San Diego County's over 4500 square miles. I'm not sure how it measures north to south or east to west, but I know it's too far to Uber. I also know there are a lot of miles between the hundred-plus breweries scattered from Oceanside to Ramona, from Julian to Coronado, and driving to them means somebody has to drive back sober from them.
3683 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest
Trying to keep up with breweries across the county can be fun for a weekend here or there — and I love that Beer News gives me an excuse to do it — but most of the time drinking local means within a couple miles of home. Which is why it makes my life easier to have the Brew Project open up in Hillcrest.
The locals-only bar, restaurant, and bottle shop focuses exclusively on San Diego breweries, making it a reliable place to find beers I might normally have to drive 30 miles to taste. This is particularly helpful for special releases. According to most breweries' Twitter accounts, there are interesting limited releases every weekend in some far-flung end of the county or another — Vista, Miramar, Chula Vista — I just don't typically have the time to go try them.
15378 Avenue of Science #222, Carmel Mountain
Case in point: the Mounds Tabula Rasa by Second Chance Beer Company out of Rancho Bernardo. Or is it on the Carmel Mountain Ranch side of the border? Either way, it's a long ride from my place in South Park for a special release, and like so many interesting beers it could come and be gone before I make my way to North County.
Featuring cocoa and coconut, Mounds is clearly named for the candy bar. It debuted on the Brew Project's opening day tap list, and bartenders counted it among the most popular. Second Chance is also new — hardly two months old — but I'm already a fan of the standard Tabula Rasa, a nicely balanced porter made with toasted oats and pleasing chocolate notes.
But the cocoa in the Mounds really takes the chocolate to the next level. Its aroma evokes hot chocolate, and the first sip delivers in spades. The coconut establishes a bigger presence as you continue to drink but remains relatively subdued, content to sit below the surface of the darkly rich chocolate.
This was a great beer to catch on tap a short distance from home. Beside it were other tasty selections from Oceanside's Bagby, Sorrento Valley's New English and Abnormal Beer Co. (that one's definitely in Rancho Bernardo).