It’s noon on a warm Sunday, and I’ve just come from pinching produce at the Hillcrest Farmers Market to quench my thirst a flight at Hillcrest Brewing Company. It’s a journey of about twelve feet. As at the market itself, things are lively at the self-avowed World's First Gay Brewery. I spot a few fellow marketgoers at the bar and on the patio, and chat with a scattered mix of Hillcrest residents and tourists.
It’s a sportier crowd than I expected. Outside, an adult kickball team has come to drink after a game at Morley Field, just one of their rotating postgame locations. Inside, I tip a glass to The Brewskies, a ladies softball team sponsored by the brewery, who come back to home base as a postgame ritual.
A full bar, with guest beers and wines, separates the brewpub’s tables from its tanks, but I was here to visit the house beers. The most distinctive thing about Hillcrest Brewing may not be its sexual identity, but that its top seller is a scotch ale.
1458 University Avenue, Hillcrest
That would be the Banana Hammock scotch ale. Hillcrest Brewing is part of the Mo’s Universe of restaurants and bars, which has invested heavily in curating commercial spaces to Hillcrest’s gay community, including cheeky establishments such as Baja Betty’s and Gossip Grill. Innuendo has long thrived at Mo’s establishments, in the guise of campy cocktail names, and here the tradition continues. Core beers include Perle Necklace pale ale (highlighting perle hops), and the Long and Stout stout. Which brings me back to Banana Hammock, and whether or not there’s anything to read into the fact it’s got a 9-percent ABV.
Conventional wisdom says an IPA will most likely be a San Diego brewery’s top seller, but sometimes it just works out that a brewery’s best beers do well, regardless of style. Banana Hammock does so. It delivers sweetness in caramel and toffee malt flavors, but finishes with appealing dryness that effectively hides its potency. I look forward to future pints and the ensuing hired car home.
Another shade in my almost but not quite rainbow flight is the pale gold of Pride 2018, a collaboration beer with Ballast Point brewing in honor of the July 14, San Diego Pride Parade and weekend. I’m told it was made at the since retired Scripps Ranch Ballast Point. While I enjoyed a sulfuric, peppery notes, the cucumber makes it a little slick. Overall, it tastes fine, but the quality of the house beers exceed it.
It’s been more than a couple years since I last sat down to drink at Hillcrest Brewing, and I leave it with a much stronger impression this go-round. Which is good news, because I’m probably going to wind up getting involved with recreational team sports now that I know there are day beers in it for me.