111 S. Cedros Avenue #200, Solana Beach
In February, I gave readers the low-down on the people and ideas behind Culture Brewing Co., a new addition to the Cedros Design District. It was chock full of information, but when it comes down to it, beer is a consumable and, therefore, all the data in the world pales in comparison to offering a taste of what a company has to offer. Recently, I returned to Solana Beach for a taste of Culture and left pleasantly surprised.
If you’re in the mood for dark beer styles, you’re bound to find the ale for what cures you here. Brewers Steve Ragan and Dennis Williams are serving up an Americanized take on a classic English brown ale. The “American” component is hop prevalence brought on by Centennial and Magnum varieties. It’s crisp, clean and botanically hoppy with just a touch of roast. I found it very drinkable and, thanks to the hops, a great alternative to gold- and copper-colored beers for summer session drinking.
As taken as I was with the brown ale (none of Culture’s beers have been given names yet…that will come later), my hands-down favorite was a style I’m typically not a fan of—black IPA. As a rule, I don’t enjoy hops and roast coming from the same quaff. Usually, those polar opposite taste sensations fight for prominence in the glass, rendering both unenjoyable. But not here. Culture’s black India pale ale just may be the best one that’s ever crossed my lips. It’s 7.2% ABV and registers at 76 IBUs (international bittering units), but goes down smooth and easy with plenty of piney hop spike. An early triumph in my book.
My final step on the dark side came courtesy of Culture’s imperial stout, a beer I’d tasted off the fermenter during my original pre-open visit. It had a lot of chocolaty charm, but was just a tad sweet. Remembering back to a conversation I’d had with the brewing staff during the fermenter session, they’d been concerned that they might not be able to get it up to the ABV they were hoping for. It seems this batch came up a bit short, leaving some extra sugar behind, but with some fine-tuning, this, too, will be a lovely beer.
I also sampled a pale ale. It was a bit flabby and a bit sweet as well. An amber ale was markedly better, but paled in comparison to their brown cousins. According to Culture co-owner John Niedernhofer, the amber is their second best seller behind their standard IPA, which I couldn’t sample because, like many best sellers, it had sold out. Fueled by Amarillo and Simcoe, that beer was slated to be back on before the weekend rush along with a double IPA they were working on.
All in all, there was plenty to venture out for and a good deal of promise with this less-than-a-month-old business. Looks like I’ll need to make two stops—Pizza Port Solana Beach and Culture—next time I take in a show at Belly Up Tavern.