When two-headed business Halcyon Coffee and Stella Public House launched in a new East Village construction in 2014, it created one of the best outdoor drinking spaces in all of downtown. Its perch overlooking Fault Line Park offered cooling bay breezes, a glimpse of the bridge to Coronado, and — most importantly — a mood-enhancing view of landscaped green space. One side of the building served coffee and cocktails, the other served beer and pizza, providing an excuse to visit any time of day.
However, the Texas restaurant group behind both Halcyon and Stella quit the property this year, ultimately doomed by the combination of confusing dual-branding, continuing construction of ugly highrises next door, and the stigma of last year’s hepatitis outbreak among homeless in the vicinity.
But last year’s poor luck is this year’s boon, and now a local beer company has taken over the space: Amplified Ale Works. The brewery that grew out of a kebab restaurant will operate pretty much the same as its predecessors. Because the lease requires Amplified to stay open all day, it starts at 7am as a coffee shop, and even plans to roast its own beans. Because the kitchen came outfitted with a brick pizza oven, pizza’s on the menu. And at 11am, because the alcohol license allows it, Amplified starts serving cocktails, in addition to beer.
I definitely showed up seeking the latter. If you go shopping for cans of Amplified beer, you’ll mostly find IPAs, both of the hazy and west coast variety. But the brewery pays close attention to its water profiles, and subsequently its lager program has been thriving as well. It’s just been more accessible to those who live closer to its Miramar brewhouse or Pacific Beach restaurant and taproom.
1429 Island Avenue, East Village
With late afternoon temperature still pushing 90 downtown, and humidity over 80 percent, this seemed a perfect time to delve into a few of these easy drinkers. I started with Sellout, a light lager made to resembled the very style of American beers the craft brewer movement arose to push against. I felt good about drinking it, though. I know the name is ironic, and it was refreshing as hell. Though to me it tasted more like Heineken Light than a Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Next, I stepped up the presence of hops to try the deliciously crisp pilsner, Licensed to Pils, named in reference to the Beastie Boys album, License to Ill. A lot of Amplified’s beer names are inspired by bands or records. My third beer, Bombhops, was made in collaboration with the punk band Bombpops, while High & Dry takes the name a Radiohead song.
High & Dry is Amplified’s take on the ultra-dry new IPA style, brut IPA, while Bombhops is described as an India pale lager. It was super interesting to drink these two side by side: one a 7 percent lager with enough bitter hops to resemble a pale ale, the other a 9 percent, double IPA with fruity and floral hops but a lighter body than the Sellout light beer.
Sipping these beers, relishing the breeze that carried across the park, onto the well shaded patio, I forgot all about the heat of the city and settled in comfortably. It felt like the coolest place for miles, and there were 25 other beers on the menu. This city center resident is going to enjoy having an Amplified taproom a short car hire ride from home.