SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
All the way down coastal road Route 5 from San Clemente to Oceanside to La Jolla to stunning San Diego in July ‘02, I drifted into every store imaginable and picked up first-rate brews from Bear Republic, Humes, Moylan’s, and Old Rasputin. During brunch at Mission Beach, I quaffed light-bodied Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale and dry-hopped Chinook Copper Ale on tap. The following day before body surfing south of San Diego at tiny Tijuana border town, Imperial Beach, found Minnesota’s overly sudsy Quake brews. On the way to San Diego’s renowned zoo the day after, I stopped at Hennessey’s Irish pub to throw down a burger and plow Guinness on tap.
Week-long April ’07 journey with kids and wife proved mighty impressive, as we sojourned to local mainstays Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Oggi’s Pizza, and San Diego Brewing before heading north to La Jolla Brewhouse, Solana Beach’s Pizza Port, and Oceanside Ale Works.
At Mission Beach hideaway, Liar’s Club (defunct as of January ’09), a teensy black-fronted bar with old wood floors, white brick walls, great jukebox, ancient televisions, five front deck tables, and seven interior tables, served 50 tap beers. I discovered Alpine Mc Illhenney’s Irish Red and Pure Hoppiness, plus Consorcio Tijuana Guera and Lightning Fulminator (reviewed in alphabetical section) at this loud dingy dive while family ate nicely priced crabcakes, quesadillas, nachos, and burgers.
Scavenging through local bodegas, I found excellent beer selection at Imperial Beach’s South Bay Drugs: Alesmith IPA, Wee Heavy, and Speedway Stout; Ballast Point Wahoo Wheat; Reaper Ritual; Green Flash Third Anniversary; and Alpine Ale.
Ivy-covered with black awning and railed patio, KARL STRAUSS BREWING COMPANY’S corporate-dwelling downtown site had meticulous brick-walled interior, elongated wood bar with glass-encased brew tanks, left side dining, and a few flat-screen televisions. Opened in 1989 and named after a respected now-deceased German-born Pabst brewmeister, Karl Strauss incorporated six Southern California pubs as of ‘07.
Fine Americana cuisine (salads-burgers-turkey clubs) was served alongside biscuit-y malted, hop-spiced, lemony grapefruit zested, astringently finishing Woodie Gold Pilsner, dry wheat-maize-ensconced, yellow-fruited, Kolsch-styled Endless Summer Light, and muskily lemon hop-spiced, caramel toasted, Vienna-styled flagship Amber Lager.
A tad worthier were caramel-roasted, date-fig-soured, black currant-dashed Red Trolley Ale (Strauss’ most popular libation), dried banana-clove-soured, lemon rind-embittered Windansea Hefeweizen, and hazelnut-chestnut-buttered, molasses tea-licked, mocha latte-backed Downtown After Dark Brown Ale.
Nutty coffee-dried Strauss Stout outdid watery black chocolate-y, walnut-tinged, burnt toast-finishing Oatmeal Stout. Best buys: dry citric-hopped, pine-soaked, twiggy-bottomed Stargazer IPA and pine needled, crisply hop-frisked, red-orange-fruited Pin Tail Pale Ale.