Oceanside Ale Works, Oceanside
[Note added 1/4/18: WestCoaster.com announced today that 1/6/18 will be the last day of business for Oceanside Ale Works.]
[Note added March 2018: Sold to new owner and operating again in the same location under the same name.]
Not to be confused with Oceanside Brewing Company (an entirely separate company), Oceanside Ale Works has been in business for 16 years. That makes it one of the grand-daddies of the San Diego County craft beer scene. (One of the people working the bar said it was the 14th brewery to open in SD County.) This is its second location; it is in a light-industrial area that you won't come across by accident. (Word to the wise, the speed bumps on the street are VICIOUS. Nearly took out my suspension in the dark.)
As is true of too many craft breweries, it doesn't look like much when you walk up. A small sign announces its presence from the top of the two-story building. A few signs and lights in the small windows give you a hint that something is there, but you can't tell what it is. When you walk it, the place is large, with quite a bit of room between the long bar and the diner-like booths along the opposite side. The brew tanks are visible behind that, and there is a big garage door open to the back where some picnic tables are set up. While there is plenty of bar seating, there was something odd about the relative heights of the bar and stools that made it a bit uncomfortable. Next time I'll try the booths. The bar is made of wood salvaged from the old Oceanside Pier, which is a nice touch of local color. The vibe is dive-bar-like, with the exception that everything is clean.
The service was great. The bartenders here are "volunteers" for the brewery, which struck me as odd. Jamie should definitely be on the payroll, she was a great brand ambassador. Be sure to let them know you want to tip before they run your card; there is no place on the receipt for adding a tip.
When they opened in this location, Oceanside was apparently much less friendly to breweries than it is now, and they were denied permission to install a dishwasher. (At least, that is what I was told; if it is true, it is an egregious abuse of power.) The upshot is that the beer is served in plastic glasses. They try to put a positive spin on it, pointing out that you can always be sure that your glass is clean. But it is a terrible idea from a beer-drinking perspective, not to mention the environmental impact.
They were pouring ten beers on my visit, plus a couple of specialty barrel-aged numbers. A beer here ranges in price from $3 to $6, depending on what it is. That's already a great deal, but if you buy a stein and bring it back with you, every beer you ever buy is $1 off. They also sell some things in 22oz bottles, and they do growler fills.
Orange Agave Wheat (Pale Wheat Ale, 5.5% ABV). I found this one hard to describe. Maybe it was the agave. It is a decent beer but not quite my thing. 3.25/5
San Luis Rey Red (Red Ale, 5.5% ABV). This is a nice red. Smooth, with the red bite I like. Nice malts. 3.5/5
Airport Amber (Red Ale, 4.2% ABV). A "dialed back" version of the San Luis Rey Red. Very drinkable. 3.5/5
Pirate's Cove (IPA, 6% ABV). Clean and well made, but I really don't like the recipe. The hops combo is not working for me. Flowery/piney. 2.5/5
American Strong Ale (9.2% ABV). I liked it better and better the more sips I took. Deep, a little sweet, definitely boozy. Quite tasty. 3.75/5
I had a good time when I was here. The people are nice and the beer is pretty good. Something that earns them big points is that they are open later, until 9pm most nights and until 10pm on Thursdays and Fridays, 8pm on Sundays.
http://oawbrew.com 1800 Ord Way, Oceanside, CA 92056