Like most of the county, Fallbrook has been plagued by fire throughout its history. Most recently, over 200 structures were destroyed in the 2007 “Rice Fire,” which found the region’s resources spread thin for a number of other blazes under unusually strong Santa Ana winds. Today, it’s safe to say that where there are smokers, there is fire. At least that’s the case at Firehouse Que and Brew, located at the former muster area for the town’s bucket brigade.
The smokehouse debuted in February as a collaboration of the Rib Shack on Old Highway 395 and Fallbrook Brewing Company, which has been stewing up suds about a mile north for the past three years. Strewn with old black-and-white photos from the Fallbrook Fire Department, Firehouse concerns itself chiefly with the celebrated alchemy of smoked meats and fermented starches. They also make a mean selection of sides, with standouts such as fried pickle wedges, spicy corn, and garlic smashed potatoes.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, locals chat over post-work brews on the patio and families share a meal at the booths while bartender Kenny cues up “Wish You Were Here” on the stereo. The rotating tap list offers five Fallbrook beers and guest pulls from Lost Abbey, Alesmith, Ironfire, Great Divide, and Mason Aleworks. I ask Kenny for something to complement the grueling summer day and he pours me the Mutt light amber.
“We got a messed-up shipment late one night so we threw everything together and were pleasantly surprised by the result,” he says. “It’s the only beer we have right now that’s not named after a street.”
The bright, caramel-y brew makes for a refreshing companion to my plate of greasy fried okra. Fallbrook Brewing owner and brewer Chuck McLaughlin, meanwhile, says his favorite pairing is the mac and cheese pulled pork jalapeño fries with an Ammunition IPA. As a close second, he suggests the brisket with spicy corn or fried pickles and a Calavo Cream. When available, Ironfire’s Stetsons and Sombreros Mexican lager is perfectly suited for pulled pork.
Firehouse’s offerings are best sampled from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, when daily lunch specials include tri-tip, ribs, brisket, and catfish with slaw and fries for $9.99 each. Arrive early, as it’s not uncommon for specials to sell out.
You got your meat. You got your malt. That, fam, is fire.
1019 South Main Avenue, Fallbrook
Prices: $7 pints; $3–$5 wine
Food: West Coast BBQ and San Diego brew
Capacity: Sits about 70 indoors, 30 on THE patio
Parking: Plenty of space behind the building
Hours: MON, 4–8PM; TUES–THUR, 11:30am–8pm; FRI, 11:30am–9pm; SAT, 11am–9pm; SUN, 11am–7pm