[Note added 12/18/18: Council Brewing closed down on 12/15/18. Neither the Santee nor the Kearny Mesa locations are in existence any more. Many San Diego beer lovers were broken-hearted to see such a good brewery close shop. ]
[Fall 2019: The Kearny Mesa location has been taken over by Hopnonymous Brewing.]
I’ve been hearing good things about Council Brewing and I’m pleased to report that I was not disappointed.
As you arrive, it looks like your average brewery/taproom in a commercial strip mall with a quasi-industrial feel inside and plenty of wood features. So far so good. The beer, though, is not just average. First, they specialize in sours, which is pretty unusual and interesting if you like that sort of beer. Second, they make them well. Third, they make a LOT of beers; during my visit they were pouring not just a plethora of sours but seven IPAs (including Bully Pulpit, bronze medal winner at the 2015 San Diego International Beer Competition), an imperial red, a stout, a brown and more. Their “base” Beatitude tart Saison also comes in six varieties with additions like apricot, guava or Citra dry hops.
One of the interesting things I learned chatting with the friendly, helpful and knowledgeable bar staff is that the whole operation–31 taps and a barrel aging program plus occasional canning–runs on a 3 barrel system. They brew more than 1500 barrels a year, which means they need to average almost a batch per day. That’s doing things the hard way. It does mean, though, that although there are 31 taps you can be pretty sure what you are getting is fresh since it is only made in small quantities. I also learned that the sub-brand they have created for their barrel aged sours, The Magic Factory, refers to a warehousing space in a neighboring building where they age their beers.
I just slightly beat the after work crowd when I arrived, but there were already quite a few people there. It filled up quite a bit by the time I left, pretty good for a Wednesday. There were a lot of regulars who clearly love the place and keep coming back.
Okay, time for full disclosure. I don’t usually like sours and I wasn’t in an adventurous mood so I wimped out and didn’t have any sours. That’s a failure as a reviewer since sours are their claim to fame. Mea culpa. But screw it–this reviewing thing is just a hobby for me. The great thing about craft beer is that there is so much variety that you can have what you want. Clearly Council feels that way too since they brew something for every taste. The beer I had was good.
Questionable Advice (New England Style IPA, 6.1% ABV). Juicy, a bit hazy, straw color, dry finish. Pretty nice. 3.25/5
Gavel Drop (IPA, 7.1% ABV). Nicely hopped, clear, golden, quite tasty, not too bitter but crisp. 3.25/5
Bully Pulpit (IPA, 7.2% ABV). A worthy medal winner (bronze at 2015 San Diego International Beer Competition). With a medium mouthfeel (more than the other two IPAs I tried here), it comes across as clean, smooth and refreshingly bitter. 4/5
Brown Ale (6.1% ABV). Smooth with a caramel undertone and a little sweetness. It is a brown, ergo, I like it. 3.25/5
Pirate’s Breakfast (Imperial Oatmeal Stout, 8.1% ABV). If this is what pirates have for breakfast, I want to be a pirate. Smooth, roasty and full flavored. 4.25/5
Council Brewing offerings more extensive hours than many tasting rooms, 11am to 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, 2pm-9pm other weekdays (10pm on Thursdays) and noon to 8pm on Sundays. There’s a sandwich shop next door (unfortunately it closes at 3pm) and they usually have food trucks on Fridays and Saturdays.
www.councilbrew.com 7705 Convoy Ct, San Diego, CA 92111
Don’t Just Take My Word For It (Links to Related Beer Writing)
San Diego Magazine’s Brewery Guide says that Council’s tart Saisons are the best in the county.
San Diego Brew Review likes Council Brewing.
Draft Magazine called Council “a brewery to watch” back in 2015.
And a review in the Clairemont Times.