The facility at Pacific Islander Beer Co. is modestly but well decorated. There are a few nods to island culture (some carvings on the way in, a wooden surfboard over the bar, and the beer names). Mostly, though, it is simply a better-than-average tasting room. Don’t go expecting a tiki room or anything. The front patio is quite large, and the interior struck me as bigger and nicer than most breweries. (By the way, all their online and packaging says “Pacific Islander Beer Company” whereas the sign in the tasting room says “Pacific Islander Brewing”: I wonder if there is a story there.)
Santee has a higher-than-normal density of good breweries, if you ask me. Finest Made Ales (just 0.7 miles down the street from Pacific Islander) could take their brand national, in my opinion. Burning Beard (a mere 2.2 miles from PIB, albeit in El Cajon rather than Santee) is a truly excellent spot. And BNS Brewing, just 2.4 miles from PIB, has several recent Great American Beer Festival medals. The Santeeans and El Cajones (if those are the right demonyms) are a lucky lot when it comes to beer. Oh, and I almost forgot Groundswell Brewing (just 0.8 miles from PIB), one of my early favorites when I began this brewery quest. (By the way, this is review number 146–I have about 30 places to go. I’m certainly going to miss my one-year completion goal, but then the total was in the 130s when I started.)
PIB was pouring nine beers on my visit. That might strike you as a low-ish number. (I’ve been to plenty of places recently with 20 or more beers on tap at a given time.) But the quality makes up for quantity, and anyway there is plenty of variety to satisfy most tastes: in addition to several IPAs there is a red, a brown, a stout that comes in regular and even barrel-aged versions, a fruited pale, etc.
As I said, the quality is good. I liked everything in my flight.
Li’ke Li’ke (Blond Ale, 6% ABV). Clean, slightly sharp, malty finish, sweetness like a cider. Would make a good beach beer. 3.25/5
Tahitian Brown Ale (5.9% ABV). I’m not sure what is Tahitian about it, but it is a damn good brown. It has the right balance of sweet and roast malt. 4/5
Stink Eye (Chocolate Stout, 7.1% ABV). Not style-typical, in a good way. Roast malts pushed all the way to slightly ashy, and it works. Balanced sweetness comes across as vanilla. 3.75/5
Nui Pia (Imperial Stout, 11.5% ABV). I didn’t get the advertised vanilla, but I did get an awesome biscuit/spice combo that reminds of a snack chip I can’t quite put my finger on. Dangerously delicious, given the ABV. 4/5
Mo’ Betta (Double IPA, 8.5% ABV). Floral/tropical/fruity: just lovely. Finishes with a bitter nip and a tiny earthy note. Makes you want another sip. 4/5
Those of you who follow this blog know that (a) it is extremely rare for me to rate three out of five of the beers in a flight at 4/5, and (b) I’ve been grumpier than average lately with breweries serving less-than-great beer. Together those two facts should tell you that these high ratings mean that this is a brewery you need to visit.
The bartender was a little swamped when I first came in, with several patrons doing flights and the phone going off non-stop. But things quickly settled into a more-normal routine, and I noticed that she gave a friendly greeting to everyone and spent a few minutes chatting about the beer with anyone who wanted to.
When you drive up, you’ll see the lot has plenty of spaces; I can’t imagine parking is ever a serious problem. The free popcorn is a nice touch. They do an all-you-can eat taco night for $10 which sounded pretty great, and I was sorry to have to leave before it started.
Check out the Pacific Islander Beer Company webpage if you have a few minutes to see some innovative graphic design.
http://www.pibbeer.com/ 8665 Argent Street, Santee, CA 92071