Mason Ale Works, San Marcos
The Mason Ale Works/URGE Common House brewery, restaurant and bowling alley (!) next to Cal State San Marcos is a very impressive looking place. There is a long, partly covered seating area outside the main door, and around the side there is another outdoor area with corn hole courts and more seating. The brewing system visible through the modern glass architecture seems quite large. Inside, impressiveness continues: the interior design is hip and modern, and with all the windows the light in the room is great during the day. The lighting design makes it look even better at night. The interior is divided up into a set of distinct spaces, from dining tables to a bar area with high tops, to a swanky separate back room bar that feels very exclusive, to a collection of leather sofas.
There are only two negatives I can see about this place. The first is that the parking situation is awkward. DO NOT follow your map to the brewery--instead of the last right turn, continue straight until you see the parking garage and park in there and take the path from the back of the garage to the restaurant. If you go directly to the brewery (a) there are no parking spaces and (b) it is very difficult to turn around and get back to the garage. The second negative, only a slight one, is service. I sat at the bar in the mid-afternoon, and while there were staff around, no one stayed behind the bar. It took a long time to flag someone down to get another beer and then to pay. Perhaps they were in the midst of prepping for dinner, but even so a presence at the bar is a must in my book. Yelpers seem to agree that service is a problem at this location. The place is still pretty new, having just opened in April, so maybe these sorts of kinks will work out over time. On the upside, I did see a barback cleaning draft lines, just as I witnessed when I went to the Mason Ale Works "R&D" brewery inside URGE in Oceanside.
Jambi (IPA, 6.7% ABV). This struck me as a straightforward west coast IPA. It was good but didn't stand out as anything exceptional. 3.25/5
Curly Jefferson (Imperial IPA, 8% ABV). Some tropical fruit on the nose, resinous on the palate, finishes medium bitter with a drying sensation. Clear golden straw color, good head. 3.5/5
Lil Burro (White IPA, 6.7% ABV; originally a collaboration with Pizza Port, though I'm not sure this batch was). I just don't like wits. It's well made, I think, just not for me. 2.75/5
Cash (Stout, 9.4% ABV). This was my second time trying this in a week, and I have increased my rating. It is an excellent stout. 4/5
Andrew's Forest (IPA, 6.5% ABV). I actually had this a few days later, when I visited Knotty Barrel, downtown. It is a good IPA with lots of citrus and pine, bitter on the finish. 3.75/5
Overall, I'm impressed with Mason Ale Works beer, and with the URGE location despite the kinks. I look forward to returning.
http://www.masonaleworks.com/ 255 Redel Rd, San Marcos, CA 92078