In my quest to visit every brewery in the San Diego county area (not really, but I do enjoy it), I had the opportunity to go to Ballast Point Brewing Company in Little Italy. This is a very nice section of town where I perpetually feel underdressed, but never outclassed. There are some good eateries and, in this case, a brewery. It’s kind of tucked away at the end of the main drag down there, but definitely worth the “search.” Walking in, I was immediately carded by a tall tatted hipster with dreadlocks, which I chalked up to their having to watch for under aged youths trying to sneak in there after a night downtown. Inside, I was met by basically a warehouse with a bar at the front and tons of tables.
As you can see from the pictures above, there is quite a bit of space in there and more than enough people to fill it. Having the bar right in front of the door is not the best layout in the world, as the backup at the bar tends to block the entrance to the place a bit. I get it from a marketing perspective, though: people see a crowd at the bar, line out the door, they think, “This is a happenin’ place.” Now, I don’t know who says “happenin'”, but you get the idea.
The bar wraps around to the right, where they have a small-ish food counter, offering up choices of bar food like chicken strips, wings, chips & salsa, and the like. Around the bend to the left and behind the bar by the bathrooms are their display cases, in which they have for sale things like t-shirts and glasses. Not über convenient, or good for sales (I would think), but still nice to have a piece of the brewery to take home, if you should so choose.
Now, onto the beer! I ordered 3 tasters: the Sea Monster Imperial Stout, Piper Down Scottish Ale, and the Tongue Buckler Imperial Red Ale. The imperial stout was as you would expect. It poured a dark brown, with limited off white head. It was only limited because it was just a taster and didn’t have the depth in the glass to develop more. I caught noticeable coffee notes coming from the glass, with some heavy malty tones. The taste was much the same. I tasted bitter chocolate, coffee, and malt with a hefty alcohol kick at 10% abv. I then moved to the Scottish ale. This one poured a very bright red-orange color, with bright white head that was almost completely dissipated. I expected a sour smell, similar to a Belgian ale, but what I got was more on the sweet and malty side. The taste was heavy on the malts and the carbonation was fairly light. The aftertaste was one of bitter hoppiness. Overall, a very mild choice. Third on the list was the red ale. This one poured similar to the Scottish ale, but a little darker with a more quickly-dissipating head. The minute I put my nose over the rim of the glass, I was almost knocked back by the hops shooting out of the glass. This gave me pause before tasting it. When I did, I was immediately hit by the huge floral hop flavor. This didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would and I was rewarded for going back for more after the maltiness aftertaste settled on my tongue and throat to cool the hoppy bite.
I was going to stop there, but then I saw what turned out to be the crown jewel of my visit to Ballast Point; one for which I waited over 10 minutes back in line at the bar. The Sextant Oatmeal Stout is hands down the best stout I have ever had. Naturally, they serve this from a nitro tap, which according to their website, causes carbonation with tiny bubbles and a richness unlike any other. This makes for a velvety smooth and surprisingly light drink. It is a super dark beer, with just a hint of red tint when held up to the light. The head is like that of a root beer float. What fragrance was able to make its way to my nose was full of mild chocolatey flavors. The taste– oh, the taste. It was like straight cream at first, with a cool milky sensation on my tongue. Rich chocolate followed this, with coffee and just the slightest bit of hoppy bitterness. A very light beer, I would gladly enjoy this beer anytime.