Aug 19, 2018

Terrific Pacific

October, 1999

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 up?

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


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