Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Small Bar, San Diego (University Heights)

Thanks to a tip from the J's at BoozeReviews I learned about a newer San Diego beer bar called Small Bar. It's located a few blocks north of all the great stops on 30th street on an unassuming little strip of peculiar bars. And Small Bar fits that genre. A glowing neon red sign with the words "Small Bar" greets you at the front. There is a small patio outside the door with two bench style tables (can hold around 8 people each) and as you walk inside you'll see old barrels which are now masquerading as tables along with clubby couch style booths. To go along with that neon red sign, the inside is lit partly by red lights. Sometimes that sorta thing is annoying, but it works here. The bar is long and the chalkboard taplist is deep. Without knowing anything about this place going in you get the feeling you've been here before. The chalkboard looks vaguely similar to a certain bar on 30th street and the glass I was served my sour beer in (Rodenbach) was the same exact one I had an 1809 Berlinerweisse served in at said 30th street bar last week. The food menu - long and intriguing - and oh, yep, that confirms it, they have "Hamilton's Hop Sausage" on their menu. Small Bar must be owned by the same people at Hamiltons. No wonder the beer selection is so great.

Their mission statement is:
We’re very excited to bring the kind of bar you previously could only find in big cities like New York or San Francisco right here to San Diego. Premium beers, spirits, and food, at reasonable prices with a touch of rock and roll. Small Bar.

So I went with a glass of the Rodenbach and a pint of West Coast IPA. They chill their pint glasses in ice here which I LOVE (don't bite my head off beer geeks, I like my beers below proper serving temps). I got there around 8:30 on a Monday night to only a handful of people in the place. I figured they were slowing down for the day. Nope, not so. By 9:30 the place was packed and there was even a happy birthday being sung to a couple people.

Back to the food menu, it looked really good. I haven't ever eaten at Hamilton's but I know their burgers, hop sausage and beer cheese soup are real popular there. They were all on the menu along with a bunch of other things. I had the chicken sandwich.... which was good, and their fries are really good. My friend Alicia had the corndogs... or about like half a corndog and 3 fries, with positive reviews.

One other thing to note about the Small Bar. It's not just beer. They have a full bar and specialize in great classic drinks like Old Fashioned, Sidecar, Mint Julep... you get the point. Small Bar is definitely going to be a regular stop for me. It's got a unique vibe to go along with the great beer.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

USC vs. Cal drinkin....

A week ago USC played the hippies up in Bezerkeley and we cracked open some good beers. The first was Hangar 24 Pale Ale, from a local brewery who is making very good beer in Redlands. This beer has a big caramel flavor to it offset by mildly spicy hops. It has a nice little hop bite. Hangar 24 also makes a pretty tasty, albeit quite malty IPA and a nice light flavored beer called Orange Wheat that is similar to a witbier to me.

Next up was Sculpin IPA, which has overtaken Minneapolis Town Hall Masala Mama as the #1 IPA on BeerAdvocate. I've had both and there's no doubt people got this one right. Orange citrus and tropical flavor explosion and a nice bitterness to back it up. Oh, and dry. It has to be dry.

Lastly for our Friday night pregame drinking we opened an '08 Stone IRS. I love this beer with some age on it, and don't generally prefer it fresh. With 3 years this beer becomes amazingly smooth and chocolatey. With only a year age it's still a big improvement over fresh.

Onto Saturday, we started off with a growler of Hop 15 I got on my way home from moving that morning. This was our toasting beer with The Baltimore Beer Guy for the USC game. There was also an old Michelob Ultra sitting in the fridge, left over from a golf tournament in June, so Pat polished that off (he's been known to double fist Michelob Ultras). Hop 15 was tasty, but man is that a syrupy DIPA. On the other hand, what do you expect when it's 10% ABV?

Next up was a growler of Lost Abbey Red Barn. This was a fairly big crowd pleaser. One of my favorite beers of all time. Light, spicy, tropical, a little Belgiany.

As we got towards the end of the game we broke out some Stone/Maui/Ken Schmidt Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter. Pete had bought like 10 of them when he was at Stone and he said he didn't think it was that great so he brought over his last 3 bottles or so. I think everyone really liked it, but I forget at this point. All I know is I really like it. Love it actually. After some harrassement Pete admitted to thinking it was really good, but only after it warms up quite a bit. That's what a lot of people have been saying.

USC dispatched Kal 30-3.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Station, South Park San Diego

Located just a couple seconds from the famed Hamilton's Tavern is a little burger joint I stumbled upon tonight. It's called The Station Tavern. They have about 6 beers on tap. The ones I can remember are Stone Levitation, Spaten Oktoberfest, Mission IPA, Lightning Hefe, and some other real light lager. The menu is very small, they specialize in burgers. They do regular and turkey burgers. I got a cheeseburger which was delicious (came cooked about medium, maybe medium rare). The sides to choose from are tater tots(!), sweet potato fries, garlic fries, and regular fries. I got the sweet potato fries which were awesome and my friend got the tater tots which were cooked to perfection. The Mission IPA I ordered didn't taste so fresh, it tasted somewhat stale/oxidized. The Spaten Oktoberfest I had next was very good.

The vibe was pretty cool and the staff is friendly. It's just a little bar area that has a big patio out back and both areas are joined by a big door that stays open, so they are somewhat connected. The bar is open to the outside portion too, so they can serve people who are sitting inside at the bar and outside at the bar. Pretty cool and a setup you don't see often. Here is a look at the front of the place from Google Maps street view. If you are down around Hamilton's in South Park often I would make a point to hit this place for a brew and a burger.

Friday, October 9, 2009

More Sneak Peek- Bruery Black Tuesday

Patrick and Jonas(sp?) shared another bottle with us, this of the famed Black Tuesday which will be released later this month but is already a top 10 beer in the world (#4 to be exact) on beeradvocate. You gotta have a sweet tooth to love this beer... But who doesn't have a sweet tooth? Wait until the release date later this month, people outside of So Cal have already been going nuts trying to set up trades for this beer, it's only gonna get crazier.
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Bruery Night at Downtown Johnny Browns

On tap we have Autumn Maple, Snicklefritz, Hottenroth Berlinerweisse, Mischief 3, Black Orchard, Humulus India Pale Lager(!), Trade Winds Triple, White Zin.

Pictured is a taster of barrel aged Autumn Maple so graciously provided by the Bruery staff here. Good stuff-- Yams and then some-- and potent.
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Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Summer Lives On

Seasons change, but the Summer of Beer has persisted for 2 1/2 years. It was a fun release to write about beer while going through the grind of grad school. Now I actually have a job (never thought that day would come, and didn't want it to either) and a new place in San Diego. The amount of work I've put into this blog has dropped considerably over the last few months but I expect it to pick up soon with all the anticipated San Diego beer excursions. I'm looking forward to it but I've gotta try not to overdo it... ya know... I want to buy a house with a little picket fence and a couple of dogs soon.

Anyway, anticipate some changes here in both content and approach as I get back into the beer swing of things.

My new humble abode is located:
1.5 miles from Ballast Point Old Grove
2.7 miles from Alesmith
6 miles from Lightning Brewery
8.6 miles from O'Brien's pub
14 miles from 30th Street
16 miles from Pizza Port Solona Beach
18 miles from Stone
19 miles from The Lost Abbey
And only 35 miles from Alpine Beer Company, instead of 135 miles!