Beer Review: Four Bombers from Half Moon Bay Brewing

While the surfing world patiently waits for fifty foot waves in Half Moon Bay for the Maverick’s Surf Competition, we thought the nearby brewery deserved some attention. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company opened its doors in 2000 and although they’re off the beaten beer nerd track, their beer can compete many other brews we know and love. Their hard work and effort has earned a local following and they sit on Travel + Leisure’s list of America’s Best Beach Bars.

I was recently able to try four of their beers. Two are available year-round, the Amber and IPA, while the other two are seasonal releases, a pumpkin ale and a winter warmer for the fall and winter respectively. Here’s my take on each of these beers.

Mavericks Amber Ale

This one pours a fairly clear red color with a touch of brown. A finger of frothy tan-brown head forms atop and leaves some spots of lace on the glass as it fades down. The aroma is fairly true to style with rich sweet lightly toasted caramel malts and a touch of citrus hops. There is also just a touch of bread lingering in the background. Absent here is common metallic element that sometimes comes with the style.

The beer hits the tongue in a very similar way it hit the nose. It starts off with the toasted caramel malts that are quite sweet and almost border on a bit syrupy. There are a bit of orange and grapefruit flavored hops that provide a touch of bitterness. Through the middle, the orange flavor of the hops comes through a bit more and the syrupy sweetness starts to mellow out. The finish is more of the same, but with a better balance than at the start. The beer feels just a touch thinner than medium bodied with moderate carbonation.

Though I appreciated the absence of the metallic taste that comes along with so many American Amber Ales, I felt that the malt flavor started off a bit too rich and syrupy compared to the body of the beer. A stronger hop presence could have done a lot to balance things out a bit. All in all, the beer is still an above average example of the style that would be a great entry point into craft beer.

Mavericks Princeton By-The-Sea IPA

The IPA pours a cloudy orange-red color with a finger of frothy slightly off-white head atop. The head fades down leaving behind a layer of lace all the way around the glass. The aroma is full of citrus hops that really open up as the beer warms up. There is a sweet caramel malt backbone and just a touch of grassy hop mixed in as well.

The beer starts off with some citrus hops, but not quite as strong as they were in the nose. There is a bit of bitterness and some sweet caramel malt alongside. Through the middle, some pine hop flavor joins in as the grapefruit flavored hops and bitterness grows a bit stronger. The finish is a mix of grapefruit hop flavor with some light grassy hop and bitterness. The beer feels a tad lighter than medium bodied with moderate carbonation. It has a sweet and slightly dry finish.

I really enjoyed the hop profile of this beer, with some really nice grapefruit and citrus flavors coming through. I felt that the rest of the beer did not quite hold up, as the body and malt flavor seemed just a touch light in comparison. However, this is really a light criticism and did not get in the way of my enjoying this very drinkable IPA.

Mavericks Pumpkin Harvest Ale

Half Moon Bay Brewing’s take on a pumpkin ale pours a cloudy red-orange color with a finger of frothy white head atop. The head faded down and left behind only a touch of lace on the glass. The aroma is a nice balance of pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, clove, and brown sugar) and actual pumpkin. There is also a backbone of biscuit malts present as well.

The beer hits the tongue at first with more pumpkin flavor than spices, which is the opposite of many pumpkin beers. There is also the backbone of sweet biscuit malts that was present in the nose. Through the middle, the spices begin to grow a bit with clear cinnamon and brown sugar coming through with a bit more biscuit malt flavor. The beer mellows out as it finishes with a nice balance of all of the flavors. The beer feels a bit lighter than medium bodied with moderate carbonation. It finishes sweet with the spices tickling the tongue a bit.

I found myself quite impressed with this beer. So many pumpkin ales become spice bombs that might as well be called pumpkin pie beers. However, I felt the balance here was much better, and the malt character and pumpkin flavor provides a great balance to the spices present.

Mavericks Old Soulstice Winter Ale

This winter warmer pours a dark brown-red color with a finger of frothy tan-chocolate colored head. The head hangs a round for a bit before fading down leaving behind some lace. The aroma is a mix of sweet lightly roasted caramel malts with some raisin and other dark fruit elements and a bit of earthy hop.

The flavor starts out a bit more dark fruit forward than expected with raisin and date flavors hitting the tongue. There is some sweet caramel malt and a touch of rye spiciness that form a backbone. Through the middle, some earthy hop flavor comes through with a touch of bitterness. As the beer finishes it gains a bit more hop flavor that lingers alongside some more dark fruit sweetness. The beer feels medium bodied with moderate carbonation. It finishes sweet with a touch of earthy spiciness.

Half Moon Bay Brewing’s take on the Winter Warmer style definitely differs a bit from the common American take on the style in that it is more malt and dark fruit driven than spice driven. While I like the focus, I just found that body felt a bit light in contrast to the big malty flavor. That being said, it was still a very enjoyable beer, I just felt it had a bit more potential.

In the end

This taste of Half Moon Bay Brewing beers has definitely piqued my curiosity. They don’t seem afraid of departing from the common take on many of these styles, which in their case is a good thing. I hope I get a chance to check out their brewpub in the not too distant future. In the meantime, their beer in available in some scattered Bay Area retailers, as well as some popular beer bars.

Note: The beers included in this article were provided by Half Moon Bay Brewing Company to the author.