ChuckAlek Biergarten in North Park, San Diego

We were pretty psyched to hear about the new Chuckalek Independent Brewers
Biergarten that recently opened in North Park, San Diego.  So much so we went to
check it out the first week they opened.

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We’ve been fans of Chuckalek beer for a while now, but the opening of a North
Park tasting room, or in this case, Biegarten, and with its now close proximity
to where we live just makes it that much easier for us to have their beer more
often.   Chuckalek’s Brewery and tasting room is based out of Ramona, CA which
is approximately 50 minutes from central San Diego.  It’s great to have such
close access to great beer now.

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This North Park location is pretty cool.  It’s an outdoor venue with lots of
seating, some tables with fire-pits, umbrellas, and welcomes kids and dogs.
While we were there we each had a pint.  We decided to have two of their core
beers:   The 1850 Runner (Brown Porter 6.3% ABV) and the Hussar (Grodziskie 4%
ABV). They were both very good.  The porter was a nice balance of chocolate,
caramel, hints of roasted coffee, and you can taste the hops without them
overwhelming the toasted flavor.   The Grodziskie had a very nice light flavor.
We got hints of smokiness and refreshing lemon.

Their website says this about their core beers, “They represent the styles we love, and are created using
traditional brewing processes. Each is inspired by one of our relatives or
ancestors, with unique background stories that echo the style of beer.”  They
also had a few seasonal/experimental beers that looked good.  Next time.
The other nice element to the Biergaten is that they have partnered with the
restaurant Tostadas.  This seems like an awesome option for food.  They have
everything ranging from a variety of Tostadas, salads, soups, and chef specials.
We weren’t there long enough, so we didn’t get to try it.  Again, next time.

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So, we would definitely recommend checking out this new addition to the North
Park beer corridor when you are in the area.  You can’t go wrong.

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Hamilton’s Tavern – Second Saturday Event

This is such a great event.  I can’t believe I forget this happens every month.  Every second Saturday of the month, award winning San Diego beer bar Hamilton’s Tavern, hosts an event that features specially brewed beers and a tap takeover from a brewery and complimentary food.  Yes, you read that right – specialty beers and FREE FOOD.   Here’s the thing, I’m not talking about free bar grub that’s tasteless, dripping in grease, or boring.  They feature some pretty damn gourmet options. Last month’s event featured Monkey Paw beers.  Check out this tap list:

CASK:

  • I5 West Coast Dark Ale with Chocolate, Vanilla, Coconut and Sea Salt.

DRAUGHT:

  • Kong
  • Mandrill
  • Muriqui
  • Funky Sea Monkey
  • Dr. Bill’s Extra Special Barleywine
  • Meaty Beety Big n Bouncy
  • Lab Monkey with Marris Otter & Rye
  • Downs Family Irish Stout
  • Continuous Improvement (Cellar 3 Collab)
  • Juli’s Bizarro (aka Fool’s Gold)
  • Top of the Hill with Chipolte Peppers
  • Chimpin’ Aint Easy with Vanilla on Nitro
  • Barrel Aged Santa’s Pet Monkey
  • I5
  • I5 with Coconut and Seal Salt
  • Low and Slow with Peppers
  • Mighty Joe Young
  • Santa’s Pet Monkey
  • Great Ape Nectar
  • Wrathchild
  • Patas
  • Bonobos
  • Satanic Chimp
  • Ashes from the Grave (Alesmith Collab)

FOOD:

  • Raisin and Roasted Onion stuffed, Grape Vine smoked, Crispy Prosciutto wrapped Braciole with Espagnole Sauce
  • Chicken Picatta with Fried Capers
  • Foie Gratin
  • Broccoli Rabe with Balsamic Reduction
  • Petite Baked Brie in Puff Pastry with Serrano Guava Jam

We always seek out Monkey Paw beer and were excited to get our hands on some smoked, fruit, and peppered beers.  We had the Top of the Hill (Blueberry Smoked Porter with Chipotle), Low and Slow Rauchbier (with Serrano and Jalapeno), I5 (black IPA), and the Down’s Family (Irish) Stout beers and tried all the food.  All of the food was amazing, but that puff pastry was a freakin’ knockout.  Everything was delicious.

