Dayman Coffee IPA, a beer I still crave today.

JethawksWe ended the night at Clear Channel Stadium the ballpark of the Lancaster Jethawkes a minor league class A Advanced team for the Houston Astros. Basic minor league ballpark with dedicated local fans and basic food. The standout was the beer garden hosted by Kinetic Brewing where we got to enjoy more of their beer as promised.

I have to say Lancaster, CA surprised us. They have two well deserving breweries worth the visit.

Cheers, Sparklinglover

Breweries Visited:

Kinetic Brewing – 735 W Lancaster Blvd,  Lancaster, CA 93534

Bravery Brewing – 42705 8th St West,  Lancaster, CA 93534

I am a Beer Traveler

Beer Collage It’s hard to put into words how exciting it is to step into a new brewery and taste at the source. Some breweries are a complete surprise because I have never tasted a drop before, but the truly special ones are the breweries that you crave to visit because you have enjoyed so many of their beers before or simply one beer that sparked a day of beer traveling to taste at the source. At the source is more than just tasting the beer as fresh as it can be, but seeing the town that it rests in. I love seeing how the locals embrace their brewery. Most breweries embrace their town by naming beers after local history, landmarks and streets, which just reinforces the locals love. Beer travel is seeing and more importantly feeling all of this, while drinking damn good beer. People always say they want to eat where the locals eat. Well we drink were the locals drink. Society of Beer TravlersI was inspired to write about what beer travel means to me after becoming a member of the Society of Beer Travelers create by Brian Devine and Maria Scarpello of The Roaming Pint. This new online community is for anyone that shares the same passion for beer travel. If you are the type of person who drives out of your way to visit a single brewery this site is for you. No matter by car, plane, bike, or foot, if your vacations revolve around beer this site is for you.

Happy beer travels!

Way Up Northern CA Beer Travel

Etna BrewingOur latest beer travel adventure brought us to upper upper Northern California. I was inspired to travel up north when I tried Fall River Brewing Widowmaker Double IPA that was part of our monthly beer club at BeerCraft. This one beer spurred a weekend trip to Redding, CA to taste at the source. Since, we were headed up north it gave us an excuse to visit Etna Brewing in Etna, CA that has always been on my list. It is the furthest northern California brewery with a population of only 737 people. As I expected the brewery was quaint, hospitable and truly local. Well worth the drive that was about an hour west of I-5. A place where the locals wonder how you found it and wanted to hear our beer travel stories.

Dunsmuir Brewrey WorksWe then headed back down the I-5 to the town of Dunsmuir, CA south of Mount Shasta and home of Dunsmuir Brewery Works. Online they call it “downtown” Dunsmuir, but really the one main road in town. This brewery had a great courtyard entrance, but we sat at the bar to get the whole experience. Dunsmuir had a great Imperial Red Ale called the Rusty Spike. Also, really enjoyed their IPA and Porter. They also had a great local vibe sharing their beer travels and local advice. Would defiantly stop by again on our way up north.

Wildcard Brewing We were then off to the town of Redding, CA our final destination with 3 relatively new breweries that have opened in last year. We first stopped at Wildcard Brewing in an industrial area of Redding. Beer and hospitality were the two main standouts here. The tasting room was small, but they also had setting outside. Right when you entered you were taken care of. We ordered our sampler and loved the Double Down Imperial Red Ale and the Shot in the Dark Oatmeal Stout. Really everything was tasty. The place felt so welcoming and lively and I’m sure the bright green avocado wall helped with that. They had 22 oz bottles to go that we defiantly took advantage of. This is a must stop.

Our next brewery was California Brewing Company brand new on the beer scene. by a couple months. They have some work to do figuring out their recipes and vibe. They are located in a shopping center and everything felt uninspired and just there. Looking forward to see how they improve over the next couple of months.

Fall River BrewingWe saved the best for last and had been hearing such good things from all the brewers about Fall River Brewing. They are also located in a shopping center, but you forget that as soon as you walk in. Their bar was full, but we found two great seats in the center of the bar. I love sitting at the bar because you get the feel of the whole place. This place had a ton of regulars and was so welcoming. Fall River is very active on social media (Facebook & Instagram) and is very I appreciate this for someone that loves interactive on social media and letting breweries knew were headed their way to try their beers on our travels.

Their beers were incredible. I wanted to try everything and didn’t want to put anything down. The highlights were their Widowmaker Double IPA, NorCal Blonde, Hexagenia IPA, Spinerfall Saison and their Pittville Porter. Their staff only made the beers taste better for how hospitable they were. A must stop for anyone traveling to Northern California. This place is just going to get more and more popular.

