[The At Ease tasting room in Miramar closed in March 2019. Financial difficulties led to the close of this location in November, it reopened in mid-December 2019.]
Barrel Harbor’s “At Ease” tasting room/gaming hub in Miramar is a fun place, so I was looking forward to checking out the main brewery in Vista. As I’ve noticed at several spots recently (e.g., Helm’s OB and Helm’s Kearny Mesa brewery, Mother Earth Tap Room and the Mother Earth brewery, Little Miss Normal Heights and the Little Miss brewery in Miramar, etc.) second locations tend to be better than first locations. Maybe it is better cash availability, lessons learned, or different purposes. Whatever the reasons, the trend holds for the Barrel Harbor brewery in Vista. It is not a bad place to get a beer, it is just not as good as the tasting room in Miramar.
The large commercial building has quite a bit of parking in front. As you walk in, you pass through a small, dim, carpeted room that kind of looks like a dentist’s waiting area: A couple of couches, a few low tables, even magazines (albeit WestCoaster instead of Cosmo). The real tasting room is through the door, though, where you’ll see the big tanks in the background, with a bar built in front of them and a few long, high tables in front of that. There’s one TV so you can keep an eye on the game while you drink. The place is not fancy, but it isn’t as “garage-like” as some tasting rooms.
They were pouring fifteen beers, including their medal-winning Barrel Harbor Brown and Ragnar Belgian Dark Strong. I’ve had Barrel Harbor beers I have liked on other occasions, but this visit I swung and missed on my whole flight.
BH Red Ale (5.7% ABV). Meh. Kind of bland, with a dirt aftertaste. 2.75/5
San Dingo Double Session IPA (5.5% ABV). “Double Session IPA”–that’s funny! Unfortunately, the beer is not as good as the name. Thin, with an earthy finish. 3/5
Alone at Sea (Dunkelweizen, 5% ABV). First thought: Not a dunkleweizen. Second thought: Well, maybe it is: but strong Belgian yeast flavors. Background toasted malt. Body was too thin and it was not adequately carbonated. Whether or not it is true to style, I didn’t like it. 2.5/5
Sir Frankie D’s Imperial IPA (9.3% ABV). Earthy is all I can taste. Maybe a little tropical/fruity. Not good at all. Francis Drake must be rolling in his grave. 2/5
The service was good: helpful and attentive. The free pretzels with honey mustard were a nice touch.
With the beer being so disappointing it was difficult to be positive about the experience. But upon reflection the location is no worse than most other tasting rooms, and if you try the Brown or the Fenris IPA (which I rated 3.75 and 4, respectively, on previous occasions), I bet you’ll be happy.
Oh, one quibble: The website is hard to use. The background is so busy that it is difficult to see the tiny box next to “I am 21 or older” that you need to check in order to see the site.
https://barrelharborbrewing.com/ 2575 Pioneer Ave #104, Vista, CA 92081