Spoiler alert: you will leave this place full, perhaps uncomfortably so, due to their vast beer selection and tasty barbecue. Some friends and I piled into the car for the drive out to the brew pub and tasting room in Alpine, which really isn’t as far away as you think it is. Reed and I had been there once before and returned home with two growlers, one each since we couldn’t agree. It seems there are not many Alpine beers that novices like me enjoy that my beer snob friends do too, and vice versa. The friends I went with focused their attention mostly on the large (even by San Diego standards) range of IPAs including west coast doubles and even a triple (Pure Hoppiness and Exponential Hoppiness, respectively) and a golden rye (the apparently excellent standby Nelson). If you’ve read any of my other posts you will know that, for me, hoppiness does not equal happiness. However, that hardly slows me down at Alpine; Reed ended up being the designated driver because there were so many things that I really enjoyed, especially the Willy Vanilly, a wheat ale made with vanilla extract.
Reed and I did both enjoy the McIlhenney’s Irish Red and we all enjoyed the Token, an imperial hazelnut porter, which Reed reported got even tastier as it warmed up and the bourbon flavors emerged. Mine was already long gone so I couldn’t confirm it, but we did buy some bottles of this limited edition release so I can test this out for myself. There were 15 beers on tap out of the 29 listed in their descriptive handout, and some that were not offered the day we went sound amazing. You can bet that I will be checking back to find out when they’ve got Ned (a red ale aged in red wine barrels!), Crazy Hazel (a hazelnut brown ale), Odin’s Raven (a Russian Imperial Stout made with Hershey’s syrup, agave, brown sugar and molasses!) and their barleywines Good and Great (which is Good aged in whiskey barrels).
There’s is the most ingenious way of keeping tasters organized – you make a numbered list of what you want ($2 each or 6 for $10) and they bring out the 5oz glasses in a numbered cupcake tin. This is easy on everybody as you don’t have to remember what you ordered or which is which and the server doesn’t get harassed when you inevitably forget.
The brew pub is basically a bbq restaurant, with such staples as pulled pork, ribs and sweet potato fries, plus Alpine beers on tap. It is in east county so the average clientele is different from what I’m used to, what with the cowboy hats and pickup trucks, but we can all get behind the idea of well made beer, right? In addition to tasters, you can order pints and pitchers and they also do a bunch of mixtures which I find very intriguing. I had one that was their Mandarin Nectar (honey ale) and almond champagne that was fantastic and tasted like dessert. Other mixtures are of two of their beer varieties, for example there’s the “Captain-n-Vanille” which is Captain Stout and Willy Vanilly and “The Red Head Bites” mixes Irish Red and Pure Hoppiness.
Separate from the brew pub, but in the same building, is the brewery itself, where you can get small tasters for $1.50 and purchase 22oz bottles, growler fills ($10 for the glass, $10-13 for the fill) as well as goodies like t-shirts and pint glasses.
Many Alpine beers are on tap at the usual places (O’Brien’s, Toronado, Ritual Tavern) so I’m unlikely to drive out to the brewery itself more than a couple times a year, but it is worth doing. I am really quite amazed at how many beers they make and distribute throughout the county, considering that the whole operation fits into a quaint little building out in Alpine.
|The gang, after a few.