Mike Hess Brewing, Ocean Beach
With a friendly welcome, an amazing set of brews and a lovely, beachy setting, Mike Hess is a "don't miss" spot when you are looking for craft beer in Ocean Beach.
Mike Hess, as you might know from reading my review of their North Park brewery and tasting room, is one of my favorite brewers in San Diego. Their slogan, "Great Beer, No Exceptions, No Excuses," is clearly more than just words for them. While I have my favorite styles and individual beers among what they make, I've never had anything bad--or even anything mediocre--from Mike Hess.
Coffee Grazias (Vienna Cream Ale with Coffee, 6.3% ABV). The city Graz and Spanish for "thank you" merge to make the name in as smooth and subtle a way as the ale and the coffee combine in this beer. Grazias (sans coffee, to throw in some French) is a lovely cream ale; with coffee it still has the same smooth, full mouthfeel but with a little more depth. The coffee flavor is well-balanced with the beer. 3.5/5
In my flight this time I tried to focus on beers I haven't had before or for quite a while. While I love 8West (the orange honey wheat) and sold it hard to just about everyone who came to get a flight, I didn't have it myself this time. The result was that I rediscovered some other things I really loved, too.
North Park IPA (7.0% ABV). Mike Hess makes a lot of IPAs, and they are all good. I rank this one a little lower than some of the others, but it is still a good, refreshing IPA with some complexity and nice hop flavors. 3.25/5
The flights are slightly different in OB as compared to NP; with a smaller space in OB they don't stock taster glasses, so your five 4-oz pours come in regular-sized tulip glasses. I found it added to the experience, and it certainly made the $15 flight seem like a wonderful deal (even though it is actually the same amount of beer as you would get in NP--we drink partly with our eyes, it seems). In both places, you get a poker chip with your flight that you can exchange for a keeper pint glass, which they fill for you for $4 any time you come in. The glasses are really nice, each decorated with the logo of one of their beers.
Ficus (Belgian Strong Ale/Dark Saison with Fig, 8.0% ABV). Belgians are not my favorites. That said, this is a solid beer that is complex and deep with a touch of sweetness from the figs. 3.25/5
I had the good fortune to run into a father and son from Canada who were in San Diego for a week-long "beercation." They were very impressed with Mike Hess's beer and the OB venue. We had fun chatting about San Diego's craft beer scene and comparing tasting notes. It is San Diego Beer Week, and we each got a card that could be stamped by all six OB craft beer tasting rooms and turned in for a cool t-shirt. I think the Canadians finished their card that night, but I only made it to four of the six before calling it a night. I'll go back to OB before the end of the week to complete my card--the t-shirt is that nice!
Magna Cucurbita (Pumpkin Beer, 7.6% ABV). This is honestly the first pumpkin beer (not to be confused with pumpkin-spice beer, #GABF2016) that I have ever liked. And it is really good. 3.75/5
I need to give a special shout-out to Rachel, our bartender, who offered great service with a big smile and helped to create the very fun atmosphere. She is so at home there and knows all her beers so well I was quite surprised when she told me that she has only worked there for six weeks. (She did tell me she has worked in craft beer for a long time, though not at Mike Hess.)
Hop-to-it-us (IPA, 7.5% ABV). After several very good beers, this one still blew my socks off. So flavorful, subtle yet complex, an undertone of citrus and a nice clean finish. Near the top of my list of favorite beers. 4.75/5
I have now visited and reviewed all six currently operating Ocean Beach craft beer tasting rooms and brew pubs (a couple of reviews are still waiting to be published, stay tuned). I plan to put together a "neighborhood craft beer guide" of OB (and another of North Park, and so on) and will link it here (probably around the end of November).
(I haven't found any other recent reviews of the OB location, so no links this time.)