136 N. Main Avenue, Fallbrook
When I first met Chuck and Jaime McLaughlin, the owners of Fallbrook Brewing Company (136 North Main Avenue, Fallbrook), I thought they were a sweet couple with a lot of heart. They were still building out their tasting room at the time and didn’t have any beer to sample, but I was encouraged all the same. We shook hands, I headed out and, on the 45-minute drive home, began lamenting the fact it would probably be some time before I got back to the county’s northernmost brewery. Fortunately, the McLaughlins are active in the beer festival circuit, so I’ve been able to get a taste of FBC here and there — and been quite impressed with what’s passed my lips.
Recently, I cleared an entire day to make the trek back to Fallbrook to taste my way through its namesake nano’s tap list. Upon entering, I became enamored with the environs Chuck hammered out. The wood-heavy space has plenty of places to post up, including long, tall tables and rail bars on both sides of the room. Photography from local shooters lines the wall along with coasters signed by folks who’ve gotten the last gasp from blown kegs as well as imbibers who’ve celebrated their birthdays on-site. Many of the beers are named after Fallbrook avenues, and bright green street signs make up a large part of the company’s motif. It’s a homey homage to the burg in which it’s located, which makes it ironic that the place isn’t packed more often.
The McLaughlins, long-time Fallbrook residents, opened the brewery to give locals a cool, homegrown place to drink, instead of having to split time between Temecula and Vista in the search for locally produced libations. Those who have ventured to FBC have tended to become regulars, but grassroots support has yet to adequately fill out the front lawn. If there’s any justice, the if-you-build-it-they-will-come thing will work out for the McLaughlins, because the beer is damn good.
One I was psyched to see on tap was Java Hill, a cream ale infused with coffee that has a brilliantly creamy mouth-feel and allows the coffee to shine through so nicely that it’ll make drinkers used to coffee-laced dark beers reconsider if less roasty styles are better suited for displaying this ingredient. In my opinion, it’s FBC’s best beer, hands-down. Other standouts include a simple, light-bodied blonde ale with citrus and melon notes and a fruity aftertaste, and Reche Rye, a mildly hoppy rye-infused ale that’s semisweet and chocolaty.
Also interesting and quite delicious is a saison brewed with local avocado honey. There’s an earthy sweetness that makes the beer unique…and uniquely Fallbrook. Ditto Mini MERICA, a lower alcohol-by-volume version (5.2%) of MERICA, an American strong ale (8%) that was brewed with local military veterans. Additionally, FBC, like many breweries these days, is experimenting with single-hop beers. Case in point: Millo, an all-Amarillo beer that has some holes in it — it’d be better blended with other hops, as is typically the case with this variety—but offers up some nice, citrusy aromas while allowing drinkers to get a concrete feel for what this individual ingredient brings to the table.
Despite brewing only four barrels at a time, McLaughlin is able to keep about a dozen beers available at all times. It’s impressive, as is the fact many of them taste quite good. There’s room for improvement here and there, but FBC is in the top third of the new breweries to open over the past year. Not bad for a small business that has yet to get much traction among beer nerds. FBC is surely worth the extra mileage required for a visit. Of course, that last part doesn’t apply to locals, so hopefully, they will come to embrace FBC as a matter of both good taste and civic pride.