Two visits to 10 Barrel, a local brewpub in search of a local mission

From www.sandiegouniontribune.com by Peter Rowe
Two visits to 10 Barrel, a local brewpub in search of a local mission

10 Barrel

On our first visit to 10 Barrel, the East Village brewpub was lively as a dentist’s waiting room. That Sunday afternoon, with the Padres playing at home, the Anheuser-Busch brewpub offered special beer deals. I didn’t see any takers.

Service was friendly, if confused. My Aztec pizza came to the table without two of the listed ingredients — pulled pork and Italian sausage.

“What happened?” I asked the waitress.

“I was wondering that, too,” she said.

Our second visit, last Saturday night, was more promising. Maybe a dozen patrons were downstairs, but the upstairs patio was packed. Service was friendly and efficient. The food — fish and chips, a spinach and Asian pear salad with grilled chicken — was good and corresponded to the menu’s description.

The beers from in-house brewer Ben Shirley were polished and interesting. His fresh hop ale, Clodhopper (6.2 percent alcohol by volume), was sweeter than expected but I enjoyed it. Misfires from my first visit — both Dawn Patrol, a summer ale, and Brick Dust, a red, tasted stale — had been replaced

Yet, despite some efforts to assimilate — Clodhopper, for instance, uses hops from Ramona’s Star B Ranch — this 10 Barrel doesn’t seem to have a clear mission.

Is it here to join the local craft beer scene? Parent company Anheuser-Busch denigrates and undermines other craft breweries.

Is it here to please Bud Light fans? For that crowd,10 Barrel’s brews are too extreme.

Or is it, as the online ads say, bringing a taste of Bend — 10 Barrel’s home town — to San Diego? If that’s the case, it’s doomed. In a city that’s proud of its brewing heritage, was anyone clamoring for more beers from central Oregon?

Top 10, Revised

My apologies, sorta, to Karl Strauss.

In February, I calculated that San Diego County breweries now produce more than 1 million barrels of beer each year. While this is accurate, the figure given for Karl Strauss was way off.

(I had quoted an anonymous former brewery employee: “About 48,000.” I now know that’s a mistake, but who’s to blame? At the time, Karl Strauss officials declined to share production figures.)

Recently I stumbled across a report from Brewers Association, a trade group, giving 2016 figures for all U.S. craft breweries. This included Karl Strauss: 78,618.

Using Brewers Association figures, the county’s 10 largest craft breweries are:

1. Stone: 346,000

2. Green Flash: 91,040

3. Karl Strauss: 78,618

4. Modern Times: 40,500

5. Coronado: 39,095

6. AleSmith: 35,000

7. Pizza Port — Bressi Ranch: 32,250

8. Mother Earth: 30,000

9. Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey: 14,500

10. Mission: 12,781

That’s 719,784 barrels — before we add Ballast Point’s 430,917 and Saint Archer’s 27,925. The Brewers Association doesn’t consider these local breweries “craft” because they are owned by out-of-town corporations.

Craft or non-craft, the county’s 12 biggest breweries sold 1,178,626 barrels, each barrel holding 31 gallons. Factor in the area’s other 140 breweries, with anywhere from 12,100 (Belching Beaver) to 500 barrels (Helm’s) or less, and it's clear that San Diego floats on an ocean of beer.

Is Helm’s Sunk?

A recent listing on BizQuest.com’s “breweries for sale” page: five-year-old Helm’s Brewing.

Shoppers are advised the whole operation is on the block: the headquarters/brewery/tasting room in a Kearny Mesa industrial park and the tasting room on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach.

The asking price: $500,000.

Kings of Beer

Oktoberfest beers have a bad rap in San Diego. Malt-forward beers aren’t a natural fit in our hop-forward town, and imported German festbiers often are past their prime when they land on our shores.

But even fest skeptics should try Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest 2017 (6.1 percent alcohol by volume). A collaboration with Germany’s Brauhaus Miltenberger, this amber lager is as crisp and delightful as a leaf-peeping tour. The toffee-ish malts and spicy hops are lifted by just the right amount of carbonation.

This Oktoberfest has more body and more sophistication than last week’s King, Green Flash’s GBF (4.8 percent). Every beer has a season, even in seasonless San Diego. When the time comes, ditch the blonde ales and grab something fuller, more colorful and with a crisp edge. Just like fall — in some parts of the country.

Best of the Week, Local

Tucked inside the San Diego Zoo’s Lost Forest, Albert’s Restaurant is an inspired location for Saturday’s dinner featuring the beers of Thorn Street Brewery. The first of three main courses will be served at 6:45 p.m., but don’t miss the 6 p.m. reception with “animal ambassadors.”

The cost is $96.22. Tickets are available at zoo.sandiegozoo.org.

Twitter: @peterroweut

peter.rowe@sduniontribune.com

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