Like many San Diego hopheads, the beerandburritos staff has for more than a year been anxiously awaiting the opening of Alpine Beer Company’s brewpub next to their brewery in Alpine. As a subscriber to Alpine’s e-mail newsletters, we have read the updates about all the trials and tribulations of getting a new business open, eagerly reading each new message in hopes that it would finally give information about an opening date.
Then on Wednesday of this week we got a new e-mail from Alpine and, buried under a lengthy announcement about a dinner and food pairing at the Viejas casino, was this casual mention:
The Alpine Beer Company’s pub hours are 11AM to 10PM Tuesday through Thursday, 11AM to 12PM Friday and Saturday, 10AM to 9PM Sunday, CLOSED Mondays. Our tap list includes Willy, Willy Vanilly, Mandarin Nectar, McIlhenney’s Irish Red, Captain Stout, Tuatara, Hoppy Birthday, Duet, Nelson, Pure Hoppiness, Ned and 2 versions of Great. We first released Great in 2005 and then again in 2009, we have both draft versions on right now (yes we saved a keg all that time). We’ll be releasing vintage beers as time goes on, Briscoe, Chez Monmee and Chez Monieux, and 12 oz. bottles of Great. The menu is bbq themed and is really good, I would not say so if it weren’t true.
Wait, what? You mean it’s open?
Turns out the pub opened on Tuesday with little (e.g. no) fanfare.
So on Friday afternoon we left coastal San Diego, where it was 67 degrees, and drove 30 miles east to Alpine, where it was 80 degrees. Because the pub had just opened, we expected a big crowd, and we expected that the place would still be working through things and there might be some glitches.
Turns out we were half right.
The first thing we noticed about the pub was its size. It’s a small place, smaller than expected. With kind of bright lighting and a checkerboard tile floor, it also looks more like a diner than a pub. There are about a dozen seats at the bar, which sort of looks like a lunch counter, and some tables with a couple dozen more seats. One count put the total number of seats in the place at 40. And there’s not a whole lot of additional standing room. The barstools are bolted in, and don’t give a lot of legroom if you’re taller than, say, 5-5. While there was a steady stream of people during the couple hours we were there, the place never got overly crowded, and there were always seats available.
The decor consists of some large, nice mirrors with the Alpine logo etched on them, plus a bunch of signs with barroom homilies such as “Beauty is in the eye of the Beerholder” or the one about how beer helps ugly people get laid or whatever. There are also a couple signs for other area breweries, including Green Flash.
There was music in the form of classic rock from one of the Sirius stations, as well as a TV in the corner over the bar. When the Padres game started, a bartender turned the sound up on the TV but left the music playing. Beerandburritos doesn’t like competing noises like that.
The bathrooms are in a detached building out back, and it’s a little weird to have to walk outside to get to them. While we thought the men’s room was fine enough, Mrs. Beerandburritos said the women’s room had a lot of spiders in it, which wasn’t good for her arachnophobia.
As mentioned in the Alpine e-mail, the menu here is built around barbecue. It was created by a chef who moved to the area from Memphis, and he seems to know what he’s doing. The food is cheap — you can get a pulled pork, pulled chicken or brisket sandwich with cole slaw and a side dish for $5.95. Another patron said he’d gotten the pulled pork sandwich and that it was piled so high with pork that he had to eat it with a fork, and that it was delicious.
We tried to order the pulled pork but were told they had run out. So we ordered pulled chicken instead. Unfortunately, it seemed we got the bottom of the barrel of chicken, as there wasn’t very much on the bun and it was mostly skin rather than meat. We picked a lot of the skin out and the meat we had was OK, but because the skin had been rubbed with spices that included cayenne pepper, the sandwich was extremely hot and spicy. We were told that because their smoker is very small, they had run out of pulled chicken, too. Apparently they were using some other chicken instead, and we weren’t supposed to get the skin and it wasn’t supposed to be fiery hot. So we expected glitches and we got one. While it’s good to know that the sandwich wasn’t supposed to be like that, it’s disappointing that they would serve something that was obviously not right. And the fact they’d run out of pork and chicken by 6 p.m. on a day that wasn’t all that busy is a little disconcerting. On the upside, the baked beans, which had pulled pork in them, were very good. And Mrs. Beerandburritos liked her cole slaw and french fries.
Of course, the best thing about this place is the beer. It was really cool to see so many Alpine tap handles in one place, and to know that all the beers would be fresh. We had some Tuatara session ale, Duet IPA, Nelson IPA, 2005 Great and Ned (the Flanders red), and all were delicious. The beers are mostly $4.50 a pint, with $1 off during happy hour. They also have some wine and champagne, as well as Coors Light for the locals who like barbecue but not good beer. They don’t do growler fills at the pub, but you can buy bottles to-go at the same price you’d pay at the brewery next door, so that’s nice.
Overall we really liked the place, and think it will just get better over time. The servers were very friendly and it was easy to get their attention when our glasses got empty. The employees and other patrons we chatted with also were nice and seemed happy to be there. While the food was a disappointment this time, we will give them a pass because the place is still so new, and will be happy to go back and eat there again soon.