April’s Second Saturday will feature beers from Bell’s Brewery.  Bell’s is out of Kalamazoo, MI.  Here is the tap list for April 9th:

CASK:

  • Deb’s Red Ale vs Two Hearted IPA

DRAUGHT:secondSATbells

  • Milchkaffee Stout
  • Sweet Potato Stout
  • 30th Anniversary
  • Le Pianiste Brett Amber
  • Bear Hug Stout
  • BBA Traverse City Cherry Stout
  • Consecrator Dopplebock
  • Oatmeal Stout
  • Wild One Sour Brown
  • Harry Magill’s Spiced Stout
  • Hop Grandslam
  • Hopslam
  • Expedition Stout
  • Java Stout
  • Smitten Golden Rye Ale
  • Two Hearted
  • Midwestern Pale
  • Oberon
  • Amber Ale
  • Oarsman Ale
  • Lager of the Lakes
  • Kalamazoo Stout

FOOD at 5pm (by Matt Cammack):

  • Swedish Meatballs in Creamy Beer Sauce and House Picked Cukes
  • Fennel Roasted Salmon with Dill Sauce
  • Lefse
  • Roasted Beets
  • Aebleskiver with Lingonberry Jam

It’s great that we are getting a chance to try some brews from a brewery from so far away from San Diego. I’m totally psyched to try the Sweet Potato Stout, Sour Brown, Cheery Stout, Java Stout, and that Dopplebock.  And, seriously, the food they are offering looks awesome.  Can’t wait.  Hope to see you there.

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Ballast Point Summer Sippers: Pineapple Sculpin & Mango Even Keel

San Diego’s Ballast Point recently released their award-winning IPA, the Sculpin, with added pineapple flavor. We like the regular Sculpin, as well as the grapefruit and the spicy habanero varieties, so we had high hopes for this one.

The Pineapple Sculpin was golden yellow in color with the slight smell of pineapple. The flavor was disappointing though. We both expected the fruit flavor to be more pronounced but it was hard to taste. It wasn’t too sweet and it balanced out the hoppiness of the IPA nicely. It’s a 7.0% ABV, so maybe a little big for a summer day by the pool.

We would buy this again, but we hope BP tweaks the recipe to add in more real pineapple juice.

We also found the Mango Even Keel and decided to give that one a try too. Neither of us had the Even Keel, Session IPA before to compare it to. It was a deeper golden yellow color than the Pineapple Sculpin. The aroma was dominated by the mango, so we expected a bigger fruit punch and it did not disappoint in that regard. However, the body of this beer was lighter in carbonation than expected and bland. The mango flavor is definitely the dominate flavor, but it’s not a sweet beer. The alcohol content is just a meager 3.8%, making this beer a wonderful choice for your summer activities if you like fruity beer.

We are really looking forward to summer and all the great beers of the season. We will review many more in the future so Keep Following Us To Good Beer!

North Coast’s Pranqster, A Belgium Style Golden Ale

pranqsterWe are still on our Belgium beer kick, so we decided to try the North Coast Brewing Co.’s Pranqster, Golden Ale. This brew comes in at 7.6% ABV, (alcohol by volume), which is typical for this style. It is a golden straw color and it does not drink sweet or bitter. Although it is definitely Belgium in character, it drinks a little lighter/thinner than most, making it very approachable for both the beer fanatic and the novice drinker.

We are not the only ones who liked this one. It won GOLD at the 2014 International Beer Competition in San Diego. As well as the 2003, 2002, 1998 and 1996 World Beer Championships in Chicago. It has also placed SILVER at the 2003 GABF, Belgium Style Abbey Ale and BRONZE at the 1998 WBC, Belgium Style Abbey Ale.

If you find this beer, it’s definitely worth checking out, as we will buy another this week! If you have had it, and want to comment, please feel free.

Thanks for reading and keep following us to good beer!

