Shoulder Season Fun: Round the Lake Beer Tour – Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada

While we’ve been enjoying Miracle March, spring shoulder season is fast approaching. And, in my opinion, there’s no better time for a beer tour than spring! Maybe it’s because I’m from the Northwest, but it always seemed to me that the Tahoe area could support more breweries than we had. It took awhile, but better late than never – the brewery scene in Tahoe is finally expanding. Between the new breweries and the arrival of shoulder season, it’s the perfect time to embark on a ‘Round the Lake Beer Tour.

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Obviously, you’ll want a designated driver for this endeavor! My route starts in Truckee and heads west, but it can easily be adjusted for whatever starting point you want. 

  1. Smokey’s Kitchen: You’ll want a hearty breakfast before starting out, and despite being a BBQ joint, Smokey’s has something delicious for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. For veggies, I recommend the Huevos California and the Donner Pass Omelet for omnivores. If you’re feeling very ambitious, Smokey’s has a few beers on draft, including Racer 5!
  2. The Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co Brew Pub in Tahoe City opens at 11:30 am, so that’s our first brewery stop. Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co//Truckee, CA Tahoe Mountain is known for its saisons, and that’s what I have to recommend. Try Provisions, a multi-grain Farmhouse saison or ask the bartender for their seasonal recommendation. If you’re a diehard IPA fan (like I am), I like the Hop Dragon Imperial IPA.
  3. Head south on Highway 89, down the gorgeous West Shore of Tahoe. Be sure to pull over at the look out above the famous Emerald Bay. 165702_711569911290_7476821_n Once you’ve reached South Lake Tahoe, head straight to Coldwater Brewery & Grill. Skip the food and head straight for the bar – you’ll want to try Mr. Toad’s Wild Rye.
  4. Next up is Sidellis Lake Tahoe, just down the road. It’s the newest brewery on this tour, but they’ve already got a few delicious beers. I like their Bitter Creek Pale and their nachos for a quick snack.
  5. Now we’re traveling back north – this time up Tahoe’s East Shore. Be sure to hop out of the car at some point – there’s a nice viewpoint just south of Incline Village, or you can make a longer stop at Sand Harbor State Park.
    View of Sand Harbor from the Flume Trail
    Sand Harbor from above. Photo by Katie Riley.

    Need some coffee? You can stop by Tunnel Creek Cafe where they have great coffee and Deschutes beer on draft.

  6. Once you’ve reached Incline Village, Nevada, you’re might be hungry again. Alibi Ale Works doesn’t serve food, but you can bring in takeout (maybe burritos from locals’ favorite T’s Mesquite Rotisserie) and they often have a food truck outside. Alibi Ale Works // Incline Village, NV Alibi always has a bunch of great beers on tap, both their own and from other breweries. They do each beer on a really small scale, so their taps are always changing. This is a good place to get a sample of a bunch of different beers, but, if they have their Scotch Ale on draft, be sure to get that.
  7. You’re on the home stretch now! While not a brewery, you should definitely stop at Mellow Fellow Kings Beach (which is technically on the Nevada side of the line, so don’t miss it). Mellow Fellow has 40 rotating taps, so no matter what you like they’ll have a beer (or two or three…) for you.
  8. The final stop of the tour is back to Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co, but this time, you’ll be hitting up the brewery location in Truckee. You can repeat your favorites from the brewpub, but they’ve often got one or two beers you can’t get anywhere else.

Congratulations! You’ve finished the ‘Round the Lake Beer Tour. Reward yourself with dinner at one of Truckee’s many great restaurants.

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Click here for the Google Map of my ‘Round the Lake Brewery Tour!

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.

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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:

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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.

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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)

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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)

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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.

 

Try This Beer: Alibi Ale Works, Incline Village, NV

Back in June, I said that one of my Tahoe Summer Bucket List items was “Visit all of the Local Breweries”. I got another step closer this weekend with a visit to the new-ish brewery Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village, Nevada.

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In addition to their awesome logo, they brew great beer. Since they’re still a fairly new brewery, they only have a few of their own beers on draft. But all of the ones I tried were great! They also have beer, wine and cider from other breweries, wineries and cider-ies (?) from near and far.

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Richard Romo, and Kevin Drake, Alibi Ale Works founders (photo by Kevin MacMillan Tahoe Daily Tribune)

Another really cool thing about Alibi Ale Works is that, since they’re located in Nevada, they can fill up pretty much any container you bring them. They sell branded glass and stainless steel growlers, but we happened to have our 32 oz Hydro Flask Growler from Crux Fermentation Project, and they filled it up when we left. They have a special deal on growler fills on Sunday, so we got 32 oz of their IPA for only $8! Also, the brewery often has live music and food trucks, and that calendar is posted on their website.

Their beers don’t have any exciting or punny names yet, and are simple descriptions of what they are. I tried Alibi Ale Works’ Porter, Scotch Ale, Pale Ale and IPA. While I enjoyed them all, I was most impressed by the Scotch Ale. Usually, that’s not my favorite type of beer, but Alibi’s was the best Scotch Ale I’ve ever had! It was slightly fruity without being to sweet, and I told Greyson that it made me think of cherry fruit leather. (like, the hippie fruit roll ups). He thought that description was weirdly specific. Sadly, the Scotch Ale isn’t available by the growler, so we got the (also delicious) IPA.

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If you’re in the Tahoe area, Alibi Ale Works is worth the trip! There are a bunch of good hikes, climbs and bike rides in the Incline Village area. Greyson and I earned our beers with a short hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail out to a gorgeous viewpoint up near Mount Rose. Check back next week for more details about the hike!

Disclosure: One of the links in this post is an affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Bend: The Beer

So I’ve already waxed poetically about the beer at Crux Fermentation Project, but I tried A LOT of beers when we were in Bend. Here are some of the highlights:

Bend: The Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

After purchasing a bike lock and rear flashers for our Bend Ale Trail bike tour at The Hub Cyclery, we rode over to 10 Barrel Brewing Company* for dinner and beer. Despite it being fairly early on a Wednesday, the place was packed! We headed for the bar to wait for our table, where I ordered the Apocalypse IPA (I ranked it 4/5) and Greyson got the India-Style Session Ale (3/5). We were seated at the long, bar-style community table where we got to eavesdrop on lots of interesting/awkward conversations. I also had a P2P American Stout (4.5/5).

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*10 Barrel Brewing Company was recently bought by AB-InBev, so it’s technically no-longer a craft brewery, if that matters to you.

We then biked over to McMenamins Old Saint Francis School, a converted Catholic schoolhouse from the 1930’s. There’s a bar, restaurant, hotel, movie theater, and even a soaking pool! I only found out about all of the other amenities after I was back home, but I definitely want to check out the pool on my next trip to Bend. I had the Star Trip IPA (which did not have an entry on Untappd! So, honestly I don’t remember how much I like the beer, other than it was not my favorite, but I enjoyed it.) and Greyson got the Hammerhead American Pale Ale (1.5/5 – did not like it!). We called it a night after McMenamins after the long drive and headed back to the condo we stayed in our first night there.

We spent Thursday afternoon at Crux Fermentation Project, and that was our only brewery that day.

On Friday, we had a leisurely morning around camp (I finally tried a Picky Bar and really liked it! Got to love that there are getting to be more and more soy-free bars out there!), and took on the Deschutes River Trail via mountain bike. It only seemed appropriate to visit the Deschutes Brewery after!

Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR // tahoefabulous.com

My favorite six pack that I can get fairly easily in California is Deschutes’ Fresh Squeezed IPA, and Greyson waits all year for Red Chair NWPA, so we were excited to try our favorites and more at the source. In addition to Fresh Squeezed and Red Chair, we had samplers of Bachelor Bitter (3.5), In Version Experimental Inversion IPA (3/5), Obsidian Nitro Stout (3.5/5) and Chasin’ Freshies. I’d never had Red Chair on draft, and I really liked it, it may have been my favorite out of the ones we tried there! We also split a pint of Deschutes Black Butte Porter (my favorite porter!) at Crow’s Feet Commons later – because who can resist getting a beer at a bar in a bike shop?

We grabbed dinner Friday night at a mediocre Mediterranean restaurant – nothing worth writing about, but there I was able to order a happy hour pint of Boneyard Beer Company RPM IPA (4/5). This brewery had come recommended by Emily and the bartender at Crux, so I was excited to try it out. I really enjoyed it, and I wish we could have made it to the actual brewery during our time there. Next time!

We decided to hit one more spot on the Bend Ale Trail before heading back to our campground out at Smith Rock. We walked over to Bend Brewing Company and ordered pints of Elk Lake IPA (4/5) and Metolius Golden Ale (3/5). I liked the Metolius Golden Ale way more than I usually like that style of beer.

After climbing in the cold on Saturday morning/early afternoon, we headed into town famished and ready for more beer. We had a late lunch at the most amazing Thai restaurant I’ve ever been to – Wild Rose (this place deserves its own post!), where I had a pint of 3 Sisters American Red Ale (4/5) from Wild Ride Brew, just down the road in Redmond, Oregon.

Our final stop on the Bend brewery tour was Silver Moon Brewing, my second favorite brewery of the trip. Also, the brewery was located across the street from a DONUT TRUCK which was, unfortunately, closed both times we drove by. Next time. We sat at the bar, and the friendly bartenders poured us samples of HopNob IPA (4.5/5 – the only beer in my Top 8 NOT from Crux!), Voodoo Dog American Amber (4/5), Get Sum American Pale Ale (4/5), IPA 97 (2.5/5) and Mango Daze ISA (3.5/5) which was surprisingly good for a fruity beer!

Bend is a perfect destination for the outdoorsy, the beer lover, and, especially, for those who fall in both categories. We honestly just scratched the surface of breweries in the Bend area. I can’t wait to go back and try all of the other beers from the breweries I didn’t get to visit. And (honestly), probably spend another day at Crux and Silver Moon!

P.S. We also stopped by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company on our way up north!

Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico, CA // tahoefabulous.com