2943 Adams Avenue, North Park
I’ll admit it. When I heard the founders of Neighborhood, Craft & Commerce, and Underbelly were opening a place where the menu would be revolve around meatballs and apple pie, I had my doubts. Meatballs…good. Pie…good. But would it be enough? Turns out, it is. There’s usually a long line of diners craving meatball sliders, sandwiches or the traditional spaghetti set-up from the grab and go (or sit a spell) kitchen at Soda & Swine.
The savory fare is tasty if not a bit limited and, occasionally, over-seasoned. But what about the pie? I have no comment. I haven’t partaken. Not because I’m some un-American heathen bucking flaky apple goodness. That would be wrong. No, I’ve simply fallen for a dessert that I find impossible to pass up. It’s delicious, constantly changing, and—granted, this is the primary draw for yours truly—it’s made with craft beer. Enter the frothy world of Soda & Swine beer floats…and bring a spoon.
Craft beer is available on tap and in bottle at this venue as well as its next-door Siamese sister operation Polite Provisions. A devotion to serving craft that runs through all of the ownership's eateries means rotating stock of quality brews, including some that are harder to get a hold of. So, the offerings change often, which adds variety to a patron’s beer float possibilities.
The last time I was in, the draft list included a brettanomyces-laced India pale ale, a pair of hoppy double IPAs, and a cream ale. Not exactly what one would think of us the basis for a good beer dessert experience, but that’s what I ended up having. Now, don’t go thinking an IPA float is going to rock because, let’s be real here, bitter pine and iced-down, sugared custard are about as odd a couple as Oscar and Felix. But that cream ale poured over the soft-serve vanilla ice cream Soda & Swine spikes with copious amounts of earthy cinnamon—well, that was something special.
It helped that the cream ale was the product of one of San Diego’s best and most consistent breweries, AleSmith. As any fan of this particular style will attest, vanilla works perfectly with this beer. Additionally, the savoriness of the brew helped to neutralize the sweetness of the ice cream, and turned the float into more of a beverage than a dessert item.
In search of a more traditional beer float, I also sampled chocolate ice cream submerged in Port Brewing's Board Meeting, a brown ale brewed with java from San Marcos outfit Ryan Bros. Coffee. It was easily the most obvious (and photogenic) choice, and though it was extremely flavorful and in no way undesirable, it lacked the otherworldly wow factor of the cinnamon-laced cream ale float.
Fortunately, variety is encouraged at Soda & Swine. Guests can choose their own beer and ice cream combos. As proven above, it pays to experiment—just maybe not with soft-serve and hop juice.