2245 Fenton Parkway #101, San Diego
10155 Rancho Carmel Drive, San Diego
It’s hard to remember back to the earliest days of my craft beer journey with as much clarity as I’d like (must be all the beer), but if memory serves, my first draft hefeweizen and Scottish ale came on the same day at the same place—Oggi’s. I still remember identifying the banana in that wheat beer and, after very much enjoying the Scottish ale, wondering why I’d never heard of such a thing. Actually, given the rarity of that beer style in San Diego, I often wonder why I don’t come across it more often. It’s probably the fact that it relies primarily on malt for its flavor profile while incorporating a hop dosage that’s anemic by San Diego beer drinker tastes.
I love Alpha acid as much as the next hophead, but am just as wowed by bready, caramel, nutty malt-driven beers, so Oggi’s Scottish ale has remained on my list of local favorites since that first taste back in the nineties. It would appear the company shares my affinity for the beer. The Southern California restaurant chain, which includes two brewpubs, recently decided to up its level of craftiness by getting into the barrel-aging game. The first brew of the woody bunch debuted this week—Oggi’s Barrel-Aged McGarvey’s Scottish Ale.
The original McGarvey’s is sessionable at 5% alcohol-by-volume, but knowing that the beer would need to age for several months, the version that made it into new charred American oak barrels was brewed to be higher in gravity, registering above 8% ABV. Going by standard Scottish brewing rules, this technically makes the aged iteration a Scotch ale, but no need to split hairs as the beer hasn’t officially been named yet, and is a one-time creation that’s part of a new barrel-aged line. The next beer in that line will be the company’s Black Magic Stout, which will be aged in the same barrels that housed the McGarvey’s as well as an equal number of medium toast American oak whiskey barrels. But that’s the future. Let’s focus on the present.
The barrel-aged McGarvey’s is a solid first effort. Figs, dates, and vanilla come through on the nose. All of those nuances plus flavors of molasses, prune, clove, and nutmeg come through in a beer that’s almost chewy in its malty heft. Available as a draft-only offering at Oggi’s myriad San Diego venues, it’s a sipper with a great deal of wood character.
In addition to more barrel-aged beer, Oggi’s is also in the process of exploring spaces in which to install numerous future stores, including one that would provide enough space and the appropriate atmosphere for a new charity beer festival they would like to introduce to our already festive county.