La Jolla Brews
By Bobby Bush
When La Jolla Brewing Company opened in this buzzing white collar town north of San
Diego back in October 1990, brewpubs were still new to the area. Upscale and
yuppie-laden, Hops! Bistro & Brewery would soon open out by the freeway mall, but La
Jolla Brewing was a quaint downtown hangout- rustic and unassuming with consistently
good, sometimes inventive beers.
But times turned sour for La Jolla in early 1998. The brewpub closed for almost a
month and re-opened in May with new owners and a new lease on life. So it was with
some trepidation that we made a return visit. Thankfully little had changed. The bar had
been refinished into a beautiful cherry glow. The dartboard was gone, but the ten barrel
brewhouse was still in place and steaming proudly.
Brewer James Weiner was on hand to walk us through his five offerings. For
starters, La Jolla Gold was a tasty light ale, which benefited from cold conditioning. Point
Break Pale Ale, using nothing but Cascade hops, even in dry hopping, was a very nice
pale. Red Rest Red, a less hoppy version of Weiner’s Red Rooster, made a nice red, but it
was the rich, chocolate finish of Pumphouse Porter and the burnt mocha, medium body
and dry finale of seasonal Silverado Oatmeal Stout where the brewer’s skill was most
obvious. [La Jolla Brewing closed again, shortly after this article was penned. Future
Unfortunately, it was time to move on. Having already visited two other La Jolla
brewpubs- Rock Bottom and Karl Strauss’ -and being very familiar with the
aforementioned Hops!, I chose to seek out the last remaining local brewpub on my list.
And what a waste of time that proved to be. Guess I should have known from the name,
but Sports City, founded in 1996 right smack in the middle of an aging mall, seemed
more concerned with television than beer. Though each booth had its own boobtube, I
chose the bar. It took a little coaxing to get the bartender to serve up a taster tray, though
eventually I had six diminutive glasses at hand. Original Honey Ale, made with citrus
honey, was light but pleasurable. Whale’s Tail Pale Ale suffered from hops-deprivation,
while Hefe Weizen was fairly nice, eschewing that clovey nose effect. Sports City Red
Ale was blah, caramel taste evolving into a tangy end. And Two-Berry Ale, the Hefe plus
raspberry & blackberry flavoring, made me scream for kool-aid. Thin, brown (instead of
black) and departing with sourness, Oatmeal Stout was equally disappointing.
Again, it was time to head north where my airport hotel and an early morning
earthquake alarm clock awaited. And, of course, there were brewpubs along the route.
The first was in Laguna Hills, just south of Irvine. Open since December 1998 in a
building originally designed as a First Interstate Bank branch office, sharing a parking lot
with an adjacent mall, Gordon Biersch Brewing Company was booming on this rush
hour Friday afternoon. With seating for 500, this was one huge place, but one which the
experienced Palo Alto chain was well equipped to handle.
Well familiar with all of Gordon Biersch expertly designed German-style beers, I
chose the Fest (as in Oktoberfest) for a relaxing respite for people watching. The
bartender, a helpful though rushed fellow, politely answered my questions and informed
me of GB’s new owners. Seems the 12 GB brewpubs- from Honolulu to Phoenix
-merged with Big River Breweries of Chattanooga, TN. Dean Biersch and Dan Gordon
retained the San Jose microbrewery, so Gordon Biersch bottled and kegged beers will still
be available in retail stores, bars and restaurants. Check out www.gordonbiersch.com
for the details. Without a doubt, Gordon Biersch is a fine brewing company. With Big
River’s funding look for Gordon Biersch to move east. In fact, though unrelated to the
acquisition, the Atlanta Gordon Biersch celebrated their grand opening this past
Now it's on to Greater Los Angeles' Ein Stein's
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush