Monday, September 18, 2006

Half Moon Bay Brewing in Princeton-by-the-Sea, CA

As tough as it was to leave the beach town of Santa Cruz, it was necessary. On the bright side, we were looking forward to our drive up the coast to Half Moon Bay. I suppose to be more specific, we actually wound up driving through the town of Half Moon Bay to Princeton-by-the-Sea. And, a more pleasurable drive it could not have been. Just check out the panoramic display above for an idea of the stunning visuals that we enjoyed along the 50+ mile drive up the coast. Unbelievable! The last 1/2 mile on approach to Half Moon Bay Brewing (not in the town of Half Moon Bay, mind you!) told us that this might turn out to be one of the country's most scenic settings for a brewery/brewpub. As we drove down a winding road off of Route 1, we passed a marina full of boats, other restaurants, and entertainment. The brewpub sits just across the street from the water that leads out to the ocean and just down the road from the Half Moon Bay airport. When we arrived in the mid afternoon, the crowd of patrons was already in full, lazy holiday afternoon mode. HMB has an ample amount of outdoor seating and just as much, probably more, indoors. The outdoor seating was in high demand on this beautiful afternoon. Dogs are permitted outdoors, so you can just picture the people, some with their dogs, sitting around under a picturesque sky and adjacent to a waterfront marina sipping on beer and noshing on food from the restaurant's menu. Only drawback here I must say is the increased chance of skunked beer out in the open glare of the sun. We were able to secure a table outdoors where we enjoyed our lunch (fish tacos are a must!) and some beer sampling. However, between the heat of the sun and the skunking of a couple beers, we decided to move indoors to the bar area to finish off our afternoon sampling at HMB. We made our way through a standard sampling of nine beers and a couple of pints. For future assessment, we took along a growler full of the IPA with us. We gave the highest marks out to Paddle Out Stout (everything you'd expect in a full-bodied, roasty stout), Mavericks Amber (nice solid, slightly sweet ale), Double IPA (what the 'regular IPA' should have been), and Bourbon Soulstice (because that's what you get when you put a big ale in with oak and bourbon...very nice indeed!) But the IPA left us quite perplexed. For a style that, especially on the West Coast, is typically marked by its extraordinary level of hops (both aroma and flavor), this thin interpretation certainly came up light on both hops and malt backbone. Generally speaking, the overall experience was good at HMB. As I led off with, the real experience here is in the location and the ambience. The various beer styles scored moderately well, with a couple falling on either side of average and the rest in between. The service appeared to be a bit spotty, and not just for us according to other personal reviews. Though, given what might come off here sounding like a tepid review, I would still strongly recommend adding HMB to a beer tour if you're heading up or down the CA coast. And, who can complain with another strikingly unique growler added to his collection? Unfortunately, we needed to leave before the late afternoon live jazz sessions began. But, it was a yet another scenic drive for us east on Route 92 back to the SF Bay Area...where our adventures continued. p.s. Speaking of scenery, no sooner did we begin our travel back down Route 1, then we spotted a young beached elephant seal that was looking for a place to rest.

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