 

Winter/Holiday Beers Part II

This is the second part of our winter beers review.  We looked hard around town for this season’s beers, and were told that many did not get delivered until mid-December. We were able to find and reviewed these:

  1. High Water Brewing Co. San Jose, Ca. Sugaree Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie. American Strong Ale. ABV 9.8%. We got lots of pecan and maple with creaminess and notes of toasted marshmallow.  Very good brew. Not overly sweet at all. Slight bourbon finish but doesn’t taste of strong bourbon aging . Nutty brown color resembles a darker brown ale. Very complex. Great winter warmer by the fireplace.
  2. LUMP OF COAL. A Dark Holiday Stout. Imported by Shelton Brothers.  Originated from Belchertown, MA, and imported from the United Kingdom.  Produced and bottled by Ridgeway Brewing Company from Oxfordshire.  English ale. 8% AHBV.   Nutty roasty smell and taste, very dark, and definitely more like a dark brown than a stout.  Hints of a red not a dark stout. Not heavy. Strong caramel flavors, and more cherries with brown sugar flavor happening.  Minimal depth & character.  Pretty similar to the fruit cake ale of Karl Strauss, if you’ve tried that one.
  3. National Lampoon. Christmas Vacation Yule Crack Up. Fishtail Ales. Gingerbread Stout.  Olympia, Washington. ABV 8.0%. Very slight hint of gingerbread.  True stout in color.  The ginger and slight cinnamon causes it to be a bitter lingering finish. The clove, ginger, and nutmeg compete with each other causing it to be overwhelming and the combo is too spicy because of it. We decided to try this with some cheese and crackers and that was much better.  The food toned down the spices making much more drinkable.
  4. Alaskan Brewing Company. 2015 Smoked Porter. A gold metal winner. Juneau, Alaska.  6.5 %ABV.   True porter color. Light smell and taste of smoke. Really good flavor. Not overpowering or bitter at all; definitely not a pallet wrecker.  A good smoked porter, one is Sue’s favorites during winter months. We can see how this is an award winner.
  5. Monkish Brewing Company. Magnificat. 2015. Torrance, ABV. 10.1%.  Belgian style Christmas ale brewed with holiday spices. Honey, some orange peel, cinnamon flavored. Sweetness level appropriate to the ABV.  True /classic to Belgian style. Very dark brown.  Good holiday ale.

Our top two beers from this season were High Water Brewing’s the Sugaree Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie and the Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper.  These were the most “winter/holiday” beers we found.

Now we are looking forward to the change of seasons and trying some good fruit beers as spring rapidly approaches.  Please feel free to share your thoughts with us about  these brews and any others. And…….

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Simply THE Best Belgium Beer: Petrus Aged Red

petrusWe like Belgium beers, but recently we have really been tasting a wide range of them. One day I picked up the Petrus Aged Red and all we can say is, “Wow, what a complex beer!” If you like Belgium brews or fruit beers, you absolutely must try this one. It will not disappoint.

The Aged Red is made with 15% Aged Pale, beer that has been aged in oak foeders for two years, and 85% of Double Brown, plus it has cherries. It is the perfect combination of a roasty, malty brown with a slightly tart cherry flavor, (which tastes like fresh cherries, not cherry flavoring), with the depth and character of oak in the background.

The alcohol content is 8.5%, a little lower than many good quality Belgium’s, and it does not drink overly sweet. The sour scale is listed as 2 out of 5, much lower than many sour beers.

This beer drinks with the sophistication of an aged whiskey or bourbon. It’s definitely worth finding and trying. Once you do, let us know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading & keep following us to good beer!

Winter & Holiday Beers (Part I)

Fall brews are fantastic, but winter beers are the BEST!  When we talk about winter/holiday beers we are looking for brews with seasonal flavors, (orange, cinnamon, chocolate, nuttiness, maple, ginger, cherry, nutmeg, rum, cigar, oak, bourbon, fig, raisin, etc.).

xmas beerThis year we thought we would sample a few groupings of winter and holiday themed beers so we could give you our take on what we liked and didn’t like so much.  Here is the breakdown of the first five we tried:

1.  Port Brewing, Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout. San Diego, California: ABV 10.5%.     Dark, full bodied, with bitter chocolate, nutty, raisin hints, and coffee. Christmas in a glass.  Very tasty.

