Sergio reviews San Diego brewpubs San Diego brewpubs reviewed by Sergio Cerda ( December, 1996

Just returned from a month working in San Diego and offer the following report.

Ballast Point Brewing Company
Brewery attached to homebrew supply store (what a great idea). Four taps with 8 oz. tasters for $.50. Four great beers; German Wheat (not as good as BBC's but real good), a wonderful Bitter, great Porter and wonderful Barley Wine (this one is worth the visit). All but the wheat are pushed with nitrogen, giving a great cascading beer with a creamy head. Good homebrew equipment supply. These are homebrewers who expanded into microbrewing and kept their homebrewing roots. Definitely worth visiting on any trip to San Diego.

Cerveceria La Cruda 500 4th Ave. San Diego 619-239-9117
Brewers, Troy Hojel and Tom Arthur. Brewer personally came out to answer beer questions and offered way too much free and yummy Belgian Double. Good thing I was walking. Bought the old Pacific Beach Brew Pub equipment (GW brewery, tables and chairs). Good Mexican food, wine, cigars (separate enclosed cigar lounge) and liquor.
Tidal Wave Wheat (unfiltered Amber Wheat) - good basic American wheat.
Las Brisas Ale - Okay yuppie golden ale.
Red Blush Ale - Good general American Red; a little weak on bittering and aroma hops.
Blowfish Bitter - Way too dark. A little astrigent. While highly hopped, it is all bittering.
Makanudo Porter - Good, well balanced porter.
Belgian Double - Great! They didn't have this on tap. The brewer had it in Cornie kegs. Wonderful aroma, nice alcohol warming effect, mild rasin taste.
BTW La Cruda translates roughly to "the hangover".

Baja Brewing 203 5th Ave. San Diego 619-231-9117
Brewer Gene Owen (UC Davis educated) Open for 8 months. Yuppie Mexican style food with weak beers. Wait staff was clueless on their beers or their brewing equipment.
Aguave light - real watery.
Nut Brown - okay but weak for a nut brown.
Sangria Fruit Beer - You can imagine what weak beer and fruit tastes like. Unfortunately I don't have to imagine anymore.
Golden - didn't try after the first three.

Karl Strauss' Old Columbia Brewery and Grill 1157 Columbia St. Downtown San Diego 619-234-2739
Karl Strauss is the big brewery in San Diego. They have a strong market share and their product is sold in many resturants and bars. They also have a brewery and grill in La Jolla (in a great marketing ploy they have free parking is validated across the street at Victoria Secret's) and a beer garten in Sorrento Mesa. Good selection of upscale bar food plus good dinner menu. Good knowledgable waitstaff.
Berliner Weiss - A wonderful Berliner Weiss however the fruit is not added at the tap.
Old Columbia Amber Lager - This is their flagship beer. They also bottle this beer. I prefer it over Sam Adams but it isn't up to Eel River or Dominion's lager.
Red Trolley - A wonderful American Red. Fully hopped.
East of India Pale Ale - Good IPA but weak on aroma hops.
Downtown After Dark - weak Brown Ale. Little aroma or character.
Horton's Hooch - Great Doppelbock. Smooth, malty and well balanced. This one can catch up on ya.
Jeff & Jer's Hooch - Good Doppelbock. A little rougher than Horton's Hooch but when they ran out of Horton's I made sure it stayed good.
Strauss Stout - slight metallic taste.

Hops! Bistro & Brewery 310 Fifth Avenue San Diego
This is where Brewski's (the real one) was then R.J. Riptide. There is also a Hops in La Jolla (and in Scottsdale AZ) Brewer Paul Sagora
While RJ Riptide used the old Brewski's intact, Hops is targeted to the upscale yuppie crowd. To be honest they had only been open two weeks, but they have experience with their other two brewpubs to get it mostly right. The food is upscale yuppie and expensive (as is the beer). Wait staff matched their image; looked good but no substance.
Raspberry Lager - A good lager doesn't need fruit extract but this isn't even a good lager.
ESB - This isn't their cask conditioned ESB. It was just an ale with a lot of bittering hops which can cover other off tastes. They had more beers but I think they need more time before they can get a fair evaluation.

All in all there are some great brewpubs in San Diego and I only had time to sample a few. With my schedule it was only a quick walk to Karl Strauss for regular evaluation and they stood up to the task.


Initial version Dec. 13, 1996

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