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I had fond memories of their Rye IPA, and had tasted their Hefeweizen and Brown Ale a number of times around town, but it wasn’t until Easter weekend that I finally made it out to Black Market Brewing Company’s home base. The reason—purely geographical.

Black Market is located in a business park in Temecula, a city I don’t have too much cause to visit. But after making time to make the trip while visiting family in Riverside County, I just might find myself stopping off on my next family visit or northerly trek to Vegas. They are serving up some seriously good beer. But that’s been the case since day one.

Shortly after opening, Black Market nabbed first place at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival (the largest beer competition in the country) in the Rye India Pale Ale category with their Rye IPA. That beer, with its light bready tones and markedly sharp bitterness, is still tasting great. Fans of it will probably also enjoy Contented Monk, a Belgian pale ale that also delivers a burst of hops in tandem with the fruity floweriness brought on by Belgian yeast strains.

I was impressed with their Darth Cerevasiae, a 10.5% hoppy dark ale that pours almost black and smells roasty (a friend of mine detected some smoke that I didn’t pick up), yet tastes extremely green and botanic. Any chocolaty notes are like subtle taps on ebony keys. It’s hard to say if that was the level of balance they were going for, but the end result is something a hop lover will, well, love.

At this point, those with less of an infatuation with hops might feel a bit out of luck, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Though light, simple and completely free of bitterness, my favorite beer of the day was actually their hefeweizen. That golden, slightly creamy brew brings forth pleasant degrees of the style’s trademark clove and banana flavors, and is the kind of beer I could drink all day. I love imperial stouts, sours, Belgian strongs, and all sorts of weird beers, but I can’t say that about many of them. Another plus—Black Market Hefeweizen is widely distributed in San Diego.

The same can’t be said for their Dunkelweizen, Saggy Kilt Scottish ale, and Scary Monster red ale. But that’s half the fun of beer touring—getting to check out the harder-to-find, tasting room-only brews you can’t get anywhere else. Two of those that were en route the day I was there are their Slightly Rotund Wee Heavy and Ol’r Kruzteepantz, an older take on their original old ale Ol’ Kruzteepantz.

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In addition to great beers, the place has charm. This, despite being fairly bare-bones in aesthetic (which is not uncommon to brewery tasting rooms). There’s a nice L-shaped bar with ample seating, plus numerous barrels strewn about for those who prefer to stand or fail to find an open grain bag-adorned stool. But the real atmosphere is provided by the human element.

The menacing two-eyed logo of the single-A Lake Elsinore Storm glaring down from the end of the bar is the coldest thing you’re bound to encounter. The staff, despite being a bit too small for the packed day I was part of, is affable rather than harried. The regulars—a faction that tends to dictate the mood at a tasting room every bit as much as those who work there—were easy-going and happy, which was particularly notable since many of them couldn’t get the growler fills they’d come for the day I was there.

It’s a nice place to visit, as a side trip or a destination all its own, and will probably see even more business as several other breweries which are in the process of opening up, hit the scene. Looks like there’s plenty of room for barley and hops in the valley of the grape. Black Market Brewing Company is located at 41470 Enterprise Circle, Suite 109.

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