9550 Distribution Avenue, San Diego
Few, if any, breweries have been as polarizing among local beer fans and industry members as Saint Archer Brewery (9550 Distribution Avenue, Miramar). Some see the business — partially owned by, and marketed by, action sports stars — as one that may introduce craft beer to individuals who might not otherwise try it. Others perceive it as an operation headed by businessmen more interested in turning a profit than the craft of creating exceptional beer.
Truth is, the majority of people who stumble upon Saint Archer’s wares will have zero back story or reason to care about it. Hence, the only thing that will matter to them is how good — or bad — the beer is. Early on, it was a mixed bag. While Saint Archer Blonde Ale, a refreshing kölsch, was good enough to make it to San Diego Beer News Beer of the Week status, the company’s Pale Ale and IPA were plain at best, and subpar by San Diego standards. All three still serve as Saint Archer’s core offerings, but a number of new brews have been introduced by new brewmaster Yiga Miyashiro over the past few months and a comprehensive revisit was merited.
1956 Bacon Street, San Diego
The current list of newcomers includes a double India pale ale, Scottish export ale, American-style stout, and new pale ale made from experimental hops procured through Hopunion. Coming from Pizza Port, where he helped earn the chain’s Ocean Beach location Best Small Brewpub of the Year honors at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011, Miyashiro has been able to refine his processes on a wide breadth of styles, but he has been most successful with stouts and hop-forward beers. So, it comes as no surprise that the double IPA and stout are his biggest hits at his new stomping grounds.
The 8.3% ABV Double IPA bursts with citrus and tropical fruit, bringing on everything those familiar with Miyashiro’s work would hope for. It’s a real game changer for Saint Archer. Ditto the American Stout, 6.8% ABV with a deep roasted coffee character but such exemplary balance, every sip feels like the first. With each taste, you feel snug and secure in Miyashiro’s obsidian wheelhouse. The Scottish export was tasty, but a bit too dry and devoid of this style’s trademark mild sweetness, and the experimental pale ale, while better than Saint Archer Pale Ale, tasted like it needed some fine-tuning.
It was a treat to try these beers, but wanting more, I wondered aloud when these beers would be packaged and available outside the tasting room. Fortunately, the right person heard me behind the bar and offered an answer. Twenty-two-ounce bottles of the Double IPA are scheduled to debut in February of next year. Also on the horizon for Saint Archer is canned beer. When that happens, expect a wheat beer based on another of Saint Archer’s brewers’ most lauded creations— La Peruse, an award-winning witbier lead brewer Kim Lutz developed while at Maui Brewing Company.
Upgrading to Miyashiro, and reuniting him with a long-time conspirator in Lutz, figured a good way to increase the beer quality and overall craftiness at Saint Archer, and it has. Thus far, this brewing company wins my vote for most improved after a somewhat clunky start.