Pizza Port Brewing, Ocean Beach
This was my second visit to the OB location. I didn't take notes on the first visit in August; mainly I remember the beer as good but not exceptional. That impression was confirmed on my second visit, here described. The pizza is good. I like the crust especially.
Founded as a pizza and wings restaurant in 1987, Pizza Port is now a small chain with five locations in San Diego County: Carlsbad, Ocean Beach, San Clemente, Solana Beach, and Bressi Ranch. (During my quest I will visit all of the locations; for now I'm reviewing Ocean Beach.) Pizza Port started serving beer for public consumption in Solana Beach in 1992 and grew from there. Now, each location brews beers of its own but they each offer taps of all the production. The Bressi Ranch location is also a canning facility and the corporate office. The beer is pretty solid, though in my experience somewhat inconsistent in quality. During this visit they have 25 house brews plus another 25 guest beers. A flight of 4 x 3oz tasters is $10.
County Line English Bitter (4.5% ABV). This reminds me quite a bit of Newcastle Brown (which in turn reminds me of playing darts on Thursdays in college, but that's another story…). It has the same slightly metallic malty flavor. The mouth feel is perhaps a little creamier. It poured like a stout and set up a tall head, but it dissipated surprisingly quickly. The color is medium amber, less brown than a Newcastle (that's comparison, not criticism). Overall it is well-balanced, flavorful, and very drinkable. 4/5
On my first visit it was a packed Saturday night; today is a more relaxed but still active Tuesday afternoon. My experience of the service is mixed. The room is a bit rustic-feeling with 16 picnic tables making up most of the indoor seating. There is a very small patio on the street. Parking is a little difficult--the lot is small and street parking is in high demand in the area. The crowd (about 20 people at 3pm on the Tuesday after Columbus Day) is mostly locals (i.e., skater/surfer/biker hipsters--it is OB after all) with a surprising number of young children for a place that specializes in beer. I guess even people with children need beer. Maybe they need it even more. (Yelp reviews that compare the place to Chuckie Cheese are over-stating things a bit.)
Kook DIPA (Double IPA, 8.5% ABV). Clear golden. Nicely bitter with floral hops. Well-balanced and not over-powered despite being a "double" with high ABV. Actually, quite a bit less intense than many West Coast IPAs. 3.75/5
There's a guy here wearing a Pizza Port shirt depicting a grapefruit in a boxing ring dealing a knockout blow to a hops flower. That's an exact analogy for much of the craft IPA ideology of recent times in California, Colorado and perhaps elsewhere too. I think I notice moods mellowing a bit; brewers aren't as often trying to punish you with overwhelming bitterness, high ABV, and strong unusual flavors. That's good; I want to be able to enjoy several beers in a sitting.
Party Pat Stout (7.1% ABV). Deep brown. Roasted malt and the sharpness of high ABV dominate. Good porter color and mouth feel. It is a decent but not special beer. 3.75/5
It occurred to me while savoring my flight that the OB brand gear I was so impressed with as a teenager in the 1980s in the far north of Ontario, Canada, was referring to Ocean Beach and here I am. It is a weirdly triumphant feeling to have made it here, almost 30 years later. Those were some great board shorts. I always regretted I needed prescription glasses and never owned a pair of the classic OB shades.
Dusk till Dawn (10.5% ABV). Almost black. Coffee flavors and alcohol overpower the beer, with a chocolate note lingering. I pick up a burnt, gritty aftertaste and a feeling almost like the tannin of banana peel. Not my favorite. I also feel the onset of a headache, something that occasionally happens to me when I drink certain less-than-good dark beers. (*I need to try this one again: This beer won a silver medal at 2016 GABF.*) 2.25/5
I've had two different pizzas here now, and I liked them both. The lunch special is a great deal. It isn't the best pizza in San Diego, but there's nothing wrong with it.
Catalina Wine Mixer (5.5% ABV). This is not good. It is a brown ale aged in wine barrels, but the wine is so oxidized that it tastes more like cheap port or sherry. It is almost like a really thin root beer mixed with bad wine and some cheap port thrown in. I can't finish even 3oz of it. This should have been poured down the drain at the brewery as an interesting but failed experiment. 1/5
For a good beer in a causal environment with a really wide selection of house and other craft beers, hit up Pizza Port!
http://www.pizzaport.com/locations/pizza-port-ocean-beach/ 1956 Bacon St., Ocean Beach, CA 92107
Don't Just Take My Word For It (links to other reviews):
@SDBeerTalk's podcast interview with Jill Davidson from Pizza Port.
San Diego Brewery Guide's entry on Pizza Port, Ocean Beach.