The San Diego Brewer’s Guild refers to our beautiful seaside town as the Craft Beer Capital of the World. It’s not much of an exaggeration: in the last decade, especially, laws nationwide have been relaxed to allow more home brewing and distilling; and it wasn’t long before everyone had their own brewing company.
As with many other aspects of life, San Diego spoils you for living other places after you leave. You start to travel after living in San Diego for a couple of decades, and you erroneously expect great sunsets and superb Mexican food and fancy craft IPAs everywhere you go.
It’s a wake-up call.
But hey, part of traveling and seeing the country is trying new things, right? What’s the point of seeing the rest of the country if I am looking for San Diego beer everywhere? So when I got to my mom’s house in Tennessee, I had to take myself on a tasting tour.
Of course, if I was still in San Diego, beer tasting would be totally different: I would buy myself a day pass on the bus, take the bus from my house in Ocean Beach to Old Town, where I would hit a nice brewpub for a starter beer. I’d take the trolley, maybe to downtown San Diego or to the barrio to hit a few tasting rooms, having a small beer or taster in each one, maybe a snack or a taco at one or more of the stops, and make a day out of it.
It’s a fun, spontaneous day, just as easily accomplished with one person or 20. The bus pass means you don’t have to worry about drunk driving or parking.
Well, parking sure isn’t an issue at my mom’s farm in Limestone, Tennessee. They don’t even have a stoplight, much less a bus and trolley system to take me to all of the beer tasting spots. There is a tasting room about 25 miles away, but I’m not drinking and driving. Plus, you know … Covid.
So, I compromised. I went to the local grocery store, where I purchased a mix-n-match 6-pack of beers, and filled my sixer with all local brews. It would be a week-long tasting, at home, but it would be safe and I would get to taste all the good beers in the tri-state area.
I know that I love IPAs, so I figured that was the best place to start. It wasn’t hard to find six beers that seemed to be decent IPAs. Also, I generally prefer beers in a bottle, but in these cases, the cans didn’t take anything away from the hoppy flavor.
First up were two IPAs from Sweetwater Brewing out of Atlanta.
I tried their regular IPA and their 420 Strain IPA.
This one, the G13, is one of several “420 Strain” beers from Sweetwater incorporating a hemp flavor. I like hemp as much as the next guy (hello, cancer patient!) but I personally didn’t care for the hemp flavor in this IPA. Their regular IPA (in the yellow can) is much tastier.
Next, I tried the Long Leaf IPA from Appalachian Mountain Brewery. My mom’s house in east Tennessee is very close to the border of North Carolina, so they get an interesting mix of beers from all over the south and eastern seaboard.
I really enjoyed this beer; very crisp and citrusy but with a great balance of hops flavors. For packing a 7.1% punch, it’s very smooth. Better watch out for that one.
Next up … by the way, I was not drinking all of these beers at once! … was one of my favorites, Yee Haw Brewing. Yee Haw has a really cute tasting room in Johnson City, with outdoor seating, a taco shop — it looked just like a beer tasting room you’d find in San Diego.
They clearly didn’t spend a lot of time and money on their can and logo designs (haha) but their beer was excellent.
Lots of hoppy flavor, hints of citrus, and a smooth finish. I totally bought another 6-pack just of these.
Highland Brewing came highly recommended to me by some beer-loving friends, so I tried two of their unfiltered IPAs. Highland Brewing Company is in Asheville, North Carolina, just a little over an hour’s drive (over the Smoky Mountains) from my mom’s place; you may recall some photos I took of their artsy college district when we visited in August from a previous post. Asheville has an up-and-coming craft beer scene and Highland is the leader of the pack.
Normally unfiltered IPAs aren’t my thing, even if I like the filtered version (example, Ballast Point Sculpins are the best IPAs I’ve ever had, but their unfiltered one is whoooooo very unfiltered, and for me, way too full of all of those hoppy floaty bits you get in some beers).
Both of the Highland IPAs were very crisp and not at all full of floaty bits (perhaps that also was due to it being canned and not, say, from a draft pull). But regardless I enjoyed both of these very much.
As you may have noticed, that was my six pack. A very successful week of tasting, if you ask me.
I later went to buy another mixer pack, with a couple moreYee Haw beers, a couple more Highland IPAs (I really really like the Mandarina… fruity, but not too citrusy that it ruins the hop flavor) …
… and these two North Carolina brews.
This Triple C Brewing IPA was really refreshing, it’s a light, not-too-hoppy IPA. It’s another one that is so smooth and crisp and almost light, you forget you’re drinking a pretty high-alcohol brew.
The last tri-state area IPA I tried was the Boojum Brewing IPA, which was probably the strongest-tasting of them all.
The “Hop Fiend” name is no joke… it was definitely a blend of all the hoppiest-tasting hops, but it was still very delicious.
If you’ve been following my adventures, you’ll have seen that on my way out of Tennessee, I stopped in Nashville to attempt to find some good food like I used to get when I was in college. I struck out.
Of course, in college, I also drank Boone’s Farm, so I didn’t know where to buy good beer there, either. I stopped at a beer and wine market/tasting room and, without sampling, took the word of the lady behind the counter about the quality of Jackalope Brewing Company IPAs and bought a 6-pack of them.
The Fennario IPA was very light-tasting, especially for being as hop-heavy and high-alcohol as it is. I took them with me as I travelled through Louisiana and Texas, and I they were a big hit. My friend in Louisiana doesn’t care for IPAs normally but loved these.
As I made my way back to Texas on the second leg of my adventure, my brother and I stopped in Utah and Colorado, then Dodge City, before we took a right and headed south to Houston, so I got myself a few cans to see what Texas brews I liked best.
The first IPA I tried there was pretty mild:
The “2 Hopper” from Texas Leaguer was really light and smooth, a good daytime (or baseball game) beer.
The Hop Tongue from Karbach Brewing definitely talked a good game, and was very refreshing. But it might be overselling it’s extreme hoppy-ness.
Saint Arnold beers are very popular in Texas, and I enjoyed this Art Car IPA. Again, I wanted more hops, but I’d definitely drink this one again.
Now, the people at Spindletap know how to squeeze some hops. This Hop Gusher IPA was finally the hop-hop-hoppiness I needed! This was one of the best IPAs I’ve had outside of San Diego.
I also sampled the “Single Hop” IPA from the Martin House Brewing Company.
I did not like this beer. I think there might have been an error in production on this one. Ugh.
Thanks for coming along with me on my beer tour.
Please continue to follow my adventures through the USA — hopefully my RV will be ready and I will be on the road in the next week or so.
I have a pass for all of the national parks, so I think I will be maiking an effort — in the next leg of my adventure especially — to see more of the national parks and the awesome treasures within. On the way back to California from east Tennessee, I can see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I will pass close to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, past Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, the Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde in Colorado, the Arches and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and maybe even Yosemite when I get back to California.
I probably won’t see all or even most of the places on that list, but I m super excited to get back on the road – this time in a pretty nice RV – and see the rest of this amazing country.
Check back soon (and follow me on social media) to see what I am up to in east Tennessee, the progress I have made on the RV, and my next adventure! See you on the road!
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