Sep 20, 2018

Del Mar to La Jolla

October, 1999

By Bobby Bush

As I left my previous stop, Solana Beach Pizza Port brewer Tomme Arthur handed me a bottle (a 40 ounce Coors Light twist top, talk about sacrilege) of his mighty Old Bone Yards Barleywine. With instructions to deliver it to Tom Nickel, head brewer for Stuft Pizza in Del Mar, California, I did just that.

Part of a franchise pizza joint chain -most do not have breweries- this Stuft Pizza, founded in 1995, was jumping with a dinner-time crowd. Before we hit the barleywines, Nickel wanted to share his other brews. A Yale graduate in Medieval History, Tomís first brewing job was as an assistant at Solana Beach Pizza Port. His California Gold, formerly known as Yale Pale Ale, was a cream ale, golden and perfect for craft brew virgin drinkers. Dry hopped Paradise Pale Ale was light in body with balance emphasizing hops flavor. Export style McGarveyís Scottish Ale, authentically made with Scottish yeast was medium bodied and semi-sweet, while Amberís Ale was a nice ESB that would be even better on cask. At 6.5% abv, Black Mountain Stout was a traditional UK dry stout, rich with the taste of roasted barley, chocolate and coffee. With sweet aroma and flavor, Staggering Scotsman was properly named, for it hid a potent 8.5% alcohol shot. Unfortunately, Torrey Pines IPA, which utilizes five different hops varieties, was not available at the time, though I did try an uncarbonated sample from a conditioning tank. This award-winning brew, with dry hops additions in the fermenter and in the serving tank, is Tomís premier beer and his favorite.

With only two monthís conditioning time, Nickelís barleywine, 1492 Discovery Ale (brewed with Columbus hops, get it?) had little time to mellow. Itís hoppy presence was still not as in-you-face hoppy as the bottled Old Bone Yards from Pizza Port, which I brought, though the older beer had yielded some of its hoppiness to a slippery butterscotch profile. (See for more info).

Again with explicit instructions in hand, I left Del Mar headed to La Jolla, home to five brewpubs. The night was getting old, so I planned to hit just one more brewpub on this jet-lagged day.

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery was busy. I had to search for a seat at the elongated, shellacked bar. Noticing two beer engines behind the bar, I asked the harried bartender what he had on cask. He had to check and came back with a frown. No cask-conditioned ales tonight. From their long list of house brews, which included Long Board Brown, Ragtop Red, Breakwater Pale and Great White American Light ales, my first choice was a nitro-spiked IPA. Itís medium body was flat, somehow escaping the soothing nitrogen effect. Entering with an alcohol nose, it departed with a sour, hoppy display. Also conditioned with the NO2/CO2 blend, Seal Stout had that expected cascading chestnut brown color effect. Although it was served entirely too cold, mocha flavor was obvious beneath a frothy head of foam.

Based in Louisville, Colorado, Rock Bottom Restaurants Corporation not only owns about 20 Rock Bottom brewpubs, but also controls 40 Old Chicago restaurants and two swanky Chophouses, which also brew in Denver and the District of Columbia, and Boulderís Walnut Brewery, their first brewing venture. Their food is always excellent. Their beers, which must cater to a broad cross-section of patrons, are well brewed, from lightest to heaviest. From Maryland to Texas to Washington State, consistency is the key to Rock Bottomís success. Visit to learn more.

Next we go round and Around San Diego

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush


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