Beer Maverick

Harland Brewing Co. One Paseo, Carmel Valley

Harland Brewing Co.’s first tasting room, at the One Paseo development in Carmel Valley, is a strong entry into San Diego’s competitive craft beer market. There’s room for improvement with the beer but they are already firing on all cylinders.

One Paseo in Carmel Valley is an upscale, mixed-use development. The impression I had before going was that it was going to rival the UTC mall redevelopment for polish and sophistication. It isn’t there yet, however, partly because the whole area is completely surrounded by buildings still under construction. Quite a few of the stores in the retail area are yet to open. The retail area desperately needs some tall trees and/or sun sails to shade the outdoor spaces between stores.

The Harland Brewing tasting room, which opened just a week ago as of the time of this writing, is as snazzy (and complete) as I had expected the whole area to be. The interior design is a winning combination of floor and wall tile, rough wood flooring, and polished dark woods. The long bar has comfortable seating and an elegant display tap for the four core beers, plus about 20 other taps. Given the size of the interior space, there isn’t quite enough seating yet, but I expect they’ll add more as time goes on. The wrap-around patio is lovely, and will be even better if they get some more umbrellas. I really like the fact that they have a pool table.

Service was very good, from the person who greeted us at the door to the staff at the bar. They were very willing to talk about the beer and help me choose a flight. They don’t offer flight trays, so if you do get a flight you are probably better off sitting at the bar.

Quibbles on things that could be improved: Get flight trays. Have some way of recording which beers in the flight are where. (Even a piece of paper is fine or, better, a wax pencil on the tray.) Get rid of the tiny TVs displaying the beer menus. The text is way too small, and the screen rotation is much too slow; even worse, one of the three screens in the three-screen rotation is an ad for something completely unrelated to the beer. This menu set up causes huge delays in being able to select a beer. The tiny ad revenue can’t possibly compensate for the customer frustration it creates.

Harland’s brewery in Scripps Ranch does not have a tasting room. They have been producing there for a few months now (and before that they were contract brewed by Bitter Brothers) so that they already have beers in cans as well as keg distribution. I’ve heard their plan is to open a second tasting room later this year.

The reason Harland can start so big, so fast is that it was founded by some of the people who founded Saint Archer and later sold it to MillerCoors. I’ve seen online chatter suggesting that some craft beer enthusiasts don’t want to support this brewery since it is built with Big Beer’s money, but it is clearly a craft brewery according to the Brewers Association definition. Some people also have the impression that it is another brand built to be sold. There’s some evidence for that in the very slick videos and other marketing materials Harland has been putting out for half a year or more, which are lifestyle-focused and seem to have no connection to San Diego. It seems more like a brand than a brewery.

That said, the beer is pretty good, though not perfect.

Harland IPA (7% ABV). Decent. It is slightly too bitter, which is odd for someone like me to say, but it is a bit out of balance. There isn’t enough body to support the level of bitterness. 3.5/5

Harland West Coast IPA (7% ABV). I detected zero aroma, which is so out of line with a WCIPA that I started thinking that maybe my olfactory system was broken. So I had someone else check me: there really is no aroma. Also somewhat strangely, it is not as bitter as the regular IPA. Still, I like it a bit better than the regular IPA. 3.5/5

IPA with Grapefruit (7% ABV). Not overpowering, the grapefruit contributes its pithy bitterness. An interesting white pepper note complements the light citrus flavors. It is an improvement on the regular IPA. 3.75/5

Mostra Crème Brulee Latte Brown. (8% ABV). Sweet++; prominent but not unpleasant coffee flavor and aroma (though I tend to find Mostra coffee too acidic). It is really thin once it warms. Hiding behind nitro, I think.  Still pretty good. 3.75/5

Harland’s One Paseo tasting room opens daily at noon and closes at 9 p.m. most nights, 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. There is no food on site, but there are many restaurants in the surrounding retail area and you are allowed to bring in outside food.     3725 Paseo Place Suite 1300, San Diego, CA 92130