This review is for the Amplified Ale Works restaurant/bar location in Pacific Beach, formerly known as California Kebab & Beer Garden. They used to do all their brewing here but moved the brewing to a location in Miramar, which I review separately.
The bar seating is a little awkward because there’s a huge wall from ceiling to bar top across the middle third of the bar. It blocks access to the bartender and makes it difficult to sit away from other patrons even when there aren’t that many people at the bar. (That can be good or bad depending on your mood and the luck of the seat-mate draw.)
The food menu is not what you’d expect for a bar, in a good way. I really enjoyed the 3 skewers (chicken, beef, veg) with hummus, and it came with a very large green salad. With a flight of beers the whole thing came to under $35 including tip. The beers are solid but I can’t say anything I had was truly spectacular.
Electrocution IPA (7.2% ABV). OK but not very hoppy. Clean finish. This is described on the website as their “flagship IPA” and was enthusiastically recommended by seat-mates but it didn’t quite do it for me. Maybe it was a weak batch. 3/5
Soundcheck Surefire Euryreka IPA (7.8% ABV). A little more hops, but still only an average beer. Perfectly drinkable, but why bother to brew beer if you serve someone else’s on the next tap over that is better? 3.5/5
Whammy Bar Wheat (5% ABV). Recent gold medal winner at World Beer Championships. Maybe this batch is different than the competition batch. It’s called an American Wheat, I think to distinguish it from a German or Belgian. It’s a Pale Wheat Ale rather than a wheat beer. Not cloudy at all. Malt forward. Sour-ish-something on the finish. Michelob and Coors come to mind. 3.25/5
Pulse Porter (4.6% ABV). A solid porter. Good caramel, slight smoke. A little thin. It occurs to me to be careful not to rate porters a little higher than I should; it is one of my favorite styles, and as a darker beer it comes later in the tasting so I’m feeling a little more tipsy/generous by the time I get to them in the flight. 3.75/5
This is definitely an NFL place. All the games. Very nice upstairs patio. You can even see a slice of ocean between buildings.
Two 20-something bros sitting next to me mostly talked–loudly, intensely, repetitively–about their fantasy football stats. Then their conversation turned to the recent protest movement of black athletes taking a knee instead of standing with hand over heart during the national anthem. The one who described himself as “mostly Mexican, but I don’t look it” was angry (angry as only a slightly-soused 20-something can be) at the “disrespect” the athletes were showing the flag/anthem/county. (Or whatever it was “that piece of shit” was disrespecting. It all ran together a bit.) The other guy, who pointed out that his great-grandfather, an American citizen, was interred during WWII because of his Japanese heritage, tried to respond–though young drunk men neither explain nor listen quite as well as one could hope. He came very close to being able to clearly say that the soldiers who died for the country were not in fact being disrespected, that they died specifically for the right of free speech and freedom in general, the right even to say something negative about one’s own country. The nascent thought was present though he couldn’t quite verbalize it: respect for country does not imply that your country is improvable, that you can’t/shouldn’t protest the things that are wrong in it, that love of country doesn’t mean you love her for what she is no matter what. (“My country right or wrong” is the worst kind of nationalism, as opposed to patriotism.) Rather, respect for your country means you love her so much you want her to be the best country she can be and give up her bad ways. There’s no DISrespect in kneeling, or not facing the flag, or not putting your hand over your heart during the anthem. Standing is an optional respect; hand over heart (as much of America learned from Gabby Douglas during the 2016 summer Olympics) is not part of “correct form”, it is a populist accretion to correct form that has no basis. (It’s a de-based borrowing from the de-based pledging of allegiance, itself not actually “a thing” but yet foisted upon unsuspecting children who then grow up thinking it IS a thing.) Anyway, even DISrespect for the flag (burning, spitting, reviling, etc.) is protected free speech according to the US Constitution.
The people who are angry about the athletes protests have a misunderstanding of what patriotism means, how respect for the country is demonstrated, and of what free speech means. But, the good news: They care deeply about their country and they are beginning to listen to the idea that there’s something wrong with race relations in America. This presidential election season, and the Black Lives Matter movement, are certainly bringing this conversation to the fore.
To draw attention to a social ill by not complying publicly with “polite” optional actions is certainly a valid form of protest, a noble one even. It is quiet yet powerful; not loud, rude, disruptive or destructive. It’s just saying, “Okay, go ahead and have your moment of unthinking patriotism, I’ll just be over here until you are done, since I can’t in good conscience play along anymore.” Certainly that (brave, unusual, honorable) move has drawn attention to the issue in a way that couldn’t have been predicted.
So far pretty large swaths of America are not up to having the discussion at the fullest level. But as my seat-mates demonstrated, perhaps we are now groping towards some kind of better understanding of the history and present of race in America.
Beer and freedom seem to be intrinsically linked. The founders, some of whom were brewers, were certainly mostly beer drinkers. Sailors in the British Navy in the 19th century drank beer with relish–it was one of the few unfettered personal pleasures and freedoms of an otherwise terribly hard life under strict discipline. One can only imagine that the slaves building the pyramids enjoyed their daily 10 pints of unfiltered wheat beer for more than just the hydration and nutrition they provided. Here’s to freedom–and beer! Cheers.
(Photo borrowed from Amplified Ales Instagram page.)