If you are ever in San Diego, you absolutely need to make the 40 minute drive out to Alpine, California. I am even going to be so bold as to say if you are in Los Angeles, it is well worth the 2 hour and 45 minute drive to experience the Alpine Beer Company in all its glory.
My husband and I spent the beginning of June on a brewery tour of the Los Angeles/San Diego area. Steve’s itinerary (he is an engineer, after all) had us visiting 7 different breweries, including some big names like the Bruery, Firestone Walker, and Stone. However, I am here to tell you that my favorite brewery, by far, was Alpine. The atmosphere, beer selection, and attitude were right up my alley. So while I wasn’t planning to review any of the breweries or beer and simply enjoy my vacation, I feel that Alpine deserves, no; needs to be reviewed. Let’s begin…
We entered the Alpine Brewing Company Pub at 11:00 right as it opened. We chose a seat at the bar, with its diner-like stools and counter. The bartender, Danielle, was playing a little Jane’s Addiction Pandora, which set a great vibe right from the start. I immediately had to use the restroom and was directed outside. The restrooms are in a little white building, past the patio and up some stairs. At first, I couldn’t believe that you would have to walk outside to use the bathroom, but then I realized this wasn’t Cleveland and all of my fear and rationale for not going outside were instead made enjoyable. The weather was beautiful. The patio looked like a drinking haven and there are plans in the works to turn that area into a beer garden.
Steve and I each ordered 6 samples from the beer list that housed 8 Alpine tap handles and the ability for 2 guest handles. (Don’t quote me on these numbers. I really wasn’t planning to review so didn’t take notes or pictures.) The samples came in muffin tins. This simple decorating decision was such a great idea and helped me enjoy the atmosphere even more. It was also Taco Tuesday, so we ordered tacos for our lunch. While we were enjoying our beers, more people began coming in for lunch. As the bartender surveyed the customers, she modified the music selection to fit everyone. I appreciate this small bit of thoughtfulness. Her quick-thinking and willingness to make the consumer happy just shows that Alpine goes out of its way for the people.
When you order samples from only one brewery, there is the inherent possibility that some will be good, some may be average, and one may be outstanding. That is not meant to sound demeaning or negative, but simply a fact. Not many breweries can achieve greatness with all of their beers. However, I believe that Alpine did just that. I am going to do my best to review the 6 beers that I sampled without the use of any notes and relying on my memory from over 3 weeks ago. While this may seem like a feat, this brewery made such an impression on me that I feel like I was just there yesterday and really want to fly out there again today.
- Willy Vanilly - Alpine makes a sessionable wheat ale named Willy (I didn’t order it, but Steve did and I tasted it). It is pretty light and refreshing and was a great start to our journey through Alpine beers. Willy Vanilly (which I ordered due to its musical reference) was a vanilla cake extravaganza. I’m sure that it wouldn’t be for everyone and I probably couldn’t drink too many, but it did exactly what it was supposed to. Drinking this took me back to a 10-year old’s birthday cake. You know that one with the perfect amount of frosting to cake ratio. I gulped this one down with pure joy and happiness.
- Nelson – Nelson is a 7% rye ale. It uses Nelson Sauvin hops, which makes it smooth and delicious. I have had this one before from a bottle, but it is the real deal on tap. Just a smooth hoppy beer that quenches my thirst and has hoppy goodness and malty balance that I love.
- Pure Hoppiness - Alpine’s own website has made the IBUS classified on this beer. It is simply a hop bomb. This DIPA comes in around 8% ABV and has that West-Coast pure goodness that I can’t get enough of. This may be my favorite Alpine beer, although I am saddened to say that I haven’t had the opportunity to taste Existential Hoppiness yet.
- Bad Boy – And then I had Bad Boy. Alpine knows how to make IPAs and DIPAs. They are all just amazing. While this is listed as another West-Coast DIPA by Alpine, there is a uniqueness between its flavor and Pure Hoppiness. Having them side-by-side it was evident that while different, they are both winners. This may also be my favorite Alpine beer.
- Chez Monieux - This Belgian Kriek had a fabulous cherry flavor. It helped cleanse my palate a bit after the huge IPAs and bring that hop flavor down. The sweetness and tartness were well-balanced and made this an easy drinker. While this was probably my least favorite beer of the day, it still was very good and I would rate it very highly for a kriek.
- Odin’s Raven – Great Odin’s Raven! This beer was amazing. We were fortunate to be at Alpine while they had this bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout on tap and while they were bottling it. Dark, rich, thick, a bit boozy. Just a perfect combination for what I want out of a BBA Stout.
Alas, after all of these samples and eating two ginormous tacos, my belly was too full for anything else and we made our departure. I know that no matter what it takes, I will find my way back to the Alpine Beer Company. Amazing beer, fun atmosphere, great people! What more can you ask for?