8680 Miralani Drive, Mira Mesa
Driving by at normal speed, you might miss the handful of Mira Mesa business suites atop the hill near the intersection of Miralani Drive and Camino Ruiz, but that small complex houses two brewing companies. Both are nanobreweries, but have little more than low production capacity in common. One is a husband-and-wife interest while the other is the product of a pair of brewers hailing from the county’s largest fermentation operation, Stone Brewing Co. This article is about the latter.
In building Pacific Brewing Company (8680 Miralani Drive, Mira Mesa) Chris Chalmers and Andrew Heino aimed to produce beers stylistically different from the ones they worked on at Stone. Rather than going with extremely bold, high-alcohol juggernauts, they wanted to pump out drinkable brews coming in around six percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV). The first thing I noticed when perusing the beer board was that not a single beer fell into that range. Chalmers explained that he and Heino’s recipes didn’t turn out as well when they tried to shoehorn them into size-six frames, so rather than focus on a number, they focused on flavor.
In my opinion, the best of their beers is actually their strongest. Coming in at 8.5% ABV, Octo Rye IPA, a rye-infused India pale ale, feels every bit as imposing as it is, bringing in spice from the malted secale cereale along with solid bitterness and a tangerine-like quality that lingers in the finish. Also impressive is The Cruiser Pale Ale, a 5.4% brew that, although being hop-centric in its composition (Chinook, Citra, Liberty, and a “mystery hop” from an independent hop supplier lending berry-like notes), stands out for the nuttiness and toastiness brought on by the malt bill.
Proving the session thing’s been thrown out the window, Pacific also offers the West Coast-style, 7.2% Bombora IPA and The Sticky Icky, a 7.8% American strong ale. The IPA is Pacific’s best-seller and was out when I visited, but I tried the strong ale. It had a mixture of toffee and citrus notes and a sweetness that intensified as the beer warmed up. Unfortunately, as the temperature rose, some off-flavors suggestive of diacetyl reared their ugly heads. Other shortcomings were smaller in nature. Simma Down Stout is too thin and Golden Coast Blonde isn’t as crisp in the finish and a little too raw in its cereal character.
Some of the beers’ deficiencies may have to do with the yeast Chalmers and Heino are using. Due to a recent shortage at nearby yeast producer, White Labs, the duo haven’t been able to get the yeast varieties they want, which has forced them to experiment with other strains, including a clean-finishing ale strain similar to California Ale yeast. I’d be interested to taste Pacific’s beers when produced under optimal conditions with preferred ingredients.
Aesthetically, Pacific is a bit campy, but they’ve still done a nice job. Surfboards line the walls along with aquatic artwork. Chalmers and Heino went back and forth on numerous motifs, but none felt right until they keyed in on their mutual love of the ocean. After that, it all fell into place, including a forthcoming initiative to make a difference where the ocean is related, including donating funds to Surfrider Foundation and organizing beach clean-ups where volunteers are rewarded with free Pacific beer. Those ideas are as nice as the staff, which often includes the brewers (and sometimes involves a rather cute canine mascot of sorts). All that’s missing is a nice ocean breeze to keep the place as cool as one would like, but lack of A/C is a problem that goes beyond this singular venue.
Come on back next week as I share my account of a visit to Pacific’s neighboring complex compatriots at 2kids Brewing Company.