Automatic Brewing (at Blind Lady Ale House), Normal Heights
The acronym for Blind Lady Ale House sums up my reaction to this place–BLAH. It isn’t bad, in fact there are a lot of good features to it. Several aspects struck me as less than great, though, and that leads me to a “middling” overall assessment.
Kahn-Text (Rye Pale Ale, 5.3% ABV). Cloudy straw color. Head laces glass. Floral hop nose, funky hops taste edging to a “dirt” note. Not great. 2.75/5
Clearly I’m out of step with the general reaction to BLAH, though: They have made Draft Magazine’s list of America’s 100 Best Beer Bars every year they have been open (since 2010). Readers of City Beat have voted them San Diego’s Best Brew Pub five times (2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). As much as one may doubt the validity of such awards, the consistency from year to year says they must be doing something right.
Funny Business (Belgian Blonde with a hint of Kaffir lime, 5.3% ABV). Very light yellow, almost like watered-down lemonade. Berry/apple flavors, medium mouthfeel, acidic finish. There’s a sour/outhouse note. 2.5/5
Part of what is not so right, in my opinion, is that the staff here are hipsterer-than-thou. A woman at the cash was unfriendly. A guy behind the bar was too cool to interact. When I asked another woman behind the bar about the huge sign advertising the “Best Brew Pub” awards, she seemed put out to have to tell me. Two points: (1) If you don’t like interacting with people, don’t work in the service industry. (2) Your job is to make people want to spend their money, so be nice to them. Aside: For a place that specializes in craft beer, the bartender should know better than to put the tap nozzles in the beer while pouring.
Full Stop (English Pale Ale, 5.6% ABV). It’s okay. “Vapid” comes to mind. A very pale ale, not much flavor. A slightly hoppy finish. 2.5/5
Automatic Brewing is the house brewery. That should be the focus here since this blog is all about reviewing craft breweries. I had a flight of the six things they had on tap today. (Blind Lady was also offering two other curated flights. $22 for the Lost Abbey flight!) You may have seen Automatic brews on tap at Tiger! Tiger! in North Park; that’s Blind Lady Ale House’s sister brew pub. I was not too impressed with Automatic’s beer, as you’ll see from my ratings, despite some online commentators who rave about the stuff. Their guest tap list was excellent, however.
Purple Hazy (collaboration with Monkey Paw Brewing; Sour Ale with blueberries, dry hopped, 6.8% ABV). Confirming, yet again, that I don’t like sours. Reminds me of champagne or mimosa; blueberry definitely present. Holiday punch came to mind, too. Pastel pink. 2.75/5
One of the best features of this place is that it is a good room. It is trendy but comfortable, with lots of space. There’s a long row of windows on the Adams Ave side. The room is divided into two levels, with a ramp up to the bar. There are five high-top, eight-seat communal tables in the main room, a long communal table and a couple of low four-tops. Seven seats at the bar. There are a couple of really long low communal tables in the second room. Some ancient skate boards hang on the wall along with a beer mural. The rest of the walls are strip-wood paneling and signage. Behind the bar there is a pretty large collection of old beer cans in cabinets.
Wheat America (American Wheat Ale, 5.6% ABV). This is a good wheat beer. Drinkable. 3.5/5
The food looks quite good. Pizzas, charcuterie, salads, mussels. Better than average pub food for sure. Three items on the dessert list. A little pricey, e.g., $15 for a pizza.
Wheat Americano (American Wheat with Dark Horse coffee, vanilla and cherry, 5.6% ABV). Really good; by far the best on tap today. The coffee blends extremely well, creating a flavorful, aromatic quaff that will make you keep wanting more. 4/5
The parking situation is pretty dismal. Find something along Adams Ave or a side street. The parking lot next to Blind Lady Ale House is only for tenants of the apartments above and there are some very aggressive “Tow Away Zone” signs. There’s a discount offered if you ride your bike, apparently.
The communal tables do lead to opportunities to interact with others, and I had fun chatting with several people nearby. I will be back to try the food, to enjoy the room, and to explore more of the guest tap list.
3416 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Don’t Just Take My Word for It (Links to Related Beer Writing)
San Diego Brew Review on the 6th Anniversary at Automatic Brewing, in May 2016
San Diego Magazine’s Brewery Guide entry on Automatic Brewing.