Beer Maverick

Kairoa Brewing, University Heights

With a large and elegant dining room, long bar, perfect roof top patio, food and beer, Kairoa seems likely to be a huge hit.

Opened in January 2019, Kairoa Brewing occupies a large and beautiful space on a corner in University Heights. Street parking is a little hard to come by depending on the day and time, so be prepared to walk a block or two. There is also a bus stop right outside.

I visited a few weeks ago, just before the official grand opening. The atmosphere is lovely, with large windows opening onto an elegant space with lots of seating and a long bar. And that’s just the main room: Don’t forget to check out the perfect deck on the roof. It will be extremely popular, I’m sure, for summer day drinking.

As is to be expected with such a large venue, Kairoa is a restaurant as well as a brewery. It is in the same ballpark as Gravity Heights, but maybe not quite in the same league, at least so far.

The owners hail from New Zealand, which makes the theme of the place. The menu is seafood- and lamb-focused, though you can also find a New Zealand twist on chicken wings, burgers and chicken sandwiches, and a good selection of vegan and gluten-free options. Food prices are on the high side ($16 to $21 for the range of burgers, for example).

Service from the hostess and the bar was immediately helpful and friendly. The homey vibe at the bar was a nice contrast for the sophistication of the room.

The selection of beers was relatively small when I visited, and they had just begun putting on second batches of some of the beer. Given comments and reviews I’ve seen online (some people rave about the beer) taken together with my own experience (I thought the beer was just okay), I would say that they have not quite dialed in their beers from the point of view of batch-to-batch consistency. However, the highs indicate that they know what they are doing and the beers will no doubt be dialed in over time. If not, they do offer a full bar including a good selection of guest beers.

Undie 500 (American Pale Ale, 5.4% ABV). I found this to have a thin mouthfeel and at the same time a flavor profile a bit like a hoppy brown ale. I didn’t really “get” it. 3.25/5

Bright Lights (Brown Ale, 5.6& ABV). Muddy brown color and strangely cloudy. Belgian-like yeast esters that shouldn’t be there. Thin mouthfeel. A bit unpleasant. 2.75/5

Ostrich (Oatmeal Stout, 5.3% ABV). As a stout, it is unsurprising that this is completely opaque. But it is also muddy, and there is a strange grey undertone to the color. Flavor is fine, fairly roasty, but unexceptional. Mouthfeel is a bit thin for a stout. 3/5

Roll Call Red (Red Ale, 6.9% ABV). This is very popular with a lot of people. It’s average Untappd score is 3.86/5 (though on just 36 ratings). My experience was different. Something seemed to be missing/off. The recipe is not quite dialed in yet, perhaps. I thought I detected a hint of a band-aid-like off flavor. 3/5

While my impression of the beer wasn’t the best, I should say that I love the space and have high hopes for Kairoa becoming a hot spot for nightlife and excellent beer. People whose beer taste I trust have had Kairoa beers they loved. If nothing else, go check it out for the rooftop patio. 4601 PARK BLVD, SAN DIEGO, CA 92116