As a sailor, I was curious what the latitude in the name of this brewery referred to, so I checked a map. On the pacific coast, 32 degrees north cuts between Ensenada, in Baja, Mexico, and the tiny town of La Mision. I was pretty sure the brewery wasn’t referring to the Bajamar Ocean Front Golf Resort, which is the closest notable place to the latitude line, so I asked when I visited the brewery. Turns out, the name is just supposed to refer to San Diego. I guess “32 N” has a better ring to it than “32.7151 N” but my pedantic side can’t help but point out the rounding error. It is a little bit funny because the brewery actually sits at 32.8828 N, just 8 miles from 33 N. Ah, well.
32 North’s large warehouse space is only partly filled with brewing tanks and their barrel aging program. The rest is devoted to a small bar, a “cornhole court” (or whatever they are called), some standing-around space, a mix of high and low four-tops, a small bar, and a beautiful communal table under a very cool light fixture. That table would be a good place to hang out, and the group of friends occupying one end seemed to be having a great time while playing a board game together. It was toward the end of the night on a Sunday and there were nevertheless about ten people still hanging out. That’s a sign, I think, that the regulars like this place a lot.
My previous experience with 32 North was through their now-defunct tasting room in Liberty Station, which I reviewed here. That location didn’t impress me much because of shoddy service and unremarkable beer. The main (now only) location is significantly better in service–the bartender was great, they have a large, clear beer board, etc. The situation is also a lot more comfortable, and there are some nice design elements in the tasting room, like the wall-sized wooden “32 N” fixture. Parking is easy, though it can be hard to find the brewery at night because the sign is very small and unlit.
As for the beer, they were pouring just eight during my visit. That’s a low number compared to most San Diego breweries. I gather from things I’ve heard and seen (like the huge stack of cans waiting to be filled in the brewery) that 32 North is working on expanding its retail footprint, so perhaps because of that they are producing fewer different beers. Whatever the reason, they had a good mix on tap, including a Berliner Weisse, a blonde, a pale ale, an IPA (yes, just one), a lager, a Russian imperial stout, a coffee oatmeal stout on nitro, and a version of the oatmeal stout with coffee on CO2. My flight contained these:
Best Coast IPA (7% ABV). This is a pretty good West Coast IPA. For me personally, the fact that it contains Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops is a mixed blessing: I’ve come to learn that Centennial tastes like dirt to me, and that flavor is in the background of this beer. My rating of 3.25/5 is therefore a little lower than the Untappd average of 3.6
Hello, Darkness (Oatmeal Stout, 6% ABV). I had this “two ways,” a little experiment I enjoy trying every time I can: On nitro, I thought this was coffee forward but not overpoweringly so. Because of the nitro it very smooth with great head. It tasted a little sharp and sour to me; I don’t love the finish. 3.25/5 On carbon dioxide, the coffee interestingly nearly disappears. It is a fine if too acidic stout, a bit thin on the mouthfeel. 3/5
I also had the Russian Imperial Stout but I was hurrying because they were closing and I forgot to rate it. As I remember it, it was pretty good–better than when I tried it at Liberty Station in December, when I rated it 3/5.
Of the seven 32 North beers I’ve tried to date, none have been outstanding though most are perfectly fine. In San Diego’s ultra-competitive craft beer marketplace, however, “perfectly fine” is like saying “meh.” In another city the brewery might be considered good, even, but here–where craft lovers have 166 breweries and taprooms to choose from (soon to be 220!)–it has to be considered relatively mediocre. I do think there is potential for improvement, though, and I will watch to see how they develop.
www.32northbrew.com 8655 Production Ave, San Diego, CA 92121