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Monterey to San Jose

By December 9, 2011Beer Travel
Maria and I with Good Karma Cafe owner Ryan
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While in Monterey we met another beer geek at the Post No Bills  craft beer house in Sand City (just outside of Monterey). Ramon was tending bar and we got on the subject of our beer travel. He got pretty excited to hear our story and invited us back the next night for a vertical tasting of North Coast Brewing’s Old Stock Ale.

A vertical tasting is sampling the same beer from successive years to see how the flavor changes and evolves with time. This was our first vertical tasting and I was really looking forward to it. Ramon had been buying this seasonal beer from 2000-2005 so we had 6 beers to try . Here is the description from North Coast:

Like a fine port, Old Stock Ale is intended to be laid down. With an original gravity of over 1.100 and a generous hopping rate, Old Stock Ale is well-designed to round-out and mellow with age. It’s brewed with classic Maris Otter malt and Fuggles and East Kent Goldings hops, all imported from England.

Ramon and Maria sample beers

You could definitely see a difference in color between the years and the taste would change somewhat unpredictably even in successive years. The tasting turned into rounds of drafts and bottles. Many drinks were consumed and Ramon volunteered to ride with us up to San Jose and show us around his home town. We love seeing cities through a local’s eyes so we picked him up the next day and headed to San Jose.

On the way up we stopped at El Toro Brewing in Morgan Hill and sampled some of their brews. They had a good amount on tap, at least 15 different beers including a hop series that uses the same base recipe but uses a different hop in each batch.

Wall of taps at El Toro Brewing.
El Toro also featured a pepper beer made with Ghost Peppers. For those who don’t know the Ghost Pepper is hottest pepper in the world. I had tried the Ghost Face Killah from Twisted Pine when we were in Boulder so I thought I knew what I was getting into. I was wrong. This was much hotter and stays on the back of your throat well after you have swallowed.  Maria tried a mix of the chili beer and stout to cut the heat and still had a look of pain and disgust on her face. (Note from Maria: it’s not like me to try a pepper beer and certainly not a ghost pepper beer but the guys were so excited that they thought the heat was cut by the malty goodness of the stout that they actually convinced me to try it. That sure was a mistake!)

Once we got into San Jose, Ramon took us to Good Karma Cafe, a vegan soul food restaurant that also happened to have some of the best taps in town.  I was a bit hesitant about vegan food as I am a proud carnivore, but the place smelled so good we had to get some grub with our beers…and it was amazing! We tried about 9 different items and they were all so00o good!

Treys of delicous vegan soul food at the Good Karma Cafe

Ramon and Maria enjoy beers at the Good Karma Cafe

Ramon introduced us to the owner, Ryan, and we sampled a few of his 15 plus taps. I had my first Pliny the Elder and Maria sampled the Ballast Point Dopplebock. The place had such a great vibe and atmosphere. We never would have know about it if not for our guide, so special thanks to Ramon for letting us know what’s good!

Maria and I with Good Karma Cafe owner Ryan

We had planned on attending a local hip-hop show, but ended up drinking some more of Ramon’s private stash and enjoying an impromtu jam session at his house.

Special thanks to Ramon for being our San Jose guide! Up next, San Francisco.

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