Recently I was fortunate enough to go to the west and east coast of the US for two weeks with work. The USA has a reputation of being a country that has truly embraced local craft beer to a level which most other countries are as yet to replicate. There are a couple of reasons for this; American craft brewers are known to be pushing the boundaries of brewing, the country is so big that they can grow almost any type of hop and grain and the illegality of non-pasteurised beer being allowed across state lines being some. Whatever the reasons I saw this as a journey of adventure and discovery.
My journey started on the sunny west coast in Santa Barbara. After talking to the hotel staff it was recommended that I head towards to the 'Funk Zone' where there are a number of bars that are more UCSB (University of California Santa Barbara Campus) student orientated as opposed to more civilized clientele. Naturally I headed over and came across the tap room of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co, an award winning craft brewery operating out of Buellton with tap rooms across California, and ended up spending some time enjoying their wares before heading to the Firestone Walker Barrelworks, their wild ale and barrel aged facility, where I enjoyed a number of their fantastic beers and more information can be found in a previous post. After spending an afternoon thoroughly enjoying myself I headed back to Santa Barbara and headed to Union Ale. Union Ale had a good selection of beer and cider as well as offering some less common beer cocktails, which were created by the owner and should not be missed as well as a large selection of barrel aged cocktails. This is a great bar which should not be missed if you are in the area, their friendly bar staff really make you feel welcome.
After enjoying the warm weather I then headed over to East coast which had recently suffered from what can only be described as a snowpocalypse! Having wrapped myself up in almost every layer I had a ventured out into Gaithersburg, Maryland where I was staying and soon found the Downtown Crown Wine and Beer bottle shop and bar, where the selection was incredible! After spending about an hour looking through the stock I walked out with a six pack of different beers and started heading back to the hotel. On the way I noticed a sign for craft beer and followed it to the Old Town Pour House. This bar has a regular offering of in excess of 40 taps which regularly rotate as well as some beers which they can only get hold of limited supply. Needless to say I spent a good deal of time in here over a couple of evenings and really enjoyed their 'backyard' flight which showcases the efforts of local brewers.
One evening after work some co-workers decided to take me on a bit of a tour of Maryland to show me some venues which are not normally visited by people from the UK. The first stop was at Frisco Tap House in Crofton, Maryland where the beer list was mind blowing! There were in excess of 100 beers on tap to choose from and there were of almost every variety you could think of and all of the ones I tried were of exceptional quality. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself in this place chatting and shooting the breeze with the colleagues who had taken me. After a while we decided to start heading back and on the way the designated driver thought he would take me to a microbrewery that was on the way back. This was the wonderful Jailbreak Brewing Company based in Laurel, Maryland which was constructed between 2013 and 2014 and then expanded in 2015 to create the 20 barrel, 4 vessel brewhouse which is currently in place today. The brewery can be seen behind the bar and their beers are exceptional. This particular stop was a real treat for me as it was great to see the micro craft scene in full swing.
It goes without saying that I really enjoyed my social time in the US and that there beer scene is simply incredible. The variety in beer from the different coasts is something I was not expecting and the standard is exceptionally high. I hope I get to go back at some point as there are plenty of beer that I wanted to try but couldn't. Either way below is a list of some of what I would consider to be the best beer by style from my trip.
IPA - Lizard's Mouth - Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co, run close by The Truth from Flying Dog
American Wild Ale - Bretta D'Oro - Firestone Walker
Porter - Sweet Baby Jesus - DuClaw Brewing Company, run close by Gonzo from Flying Dog
Stout - Milk Stout Nitro - Left Hand Brewing Company
ESB - Sawtooth - Left Hand Brewing Company
Red Ale - Nugget Nectar - Troegs Independent Brewing
Fruit / Flavoured Beer - Welcome to Scoville - Jailbreak Brewing Company (Chili Beer), run close by Siracha Lime Cider from Schilling Cider
Belgian Strong Dark Ale - Van Dammit - Jailbreak Brewing Company