Tuesday 22nd May 2012
This is a very accessible tasting room as it is close to the Moreno / Linda Vista station of the San Diego Trolley's Green Line. Its story begins in 1992 when Jack White opened Home Brew Mart. He was a home brewer and found it difficult to obtain the necessary ingredients in the San Diego area so opened his own store. This situation changed in 1996 when he opened a small brewery in what was then a back room.
Both sides of the business went from strength to strength from then on in, with the brewery being expanded several times. This reached its culmination in 2004 when the major part of the brewing operation moved to Old Grove Road in another part of this massive city. The original brewery here in Linda Vista now operates as a source of speciality brews.
On entering the building I arrived in the store. There was loose malt of many different types on the right, the main counter straight in front and any manner of brewer's requisites on the left.
Beyond that I espied the bar and its huge selection of Ballast point beers. Just a few tall tables and some stools and that is it.
Of course it was possible to just take your beer and wander around the store which was very interesting.
Wahoo Wheat (4.0%) in the Belgian style with orange zest and coriander; Pale Ale (5.2%) is inspired by Kölsch style; Calico Amber Ale (5.5%), an American Red Ale; Big Eye IPA (7.0%) is an IPA in the American style; Sculpin IPA (7.0%), this is in the West Coast Style and a signature beer of this brewery. Black Marlin Porter is in the American style; Fathom IPL (7.0%) is Sculpin IPA made with lager yeast. Even Keel Session Ale (3.5%) is a highly-hopped low gravity beer; Longfin Lager (5.0%) is a German Helles type beer; Serrano Pale Ale (5.2%) is the standard Pale Ale with added Serrano Chillies.
Abandon Ship Smoked Lager (6.5%) is a Franconian type of Rauchbier and Habanero Sculpin (7.0%) is the IPA with Habanero peppers added. Brother Levonian Saison (5.7%) is a saison style beer with added herbs. San Salvador Black Lager (6.7%) has added local herbs and aromatics. Black Steamboat Lager (6.0%) is a beer in the Californian Common Style of San Francisco but Black.
As can been seen this is a very adventurous brewery indeed.
Where I was drinking was an outlet where customers brought their growlers (one half US gallon or a US gallon) for refilling before taking them home. Because of this half or full pints weren't available but three ounce tasters were.
For me, on a tour of breweries, this was good and I was able to sample some of the beers without spoiling myself for the rest of the day.
These are the beers I had and what I thought of them. Pale Ale had a light taste, was not very bitter, yet was a very pleasant summer beer. Calico Amber Ale was a good example of this style with medium bitterness. Big Eye IPA turned out to be very nice indeed being very bitter yet with no citrus flavour, a bit of an Old World IPA! Sculpin IPA was very good, true to the West Coast type. Fathom IPL was surprisingly good being both bitter and smooth. Black Marlin Porter had a black malt taste with a nice bitter aftertaste. I liked them all for different reasons.
Whilst sampling these beers and taking notes, I caught the attention of George Cataulin, the Manager. We got chatting and he gave me some samples of the other beers. This culminated in a small glass of a beer cocktail, a beer Bloody Mary. He explained that they made their own Bloody Mary mix which has some beer in it. It is a very popular take-away item from the brewery. I was so impressed that I bought a bottle as I always think a made up Bloody Mary is never quite as good as the prepared mixes you can buy in the USA, and this was the best yet. I was looking forward to trying it at home but it succumbed to an accident at a bus stop. What a waste!
As I was taking some photographs I aroused the interest of a fellow drinker. He turned out to be Roberto Albarrán the owner and brewer of the Border Psycho Brewery of Tijuana in Mexico, a city I had visited the previous day. He was visiting the Home Brew Mart shopping for ingredients. We had an interesting but short conversation during which he invited me to visit his brewery. If only I hadn't gone to Mexico the day before! I was leaving San Diego the next day, so it just wasn't possible. So many pubs (and breweries!), and so little time! This is a great place to visit, especially if you like to try many different varieties of beer.
The Ballast Point Tasting Room / Home Brew Mart,
5401 Linda Vista Road, Suite 406, San Diego, CA 92110. Tel: (619) 205 2337
Open: Monday to Friday 11.00-19.00; Saturday and Saturday 10.00-17.00
Moreno / Linda Vista station is on the Green Line of the San Diego Trolley. This commences at San Diego Old Town station so you have to get the Blue Line from Downtown and change. This seems strange but I believe it is only a temporary arrangement as the Green Line is now operated by new articulated vehicles and there has to be some civil engineering work in the city centre to allow them to traverse the sharp curves in the city's streets.
There are also some MTS buses that pass along Linda Vista Road.