Brewery Review: Knee Deep Brewing, Auburn, California

Earlier this week, I mentioned that Greyson and I spent Valentines Day mountain biking near Auburn, California. Well, what’s a long mountain bike ride without a satisfying post-ride beer? Things were pretty busy in downtown Auburn, so we decided to check out the new-to-us Knee Deep Brewing.

IMG_1384

Knee Deep Brewing is located a ways out of downtown Auburn – near the airport. That worked out pretty well for us, because that meant plenty of parking where we could check on our bikes locked on the back of Greyson’s car (always a good feature for post-ride beers).

In addition to being thirsty, we were also very hungry. So when we pulled up and spotted the No Pho King Way food truck, I was stoked! It smelled delicious, but we wanted to get our beer situation sorted out, so we pulled open the doors to the HUGE Knee Deep Brewing tasting room, and saw this:

IMG_1375

While the space was large and there was plenty of seating, there was a HUGE line for beer. We decided on a division of labor, and I ordered food and Greyson stood in line for beer. I gave him the instruction “Lean more toward IPAs and less toward Belgians”, and I went back outside to order food from No Pho King Way.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I order from a food truck, I expect them to have pho. No Pho King Way did not. It’s not like they had pho and had run out because it was super busy, they just…didn’t have pho on the menu. Well, technically they did, but it was an old menu and they didn’t offer it any more. Working off the outdated menu, I ordered the two of us pho, pork belly tacos, and banh mi fries. (What? We were hungry.) The man working the counter seemed confused by my order. “We don’t have pho,” he said. Perplexed, I assumed they were out. I changed my order to vermicelli noodles with garlic lemon chicken. Next, I ordered the pork belly tacos. “We don’t have those,” he said. At this point, he realized that I was ordering off an outdated menu (to be fair to me, they were placed outside of the food truck) and I decided to settle for the noodles and banh mi fries. I was annoyed, but the food was really good so I can’t complain too much.

IMG_1378

The timing ended up being just about perfect; I got the food just as Greyson was getting the beers. When Greyson told the bartenders that we wanted more on the IPA side, he poured us a four beer sampler of different IPAs and pale ales. Also – the sampler was only $6 – great price for really good beer! The bartender also assured Greyson that this was the busiest it had ever been, and we had no problem finding seats – though it meant sharing  a long family style table with other patrons.

Here’s what we tried:

Breaking Bud IPA (4.75/5) (Photo and Description from Knee Deep Brewing)

bearpanel_breakingbud

Old school meets new school in this fresh approach to the classic IPA.  At 50 IBU’s and 6.7% ABV, Breaking Bud features the restrained bitterness and alcohol of a classic IPA with newer tropical fruit hop flavors and aromas of Mosaic.  Also in the hop mix are Simcoe and CTZ, creating layers of mango, passion fruit, pine and dank.  A malt bill with a pinch of crystal malt and a hefty dose of flaked wheat keeps the beer crisp while adding flavor complexity.

Hoptologist Double IPA (3.75/5) (Photo and Description from Knee Deep Brewing)

beerpanel_hoptologist

An American Double India Pale Ale that packs a punch when it comes to hops. The aroma and flavors will give you citrus and pine with a slight malt sweetness that finishes dry.

We also tried the Spring Sipper Double IPA (3.5/5) and the Aviator Series Pale Side (3.75/5). I really enjoyed all of the beers we tried at Knee Deep Brewing. Greyson and I both agreed that it was the most consistently good round of beers we’ve gotten at a brewery in a while. The tasting room is family and dog friendly with games and outdoor seating. I’m not sure if the No Pho King Way truck is there all the time, but, menu mixup not withstanding, the food was really good! While Knee Deep Brewing is a little off the beaten path, it’s worth the side trip.

 

Trail Report: Mountain Biking Foresthill Divide Trail, Auburn, California

I am lucky enough to get both Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day off, so I had a four day weekend this weekend. I packed a lot of fun into this weekend, and I managed to fit two of my favorite things (beer and mountain biking) into Valentine’s Day. We’ve been having a bit of a dry spell up in the mountains, and while it’s led to fun, spring-like conditions for snowboarding, I was ready to get out of the Tahoe area and find some real spring weather. Greyson had heard some good things about the mountain biking around Auburn, and with the forecast calling for 74 and sunny, we decided to check out the Foresthill Divide Trail.

