5041 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach
I walked in shortly before sunset, by design. OB Brewery sits a short block from the Ocean Beach Pier, and its main attraction is a rooftop deck that peeks over adjacent buildings to offer a view of pier and beach, making it one of the city’s most appealing places to drink beer while the sun drops on the horizon.
But there are two floors of OB Brewery beneath that deck, and because the elevator was out of order, I passed through what felt like three different Ocean Beach drinking establishments.
Between the restaurant kitchen, brewing equipment, and full bar, there’s limited space on the ground floor for people to congregate. But that didn’t prevent me from complying with longstanding OB custom: bumping into old friends. This floor feels like a small restaurant, and their party consisted of young families with high-chair-seated children, enjoying dinner, while moms and dads chatted over beverages.
Climbing stairs to the second floor, I found it equipped with restrooms and a glass-enclosed dining nook overlooking Newport Avenue with a partial beach view. But most of the space functions as a game room, furnished with foosball, shuffleboard, and the likes of a giant jenga set. I met a group of 8 or 10 friends who had clearly been at it awhile, playing games and making foggy memories. Drunk people playing bar games feels about OB as it gets.
5028 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach
But an even more familiar scene played out on the roof. Packed with young revelers, I found the scene reminiscent of the roof deck of OB mainstay, Sunshine Company Saloon, where I spent too many happy hours of my youth drinking pitchers of whichever mediocre beer was on special. Hoping the house beers would outdo these memories, I ordered a flight of four from the small rooftop bar, which served them on a wood, surfboard-shaped tray.
The brewery’s flagship is Long Time Coming, a double entendre built around a cream ale, playing on the fact it took the business over two years to open, while its ownership coped with the challenges of building a three-level brewery — including that broken elevator. Despite the presence of corn and agave, the cream ale drinks crisp and not overtly sweet, making for a better beachside beer than its questionable nomenclature suggests.
A single-hop IPA didn’t impress (maybe it’s the Calypso hops). But the crisp Staring at the Clock, a mild dark ale offering hints of anise, did. Better was No Lighter Needed, a smoked porter brewed with hemp seeds in collaboration with Colby Chandler, of Ballast Point Brewing fame. Its subdued smoke complemented the dark malts to yield a dry and nuanced porter that I hope the brewers see fit to bring back.
The hemp seeds might fit the zietgeist, but otherwise the darker brews were not what I expected to sip within smelling distance of the brine and seaweed of Ocean Beach. The beers may be the only part of this brewery that don’t align with the sunset party vibe of its quirky neighborhood namesake. If Obecians keep drinking here, that sunset could beguile them into expanding their beer palates.