With the weather heating up, what better way to celebrate than to head for where it is hottest? Way out east of San Diego is the town of Julian. Julian is home to some of the best apple pies you can find. They even have hard cider on offer, too. If beer is more your thing, there was a cool jailhouse-turned brewery and tasting room called Nickel Beer Co. just off the main drag in town. A quaint green brick building on the outside, the inside had the same green brick and lacquered wood paneling everywhere. An open beam ceiling exposed some insulation and ducting that was sprayed black. There was an iron stove to the left of the front door and a very small tasting bar to the right. One room at the back right of the place was a jail cell that was converted to a game room, with a foosball table as the main attraction. There was an inexplicable pass-through window to the left of the door behind the stove that sat next to the door, with a shelf on which sat an impressive collection of beer steins. A pretty odd vibe to start with, but certainly nothing to keep me from getting a taste of what I came for.
As is my standard in a new place, I went with a flight. At Nickel, this comes in a muffin tin. This was the first time I had seen this and I thought was a pretty cool presentation, considering the rural locale. I started with Blair’s Not Bitter Fresh Hop Ale (4.1% abv): This beer poured amber with loose white head. It smelled mild and light. The taste was indeed mild and somewhat malty. With light body, there was just enough carbonation to keep things moving. It finished light and malty, despite the hoppy name. Not a real impressive beer overall.
Next, I tried C.C. O’Neill’s Irish Red (5.4% abv): It poured almost the same color amber as the hop ale with smooth white head. There was virtually no aroma. The taste was malty and mild. There was a little sweetness with just a hint of bitterness. Almost no hops came out to play in this one. The middle was mild and light. Lightly carbonated and light body, it finished malty sweet. Though better than the first, it was just ok.
I finished up with My Way Fresh Hop IPA (6.3% abv): It poured light golden in color, with thin white head that had some staying power. There was a heavy dose of hops on the smell, with some floral aromas and a little bitterness. The taste was smoother than the smell implied and was somewhat sweet at first. Fruitiness followed with some more bitterness into the middle. Light bodied and lightly carbonated, the middle was light, finishing with fruity and bitter flavors. Tasty, but not real dynamic.
Definitely a quaint brewery in a quaint area and worth a look.