North Park Beer Co., North Park

Yesterday was International Stout Day--that's the kind of fake holiday I can get behind! To celebrate, I met my girlfriend at North Park Beer Co. We had dropped in once before, around the time they first opened earlier this summer, and we were pleased to see the food operation (an outlet of Mastiff Kitchen) now open, the service at a very high level and the house beer up to very high standards. Unsurprisingly given those qualities, the place was busy on Thursday evening.

Covington Cream Ale (5.8%). The bartender described this as a "San Diego Cream Ale." It is unusually hoppy for a cream ale, though the hops are still subtle rather than dominant. The beer had straw/golden color, a fizzy sharpness, a soft-to-medium mouthfeel and there was Belgian yeast on the nose (but not in the taste). 3.25/5

After chatting with the friendly and enthusiastic (and very tall) bartender, I chose my flight and ordered some food. The Italian sausage sandwich with onions, peppers and sauerkraut was very good. The beer was excellent, too.

Covington Cream Ale (5.8%). The bartender described this as a "San Diego Cream Ale." It is unusually hoppy for a cream ale, though the hops are still subtle rather than dominant. The beer had straw/golden color, a fizzy sharpness, a soft-to-medium mouthfeel and there was Belgian yeast on the nose (but not in the taste).  3.25/5

One of the major assets of North Park Beer is their location. They are in a very large, high-ceiling-ed space that they have decorated with dark woods in the craftsman style. It seemed to me that they are trying to echo the feeling of a speakeasy. There are the obligatory silver tanks, but the overall impression is comfortable leaning toward swanky rather than industrial. Even the chairs are dark wood in the craftsman style, so you know they spent quite a bit of money on them. There's a balcony/loft that overlooks the main room.

Ride the Tiger (Imperial IPA, 8.5%). The nose on Ride the Tiger is tropical, the color is hazy golden, the body is medium and the taste is dominated by an aggressive earthy/tropical hoppy bitterness. There's less burn from the high alcohol content than I would have expected. Quite tasty.  3.75/5

The crowd on a Thursday was very mixed, in age, gender, lifestyle, etc. That, I think, is a good sign about the quality of the product a place produces and the service they provide. Every one from young guys who came straight from work to a group of four retirees who brought their growler to fill and clearly get together often, including a wide mix of ethnic backgrounds. Everyone felt welcome and wanted to be there because of the excellent experience.

Burlingame (Schwarzbier/black lager, 6.6% ABV). The bartender said this is his favorite beer right now, and that he likes black lagers in general. Me, too. This one smelled to me like a milk stout but had a mouthfeel that was thinner than a stout or porter. It is a solid black color with nice toasted malts, flavorful and drinkable. It reminded me of one of my favorite beers, New Belgium's 1554, also a black lager.  4/5

North Park Beer has a good guest tap list in addition to their own house beers (pouring nine during my visit). In honor of International Stout Day, we had a couple of Left Hand Brewing's Milk Stouts. It was great--the epitome of the style, and my girlfriend thought it was the best beer she had ever tasted.

Darkness Refined (Imperial Stout, 10% ABV). Perhaps because I had high hopes for this one, I was a little disappointed. I picked up brandy and caramel plus roasted malt flavors. It smells sweet, almost like molasses. You definitely taste the high ABV. I felt like it didn't quite all come together.  3.25/5

All though still a relative newcomer to the North Park craft brewing "nexus", North Park Beer Co. is proving they are up to the challenge. They make excellent beer, they have a fun and comfortable room, and the food is good. Expect this place to improve even more and flourish.

http://www.northparkbeerco.com/     3038 UNIVERSITY AVE, San Diego, CA 92104

 

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