This is a fun place, and the beer is good. Nestled in an industrial/commercial park in La Mesa just off the 8, the small property is well set up and nicely decorated. The brewing operation is in a fairly small black-painted Quonset hut with the soon-to-be-filled kegs waiting outside next to the forklift. All the seating is outdoors, under an awning (with heaters for colder weather). The bar is in a small black-painted shipping container that has had a hole cut in it to create the bar. There’s some nicely done landscaping along with six picnic tables, two long high tops and a couple of benches. The vibe is chill and fun–accentuated by the Halloween decorations they had up when I was there in mid-October. The staff are friendly and helpful. (Bolt has a second location as well, a brew pub in Little Italy.)
I asked for the bartender’s recommendations for the flight (four 3-ounce tasters for $8). Several of the beers here are gluten reduced.
Citra Pale Ale (5.9% ABV). This clear golden nectar is nearly perfect. It is smooth with lovely floral and spicy notes; the hops are definitely present but are refreshing rather than overpowering. This is the kind of beer I would want to drink several of. I can see why this is their signature beer. 4.5/5
There is one TV, to encourage conversation but satisfy sports fans. They host bands, hold a trivia night every Wednesday at 6:30 pm, and have a daily $1 off Happy Hour deal from open to 6:00 pm. Thursday’s growler fills are 25% off.
Double Doon (Double Irish Red, 8.1% ABV). This is a very nice Irish red, admittedly a style that is not in my top five. The color is quite dark, the taste is a nuanced toasty malt with a slight sourness and a balanced sharpness from the ABV. 3.75/5
It strikes me that the limiting factor on the success of this place is parking. It is quite tough, at least on a Wednesday afternoon. Perhaps after regular business hours there isn’t so much pressure on the nearby street parking. I didn’t see a parking lot anywhere. Follow your GPS religiously: the roads from the 8 East are very confusing. Or avoid the parking and driving issues and just take an Uber or Lyft…you’ll need one after a few beers anyway!
Balboa Porter (6.2% ABV). Dark, full, toasted malt shading into burnt and coffee flavors. I detected a slight off note on the finish, and the beer felt like it “disappeared” on the palate half way through the swallow. This is a fine but not great porter. 3/5
During my visit it was another beautiful afternoon for sitting outside in the shade (hurray for San Diego!). I was surprised though to see four moms with infants, and they weren’t all together (they came in two separate groups). Maybe they have the same doctor who recommends beer for new moms. It works for me. Their presence is a sign, I think, that this is a friendly, open place and the commercial location shouldn’t be dissuading.
Dan Stouts (7.6% ABV). Sweet, smooth, full, creamy, excellent toasted malts. A touch of smokiness and sourness on the finish. Not quite as thick as I expect from a stout; no head to speak of. 3.5/5
They have 16 beers on tap. Prices vary: $4.50 to $8 for 10oz pour, $6-7 for pints, depending on style/ABV.
This is a place I’ll want to come back to. Check it out for the great vibe and stay for the good beer!
They play a lot of reggae. I wonder if that is a reference to Usain Bolt?
http://www.boltbrewery.com/ 8179 Center St., La Mesa, CA 91942
Don’t Just Take My Word for It (Links to Related Beer Writing):
San Diego Magazine’s Brewery Guide entry for Bolt Brewing.
San Diego Brew Review’s article from soon after Bolt’s opening.