Fallbrook Brewing Company, Fallbrook
[Note added 7/24/2018: Fallbrook ceased operations in mid-April 2018.]
Winding country roads lead you from the 15 to the small town of Fallbrook, with its quaint main street and mountain-community feel. I grew up in a town kind of like this that was the same size, about 30,000 residents. Well, maybe the two towns are not that similar: Elliot Lake was two hours from the nearest larger city, and our winter temperatures were often -40. Still, the similarities were enough to make me feel like I understood the place and also to bring up all kinds of baggage from my youth. Basically, Fallbrook had no chance of being liked by me, even though objectively it seems like a lovely little town.
Despite my biases against towns of 30,000 people, I went into Fallbrook Brewing optimistically. (Don't confuse it with North Park's Fall Brewing.) From the outside it doesn't look like much, just a storefront on the old main street with a few signs and kitschy knick-knacks (I don't get the statue of the green blob drinking beer out front, but whatever). Inside, it has a kind of rustic charm, with long high wooden tables stretching from the door to the bar, a counter along one side and a small bar in the back corner. The fairy lights on the ceiling might be cliche, but they still make for a nice mood. Dogs are welcome and are regular visitors. There's free popcorn, a nice touch.
The bartender was cheerful and helpful. I watched him interact with several different customers, from regulars to craft newbies, and they all got good treatment and good advice about what to drink.
There were eight beers on the board, plus non-alcoholic cream soda and root beer. The flights are of five tasters. My overall impression is that the beer is just okay. I had a couple things I would not voluntarily drink again, and nothing I tried really impressed me.
Homegrown 3.0 (dark lager, 5.6% ABV). This was brewed as a collaboration with a brewer from Green Flash. It is a slightly smoky black lager. It was fine except for a sour back note I didn't love. Otherwise, it was very drinkable and apparently is very popular here. 3.5/5
De Luz Rye Double IPA (8.5% ABV). There’s a fruity juiciness here that reminds me of Mike Hess's Habitus, another Rye DIPA and one of my very favorite beers. The hop on this one is not quite right, I think, but it is pretty good. 3.5/5
Ammunition (IPA, 7% ABV). The brewery is just across the street from a custom gun shop, so I guess the name makes sense. This was recommended to me as their best/most popular beer. In my opinion it is an average to sub-average IPA. There's no distinct hop flavor, just some cloying sharp/earthy bitterness. 3/5
Fall-tucky Harvest Ale (Brown Ale with persimmon, apple, cinnamon and nutmeg, 6.2% ABV). You might be confused by the name, but Urban Dictionary will explain to you that "-tucky" as a suffix added to a place name indicates that the place is a hick town, on analogy to Kentucky. I can't say I'm less confused by the beer itself. Smoked? Banana esters? This is not a brown like any I’ve had. The smoke flavor makes it meaty in an unpleasant way (is that the persimmon?). The adjuncts make it sweeter but don't make a harmonious whole. 2/5
Old Stage Stout (8.5% ABV). This is billed as a Russian Imperial Stout, but it is a weak example of the style. It is not nearly thick or intense enough to be an RIS. It is light in body, has little flavor, and the sour/sharp back taste is not pleasant. 3/5
So what is the verdict? I appreciate that someone in a small town is bringing local independent beer to the people. The place itself is fun and comfortable, and the locals seem to like it a lot: there was a nice crowd on Friday after work. I can't help thinking, though, that the degree to which the locals like it is based on stereotypical small town pride and mutual support rather than on the actual quality of the beer. I wouldn't tell anyone this was a place they have to drive out to if they are touring beer in San Diego, the way I might with even-more-isolated Alpine Brewing. If you are already going to the town of Fallbrook for some other reason, though, it is worth stopping in.
http://www.fallbrookbrewing.com/ 136 N Main Ave, Fallbrook, CA 92028