By Bobby Bush
Pacific Beach is a quaint coastal community north of San Diego, a few miles south of La
Jolla and my last stop on this Wednesday night. Open since May 1995, Terrific Pacific
Brewery & Grille lies just half a block inland. Salty wind parted my hair as I shuffled
through the front door in need of a welcoming nightcap brew. Maybe it was the semi-late
hour, but the bar looked closed. Chairs, at least metaphorically, were already on the
tables. And the young bartender coincided with that wish-I-was-somewhere-else attitude.
But Terrific Pacific is a brewpub and beer is my life so I plugged ahead, ordering a
sampler tray of all five brews. Served with a lemon wedge, TP Hefeweizen was cloudy
gold, thin, spicy and, thankfully, not overbearingly yeasty. TP Pale Ale had potential with
tangy hop notes which were overwhelmed by a strong sour finish. Sour throughout, TP
Amber Ale was thin to boot. Reddish-brown, TP Nut Brown displayed heavy roasted
malt character with a burnt edge, while Station 21 Honey Wheat, a seasonal offering, had
an interesting sweet-and-sour effect within its thin, straw yellow body.
Such a nice location, with an upstairs deck to boot; too bad Terrific Pacific pays so
little attention to their beer.
Situated in the Gaslamp section of downtown San Diego in a two-story, 100+
years old structure, Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery has been open only since
August 1999. Part of the expansive Colorado chain, this Rock Bottom is proof that the
multi-brewpub program can work. As I skidded up to the bar, a cute and friendly
bartendress asked if I had visited them before. “No” was hardly out of my mouth when
she suggested a sampler taste of each of brewmaster John Oliphant’s creations.
As I anticipated (and have witnessed at about seven other Rock Bottoms), the
beers were good, highly drinkable. Not outstanding, mind you, but in combination with
their delicious food, the experience is pleasant. Almost lager-like, Pelican Light is exactly
what it was intended to be, a thin beginners brew. Of medium body, Point Break Pale Ale
presented a clover-ish hop finish, which quickly dissipated with almost no aftertaste. The
cask-conditioned version was smoother, yet the hop effect was not diminished. Regatta
Red was malty with a dry finish, while Coronado Nut Brown Ale, ruby-brown in hue, had
a nutty side mid-taste. Nitrogen smooth, Sunset Stout released a restrained mocha taste
from within its creamy texture. Hmm. A seasonal brew, Rocktoberfest was malty with a
slightly sour ending, “like Anchor Steam,” my barmistress offered somewhat
unconvincingly. Time to run, but I’ll be back. I liked this place.
Just a few blocks south, in the building that hosted Brewski’s about five years ago,
resides Hang Ten Brewing Company. Founded in 1997, there had been few changes in
decor since I last visited in the Brewski’s day’s. I marveled at the sampler tray, served on
a mini-skateboard. And had a pleasant conversation with owner Leslie Cohn who
observed my note taking and multi-beer drinking. She and husband David own seven
restaurants along 5th Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter. And this one, thanks to brewer
Paul Segura and assistant Jimmy Wood, is one she can be very proud of.
Now down to the beer: Beach Blonde was a crisp lager, “not beechwood aged or
frost brewed,” the menu warned. An English pale ale made with American hops, Pintail
Pale was medium bodied and moderately hopped. The cask version excelled from its
smooth, warm presentation. Reefbreak Red was a well-balanced, easy-drinking session
beer, while Inside IPA benefited from a more extreme hops bill. Stout-like, Pipeline
Porter was creamy and full of roasted and black patent malt flavor, while the actual Stout,
Wipeout Stout, was smoother with less pronounced flavor. Wonder if I mixed these two
Just across the street there had been another Gaslamp District brewpub. Baja
Brewing Mexican Restaurant & Brewpub sold their brewing equipment two years ago, I
learned, and had a local micro brew their beer under contract. Baja locked their doors for
good in late September.
Follow along to the world of Karl Strauss
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush