[Note added September 2018: About one year after Coronado Brewing purchased Monkey Paw, it was cosed down at the beginning of September 2018.]
It is an odd moment at Monkey Paw. Their beloved original brewer has departed, and a new brewer is coming on board. Only one of the ten of their own beers on the menu during my visit were from the new brewer. It was, perhaps, the worst moment to review the place, it being in neither its old state to preserve for the record or in its new state to be reviewed to let fans know how it has changed.
And yet the place is imbued with a kind of nostalgia that will continue to draw people. The dark woods and black surfaces make the room a bit dive-y, but also homey and comfortable. The folks behind the bar are enthusiastic about their product and are very willing describe what you are drinking. The vibe is casual and fun, leaning a bit toward hipster without being too pretentious (I saw some great mustaches and quite a few tattoos). A wide variety of types of people were present when I was there one early evening, all of them enjoying the vibe, the beer, the food and the sports on TV.
Monkey Paw stands out in several respects from your typical San Diego taproom. Like some, they also serve a wide selection of notable craft beers from other producers; unlike most places that do this, however, their own beers stand up against the guest list. As very few do, they offer a full bar, including cocktails and not just beer. And they offer very good food (the fries and the fried cheese curds are excellent).
Just off the 5 in not-the-best part of downtown’s East Village, parking is in short supply.
So what about the beer? I like it. It is solid; not the best I’ve had, but nothing I tried on this visit was at all bad. I’d have it again, and I’d especially come back for the “total package” that Monkey Paw offers.
Lab Monkey (IPA w/ Simcoe hops, 6.5% ABV). A spicy note, some funk, lingering bitterness. Cloudy straw color. With two versions of the same beer hopped differently, this is an opportunity to explore the differences hops can make. Unfortunately the beer is only just good, not great. 3.25/5
Lab Monkey (IPA w/ Chinook and Falconer’s Flight hops, 6.5% ABV). Hazy golden with a thin white head. A bit of funk and astringency on the end. Not overly bitter. 3.25/5
16th and F Successor Pale Ale (5.5% ABV). This was the first beer brewed by the new brewer. It has a soft mouthfeel, a lingering bitter finish and is overall smooth. It is golden amber in color and the head laces the glass. I think it needs more malt and less hops. 3.25/5
Sweet Georgia Brown (Brown Ale, 5.1% ABV). This is a little too sweet for me, but at least there is truth in advertising in this case. It is roasty with a coffee undertone, and maybe a cigarette taste? 3.25/5
Santa’s Pet Monkey (Imperial Porter, 9.1% ABV). Very smooth with molasses, roasty and a very slight brandy/raisin in the background. I did not get the chocolate at all, which is supposed to be a distinctive feature. 3.5/5
http://monkeypawbrewing.com/ 805 16th St, San Diego, CA 92101