Beer Maverick

Kensington Brewing Company, Kensington

Kensington is finally home to the Kensington Brewing Company! The tasting room is bright and comfortable, and this family-operated business makes good beer. #craftbeer

The new Kensington Brewing Company tasting room–in Kensington!–is a well-laid-out, well-executed addition to the neighborhood. While brewing is still carried out in the original Grantville location (where they opened in 2012 when they couldn’t find a location in Kensington), you can now drink the beer in the large, bright and clean location next door to the Landmark Ken Theater on Adams Avenue just east of the 15. The location used to be a video store, and there are some nods to that history in the artwork displayed around the place. Otherwise the décor is basic but nice, with a thick, rough would bar top and serviceable tables and chairs. There is plenty of seating both at the bar at tables. Overall, the atmosphere is a big step up from a typical tasting room, though perhaps not as quite as good as a typical bar.

Kensington Brewing is a family affair. The owner’s nephew is the brewer, and the owner’s father was running the tap room when I visited. You get a comfortable, family feel from the place.

Besides being clean, bright and well laid-out, the tasting room is in a good location and there are no other breweries/tasting rooms in the immediate vicinity. (The Little Miss Brewing tasting room is half a mile west, and Automatic Brewing at Blind Lady Ale House is another quarter mile farther west, but because of the highway in between it feels quite separated.) The beer, always the most important consideration in my reviews, is good. Service, as you would probably expect when you are dealing with someone with family ties to the business, was excellent.

The sign is too small and is partly blocked by the theater next door when coming from the west, which makes finding the location a little difficult unless you know where you are going. Look for the theater as a landmark. Parking is going to be a problem for this business, as I suppose it must be for everything along this stretch of Adams. Side streets are not always good options, and there are not many dedicated lots. Lyft or public transit might be your best bet for visiting this place without the hassle of parking, especially at peak times.

When I visited, several of the handles were sold out, a symptom of the tiny brewhouse plus the unexpected popularity of the tap room. Fortunately, they are already on top of increasing their production and have plans to increase brewing capacity. It is a good problem to have from a business standpoint. In any case there were still plenty of good beer choices available even if I didn’t get to try a couple of things that would have been top choices for me. What I did get to try was good, though nothing rose to the level of great, or even quite to the level of very good; still, it was all very drinkable, with no flaws (something I can’t always say, even in San Diego where standards are high).  Depending on your preferences, it might be exactly what you want next time you are in the neighborhood.

There is another Kensington Brewing Company, in the hip Kensington Market neighborhood of Toronto, Canada. The Canadian brewery of the same name seems to have a head start on becoming a big deal–they have 10 to 20 times as many check-ins on Untappd. I hope there is no trademark challenge, since there is little chance of confusing the two places.

Irish Red Ale (6.5% ABV). A bit too sweet for my taste, but nicely malty. Round mouthfeel, slight note of red spiciness.  3/5

Rye IPA (9.1% ABV). A nice example of the style, in the ballpark of Mike Hess’s Habitus and Helix’s Galaxy Rye IPA (though not quite as good as either of those in my opinion). 3.5/5

Bristol Brown Ale (5.6% ABV). Very nice. Soft, round, open. No sharp edges. The kind of beer you could enjoy all night.  3.75/5

Palisades Porter (6/1% ABV). It gets even better as it warms up. Light, but it has plenty of roasted malt flavor. 3.5/5

By the way, the original Grantville location is no longer open as a tasting room, though they do some special events there still.     4067 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA