Category Archives: Bar talk

Urge, but no overkill

On Sunday we went to Urge, a new “American gastropub” that opened a week ago and is tucked away in a Rancho Bernardo strip mall, and we are happy to give the place a hearty thumbs-up.

Urge has 50 beers on tap, plus a cask, and the offerings were very good, including Pliny the Elder, Racer X, Festina Peche, Old Viscosity, Sierra Nevada Brown, a cask of Stone IPA with coriander and dozens more.

Urge also has an impressive bottle list, with prices that range from good to outstanding. For example, they have 22-oz bottles of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout for $9, which is cheaper than retail. Same with Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous IPA, which was selling for $4 for a 22-oz bottle, which is also less than retail. Here’s hoping those prices continue and aren’t mistakes.

The food menu is light on healthy options and heavy on burgers, but they are fancy burgers and the food we had was  good. Mrs. Beerandburritos had the Welsh Rarebit and liked it a lot, and our BBQ Bacon Burger (with bacon that had been soaked in Pliny) was tasty.

The bar area is large and airy, with high ceilings and plenty of seating. There’s also a good-sized dining area and a nice waiting space with overstuffed leather couches. It all has a quality, upscale feel but without being pretentious. And the prices were good overall.

Because Urge is 30 minutes from home, it’s not a place we’ll go often. But when we’re up that way, it’s definitely a good option.

You can find it at 16761 Bernardo Ctr. Dr., San Diego, CA 92128.

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Alpine brewpub – open for business

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.

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Automatic has a website

Automatic Brewing Co., which is run by Blind Lady owner Lee Chase, finally has a website of its own.

The brewery, which sits inside Blind Lady, makes pretty small batches. It’s a nanobrewery, not micro. I think Lee once told me that the batches are 1/100 the size of what he used to brew when he was at Stone Brewing.

Automatic released its first brew, a Belgian pale ale called Automatic, in early 2009.  It recently released “Chocolate Rain, Too,” an oatmeal stout and another batch of that is brewing now.

We look forward to trying more beers from this place.

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Please make me stop going here

morena-club2

Every time I go to the Morena Club, I wake up the next morning and swear I’m never going there again. But then a couple-three weeks pass and I find mice elf going back for more.

There are many things about the Morena Club that draw me to it and/or push me away. It’s convenient for where I live, but it’s in a somewhat sketchy block. There’s a trailer park nearby, and I’ve seen some shady characters by the apartments around the corner. I regularly read the police reports for the area, and there are frequent arrests for assault, public intoxication, DUI and narcotics abuse in the block where the club is located.

Parking in the Morena Club lot can be a little dicey when it comes time to leave because you have to back out onto busy Morena Boulevard. (Could that be why there are a lot of DUI arrests?) Parking around the corner can be dicey because of the aforementioned shady characters.

morena-club1

The place is a dive bar with a smidgen of attitude. During the day or early evening, a jukebox supplies the music and TVs show the Padres or other sports, or perhaps some animated porn. At night they sometimes have DJs who play hip hop, or maybe reggae, or maybe ’80s stuff. There’s always a good chance you’ll hear “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth. It can get a little crowded after 11 p.m. if there’s a DJ, but otherwise is usually pretty empty.

The bartenders often seem buzzed, or will unabashedly tell you they are hammered. The hot female bartender has been known to strike suggestive poses on the bar or pool table. Once when we were there Mrs. Beerandburritos saw her flash her boobs to a customer, but I missed it. If he’s drunk, the male bartender might buy a round of shots for you — and him.

The beer selection is nothing to get excited about. They have Stone Pale Ale, but it always tastes a little funny. They also have stuff like Bass and Stella Artois and Budweiser.

I’m not sure why I keep going back. Maybe it’s the slightly dangerous undercurrent. Maybe it’s hope that this time it will be better, or that this time I’ll see the bartender’s boobs. Whatever, I’m sure I’ll be there again soon.

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Wet hop heaven

If I were to pick a favorite beer-drinking day from 2007, it would have to be the wet hop festival at O’Brien’s. Regular readers of this blog (hi, grandpa!) know that I love wet hop beers, and the lineup at O’Brien’s last year was simply outstanding.

This year’s wet hop weekend might not top last year’s because of the hop shortage and all, but it still promises to be darn good.

According to O’Brien’s owner Tom Nickel, this year’s wet hop action will happen Oct. 24-26 and feature about 20 wet hop beers, including several casks. See you there!

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Slow ride

The other night Mrs. Beer & Burritos and I popped in to The Linkery in North Park and found one of the more unusual beer lists around, along with perhaps the highest beer prices I’ve ever seen.

The Linkery is a different kind of place. It does the whole slow food thing, for one. It also has an unusual tipping policy where they automatically add 18 percent to your bill whether you want them to or not, and if you want to tip more than that, it goes to charity.

We didn’t eat there so I can’t comment on the food, but we did drink. The place has six taps and when we were there, two were devoted to Ballast Point Sea Monster Stout — one regular, one cask-conditioned. The other taps featured Alesmith Nautical Nut Brown, Trumer Pils, Green Flash Trippel and another Belgian-style brew. No pale ales were available, Indian or otherwise. The draft beers are sold in 5-, 10- and 15-ounce glasses, with the large glass going for about $7.50 for most brews. That’s at least $3 more than you’d pay for 16 ounces of the same thing at most beer bars around town.

Then there was their bottle list, which had some nice selections at amazingly high prices. A bottle of Alesmith IPA, which goes for about $4 at your average bottle shop, was available for $13.50. A bottle of Alesmith Speedway Stout, which costs $10 at a store, was available for $23. A bottle of barrel-aged Speedway Stout, admittedly a rarity, could be had for $38. A relative bargain was the excellent and pretty hard to find 2006 Alesmith Winter Yulesmith, which was available for $12.50. Why a bottle of two-year-old, limited-edition beer costs $1 less than a bottle of brand new, commonly available Alesmith IPA makes no sense to me.

We had a couple draft beers and a bottle of the 2006 Yulesmith and they all were good. One problem, though, was that the service was very slow. With each round we sat with empty glasses for several minutes before we were able to catch a bartender’s attention. I understand slow food, but slow beer? Getting the check took a bit of time and effort as well. I have to wonder if the poor service is a result of the automatic tipping policy.

It’s cool that The Linkery is trying to do something different, but I won’t go back unless I have a lot of extra time (and money) to spend.

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Sierra Nevada Super 7

With 50 taps, some award-winning house brews and my favorite bartender in town (Tyson), the San Diego Brewing Co. is always worth going to. And if you go there this week, you can try a special release from Sierra Nevada, an imperial pilsner called Super 7.

Here’s some background on Super 7, courtesy of Brewsky at the Bar:

Sierra Super 7 was brewed at Beer Camp #1, a program in which bar owners are invited to Chico to tour the Sierra Nevada brewery and develop a recipe to be brewed in Sierra’s 10-barrel pilot brewery. Super 7 will be on tap at the Beer Camp participating bars: San Diego Brewing Co. and its sister restaurants, Callahan’s and Jose O’Reilly’s in San Diego and JJ Brewsky’s in Camarillo. Tavern Service Co. in Northridge will be selling kegs.

The beer was named for all the “7”‘s that kept popping up during planning and brewing this beer, including the final ABV of 7.77 percent.

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