Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Beer Touring: Belching Beaver Brewery
New Vista brewery offers more than nomenclature would suggest
For over a year, there have been over two-dozen work-in-progress breweries for me to monitor at any given time. And that’s in addition to the 45 to 60 existing companies I’ve also had to keep up on. This means I have to do a lot of careful planning for making physical visits. I’ll admit, at first it was a bit difficult to muster up a lot of enthusiasm for a company called “Belching Beaver.” Oral emission of gas or crude reference to female genitalia—neither are particularly appetizing.
Still, a name is just a name and, in the end, it must be about the beer. After trying a couple of beers from Belching Beaver Brewery (980 Park Center Drive, Suite A, Vista) and hearing good reports from reputable beer enthusiasts, I made my way to the operation’s tucked away business park facility. In doing so, I encountered two things I expected—one I’d hoped for and another I’d feared. The former was the presence of good beer. The latter…more terrible nomenclature.
But let’s start with the good stuff.
The beers, which are the product of former Coronado Brewing Company brewer Troy Smith, can be sampled in flights of six. Samples are served up in tall, skinny glasses angling out from a custom-fabricated carrier that’s pretty cool, if not a little more prone to user breakage than the more common wooden board. I ordered the three India pale ales on tap, a saison, a milk stout, and an imperial stout.
I found it interesting that so many IPAs were on the beer board when there are already dozens of acclaimed IPAs being sold all over the county. My first thought was that Belching Beaver’s better be damn good if they stood any chance of selling them. Fortunately, theirs are quite lovely. A double IPA had pine for miles, enough that you could smell the beer from the bar top. Boldly raw in its alpha acid intensity, it was the hands-down favorite for everyone in our group. A red IPA was bready but super light on the palate—the malt lover’s IPA—and a rye IPA wasn’t as dry as I’d have expected, but had plenty of juicy grapefruit flavor going on.
At the other end of the spectrum, the milk stout, which was served on nitro (there was a Co2 version available as well) was silky and nutty with some baker’s chocolate and savory soy notes, providing a nice alternative to hopped up everything in San Diego. The 10.5% ABV imperial stout brought the dark chocolate, but was far too thin to be locked in stylistically. It reminded me of a chocolate soda my grandfather bought me back in elementary school. Also a bit disappointing, but still appealing was the saison. It had no huge faults. It was just a bit one-dimensional, but had plenty of the floral notes one looks for in this Belgian-style farmhouse ale.
This would be one of the finest reviews I’ve given in some time; one devoid of any significant negative notes. But I haven’t yet shared the names of these brews with you. That red IPA is called Blushing Beaver. The imperial stout—Ol’ Dirty. Other jeer-worthy handles include DAM (OK, that one’s pretty fun), Beaver’s Milk, and the Me-So-Honey honey wheat ale I didn’t even hit on. It’s not as bad as the Genocide IPA or Pop My Cherry Ale encountered at a certain local brewery where the beer couldn’t compensate for bad taste, but this is easily the second worst collection of titles in San Diego County.
Bottom line, the beer is mostly good and in some cases great. Particularly impressive considering what little time they’ve been open. Quality like that is certainly worth overlooking some iffy naming choices. Still, it would be nicer to see a company with this much promise lead with its tasty beer versus names geared toward making a lasting impression—good or bad.
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