Sunday, April 30, 2006


Pizza Port Pints

There are three Pizza Port brewpubs in Southern California; you will find them in San Clemente, Carlsbad and Solana Beach.

The one in Solana Beach is said to be the most interesting beerwise, and it is also easily reached by public transport, situated just next to the Solana Beach Amtrak/Metrolink Station.

Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service will take you there in 2 hours from the Union Station in Los Angeles (and with San Diego only some 45 minutes away). Starting from the rather nice San Juan Capistrano station in Orange County, near one of the first missions in California, my 45 minute train trip set me back about 11 dollars one-way, but then the Amtrak tickets are quite flexible.

At first glance the place is a bit disappointing. Solana Beach is surfer territory, and the brewpub atmosphere is definitely young, with the carefree student attitude to go with it. To me that does not mean that the wooden long tables have to be dirty and full of trash. Self-service is ok enough (as long as they care to give back the right amount of change- if not, it just adds to the sloppy impression.) With no growlers available that day buying beer to take home was also not an option.

I had my first tasting of their magnificent Cuvée de Tomme at the Nacht van de Grote Dorst in Belgium with the brewer present- tasting it in the brewpub proved more difficult. However, the beers available (as well as the pizza) are all very good, and there are even a few high-quality guest beers on tap.

I tried Hops on Rye, Shark Attack Triple and SPF 15, with the latter turning out a favourite. Its deep rubyred colour and rich, cloying off-white foam looks appetizing, and the aroma is an interesting mix of caramel, spices and yeastiness. Sweet caramel flavours combine with a spicy, yeasty dryness towards the finish, and you will taste fruity flavours as well as some sour notes on the way. All in all, a very complex Belgian-style ale, a blend of Oudenaards Bruin and a saison.

Southern California has some pretty good ports for potent pints...

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