Beer Maverick

Kilowatt Brewing, Ocean Beach

OB’s 7th craft brewery/tap room has a great vibe, though the beer could still improve.

Along with Kilowatt Ocean Beach is home to EIGHT craft breweries and tasting rooms! (Mike Hess, Pizza Port, OB Brewing, Two Roots Brewing, Belching Beaver, Hodad’s and Culture Brewing are the others: see my Ocean Beach Beer Tour.) Kilowatt has a very different vibe than Ocean Beach’s other tasting rooms; it seems to be much more of a party/club/beach-y sort of place.

It is in a former tire shop so it is pretty small and the neighbors are automotive/motorcycle companies. Parking on the street is the only option, and like anywhere in the party zone of OB it is pretty damn scarce.

Kilowatt has a good patio (not quite enough seating, but they do have King-Kong-sized Jenga). The inside is black to accent the various lighting fixtures and black-lit glowing art on the walls–extreme lighting is the signature of Kilowatt. It comes off as kind-of a cross between a dive bar and a dance club in terms of interior design. The first Kilowatt location, in Kearny Mesa, is fancier in that regard, but the vibe in OB is better. There are some large booths inside (they look like they would be fun places to “get your drank on” with a posse), a few smaller tables, but strangely no bar seating.

They were pouring a huge number of different beers, more than twenty, which is (a) impressive and (b) especially surprising for a nano-brewery supplying two locations that brews on a 3 barrel system (that’s about as small as you can be and still be a viable commercial operation: each batch is only 93 gallons, a maximum of 744 pints). {Note added 2019: Kilowatt has since increased the size of the brewing system.] The beer is passable to good; I tried six and I didn’t have anything that I would seek out again. Given a prior visit to the Kearny Mesa location, I was expecting worse, actually, but they seem to have improved somewhat. Even so, in terms of beer alone I would rank this #6 out of the 7 places in OB. Some people might prefer the vibe at Kilowatt over the other places, and that might be enough to sway them to come here instead. [Note added 2019: In addition to the new system they also have a new brewer since this was originally posted. They won a 2018 GABF medal for their chocolate porter, and at the 2019 Rhythm & Brews beer best, Kilowatt’s Coconut Chair Porter was the best thing I had. Clearly the beer is better than it used to be and I need to get back to do a re-review.]

Passion Fruit Green Tea Ale (5.9% ABV). This one isn’t my cup of tea (so to speak…) but it is decent. The fruit is pretty dominant; I did not get much “tea” from this one. It is light golden in color with a fine head.  3.25/5

250 KWH IPA (7% ABV). Hazy, piney, with a stiff head. This is the most popular beer at the OB location according to my bartender. In my opinion it is not as good as most other San Diego IPAs, but it is certainly drinkable. 3.25/5

Galaxy Hoptastic Voyage (IPA, 7.6% ABV). This one is more amber in color with a bit less head than the 250 KWH IPA. It is a bit sweet, with a cloyingly bitter aftertaste that takes away from the main fruity flavors. There’s something musty/weed-y in the background (not what I usually think of as “funky” or “dank” but in that ballpark).  3/5

Bourbon Vanilla Oak Amber (Red Ale, 6.2% ABV). To my knowledge there is no coffee in this but I get a coffee-like deepness in both aroma and flavor. The cherry note on the nose resolves into balanced vanilla on the palate, with a tabacco/leather undernote. Quite good.  3.75/5

Coconut Chai (Porter, 5.6% ABV). You may have noticed that few of the beers on the list are straight-ahead anythings. I’d prefer a few more offerings that are not wild experiments. The coconut in this one is REALLY persistent (I had a strong impression of it in the back of my nose even on the fourth time breathing out after sipping it). The mouthfeel and depth of flavor are too thin for a porter. There’s a sour note in the background that doesn’t quite fit, along with a confusing Christmas spice/dates thing on the finish. Maybe that was the chai? I’m having trouble describing it because it is so non-standard.  3/5

Mint Chocolate Stout (4.7% ABV). The muddy red color is unpromising, but the taste redeems it. There is a coffee-like quality to the roast with subtle chocolate. I found the mint to be very distant.  3.5/5

Personally, for beer, my choice in OB would be Mike Hess or Culture (though they have almost no seating). For venue, I’d pick the roof of OB Brewing (though Kilowatt might be a second choice on a “going out” night). For a place with food and reliable beer, I’d pick Pizza Port. All that said, Kilowatt OB has enough going for it that I think it will do very well in Ocean Beach.     1875 Cable Street, San Diego, CA 92107