Beer Maverick

Culture Brewing Co., Ocean Beach

Culture Brewing Co. succeeds in its aim to produce “classic styles, done beautifully.” Their American Brown won gold at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival, and it is easy to see why.

Culture Brewing currently has two locations: the Solana Beach brewery and tasting room, and the Ocean Beach tasting room. The website lists a third tasting room in Encinitas that is due to open in early 2017.

I visited the Ocean Beach tasting room on the Friday night of Halloween weekend. OB was predictably busy, but I had no problem finding (paid) parking in a lot just up the block. At around 8 pm there were about 30 people and five dogs in attendance. “Wunder Weiner” had a table set up and was selling hot dogs and fries–they looked and smelled good but I had already eaten so I didn’t get to try them.  (The website has a calendar of food purveyors: Solana Beach has food Wednesday through Sunday, Ocean Beach on Wednesdays and Fridays.)

Blueberry Berlinerweisse (4.5% ABV). Though this is not generally a style I like, it was a well-executed version. Lots of blueberry on the nose and on the palate, with a tart, clean flavor. Soft to thin mouthfeel. More or less light purple/pink in the glass. The bartender mentioned that this is what she serves people who say they don’t like beer, because it tastes the least like beer of anything they make.  3.25/5

I talked with the bartender about my most and least favorite styles, and she helpfully made me a flight of four of her recommendations from the twelve taps currently pouring. They don’t have a flight price but you can order 3 oz tasters for $1-2 depending on ABV. Full orders (pint or 10 oz depending on ABV) are $5-6. The 32 oz crowlers run $8-10, and $64 oz growler fills are $15-18. As they say on their website, they focus on classic styles done beautifully. From what I tried, they are succeeding admirably..

American Brown (6% ABV). My thought on first sip: Wow, that’s a good brown. The expected medium brown color and medium mouthfeel are complemented by mild toasted malts and a touch of hops for brightness. It is smooth with a clean finish. I later learned that this won a gold medal at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival, and I’m not at all surprised.  4.25/5

Lou Reed on the sound system. My kind of place. It’s a bit loud, the staff have a hard time hearing you order.

Milk Stout (6.2% ABV). A good representation of the style. Smooth, toasty, slightly sweet: tasty.  3.75/5

The decor is a notch or two above what you usually find in tasting rooms. The bar is dark metal, the floor is dark, the lighting is sophisticated and the place has a comfortable yet classy vibe. Open wooden rafters, glassed in keg room, old wooden barrels scattered around as tables. There are four comfortable armchairs and six bar stools along the counter in the garage door window, three more stools on each of the short ends of the metal bar, but that’s it. Otherwise it is standing room only. Depending on what you are looking for, that might not suit you. It is true that a lack of seats may be conducive to smallish groups conversing while standing, it does make it more awkward for lone individuals to come try a beer, and I suspect it means that people don’t stay as long as they might have if there were a place to sit. Pro tip: If you can’t get a seat, order your tasters one at a time so you don’t have to juggle a whole flight while you stand around.

Mosaic IPA (6.6%). This is really good. It tastes and smells floral/herbal. There’s a bitter crispness and a touch of funk on the finish, which lingers.  4.25/5

Culture Brewing Co. makes some delicious beer. Go try it!  Don’t forget that Belching Beaver has a tasting room right across the street, Helm’s Brewing has one just down the block, OB Brewing is just a little further down the block and Mike Hess and Pizza Port are close by as well.     4845 Newport Ave., San Diego, CA 92107