IMG_1383

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 11.40.37 AM
Photo via Strava

The trailhead for the Foresthill Divide trail is easy to find – it’s 3.7 miles east from the Foresthill Bridge on Foresthill Road. (Note: Google Maps has the trailhead in the wrong location). From Auburn, the trailhead is on your right with enough parking for 15-20 cars. If you don’t have a California State Parks Pass, it will cost $10 to park. There are porti-potties, but not permanent bathrooms here. They were very clean porti-potties though! There are signs up reminding you to hide valuables and to lock your cars – locals we talked to agreed with that recommendation. Apparently, there have been break ins and thefts at the trailhead. The Foresthill Divide trail is open to horses, hikers and leashed dogs (but not OHVs), so be aware and practice good trail manners. We saw lots of hikers out yesterday.

IMG_1371
Some nice hikers took this Valentines Day picture for us.

The Foresthill Divide Trail is a lollipop with a very short stick, and it is very well marked. There are easily read “Foresthill Divide Trail” signs at every major intersection. As long as you follow these signs and stay on the main trail, you will be fine. After you leave the parking lot follow the signs, you’ll ride about 0.6 miles before hitting the loop part of the trail. The sign here points right, and follow that to do the loop counterclockwise. Pretty much every biker we encountered was doing the loop that direction. You’ll get the harder climbs out of the way sooner, and the steeper sections will be downhill.

IMG_1366

I’m feeling pretty out of shape bike wise, and the thought of lugging my heavy Sanction up ~1,600 feet of climbing sounded pretty miserable to me, so I did some research into whether this ride would be a good candidate for riding my hardtail. To be honest, that is my number one question whenever I am thinking about riding a new trail. Can I ride my hardtail, or do I need suspension? The research I did had me leaning toward hardtail acceptable, so that’s what I brought. Spoiler alert: the trail is definitely doable on a hardtail and it was enjoyable, but next time I will be riding a full suspension bike.

The Mountain Bike Project describes the Foresthill Divide Trail as “A very good intermediate Level XC Trail. Rolling singletrack that’s very well designed and maintained,” and I wholeheartedly agree with this description. The trail is hard packed dirt for the majority of the length, with a few rocky and rooty sections. The trail definitely had some erosion damage when we rode it yesterday, but it is generally a well built, FUN to ride trail.

IMG_1373

While I enjoy the more technical, rocky trails that Tahoe has to offer, it is just so FUN to be able to let go and ride fast on hard packed, sticky dirt. There are also long, straight downhill sections with lots of visibility ahead, so I felt safe getting my speed up and not worrying about coming up on unsuspecting hikers or horses. While there were rocky sections, none lasted more than a few hundred yards, and there was only one steep, rooty section that I felt like I couldn’t have handled on my hardtail. (There were definitely other sections that I chose to walk due to out-of-bike-shapeness). I said earlier that next time I’d choose to ride a full suspension bike, and that was more due to the bumpy erosion damage and hard packed dirt than the size of the rocks.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 11.40.45 AM
Photo via Strava

While the ride had ~1,600 feet of climbing (according to Strava), none of the climbs were too steep to ride. I definitely stopped for many breaks, but I also haven’t been on a bike since October. You spend most of your time riding through classic California oak woodlands, but you pop out for gorgeous views quite a few times along the way, and we caught a glimpse of the American River a couple of times.

IMG_1370

The only major downside to this trail is the couple of times you have to cross a major road. You cross Foresthill Road at 5.6 miles and again at 10.3 miles. Cars are coming fast, and the corners are a little blind for my taste. We obviously made it across safely, but be careful, because there are no warning signs for cars about bike crossings.

IMG_1380

We had a great time riding the Foresthill Divide Trail, and I definitely recommend it as a good intermediate cross country trail. It would be a challenge for a beginner, but doable, especially if they’re in good cardio-shape. It’s rideable for an intermediate rider, and there’s enough going on that an advanced rider would have fun. Plus, there’s lots of other fun stuff to do around the Auburn area, and I plan on writing about that in the next week or so.

Trail Stats:
Location: Foresthill, California
Mileage: 11.0 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1,600 feet
Difficulty: Beginner
Click here for my Strava route.

