Thunderhawk Alements occupies a small corner of a secluded-feeling, seemingly-largely-disused commercial center. The most prominent other tenant at the moment appears to be an indoor archery range. The fortunes of this commercial center are about to change, I think: Thunderhawk offers good beer in a nice setting, and they will soon be joined by a neighboring cidery. Moreover, across the street there is another hub of craft beverages with three beer breweries (Align Brewing Company, Protector Brewery, and 2Kids Brewing Company), a sake brewery (Setting Sun Sake Brewing), and two wine tasting rooms (India Street Winery and Charlie & Echo Wine Tasting Room). The combination is already drawing crowds and critical praise, and since several of the places are brand new or will only be opening soon, I would bet that we will see an explosion of interest in this area. (It is really very close to another place I’ve already reviewed, At Ease @Barrel Harbor, too, not to mention the plethora of other craft breweries in Miramar.)
I was curious about the “alements” part of the name and my cursory Google research has revealed two possible connections. “Aliments” is an old word for food and nourishment; in this case the nourishment provided by ale, I suppose. Urban Dictionary says “alement” is slang for a beer-induced injury (playing on “ailment” and “ale”). I presume (given the logo and decor in the tasting room) that “Thunderhawk” refers to the Native American thunderbird myth rather than the character from the Street Fighter video game. Curiously, the website for the brewery illuminates none of these things.
The Friday afternoon I visited Thunderhawk, things were pretty quiet at first. I was the only customer for a few minutes, before a couple of guys who work across the street at Setting Sun and Align stopped in. It is good to see people from the industry supporting each other; it is a sign, too, I think, that Thunderhawk is good people. I certainly got good vibes from both of the owners (Bill Lindsay and Jonathan Barbarin, who do all of the brewing as well as manning the bar). Before too long, the place started filling up. I later saw several of Thunderhawk’s other patrons across the street, which makes me think this confluence of craft tasting rooms will be good for all of them.
The inside of Thunderhawk’s location is smallish but nicely done. I especially like the wall of windows opposite the bar (behind you while you order). The decor includes a wide rough wood bar and a few native American artifacts on the wall. The one-barrel brewing system visible behind the bar area, just enough to make you feel you are in the midst of the brewery. (One barrel is a small system for sure, but they have plans to build up to a production brewery over time.) There are just a few seats inside plus a very nice outdoor area with overhanging trees and a corn hole setup. I could easily imagine whiling away a summer afternoon (or three) in this spot.
The beer: Of the five I tried, all were good and I would drink them again. Nothing blew my socks off but Thunderhawk has only been open for eight months and all signs point to their evolving towards greatness over time.
Torreyana (Farmhouse/Saison, 5% ABV) was very balanced and tasty. The orange blossom works really well with the saison yeast flavors. I’m not generally a fan of saisons but I definitely liked this one. 3.5/5
Electric Youth (Pale Ale with Coffee, 5.8% ABV) was a little over-powered by coffee flavors. I rated it 3.25/5, but that’s quite a bit below its average Untappd rating of 4.04 so maybe it was just me.
Prince of Zamunda (chocolate stout with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans, 5.7% ABV) was full and roasty, with an absolutely beautiful cascade. The head settled stiff and lasted till the end of the glass. 3.5/5
There was a fourth beer in my flight but I had to take a work call and forgot to record it. Before I left I also tried the Dunkelweizen (6.3% ABV), billed as a dark German hefeweizen. I thought it was quite nice though somewhat too thin in flavor and mouthfeel. 3.25/5
It is a bit confusing trying to find the place, and the signage isn’t great. When you come up the driveway, bear left and keep going around the first building. There is plenty of parking on Thunderhawk’s side of the street, which really can’t be said for the other side of the street.
The chill vibe combined with good beer and the proximity to a bunch of other interesting tasting rooms means Thunderhawk is a place I will definitely return to.
http://thunderhawkbeer.com/ 8675 Miralani Dr, Ste 100, San Diego, CA 92126