1795 Hancock Street (Mission Brewery Plaza), San Diego
The beers of Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment (1718 Hancock Street, Mission Hills) have been available at local bars and restaurants for much of the past year, but it took the company a long time to open the doors to its tasting room at Mission Brewery Plaza. One step inside confirms that every extra second they spent on that project was well worth it. Acoustic Ales’ is one of the most quirkily attractive suds-sampling venues in San Diego.
Constructed in a corner building on Hancock and Washington Street, it’s a dim space enlightened by a bulb-adorned sign sporting the company’s phonograph logo and a flat-screen TV listing the plethora of beers on tap. Of the many new breweries throughout San Diego County, few offer as many brews as the dozen-plus I had to choose from on my recent visit. Many of those were fresh hop offerings, beers brewed with just-picked hops from the Pacific Northwest during the annual autumn harvest.
With almost double-digit fresh hop beers to choose from, I was intrigued and impressed at the company’s ability to lock up hop contracts at a time when thousands of breweries are competing for the fruits from those bines. I selected a flight of four as well as a flight of four other beers, then headed off with my companions to lounge on two comfy couches in a quiet corner of the room.
While the fresh hop beers, as expected, were powerful on the olfactory front, the beers themselves didn’t quite do right by all those hop flowers. It was clear they’d been decently dosed, but the base beers were flabby. It was the equivalent of a bland, soupy bowl of risotto topped with an overload of shaved white truffle. Yes, the truffles are amazing, but they don’t fix the dish’s lack of salt or structure. Hopefully, by next year’s harvest, they’ll have dialed the beers in a bit more.
Over the past several months, I’ve had a number of Acoustic Ales beers ranging from slightly subpar to quite enjoyable. Readers may remember my praise for the company’s White IPA. I hoped to find an array of brews that were in line with that former Beer of the Week’s quality, but sadly, my taster flight was an extension of the inconsistency that has so far been Acoustic Ales’ calling card for me.
Witte Snake, a Belgian-style wit, was akin to the fresh hop beers in that it delivered lemony notes on the nose, but little if any citrus on the tongue. Still, it was fair, finishing with a slightly bitter, kölsch-like dryness. The Groupie, a Belgian-style strong blonde was much better, tasting semisweet with a mix of banana and spring flower nuances. I also enjoyed Mad DUB, a Belgian-inspired brown ale with a light coffee aroma and lots going on the palate — milk chocolate, jasmine, dandelion. It was easily my favorite and helped me to get over the most disappointing beer of the bunch, a slightly buttery and in no way desirable imperial red ale fittingly named after something I avoid — Mosh Pit.
With the exception of that last beer, Acoustic Ales’ beers are fine for the most part. The company isn’t producing wildly flawed beers, but the ales are hovering around the “meh” point at present. With time, they may rise to higher levels, but for now, that eclectic tasting room is what’s truly above average about Acoustic Ales.