This is a large restaurant with a sizable patio. It was 80% full, inside and out, late on a Saturday afternoon. I got the last seat at the bar (admittedly, NFL playoffs were on TV, but really hardly anyone was watching). Located just a couple of blocks from the transit center and a few hundred yards from the beach and pier, it’s clearly a popular place. There’s a (free) parking garage just down the street toward the beach.
They have 16 house beers on tap, plus an extensive (and pretty good) guest tap list, though I was sad to see B-d Light on there.
An aside for brewers: Only five of Breakwater’s 16 house beers are less than 6% ABV; 8 are well over 7%. I think that’s a strategic error because it means I can’t stay as long. Higher ABV means lower sales and less connection with ordinary beer drinkers. I’m not saying every beer needs to be a “session” beer–in fact, that’s a label I wish would go away–but I am saying that making beer for mere humans is a good thing. B-d Light is popular in part because it is “safe” to have a few.
Perfect Day (Imperial IPA, 9.1% ABV). This is made with honey from bees working a local grapefruit orchard and that flavor really comes through nicely. It is quite delicious. 4/5
The bartenders were too busy with the packed bar and serving the crowded restaurant to spend much time talking about the beer. When they had a moment, they did have some helpful and interesting comments, and they clearly know their product and how it is made. If you are looking for a beer conversation, try to go at a less busy time.
Railslide Red (Red Ale, 6.6% ABV). A solid red ale, well made. It lacks the sharp finishing edge I don’t like in some reds, and is more hopped than a typical red (maybe a little too much). 3.25/5
I very much appreciated Breakwater’s method for serving flights, which is one of the best I’ve seen anywhere. Another note to brewers: Do this. They give you a laminated menu with detailed beer notes and a wax pencil, and you just circle the beers you want. Then they leave that menu with you so you can refer to it as you drink. (That’s especially important in this case because the beer board on the wall is small and impossible to see from the other end of the bar.)
Rye Dawn (Red Ale with Rye, 6.8% ABV). Winner of a gold medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup. Stout-ier than typical browns, in a good way. Cloudy deep brown, persistent white head. Caramel, background burnt notes, sweet. 3.75/5
I had already eaten a big meal before I got there (beer reviewer’s rule #1) but the food looks quite good. A guy next to me at the bar had a pizza with shrimp. He was humming while he ate it so it must have been good. (Anyone remember this scene from the movie “Flamingo Kid”?)
Walkabout Stout (7.2% ABV). This tastes like it is barrel aged although it is not. Notes of brandy, raisin, vanilla. Roasty with a velvety-smooth mouthfeel. 3.5/5
I like Breakwater Brewing Co.’s beer. All in all, it is definitely worth the trip, which you could combine with a visit to the beach/pier or stops at one of the other 7 (soon to be other 10) craft breweries in Oceanside.
http://breakwaterbrewing.com/ 101 N Coast Highway, Oceanside, CA 92054