New English Brewing, Sorrento Valley
This small brewery and tasting room in a commercial strip mall in unassuming Sorrento Valley is having a big impact on the San Diego craft beer scene. They have won a slew of medals at various beer competitions. (EIGHTEEN medals in two years by my count, including "best in show" at the 2015 LA County Fair and Gold at 2015 Great American Beer Festival (!) for Zumbar coffee imperial stout, and two golds at the 2016 San Diego International Beer Festival.)
They attract a crowd of loyal regulars in addition to accumulating beer geek accolades. Simon Lacey, the owner, was bartending during my visit and he knew just about everyone who came in--and there was a steady flow of people on a Tuesday. He's English, friendly, and extremely knowledgeable about beer. His regulars clearly like him, and the feeling seems to be mutual.
You enter the space from a garage door on the left side of the building (not the door that looks like the front from the parking lot). The main room that contains the tanks and bar is nondescript, but it is roomy and has plenty of seating. It was a little cold on a late December evening (this is essentially a warehouse space but they did have a couple of propane heaters). The back room, in contrast, is very comfy and has heating. There are two big leather sectionals and some benches, and another small sofa and chairs in an alcove, which creates distinct and comfortable areas to get together and chat with friends. The music on the P.A. was good, and it was set at a volume that made conversation easy.
New English brews traditional English styles with a west coast flair. That suits my palate perfectly, so I really liked the beers I tried here. (Given the awards, I'm not alone in liking what New English produces.)
Why ? Not (American Wheat Ale, 4.6% ABV). Very light gold in color with a thin white head that laces the glass. I picked up a slight sour note that I liked. Overall it was clean, refreshing and easy drinking--almost like a "light" beer except that it tasted good. 3.5/5
Pacific Storm (Dry Irish Stout, 5% ABV). Black color with a light beige head. It had a smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Before it warmed up a bit I felt the front of the taste was mostly empty, but on the end there are plenty of roasty flavors and even some smoky notes. It was slightly acidic (perhaps the carbonation?). 3.5/5
Explorer ESB (Extra Special Bitter, 5.8% ABV). I liked it. It had a good brown color with a persistent head that laced the glass. The malts were subtleand there was a pleasant bitterness. It was clean tasting, although it seemed unusually highly carbonated. 3.5/5
Brewer's Special Brown Ale (6.6% ABV). This seemed true to style to me. I was quite impressed with it. Flavorful, balanced, smooth. 4.25/5
Hours at the tasting room are somewhat more limited that the average place, so check the website to ensure they are open when you are thinking of going. They do growler fills as well as tasters and pints, and prices were very reasonable.
Given the nice atmosphere, friendly people, good service and great beer, I'd come back any time.
http://www.newenglishbrewing.com/ 11545 Sorrento Valley Rd #305, San Diego, CA. 92121