[Note added 3/14/2019: The owner of Reckless decided to close the location at the end of March after a swift and vicious social media backlash to his racist and tone deaf attempt at humorous advertising on Facebook at the beginning of the month. His apology seemed sincere, but the damage to the brand (and his self concept) had been done.]
When I launched BeerMaverick.com, I said this: “I like beer in general. I also admire the impulse to be create high quality craft beer. That means I’m inclined to want to like anything I try. That said, I believe in high standards, and in particular I believe that there are so many good craft beers nowadays that there is no reason to drink a lackluster product. So I’ll let you know of any places or beers that don’t impress me.” True to my founding principles, but nevertheless with a heavy heart, I must tell you: Of the 84 San Diego breweries and tasting rooms I have tried up till now, Reckless is my least favorite. Somebody had to be at the bottom of the pile, that’s just a fact of life. I don’t say it lightly, though, since I understand how difficult it is to start and run a brewery, how much passion and effort it takes.
Frankly, I don’t understand how this place can still be in business. Perhaps their rent is incredibly cheap. Perhaps their location, directly across the street from Ballast Point’s huge Miramar production facility and restaurant/tasting room (which I reviewed here) means that beer tourists see Reckless on their maps and come more often than they might have if they had not been at Ballast in the first place.
I learned while preparing this review that Reckless Brewing is actually a reincarnation of Wet ‘n’ Reckless Brewing, which was a total loss in an accidental fire in 2014. (Plenty reckless but not wet enough, I guess. Too soon?) Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign and a relocation from Mira Mesa to Miramar, the phoenix rose from the ashes (which you can actually see depicted in a painting on the wall in the current location). According to a West Coaster review from 2015, the reincarnation is better than the original.
Maybe that is true, but what I witnessed tonight was a mess. A comfortable mess, admittedly, and maybe that’s what draws people here. Walking in, I was unsure if I had found the brewery or stumbled upon an illicit after-work party in a storage locker. I hesitate to use the phrase “interior design”: there is none. Perhaps Little Miss Brewing (which I reviewed here) looks more cluttered and chaotic, but it is a close race. Reckless certainly looks more low class and cheap. The location is small and appears to have had no thought put into it. Really, it is like going for a beer in your home brewer friend’s garage that he hasn’t cleaned out for a couple of years. There is junk and crappy furniture haphazardly strewn about the place. They offer board and card games of various kinds, and there were a couple of small groups playing while I was there. They seemed to be having a good time.
The service was good, full credit there. The woman who served me was friendly, answered my questions, provided quick service and made good recommendations about what is popular and what her favorites are. I had a flight of four.
So then the question that really matters: How is the beer? One of the four I tried, I would drink again. Another was an interesting beer, but not one I would order again. The other two were so bad I couldn’t finish even a 4oz taster of them.
Badger Don’t Care (Strong Ale; 10.4% ABV). I thought this was quite interesting. Dark malts and honey sweet with hints of flowers or citrus. Medium brown color; the best word for the mouthfeel is “slick” because of the honey. 3.25/5
Oral Pleasure (Hoppy Pilsner, 7.5% ABV). Despite the name, this is a good beer. Nearly indistinguishable from a juicy IPA. I’d have more. 3.5/5
Pineapple Paradise (Fruit Beer, 5% ABV). This is very odd to my palate. The malts give it a thick mouthfeel, it has a thin yellow color, and the taste is almost bland–there’s a bit of sharpness but I didn’t taste pineapple at all. It made my stomach sour. (Reviews on Untappd are polarized: lots of 2s, lots of 4s.) 2.25/5
Sultry Black (ale, 6.8% ABV). Cigarette ash on the open, “green” taste of cut garden plants, a fruity note, sour. Just not good. I couldn’t make myself finish the taster. 1.25/5
So, the upshot is this: If you want an absolutely unpretentious, small, garage-like tasting room with some games and you don’t care at all about aesthetics or comfort, there are at least a couple of decent beers available at Reckless. In my opinion, however, there are many other, much better, places in the vicinity even if you want to avoid massive spots like Ballast. Division 23, for example, is another nanobrewery that is in a space that is not much bigger, has a “garage” vibe but is way nicer, and has much better beer. Duck Foot, At Ease @ Barrel Harbor, and loads of other places have games, too.
http://recklessbrewing.com/ 9040 Carroll Way, Suite 8, San Diego, CA 92121