4542 30th Street, North Park
With hundreds of events going on throughout the county over a ten-day span, San Diego Beer Week was a blast, but the following week was actually far more exciting from a beer news standpoint. There was so much going on that, in one 24-hour span between Friday and Saturday afternoon, I found myself at four new and upcoming brewery venues. The first of that quartet set the tone and energized me for the journey behind inspiring beers and brilliant execution of an ambitious brewer’s passion project. That first stop was the newly opened Fall Brewing Company (4542 30th Street, North Park).
I showed up on the second day of a soft-open period that, while rather covert, still drew many a San Diego beer enthusiast over the weekend. A cursory scan of the former automotive repair facility turned up many members of the local brewing glitterati. (These folks sport brewery logo tees and shorts for the most part, but make no mistake, they’re a big deal.) There was a nice buzz that matched the simple yet effective décor — a nice, L-shaped bar with various surfaces, a rail bar dividing the tasting room from the brewhouse and cellar areas, an equal-parts adorable and creepy plush Humpty Dumpty from a local artist (he had a great “fall”…get it?), and greenery enhanced fixtures on the south wall. Throw in a basic yet brilliant façade with big windows and a roll-up garage door, and it’s the best looking cinder block-based building I’ve come across. It’s no wonder owner and brewmaster Ray Astamendi was in such good spirits. There’s a lot to be proud of at this, the first of three local breweries he’s helped get off the ground, and the first where he’s calling all the shots.
Before coming by, Astamendi told me his beers still needed some work, but after tasting my way through them, they should already serve as sources of pride. I can’t imagine how an India pale ale called Spirit of 77, a 7.3% alcohol-by-volume revelation pouring forth with a plethora of citrus aromas and juiciness, could get much better. Astamendi may not be looking to be known for his IPA, but with something this tasty, he just may be relegated to that fate. Also delicious is a naturally carbonated, unfiltered zwickelbier called Plenty For All. At 4.9% ABV, it’s an easy-drinking California common-pilsner hybrid made “in the kellerbier style” that’s positively delightful with nuances of citrus and straw, and an herbaceous, sage-like bitterness in the finish. They are the standouts, but a very dry English-style brown ale is also nice and a stout — the first Astamendi has ever developed — has room for improvement, but zero technical flaws. All in all, it’s a stellar early showing for a much-anticipated project that came together very nicely.
As a bonus, on my way through the tasting room, I bumped into Paul Sangster, the co-owner and brewer at San Marcos’ Rip Current Brewing Company. He generously invited me to the site of his combination tasting room and restaurant several blocks down 30th Street. A short car ride later, we were making our way through the unlit interior of what, even in the dark, seems poised to emerge as an asset to the North Park community. Over a plastic cup full of Lupulin Lust IPA, we toured the spacious main tasting room area, a big tunnel of a cold box, unfinished restrooms, and a rather large kitchen space that will be the run of Sublime Ale House owner James Limjoco. There wasn’t a ton to see, but in the hopes a picture is actually worth a thousand words, one is included here. Tune back in tomorrow for more on my 24 hours of new brewery exploration.