Beer Maverick

Thorn Street Brewing, North Park

Thorn Street Brewery is a comfortable, local hangout that serves a variety of well-made beers from highly drinkable ales and porters to more experimental brews.

The small, dark-colored front room at Thorn Street Brewery reminds me of a neighborhood British pub. On closer inspection the details are different, but the impression of a local, comfortable place with beer and conversation still holds. The low-ceilinged room is divided into two sections, with black walls and rough wood surfaces. There’s one TV over the bar, showing college football the day I was there. I had no idea until I saw that someone on Yelp had mentioned it, but there is an upstairs patio…the signage could be better! The outdoor space is perhaps less needed here since unlike so many tasting rooms this place is air conditioned. All the surfaces are hard so when the place fills up it can get loud.

Thorn offers 5 oz tasters in flights of up to eight varieties, plus half-pints and pints. They were pouring 14 beers the day I was there, with a good mix of “drinkables” and “experimentals.”

Solstice Session IPA (4.8% ABV). Sweet start, nice hops. Clear golden color with almost no head. It’s a straight-ahead, easy-to-drink IPA, with a little unpleasant funkiness on the end. Although it is billed as a “session” I’m not sure I could drink very many of these.  3/5

Given the crowd on a late Thursday afternoon, it seems this is a successful local place that makes its business on repeat customers who are almost treated as family. There were lots of dogs when I arrived at 4:30, and by 5 pm the place was filling up (with humans). The front room offers five four-tops and nine seats at the bar. Although it is a very “local” place it is also perfectly friendly, not exclusionary at all.

Relay West Coast IPA (7.2% ABV). First reaction: Yum. I like it better than the Solstice.  Relay is a little more amber in color. It has a cleaner flavor than Solstice, very little of the funkiness, a different hops profile, and the bitterness on the end is not overpowering. It is a little “hot” because of the alcohol. 3.5/5

A wide mix of people (and dogs) were present when I was there. Besides the canines, I saw a guy with luggage taking notes at the bar (beer vacation?), a couple of guys by themselves, a set of male friends sitting together at the bar and jawing with the bartender, three 20-ish female friends getting started for the evening, a young couple intensely discussing beer, and a family with two young children.

North Park American Pale Ale (5.5% ABV). It is an almost golden amber color, and it tasted to me more like an IPA than a pale ale. But it is very good, the best thing I’ve had here.  4.25/5

Like many tasting rooms, this place invites food trucks to park outside on weekend nights.  There’s also a barbecue place around the corner and a coffee shop across the street. Other than that, this location is smack in the middle of a residential part of North Park. The restaurant and bar area of North Park is a ten minute walk away.

Double Oh 7 English Pale Ale (5.2% ABV). Amber in color with little to no head. Coffee and caramel notes. Very drinkable.  4.25/5

My girlfriend tried the Foreplay Belgian Blonde Ale (6.8% ABV).  It had the expected Belgian yeast flavor but was kind of neutral, a little “muddy” in Sarah’s description. There were flavors that reminded her of cheap grape juice or cider. I picked up flavors that reminded me of the candy cigarettes of my childhood, or maybe it was pineapple–in any case, now that I’ve thought of it, it is off-putting.  2.75/5.

Merseyside Hoppy Red Ale (5.8% ABV).  I like that this place isn’t trying to bowl you over with insanely high alcohol levels. I did pick up a rotten fruit flavor on the end of this one.  It is a nice red color, and the mouth feel is on the thin side.  4/5

Smugglers Cove Amber Ale with Agave (5.6% ABV). Caramel, malty, full flavored. The aftertaste is slightly unpleasant.  3.75/5