Lightning Brewery is located in Poway, just a few miles from San Diego’s epicenter of craft, “Beeramar” (that is, Miramar–not to mention its beer-heavy neighbors Scripp’s Ranch, Mira Mesa, and Sorrento Valley). Although it is in the typical sort of commercial/light industrial park for tasting rooms, driving there it feels quite far from other places people might go for beer or food.
Location may be one reason why, after ten years in business, it was recently announced that Lightning is up for sale. There has been no news I’ve seen since December about whether there has been any interest, but some beer-insiders I know think there has been none. That may also partly be because the tasting room is kind of slap-dash and small (it was added on–squeezed in might be more accurate–only in 2014). It seems like there is no room for the renovation/expansion that would make this a viable tasting room. Perhaps someone will want to buy the equipment and move it to a different location. [Update: This July 2, 2017, article on BrewBound.com says the brewing assets have been sold to Cismontane Brewing of Santa Ana, but that the brand and tasting room were not part of the sale. According to a July 26, 2017, note on WestCoasterSD.com, Lightening is still brewing.]
In the meantime, Lightning is still operating. They bottle for distribution and on my visit they were pouring eleven beers in the tap room. I tried four, and must report that I was underwhelmed. Thuderweizen Ale (Hefeweizen, 5.5% ABV) had some Belgian-y banana-like esters and was otherwise unremarkable (3.25/5). The barrel aged version was only a bit better, with some rough edges smoothed out and a slightly more citrusy character (3.5/5). Electrostatic (11.5% ABV), a farmhouse ale, was a minimally passable version of this Belgian style (2.75/5). It should be noted that I generally don’t enjoy Belgian flavors so I may not be the person to judge this one; on Untappd, it earns an average rating of 3.55 with a lot of variability (everything from 1 to 5 over the last three months). Aye Nick Corona Barb’s Hefe–that’s what it said on the board, I have a picture–is a Bavarian Hefeweizen clocking in at 5% ABV. It was drinkable but I wouldn’t order it again (3/5). My friend almost ordered a “holiday IPA” until he asked which holiday and found out it was brewed before Christmas (it is March now, and IPAs do not stay fresh for four months).
Prices were very reasonable, $1.50-2 for tasters, $3-4 for half pints, $5 for full pints. They also do growler fills. The bartender was helpful in making selections and providing background information. The patio is small but pleasant with some interesting stickers on the large picnic tables.
www.lighteningbrewery.com [website non-functional when I tried it] 13200 Kirkham Way #105, Poway, CA 92064