Karl Strauss, Carlsbad
Driving up to the Karl Strauss facility, you may notice the huge flower field on the hillside below the restaurant in the shape of an American flag. It is quite impressive. Also impressive is the size of the facility. It is beautiful, too, with a combination of a quasi-industrial aesthetic with warm woods and clever lighting. Located next to a hotel, the restaurant is large, with comfortable and relaxing indoor and outdoor spaces. It was busy during the late-lunch period when I visited, but I got a parking spot and a seat at the bar without trouble.
The beer list is large, as you know if you have visited other Karl Strauss locations. They were pouring about 20 beers on my visit. There were all the standards you know and love, of course: Aurora Hoppyalis, Mosaic, Red Trolley, Wreck Alley, Tower 10, Windansea Wheat, and so on. In addition there were several special beers, including a couple of barrel aged takes on the standards and a collaboration with with Sierra Nevada called NxS (for perhaps obvious reasons: Sierra Nevada is in NoCal, Karl is in SoCal). As befits the GABF 2016 Mid-Sized Brewery of the Year, everything I had was good to excellent.
Brown and Out (Brown Ale, 3.8% ABV). Sweet, light, with tasty roasted malt and toffee flavors. Maybe a bit too thin on the roast and mouthfeel but very drinkable. The thinness is probably related to the very low ABV--a nice change from DIPAs and BBA monsters. 3.5/5
NxS (Karl Strauss and Sierra Nevada collaboration Red IPA, 6.8% ABV). This is definitely worth trying. The hoppiness plays interestingly with the maltiness of the red. 3.75/5
Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Wreck Alley (Imperial Stout, 12.4% ABV). The bourbon note complements the dark malts beautifully. Vanilla emphasizes the oak, coffee and cocoa a bit hidden. It is a bit too boozy, but that's nothing I can't get over. 4/5
Chocolate Mint Wreck Alley (Imperial Stout, 9.5% ABV). On cask; this is awesome. Mint very bright, melds well with the dark malts. Warmer is better. 4.25/5
Coconut-Milk Brown Ale (Imperial Brown Ale, 7% ABV). I don't think I've ever had coconut-milk in a beer; it works. 3.75/5
The food is also good. I had a steak salad that was noticeably well prepared, with good meat properly cooked and a tasty vinaigrette dressing on the salad. Now that I'm thinking about it, I want it again!
I appreciate how Karl Strauss does taster flights. They provide a sheet of paper, write the names of the beers below where the glasses sit, and leave a beer menu with you so you can look at the notes while you drink. Another nice touch is the free taster they give you to pair with your meal. Service at the bar was also excellent: attentive, quick, helpful.
The Carlsbad location reminds me of the Sorrento Valley location in its design and service level; here's my review of the Sorrento Valley location. My experience at the La Jolla location was a little less good.
The only strike against Karl Strauss Carlsbad is that it is too far from my house.
https://www.karlstrauss.com/visit/carlsbad/ 5801 ARMADA DR, CARLSBAD, CA 92008