Okay, I’m late to the party on this one (I actually had to do some work this week), but I see that Hop Talk started a thread on the 5 Essentials for a good brewpub and a bunch of you have chimed in with your opinions, so I thought I’d add mine to the mix — just with a “blonde girl from San Diego” twist.
- Good Patrons — The patrons create their own atmosphere. I’ve been in beautiful pubs and ugly ones. Ultimately, I always prefer the one with the best crowd. One of my favorite brewpubs is Pizza Port, Solana Beach. It’s small, crowded, furnished with beaten up picnic tables, and the walls are lined surfboards, random pictures, paper, gum and god only knows what — but the patrons there are some of the best. Five minutes in there and you feel like your a member of one big, loud family. Always a great time.
- A good patio area — Here in San Diego it’s pretty much one weather report year round (“late night early morning low clouds clearing to afternoon sunshine with highs at the coast in the mid to upper 70’s; inland and mountains in the mid 80’s”). When you’ve got weather like this, you don’t want to be in some dark building, you want to be outdoors enjoying a pint and soaking up the sun. A brewpub with a big patio area where you can people watch is the best.
- Good local beer (including its own) — Hop Talk’s Al wrote “serves only its own beer” and “good beer”, but I disagree with the first part. Here in San Diego the brewers are all pretty good friends and go to great lengths to help each other out. Pizza Port was the first to carry Stone Brewing’s beer on tap way back in the 90’s, and still does today. And Stone has Port’s (and every other local brewer’s beer) on tap in their tasting room and bistro (Stone also distributes everybody’s beer for them — how cool is that?). In fact, you walk into any of the brewpubs here in San Diego County and you’re going to find a tap and bottle list that reads like a directory of “Who’s Brewing in San Diego” — AleSmith, Alpine Beer Company, Ballast Point Brewing, Green Flash Brewing, Lost Abbey / Port Brewing, Oceanside Ale Works, San Diego Brewing Co., and so on — It’s all there and it’s all good. Why limit yourself to the handful of brews of the brewpub when you can experience the whole region from the same place?
- Friendly and helpful staff — I don’t think that every waitress on staff has to be some sort of “Beer sommelier” (especially if there’s a lot of beers on tap and they change regularly), but being friendly and knowing who on staff to ask about a particular beer or style is really important to me for a good brewpub experience. If you’re the bartender, manager or owner on the other hand, I expect you not only to know the beer, but also drink with me. 😉
- Good Food — I don’t care if it’s just snacks and appetizers or full meals, if I’m going to be enjoying a few beers, I want some decent food to go along with it. Not just because food helps absorb some of the alcohol, but eating and drinking with friends is a big part of the social experience of the brewpub to me. (I also don’t mind if you buy the food.)
There you go, that’s my two cents worth. See you at the brewpub!