This brings us to 272 breweries and we have a trip planned next week to Southern California.

Cheers, Sparklinglover

Breweries Visited:

Etna Brewing – 131 Callahan St,  Etna, CA 96027

Dunsmuir Brewery Works – 5701 Dunsmuir Ave,  Dunsmuir, CA 96025

Wildcard Brewing – 9565 Crossroads Dr,  Redding, CA 96003

California Brewing – 9348H Deschutes Rd,  Palo Cedro, CA 96073

Fall River Brewing – 1030 E Cypress Ave,  Redding, CA 96002

Black & White Beer Ball

black and white beer ballblack and white beer ball 2This weekend we attended the Black & White Beer Ball put on by Ales for Autism. This is the third year and our second year attending and it is becoming one of my favorite San Francisco Beer Week events. A night of dressing up, drinking beer, and supporting a great cause. Yes, all great things.

There were over 25 breweries and 2 craft cideries to choose from. I was especially excited to see The Rare Barrel, Redwood Curtain Brewing and Prairie Artisan Ales attend because this was their first times pouring in Sonoma County. Prairie actually brewed a beer specifically for this event, Prairie Spectrum, a red farmhouse ale. It was a little light, but grew on me the next day when I tried it again at BeerCraft. The highlight of the night was Churchill’s Pale Ale from Bear Republic Brewing. A complete surprise to me. It was so aromatic with gorgeous hop notes and incredible smooth.

I love dressing up and was so impressed that the attendees did the same…well almost everyone. I am excited to see this event grow and get more people from the bay area to experience North Bay beer. For those that what to attend next year I would highly recommend the VIP ticket. For $15 more ($50 VIP, $35 General) you get in an hour earlier, complimentary coat check and passed hors d’oeuvres. Completely worth it!

Check out this great slow motion video from Sonoma County Wire of the event:

SD Beer Week pt 2

Automatic BrewingWe continued our beer adventures on the second Saturday  in November during San Diego Beer Week. Our first brewery of the day was Automatic Brewing, we hadn’t been here before, but knew they brewed at/behind Blind Lady Alehouse. For beer week they had flights of Automatic ales. Nothing really excited us except their Ghost Town Brown. I would like to return because they had a ton of guest taps that were tempting. We had a full list of breweries planned so we were on our way.

Mother Earth Brew CoWe drove north to Vista where you can basically throw a rock at a brewery, there are just that many. This trip I wanted to visit Mother Earth Brew Co. We had their Cali’ Creamin’ Vanilla Cream Ale in our BeerCraft shipment a few months back that was just delicious. They were having an open house to tour their new Brew House at the original Thibodo Brewery location. The place was crowded with beer enthusiasts and the staff was so nice to take sampler after sampler orders. We toured their brewery and Mother Earth was a really a delight. Great beers, awesome environment and standout staff. One of our favorites of the trip.

Barrel Harbor BrewingWe drove down the road to Barrel Harbor Brewing, which we found out had only been open a month. We find this common every time we visit in San Diego. Their tasting room was nautical themed with lots of bar space and room to hang out. Their brewer brings experience from Sweden and his style shows through. Of course since its San Diego they have IPAs, but the lower alcohol beers shown through. Their Pilsner and Brown Ale were the standouts. Another brewery to visit once their training wheels are of and they get really going.

Booze Brothers BrewingOn our way to another brewery we saw a sign for Booze Brothers Brewing that we just couldn’t ignore. They had been open a week and had a few beers on tap. Their brewery was rustic in style with reclaimed mis-matched wood, vintage lights, and deer antlers as their tap handles. Their C.O.P Coffee Porter was my favorite. They warmed me before ordering if I liked bitter coffee. It was bitter, strong, and delicious, but I can see it wasn’t for everyone. Another brewery I would defiantly hit up again.

Our last two stops were practically neighbors On the Tracks Brewing and Arcana Brewing. We didn’t like the beer nor the bartender at On the Tracks. They could have cared less that we were there and there are just too many other great breweries in San Diego to put up with that. Luckily Arcana Brewing was in the same parking lot and couldn’t have been more hospitable. They used to be called Fezziwig Brewing, but had to change their name because of Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale. Luckily they still kept the steampunk theme in their tasting room. Their beers ranged from English Ales to IPAs to darker beers and a lot of them were really tasty.

San Diego is always a treat. We added 10 new breweries and revisited 2 favorites. Can’t wait til we are back in March. We will be there for a FULL week! Wonder how many new breweries we can fit in!?

Cheers, Sparklinglover