2. Ninkasi Brewing Company, Sleigh’r, Dark Double Alt Ale. Eugene, Oregon: ABV 7.2%.  Head is lighter brown in color, but its very dark reddish brown and full bodied. Smooth and easy drinking with light toasted coconut, raisin, caramel and chocolate.  We like it more as an earlier fall type beer.

3.  Elysian Bifrost Winter Ale.  Seattle, Washington: ABV 8.3.  Hints of Orange and caramel. Smooth drinking. Golden in color and medium bodied. Some hoppiness but not over the top. I get the taste of citrus in general, but Sue specifically gets grapefruit and also some background of bubblegum. Really good beer. This is typical of this brewery as I don’t think I’ve had a bad Elysian beer yet. We look forward to a trip up to Seattle to hit up their tasting room.

4.   Rouge Ales, Santa’s Private Reserve Ale. Newport, Oregon:  ABV 5.1%.  Definitely hoppy. Red in color. Orange hints.  Not overwhelmingly sweet at all. Claims to be sprucey, but we didn’t get much spruce flavor. A slight bitterness, with a good amount of pine and light caramel. We felt like this really isn’t a “holiday” flavored/spiced beer, (of course, notwithstanding the name and depiction of a Santa holding a beer on the label).

5.  Karl Strauss, Moiety a Trois Holiday Fruitcake Ale. San Diego, California: ABV 8.5%.  Smells like fruit cake, (brown sugar, raisins, vanilla, cinnamon, honey and cherries). Medium red in color. It’s rich and definitely drinks like an 8% beer. Ends slightly tart, with an oak background.

If you want a good holiday/winter beer from this bunch, I would definitely go with the Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper.  We really enjoyed this one the most from these five.  It was thick and heavy and embodies a delicious Christmas stout.

Be on the lookout for part two and our next blog on more seasonal beers.  It’s a tough job, but don’t worry, we will keep at it.

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Carlsbad Breweries: On The Tracks & Arcana Brewing

Before San Diego Beer Week, we took a drive north to the Carlsbad Outlets. This is not Steph’s favorite thing to do, so I bribed her with a beer tasting after shopping.

We don’t get up to Carlsbad for beer often. We didn’t know what was close by, so we used our Google Maps and did a search for breweries in the area. We found On The Tracks and Arcana Brewing were a short drive away. These two breweries are located in the same industrial park so you can easily hit them both up on the same day.

We stopped into On The Tracks first. They are open 7 days a week and they have one television with sports on all the time. The tasting room was quite small, with only 6 beers on tap. We tried them all.OTT

The Broken-Leg Brown Ale was very light for a brown. We both did not care for this one. The Blonde was just ok. The IPA tasted a lot like the Ballast Point Grunion and we both liked it a lot. The Baltic Pepper Porter was very smoky to start, but then finished with a slight pepper bite. A decent beer. Our two favorites were the Santo Spike barrel-aged sour, which was aged in a bourbon barrel for a year, and the Root Beer Stout. The Stout was loaded with an old fashioned root beer flavor, busting with molasses, vanilla and sasparilla. It was a little too sweet to drink a whole pint; however, we both agreed it would make an excellent root beer float.

After our tasting, we met the brewer, Greg. He was very accommodating, taking us to the back room to show us his tanks and explain how he works his magic.

For a little place, they are making good beer. If you are in the area, it’s worth checking out for sure.

Next, we walked through the parking lot to Arcana Brewing Company. This place was excellent. The tasting room was a little dark, with artwork on the walls. There were 2 dart boards and 1 small TV over the bar, (without sound). The vibe was mostly a young, hip crowd mixed with business professionals. As it got busy, the place got pretty loud.

Wholly Crepe food truck was serving the night we were there. Our savory crepe paired well with our tasters.

They had a pretty extensive beer list, with 17 beers to choose from. We chose to split 8 tasters.

