Jeff Smith 10:30 a.m., Feb. 21
Beer Touring: Breakwater Brewing Company
I took my place at the back of the line—and what a line. It stretched 10 to 15 yards, from the bar all the way to the front door of the final stop on my brewery tour, Oceanside’s Breakwater Brewing Company (101 North Coast Highway). Many may have turned around and headed for another venue when faced with such a sizeable queue, but I was willing to wait. After a day spent visiting four spots—two that, due to not being open yet, didn’t have any beer to offer, and two where the beer was less than spectacular—all I wanted was something nice to provide the day an exclamation point versus a sad-face emoticon.
I spent the next 15 minutes hoping that the brews I was waiting for would be worth the time. With each passing minute, the level of quality required rose. Even with all the highly populated beer events I attend, I’d have to go back years, to a stint waiting for rare beers at the Great American Beer Festival, to find the last time I put in this much time in the pursuit of a pint.
When I reached the bar, I quickly digested the information on the beer board, which was packed with a wide variety of styles, including some that go beyond the standard pale ale, red, IPA, stout line-up. There was a raspberry mead (honey wine that gets more play in beer circles than with oenophiles), a pale ale made with “wildcrafted sagebrush,” and a burgundy-hued hibiscus ale.
After all that waiting, I wanted to make sure I’d be ordering something good, so I asked for two quick tastes of the mead, and a blend of that mead with Breakwater’s Beach Honey ale and Strand Stout that’s barrel-aged for three months with Brettanomyces and dubbed Biere du Jour.
Mead isn’t really my thing, but this brewpub’s tastes very nice. The raspberry base is sweet, but not overly so, and the finish is dry and very much like a good rosé wine. I was told Biere du Jour was a sour, but it was extremely low on tartness and a bit too all over the place for me. The mead, honey ale and stout came across like when you mix different colors of Easter egg dye—brown, muddled and without defined character.
In the end, I went with the hibiscus ale, while the others in my party ordered the Kali Kush (the aforementioned sagebrush-infused beer), DMJ IPA and a double IPA. With the exception of the hibiscus ale, which was refreshing and pleasantly fruity, but like the mead, very dry in the finish, this proved an effective way to sample their hoppier offerings.
The hops and malt in the pale ale were nicely balanced. The sage notes were pronounced, but mixed well with the vegetal hop flavors, making me think this would be a terrific beer to have with a sage-heavy Thanksgiving banquet.
The IPA was bright and gracefully bitter versus bracingly so. Anybody can throw way too many hops in a recipe. It takes skill to have that come across as more than taste bud punishment. I was later reminded this brew took gold in the IPA category at the 2010 San Diego International Beer Festival. After tasting it, that came as no surprise.
The double IPA was more of the same—good balance. Heavier on the palate and less effervescent, but enjoyable. It probably would have tasted great devoured along with one of the thick, cheesy pizzas I saw servers shuttling from the line-adjacent open kitchen to patrons in the packed dining room.
All of the beers were above average. The only complaint I could cite was that lengthy line. Were I hanging out at Breakwater for an entire evening, I’d have had to have gone back there two or three times, which would have probably equated to over 30 minutes. The bar was staffed by only two people, one of which was servicing the line while the other took care of the actual bar. That just isn’t enough staffers for that many people. It’s an easy fix—get more people behind the bar.
Were Breakwater closer, I’d visit more often. Being in Oceanside, far from my inland home, it takes a special occasion or writing research to get me out there. If you’re intrigued and need an occasion, Breakwater is putting on a festival to celebrate their fourth anniversary from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Saturday, July 21 at Junior Seau’s Beach Amphitheater at the foot of the Oceanside Pier. For more information, click here.
Or, just head on over to the brewpub. In the daytime, it’s far less populated. That said, even packed on a Friday or Saturday night, the atmosphere and the clientele are easygoing. Most importantly, there’s good beer. Stay thirsty, my friends.
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