Cismontane Brewing: Bushwacker and Marea Roja

Cismontane’s recent change in line up prompted me to get out on a Friday night with my friend, and fellow Cismontane regular, Mike. We enjoyed a game of chess, great food from Dos Chinos, and of course Cismontane’s fine brews.

Bushwacker

Cask (left) and regular (right). These pictures exaggerate what is only a slight difference in color.

Cask (left) and regular (right). These pictures exaggerate what is only a slight difference in color.

Bushwacker, available in cask and non-cask, is a very interesting beer. On the recommendation of the bartender, I tried the cask version first, which includes clove and vanilla on top of the honey and sage. There’s a whole lot going on here: the inherent effervescence and slight hoppiness of the beer base, aromatics of the sage, sweetness of the honey, spice of the clove, and an additional but distinct sweetness of the vanilla. This is the kind of beer that really hits you square in the tastebuds, and I love it.

The obvious choice for my next beer was the regular Bushwacker. While I by no means shy away from strong flavors, I did prefer this version to the cask. The lack of additional layers of flavor lets the honey and sage shine–I should mention that sage is my favorite herb–yielding a beer that’s better suited to drinking with food that wasn’t specifically matched to the flavors of the cask Bushwacker.

Marea Roja

Background:  my king, moments before surrender.

Background: my king, moments before surrender.

To finish off trying the new line up, except for the depleted La Crema, I got a bottle of Marea Roja, a Flemish Red. I didn’t now what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. If I weren’t paying attention, I would have thought I somehow got an especially fruity champagne! Flemish Reds are often sour and acidic, but Cismontane’s Marea Roja has significant notes of tart fruit–lime and strawberry stood out to me–that push the acidity to the background. It reminded my dad of the UK’s Shandy, a drink of beer and lemonade. However, the most accurate description, in my opinion is a bit different.

Before I say it, I want to make something clear: this comparison is nothing but favorable.

The fruit aspect of this beer reminded me of watermelon flesh near the rind (NOT the rind itself) where the color starts to pale. As one who holds watermelon on a pedestal above all other fruits, I see merit in all parts of a watermelon, so again, this is a most favorable comparison.

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Cismontane’s Mesa and Shralp Session Saison

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Well, as of yesterday evening, I have tried every beer Cismontane is offering on tap, and like I said to the guy in line with me, you just can’t miss!

Mesa (left) is a blend of 1/4 Mer Soleil Riesling and 3/4 Cismontane’s Pilsner. I can’t say I had ever thought of this before, but after drinking this one realizes that pale beers and Riesling do actually have a lot in common. The blend makes for a rather fruity experience, with the bitterness and attack of the beer component dulled somewhat. I think Mesa is the most refreshing beer I’ve had from Cismontane.

Shralp Session Saison (right) is a great, down-to-earth beer of the Belgian table style. Crisp, quenching, and easy on the palate, with notes of sweet citrus and mellow spices, this beer is eminently drinkable. I’m no expert on Belgian cuisine, but I could see this beer working with most any food, from bar snacks to a nice pork chop.

Apologies for the blurry pictures. It was a long day and my friends were trying to bust me up as I was taking them.

Cismontane’s Dos Cone Es

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Nothing like a cold beer to cool down after rehearsal, especially when it’s only a few paces away. This was the next beer in line in my new mission to drink down the list that hangs next to Cismontane’s counter.

Hoppy, rich, slightly sweet, and smooth as can be. Despite being the highest ABV of Cismontane’s current offerings, Dos Cone Es feels like a wonderfully refreshing beer that one could drink great quantities of. As I was drinking it, I thought it might be my new favorite, but Citizen still has the edge for me.

Cismontane’s Holy Jim Falls XPA

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We needed some beer for the weekend, and I didn’t feel like making the trek out to one of the big drinks stores, so I popped into Cismontane Brewing for a few bottles.

I had been meaning to try Holy Jim Falls for a long time, but the lure of the Citizen is usually to strong to resist. I did of course get a bottle of it, but I had the opportunity to branch out a bit.

This beer is hoppy, crisp, and refreshing, like many XPAs, but the distinguishing characteristic is the distinctive flavor that hits you right when you take a gulp. It took me a while to place the fruity and almost green tasting notes, but I finally realized that it reminds me of nopales, the paddles of our local prickly pear cactus!

Overall a great, refreshing beer.

Seventh Tea Bar’s Alpha Dominche Steampunk

I was happy to be invited to Seventh Tea Bar‘s unveiling of their new piece of tea-making machinery, Alpha Dominche’s Steampunk. The AD Steampunk was originally developed as a new tool for quickly producing consistent cups of coffee, but it turns out that the same machine can put out a great cup of tea, too. No single drink takes more than two minutes, and most don’t even take one minute.

As an avid fan of science fiction, I love the Steampunk. It’s a great example of technology and artistry aligning to both benefit and enhance each other. The Steampunk actually looks pretty steampunk itself, with its glass cauldrons, wood details, and integral touchpad. It’s quite entertaining to watch while you wait, too. I tried two teas from Mountain Tea steeped in Seventh Tea Bar’s Steampunk, FengHuang GuiFei Oolong and Dragonwell. The FengHuang GuiFei oolong has quite a story behind it, involving disaster, a triumphant return, and remembrance, but my favorite factoid about this tea was that a rare species of leaf hopper (or “tea hopper) is allowed to bite the leaves to begin the oxidation process on the actual plant! As for the Dragonwell, the first infusion had a rather distinctive taste. I loved the sour and bitter notes, and it was by no means short on aromatics and richness. Multiple infusions dulled Dragonwell’s initial edge, of course, bringing it down to a a flavor one usually expects from this type of tea, but I’d drink it at any number of infusions.

The machine itself and the two teas I tried.

The machine itself and the two teas I tried. Taken from my Instagram.

Cismontane Brewing Company’s Coulter IPA and Citizen California Common

I think I’m still in the honeymoon phase after turning 21 about 6 months ago, so what better thing to have located a scant 10 minutes from my home than a brewery?

Cismontane Brewing Company is just a couple hundred feet from El Fenix, and mere steps away from Rancho Canyon Music, where I take drum lessons and many of my friends teach. Cismontane always has four core brews, as well as a couple of seasonal or otherwise variable offerings.

The Coulter IPA, one of their four core brews, has a pleasant, citrus-like sourness—lemony, specifically—and it has a noticeable orange hue in the glass.

A rather sour beer. Crisp and refreshing with a nice body and good strength.

Crisp and refreshing with a nice body and good strength.

The Citizen California Common, my favorite Cismontane brew, is a mellower experience than the Coulter. Citizen has a comparable body and mouth feel to the Coulter, but from the first sip you know this is a hoppy beer. I like a hoppy beer.

My idea of a good, all-purpose beer. I can imagine eating this with most anything, but it worked especially well with a burrito lengua from El Fenix.

My idea of a good, all-purpose beer. I can imagine eating this with most anything, but it worked especially well with a burrito lengua from El Fenix.

The warm, inviting tasting room, good friends, and Jenga enhanced with some silly rules make for a wonderful experience. Cismontane actually encourage customers to patronize neighboring eateries and bring food to eat with their beer; the Thai place next door even brings your order right to you in the tasting room!