The Paso Robles area of Central California is famous as being home to a ridiculous number of ridiculously good wineries. I used to love the area for that reason as well. But then tasting fees got higher, pours got smaller, rooms became more crowded, and we spent more time "combat tasting" than actually relaxing and having a good time. Most of all, I just can't freakin' afford the wine world anymore. I can buy a truly amazing beer for as little as $5. I can buy a truly amazing red wine for as little as $40. Enough said.
But now with beer being "cool" and acceptable in snootier circles, it's inevitable that an area that high in profile in the booze world gets their foot in the door. Enter BARRELHOUSE BREWING, which opened this year in Paso. I haven't made it up to Paso to their tasting room yet, but I was on the Central Coast last weekend, and found some of their bottles in local shops. I had their Pale Ryder (Beer #546 in my Big Year), a rye pale ale, and it was great. Most new breweries start out a bit wobbly at first, but this was a solid brew. You can tell they know what they're doing.
I brought home their India Pale Ale (Beer #588 in my Big Year) and cracked it open last night, while chillin' with the family. Damn, I'm impressed by this beer, and partly because this is such a new brewery. Compared to West Coast IPAs overall, this is truly one of the best. So many IPAs are hop bombs, and I love that. But you can tell the Barrelhouse IPA is geared towards balance. The hops are strong, but so is the malt, so it's not overly skunkified, and has some real depth to it.
I can't say enough good things about what I've tasted from Barrelhouse so far. And yes, each of these only set me back about $5.
Barrelhouse Brewing IPA
Gerry Rafferty "City To City" LP
A really solid beer is comforting, and musically, nothing is more comforting to me than tunes from the '70s. This Gerry Rafferty album is the ultimate in what I've coined as "Comfort Rock" (known by laymen as "soft rock", "yacht rock", and such). His mixture of '70s smoothness with folkiness, somber ballads, and traditional Scottish music is unmatched. After a few beers, I dare you not to sing along when "Baker Street" comes on. Go on! You know I'm right.