The Kevin’s Bacon Ale, (Yes! You read that right, BACON!), had a smoky flavor but we did not taste any bacon flavor in the beer. Steph loved the Dark Cherry Ale, but to me it had a medicine smell and taste to it that I found to be unpleasant. The Newton’s Graff Apple Ale was awesome. It was a little sour with a bit of apple pie spice. This beer was definitely “pintable.” The Annabelle’s Porter and the Arcana Brown were very similar in taste; however, the porter had a chocolate note and the brown, a hint of coffee. The SD Saigeson with sage and sweet potatoes had a richness and hardiness that is perfect for the fall. The Apricot Saison, a tart Belgium wheat, was a little tart but true to the profile and very good. The Strawberry Blonde Braggot Mead was too sweet for our taste but it had a wonderful berry flavor. We both agreed it would be perfect with some club soda or ice to cut the sweetness of this 11% ABV beer.

ArcanaBefore we left we met Daniel, the owner/brewer, who happened to be pouring beers that night. He recommended we blend the Dark Cherry and the Newton’s Graff Apple Ale. It was the perfect combination for the first slightly chilly night of the year.

We definitely loved this place and we will be back to try more interesting brews.

Thanks for reading and keep following us to good beer!

OB’s Wonderland Ocean Pub & Second Chance Beer Co. Brewer’s Dinner

WOP_BrewersDinner_111815_v1It’s good when your friends know you well, especially when they know how much you love BEER. We were lucky enough and very thankful to have been gifted tickets to this event by our friends who were feeling ill and not up for a night out.  What a gift!!

This event was hosted by Wonderland Ocean Pub in Ocean Beach, CA.  It was priced at $40.00 per person and consisted of four courses with four larger than taster, approximately 11-ounce, beers.  We love this place.  They have a great tap list, very good food, friendly staff, and excellent ocean views.  It’s a great place to watch sports, listen to live music during happy hour, and they also have daily food & drink specials. I often recommend Wonderland to anyone looking for a good place to check out in Ocean Beach.  Combine this with the opportunity to try some beers from Second Chance Brewing Company, needless to say, we were very happy to take our friends up on their willingness to part with their tickets.

Second Chance is located in the Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego.  They started up within the last year; however, they are not new to brewing.  Co-founder Marty Mendiola has been brewing for over 17 years.  This was our first time trying their beer.

Thank you, co-founders Mendiola and Curtis Hawes for participating in this Brewer’s dinner. I truly believe the best way to know the quality of a beer is to pair it with something.  This is why brewer’s dinners are my favorite events.

Here is a breakdown of the event:

First course – Lobster Macadamia Cream Cheese Wontons with guava plum sauce and hot Chinese mustard, paired with Second Chance Luminous Blonde (ABV 5.0%).

-Light, tasty with sweet and hot accompaniments that paired well with the light blonde ale.  They didn’t overwhelm each other.  I could definitely taste the lobster in the wonton.

Second course – Cranberry Pecan Salad consisting of mixed baby greens with heirloom cherry tomatoes, candied pecans, goat cheese and parmesan crisps with balsamic-brown beer vinaigrette, paired with Second Chance Take Two Brown (ABV 4.7%).

-Good salad, but what made it stand out was the candied pecans and cheeses with the vinaigrette.  These tastes of sweetness and creaminess brought out the nuttiness in the beer.

Third course – Triple Pepper Prime New York Strip with firecracker scallops, gorgonzola potatoes au gratin complimented with IPA Demi Reduction, Paired with Second Chance Legally Red (ABV 7.2%).

-Totally was my favorite course.  Loved how the complexities of the food meshed with the complexities of the slightly hoppy and slightly sweet red beer.  There was a lot happening in this pairing and my taste buds greatly appreciated it.  I would be ok with this combo being on the regular menu. YUM!

Fourth course – Key Lime Crème Brulee, paired with Second Chance Fool Me Twice Imperial IPA (ABV 8.8%).

-Great taste of creamy key lime goodness.  I think the imperial IPA was a little strong for the light citrus of the creamy brulee.  Perhaps using a non imperial IPA would’ve made the flavors taste more balanced.  However, it was a damn good dessert and a damn good beer.

Everything was really good. So much so that after this event, the Legally Red made it into my top three San Diego go to beers. So GOOD!!  After getting to try the four beers from Second Chance, it is very clear that we need to get up to their tasting room.  I want more!!

Nothing changed about my opinion of the food at Wonderland. Kudos to chef Sven Rusch, and also to Ben Lucas and Jaime Allen.  I wasn’t kidding when I told them all that I plan on telling all our friends about how good this dinner was.  We are definitely looking forward to the next event they host.

