A First Visit to Cismontane SNA
Last week, while returning one evening from southern Orange County, I stopped by Cismontane SNA to try some of their beers. Cismontane is located in southern Orange County, in Rancho Santa Margarita, but a year ago, they opened up a tasting room in Santa Ana. Called Cismontane SNA, the tasting room has 15 beers on-tap and their taster flights come with up to five beers each.
Walking in, it is a sparsely-decorated tasting room, as is usual with tasting rooms. The visual aesthetic leans heavily towards wood, with some glass and metal also noticeable. The wooden motif even surrounds their taps, including wooden tap handles. However, they, oddly, do not have taster paddles or containers, not even with wood containers, so the taster glasses come together, yet no container to keep them together.
Anyways, I went with two flights, drinking ⅔ of their beers on-tap. Tasters are not particularly inexpensive, as they are all either $2 or $3 per 4oz taster.
I began with the Marea Roja (4.5% ABV), a Flemish red sour, which was nicely sour, a solid body for a sour, and was noticeably effervescent. For my next two beers, I went with saisons, starting off with the Shralp (4% ABV), a session saison, which had a calm nose, and initially hitting the palate, but the back of the palate and on into the finish is a fascinating taste, perhaps a cross between cola and toothpaste. Also, I got some fruitiness (perhaps apple and/or banana). This was an interestingly tasting beer. I then moved onto a bigger saison, their 5th Anniversary (9% ABV), 5-grain saison, which was much smoother than the previous saison. It was also farmhouse-y, with some banana flavor and a little boozy at the end of the palate and finish.
Next up was their Coulter (7.2% ABV), a rye IPA, which was a solid rye IPA, with a solid dose of bitterness. Finishing up the flight was Black’s Dawn (8.5% ABV), an imperial coffee stout, which had a very huge coffee nose. It was also fairly smooth-ish, yet light-feeling and crisp, yet very coffee-y.
Kicking off my second flight, I began with Bushwhacker (6.2% ABV), dark ale with sage and honey, which featured a very herbal nose. It was strikingly smooth on the palate, with sage-y herbalness prevailing throughout. The herbality reminds me of a certain medicinal quality that I know would turn some people off, but I found it to be fascinating. Next up was Hop Dumpster (9% ABV), a double IPA, which reminded me of the rye IPA, but better. Its piney nose gives way to a very piney taste on the palate and it was also noticeably bitter.
The next beer was perhaps the most memorable beer of the night for me. The Dead Santa (8.6% ABV), a Mexican milk chocolate stout with chile de arbol, had a gorgeous nose. On the palate, one encounters cinnamon, chocolate, and then spiceyness, in that order. The spiceyness is noticeable on the palate and then gets spicier at the end of the palate and the finish is all spicey. The beer, itself, seems to be a calm and pleasant beer underneath the spicyness, with the spiceyness kicking up the excitment on it.
As tough as it was to be able to taste anything else after that beer, with the lingering chile spiceyness still on my palate, I then moved on to the Major März (8% ABV), a Marzen aged in bourbon barrels for over a year. The nose is a very strong barrel-y vanilla which reminded me of bourbon. In fact, on the palate, I thought I was drinking bourbon. It had a light amount of carbonation, but I just could not get over how bourbony it tastes. I like beer and I like bourbon, but it was just too strange for me to have such overwhelming bourbony flavor in a beer (I couldn’t finish it). For my final beer, I went with a barleywine, of course – I greatly enjoy barleywines. The Dos Cone Es (11% ABV) is not just a barleywine, but a barleywine aged on oak chips. The nose is very malty, as is any barleywine. On the palate, this beer is a very smooth, delicious, malty, and boozy beer. Yum!
While the Dead Santa was surely the most memorable beer of my visit to Cismontane SNA, I also enjoyed their 5th Anniversary, Hop Dumpster, and Black’s Dawn. I had a nice time while there and the service was very gracious. It’s a nice place and they’re doing some interesting beers.