Beer 511

Exploring the Craft Beer and Homebrew Scenes in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

Month: April 2016

Hard Frescos

Hard Frescos are a relatively new item, having been on the market for about a year.  They are the brain-child of Peter Stearns, from Santa Barbara, who worked for two years with experts at UC Davis to develop a way of making an alcoholic drink using pretty much only the ingredients that would go into Mexican aguas frescas, which were his inspiration.

Now, a “serious” beer drinker might well look at these and decide that they have no relation to beer, and that’s a fair point. However, as they are brewed using fruit and then fermented using an ale or a lager yeast, depending on the batch, they have as much a relation to beer as a cider or a mead. In any case, the federal government has required the company to include some barley malt in all the recipes so they can class Hard Frescos as a “malt beverage.”

I happened to met Stearns at the Hard Frescos booth at the recent Bay Area Craft Brew Festival, and he sent me home with some samples. Well, I’ve tried every one of what he gave me and I’ve got to say that I do like them.

The three flavors I sampled were “Citrico” -made with citrus-, “Tangy Tamarindo” -made with tamarind-, and “Juicy Jamaica” -made with hibiscus blossoms. Of the three (there is also a fourth flavor: “Cola Buena”), I by far preferred the “Citrico” (so glad he gave two of those!), followed by the “Tangy Tamarindo.”

Served cold, Hard Frescos are easy to drink and refreshing. All of the flavors contain around 5% ABV, but what comes through most brightly is the fruit used in their preparation. The adjectives that most come to mind are fun and friendly.

As they are a bit removed from the Belgian and farmhouse ales that I tend to prefer, I’m not sure that I’d stock them in my fridge –although they do hold out the promise of some interesting cocktails– but I’d happily order a Hard Frescos at a restaurant or taco truck.

They would certainly hit the spot as a “grown up” alternative any time one might reach for a Jarritos or a Peñafiel.

Raleigh, NC: Raleigh Beer Garden

One of my destinations in North Carolina –a recommendation from Susana– was the Raleigh Beer Garden, on Glenwood Avenue in downtown Raleigh.

The Beer Garden, rather than a garden, is actually a three-story affair, with three regular bars, which are expanded on weekends with a draft setup on the rooftop patio.


One of the bars is the liquor and cocktail bar near the entrance. It is a pretty cool affair in its own right, dominated by a sculpture made out of a real tree which towers into the second floor.

Toward the back of the first and second floors are the beer taprooms. The Raleigh Beer Garden claims to offer the world’s largest selection of draft beer, and they have the Guinness World Record certificates to prove it.


Even without the certificates the claim is easy to believe. Altogether there are 378 taps, of which the 144 on the first floor are all North Carolina beers, while the second floor bar serves beers from elsewhere in the country and imports. If you’re in the Raleigh area and don’t have time for a local beer crawl, then definitely hit the Raleigh Beer Garden.

With a beer selection so vast, actually pretty good food, patio seating and a rooftop bar and patio, it is easy to understand why the Raleigh Beer Garden is a very popular spot. We went on a weekday afternoon, and I recommend that. As I understand it, from 4 pm on on Thursday and Friday evenings, and on the weekends, the place is gets packed with the college crowd (which, of course, can be a totally fun scene in its own right!) and it can be hard to get in without a reservation.


Raleigh Beer Garden
614 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC 27603

Raleigh, NC: House of Hops

Another nice beer spot I enjoyed in North Carolina is House of Hops Craft and Draft tap house and bottle shop in Raleigh.

I happened upon it purely by chance: as I was slowing for an intersection I noticed its streetside sign out of the corner of my eye.  Without a second thought, I turned around at the intersection and made my way to its door, and boy am I glad I did.

The place has a friendly, comfortable vibe, with a bar and multiple taps, along with couches and a welcoming attitude to both kids and dogs.  Ronna, who was on duty at the time, was really warm and welcoming, and gladly pointed us to local beer offerings on draft that we might like.

The bottle shop selection –both, refrigerated and on the shelves– can conservatively described as wide and varied. Everthing is clearly labeled with brewery, provenance and price, and for a traveler from the West Coast, such as me,offered many new discoveries, ranging from breweries I did not know to brews from known breweries which were not distributed out here.

Susana and I drooled over the selections and but were only able to enjoy a half pour of beer before moving on to downtown Raleigh and our ultimate destination at the Raleigh Beer Garden.

We did stop at House of Hops on the way back to load up on a few choice bottles to take home and enjoy later.

House of Hops
6909 Glenwood Ave #100
Raleigh, NC 27612

Chapel Hill, NC: Carolina Brewery

At the beginning of the month I had the chance to travel to North Carolina and to visit several beer spots in the “Triangle” while there.  The first of these was the Carolina Brewery in downtown Chapel Hill.

I had spotted the brewery on Franklin Street, Chape Hill’s main street, on my way out of town, and so headed straight there when I was done that afternoon. I had spent the morning touring an old plantation’s historic buildings, and the weather was warm and sunny.  Thus, I was in need of some lunch and a good beer while I waited to meet up with my daughter.

The Carolina Brewery has two locations, this one in Chapel Hill, and a second one in Pittsboro, NC. The Chapel Hill brewpub, which opened in 1995 and currently has about a seventy barrel capacity, is the original and remains the flagship, even though the Pittsboro facility is able to produce a bit more beer.

One nice aspect of the Chapel Hill brewpub is that the kettles and fermenters are right there, in front of the customers, just on the other side of the bar, and not separated by glass as in so many other places.  This means that one can drink a pint while admiring the beautiful Czech-made copper and brass kettles, and  listening to the CO2 bubbling from the fermenters’ blow-off tubes.

The beers are good, too. I particularly enjoyed the Baltic Anomaly porter (7.7% ABV), which is brewed with Saaz and Fuggle hops (33 IBU), and the Flagship IPA, made with Chinook and Cascade hops (5.9% ABV, 66 IBU).

When I was there, I was able to taste their Triple S lager straight from the fermenter, as it was being filtered and transferred into the serving tanks in the basement for lagering until its release in May.  Of course it was flat, and a bit warm, but I could tell that it was going to be a danged tasty beer when it was done.

Carolina Brewery and Grill
460 W. Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

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