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SDBW: Part III, The Wrap Up

Day #812043145_929254660457808_1497537205468357043_n

On Friday we were so excited for what we thought would be the event of the week, the Ballast Point Tap Takeover at The High Dive.  They offered 20 of Ballast’s specialty beers, with 5-6 different beers released every hour starting at 5pm.

We were there close to 5, ready to partake in the evening.  We were quickly disappointed to find out the beers were poured in 8-ounce servings at a hefty price of $6.00 each.  That is $12.00 per pint!  Because of this, we did not stay long.  We tried five 8-ounce pours, totaling $30!  We liked the pineapple and guava Grunion, blueberry Calico, and the passion fruit Grunion, but we both agreed the beers were not worth the price.  We headed out to another one of our favorites, Small Bar in University Heights, for more reasonably priced local beers.

Small Bar was not on our tentative list of places/events to hit up over SDBW, but it’s always a good choice for quality beer.  We met up with some friends, who opted to avoid The High Dive event due to the prices. As always, the beer and company were good, making this stop the best part of the day.

Day #9

This was The Meatmen pairing their hand-made artisan, dry sausages with Thorn Street Brewery’s craft beer. This event was fabulous.  Each of the four pairings were served with a Meatmen dish and an 8-ounce pour.  Tickets were $25 each, which was a decent price for what we had.

The first course was a charcuterie sampler with the Meatmen Flagrant Seed and Naughty Constable Dry Salami, whole seed horseradish mustard, Dubliner stuffed olive, petite kosher dill pickle, cherry pepper and garlic crisps with Thorn Street’s Foreplay Belgian Blonde.  Both of us really liked this beer and we agreed it paired well with the course.  However, I didn’t like the Flagrant Seed Salami.  I found it to have a background note of a musty cellar.  Steph, on the other hand, liked the salami.

Course two was a creamy bratwurst stroganoff, made with cremini and shitake mushrooms, peppercorns and parsely, and it was paired with the Double Oh 7 English Pale Ale.  This was a super yummy beer that was perfectly paired with this dish.  Both of us agreed that this was our favorite of the day.

Course three consisted of the Meatmen’s hot salami sub sandwhich, with tomato, pepperoncini, oil and vinegar with the Tropic Daze IPA.  We both thought “hot” meant the sandwich would be served warm. We were disappointed to realize the “hot” was in reference to the spice. However, it was good and the spice provided a nice balance to the IPA, which was a really good IPA.

To finish up the event, we were served a Kaiserkrauner dough dog, with smoked gouda, a pretzel wrap, and served with a spicy ketchup, mustard and pepper relish. The Thorn Street brew was the Abbey Roof Belgian Quad, a 10% ABV beer with hug flavors of rum, raisin, and malts.  We loved the beer, but, by the time we got this course, we were already satisfied with food.  That didn’t stop us from finishing the pairing, but we were stuffed by the end.

We enjoyed the event overall and would definitely check out another event held at this location, featuring Thorn Street beer, and/or with The Meatmen.  Our only complaint was the music.  It was so loud at times, it was echoing and hard to carry on a conversation.

 Day #10

We rounded out the spectacular Beer Week with Donuts, Coffee & Stout at Benchmark.  This event featured 5 tasters: 1.) Oatmeal Stout; 2.) Here’s Your Damn Stout; 3.) Cask Oatmeal Stout with Papau New Guinea Beans; 4.) Cold brew coffee on nitro; and, 5.) Here’s Your Damn Stout with Columbian Beans on cask.  The donuts were provided by Donut Panic.  We split a sampler of the coffee and beer, and we shared two donuts.  We both enjoyed all of the beers and the coffee on nitro.  My favorite was the Here’s Your Damn Stout with Columbian Beans.  Steph Preferred the Here’s Your Damn Stout.

The donuts were fresh and excellent. We shared the vegan old fashioned and the maple bacon donuts. I would definitely welcome the opportunity to have another donut from this place.

And, that rounds it out, the 10-days of San Diego Beer Week, celebrating the best of the craft here in our city.  Cheers to you all, as we look forward to SDBW 2016.
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