Gnarbuckling on the South Yuba River

Have you ever heard of “gnarbuckling”? Probably not, as it’s a term that one of Greyson’s friends made up.

gnar 1

To explain gnarbuckling, I have to explain a little bit about the South Yuba River. The Yuba River is a gorgeous and important waterway that drains about 1,400 square miles of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada and is a major tributary of the Feather River. It’s made of three forks, and the longest and southernmost fork is my favorite.

The South Yuba originates on Donner Pass (near where I live) and travels 65 miles before it joins with the others. The South Yuba (one of three forks) winds through Nevada County and is fairly close to Nevada City running along side or under Highway 49 in many spots. Like a lot of the areas along Highway 49, the South Yuba was heavily impacted by mining. During the California gold rush and for years afterwards, the area was mined using hydraulic mining. Though the area hasn’t been mined that way since the 1880s, the blasting left behind a unique river morphology that’s fun to explore.

gnar 2

Map to 49 Crossing/Double Bridges from Nevada City. Click here for the map.

Now, for gnarbuckling. The best place to access the South Yuba for gnarbuckling is at an access spot known as the 49 Crossing or Double Bridges. This is a popular spot in the summer, so you may have to park a ways away if you get there much after 9 am. The South Yuba is littered with huge granite boulders, smoothed by years of water rushing by, and the way they’re situated in the river means that there are dozens of great swimming holes in the river.

While there is often trail or parking access to some of the more popular swimming holes, meaning that you could fairly easily hike or drive there, getting to the swimming hole isn’t the point of gnarbuckling.

DCIM100GOPRO

When you’re gnarbuckling, you travel upstream, while remaining in the water as much as possible. This means you’ll be wading through rushing water, climbing over rocks, swimming through deeper sections, diving under low hanging boulders, scrambling up rocky slopes, dodging nude hippies, hoisting yourself and your friends over small rapids, and falling – a lot! Basically, the journey is the point of the adventure.

Greyson and I headed up to Nevada City on Saturday and spent the afternoon gnarbuckling. I didn’t bring my garmin, but we estimated we were traveling about 1 mile an hour (or slower!). We had a great time, and we even brought Greyson’s GoPro, taking some not-so-great pictures and a few videos. Greyson made a short instagram video of us jumping off a small cliff into a deep pool of clear water. Click here to watch it, and here is a super awesome-quality still frame:

gnar 4

We excited to finally make it to the Yuba this year! With the drought, we were worried that the river would be lower, slower and grosser than usual. Despite our worries, the South Yuba was still a lot of fun. It was pretty crowded, even as we made our way upstream away from the parking area, there was definitely more green slime on the rocks, and the river seemed about a foot lower than usual. It was still a great time, and the water was still cool and refreshing in the 90 degree plus heat! One of the best things about the Yuba is its clear water, and, as usual, the water was clear enough to see the schools of fish swimming around. And clear enough to attempt some underwater selfies.

DCIM100GOPRO

Someone isn’t very good at #underwaterselfies

When you’re gnarbuckling, you might have a final destination in mind, or you can just turn around whenever. It’s not usually a point-to-point activity, because going downstream is the really fun part! When the water level is higher, the Yuba has a ton of fun “water slides” running over the smooth granite. The water was a little low for that last weekend, but we did float feet first through some fun mini-rapids. We ended up spending 3+ hours in the river, so by the time we made it back down to where the car was parked, our arms were toast!

Gnarbuckling on the South Yuba River // tahoefabulous.com

A celebratory beverage and meal is another key part of gnarbuckling, so we headed to Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. in downtown Nevada City. I’ve been there a few times now, and the generously-poured beers were as good as usual. I love visiting Nevada City – it’s got a bunch of great restaurantsfun cultural activities and amazing outdoor opportunities – including the best place in the world for gnarbuckling!

My Favorite Restaurants in Nevada City, California

I get to go to the adorable historic mining town of Nevada City for work fairly often. There are a ton of great environmental non-profits based there that I work with, and nearly half of our AmeriCorps Members are based in the area. I was there in January for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, last week for site visits, and I’ll be back in April for a training and watershed restoration project.

Nevada City 1

Nevada City is a California Gold Rush town about an hour from Sacramento, and the entire downtown is a National Historic District filled with funky shops and great restaurants. There are a ton of outdoor activities in the area – mountain biking, hiking, road biking, fishing and exploring the amazing Yuba River, as well as art events, concerts, festivals, and plays – Nevada City is an arts and culture hub for the Sierra

After a long day of playing outside or festival-going, there’s nothing better than something good to eat and a nice beer/glass of wine. Here are some of my favorites:

Best Restaurants Nevada City // tahoefabulous.com

Best Beer/Breakfast Baked Good Joint: 3 Forks Brewery

Named after the three forks (North, Middle and South) of the Yuba River, 3 Forks Brewery does great beer and baked goods. (So you can have beer for breakfast!) I had and amazing millet muffin when I was there, and I love the Emerald Pool IPA. The brewery supports local farms and sources as much as possible from local, organic producers.

Favorite Coffee Shop: Cafe Mekka

There are several great coffee shops in Nevada City, but my favorite is Cafe Mekka. This place has a crunchy feel – frequented by the hippie population, funky decor, dinosaurs made from appliances hanging from the ceiling, and a great coffee and chai. I recommend the dirty chai for early morning wake up calls after late nights out at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

Best for Scenic Dining: Lefty’s Grill

Lefty’s Grill has a great location with an outdoor deck overlooking Deer Creek in downtown Nevada City. Sit outside on the deck, order the Napa Style Pizza or anything with onion jam and you will not be disappointed.

Best Adult Grilled Cheese/Beer Selection: Matteo’s Public

I love a fancy grilled cheese sandwich, and Matteo’s Stinky Grill Cheese is awesome with cheddar, parmesan and blue cheese. The onion rings are great as well. I’ve always been impressed with their beer selection (they always have IPA 395) with fun microbrews from all over the Sierra and California. Additionally, Matteo’s Public is another Nevada City restaurant with a focus on local, organic ingredients whenever possible.

Favorite Food Truck: Fudenjuce

After a long, hot day of invasive blackberry removal last spring, one of the Nevada City AmeriCorps Members introduced us all to the amazing Fudenjuce and their delicious smoothies. Fudenjuce also has wraps, rice bowls, salads and other healthy dishes with a lot of gluten free options. Fudenjuce is a little out of town, but worth the drive or bike ride.

Best Dive Bar: The Mine Shaft Saloon

The Mine Shaft Saloon is more than just a place to get a cheap beer and check out the vintage Budweiser posters hanging from the ceiling. Despite its main street location, it’s a true locals hangout, and you can get a feel for the “real” Nevada City by spending some time here.

Mountain Biking Hirschman Trail – Nevada City, California

Hirschman Trail, Nevada City, Ca // tahoefabulous.com

I was back in Nevada City this week to do Site Visits at some of my AmeriCorps host sites. The weather down in the foothills was perfect – sunny and low 70s! While I have been complaining about the lack of snow in Tahoe, I certainly don’t mind basking in the sun!

Hirschman 2

Greyson lived in Nevada City for awhile a few years ago, and he remembered a short, easy trail that’s a just quick ride out of town that he rode a few times. We brought bikes and planned to do the ride after I finished up with work on Thursday. We pedaled up Broad Street from the Emma Nevada House, turned left on Highway 49 and were at the trailhead in less than a mile.

Trail Map via Strava

I was excited to see that the trail was the Hirschman Trail, a project of Bear Yuba Land Trust, one of my AmeriCorps host sites! The trail is pretty easy, both technically and exertion wise, with only about 500 feet of elevation gain over the 4.8 mile round trip trail. The trail is really well marked with signs letting you know how far you’ve come, and honoring the supporters and volunteers that keep the trail in great shape.

Hirschman 4

The trail is all on hard packed dirt, though it was pretty covered in pine needles when I rode it, as it goes mainly through the forest. There are a few spots where you pop out and parallel Highway 49, but that’s just a couple of short sections. There are a few tight switchbacks along the way, but nothing overly difficult. This is a great trail for a beginner or someone looking to do a short, mellow ride after work or while on vacation. Another highlight is Hirschman’s Pond where some of my other AmeriCorps Members are conducting frog surveys and doing other wildlife tracking. Early morning and evening riders might glimpse some local wildlife!

Hirschman 5

After our ride, Greyson and I got Mammoth Brewing Company’s IPA 395 and dinner at Matteo’s Public. That beer is great, but be careful! They’re strong! PS It’s National AmeriCorps Week! Be sure to thank a volunteer, and thanks to those who’ve participated in National Service!

Hirschman 6

Trail Stats:
Location: Cement Hill Road, Nevada City, California
Mileage: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: <500 feet
Difficulty: Beginner