March 1 2013 06:07 PM

Finally, a place where beer and air can coexist

Photo by Ian Cheesman

Walking into Societe Brewing's tasting room at noon is akin to arriving a bit too early for a party. All the heady anticipation you felt on the drive over slowly dissolves into the awkwardness of appearing overly eager for festivities to begin. Similarly, strolling into the cavernous tasting room when it is sparsely populated gives me the sense I'm stepping into a revelry vacuum, a space longing to be filled with craft-brew super-fans. Thankfully, it takes far more than a little awkwardness and shame to deter me from having a drink.

Societe's tasting room (8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in Kearny Mesa) is large enough to house dozens of people and accommodate everyone's desired configuration for carousing. Societe smartly kept its barstools tucked to one side of the bar so as not to impede incoming drink orders. This frees everyone from the uncomfortable practice of puncturing other patrons' space-bubbles with rapid gesticulations for a beer.

Little considerations like the streamlined thoroughfare to order beer are what make this place for me. For example, while I wouldn't make it common practice to drag my kid here, it's nice to know it's an option after the rigors of attending her friend's princess-themed birthday party nearby. I especially liked that the room supplied a small exterior patio, because enjoying beers against the backdrop of open sky is often prohibited by the alcohol licenses at these establishments. It's certainly preferable to sprinting with my pint to the nearest exit while evading securityís clutches.

Serving 3-ounce tasters for only a buck makes for an inexpensive and liver-friendly way to survey all the available taps, which covers a majority of the core Societe brews. I've previously been able to sample most of them while out and about at my favorite haunts, so I was quietly hoping for some experimental recipes or blends in their own house, but you'll not get any complaints out of me when I have a freshly poured The Apprentice in my hand. It's a resinous IPA with a faint biscuit-malt profile set against an onslaught of orange rind and herbal notes. It masks its 7.5-percent ABV pretty well, so be sure to grab a few refreshing gasps of that outdoor air between pints. 

Societe brews tend to favor India pale ales of various stripes and Belgian-inspired concoctions, so expect a variety of big flavors to emerge from the taps. It's an unusual combination, but it's hardly out of bounds for brewers with roots that extend back to The Bruery, a Placentia brewery that's notoriously freewheeling with ingredients and styles. My favorite of the bunch is The Widow, a Belgian strong ale I've previously cited as being one of the best in San Diego and a great representation of the style.

Societe Brewing is a distinctive and notable brewery worthy of your attention. It skillfully marries the hop-centric San Diego palate with the gentler (though no less nuanced) Belgian flavors, ensuring it will please a wide variety of tastes. If you love beer and old-timey mustaches in equal measure, it may well be your ultimate destination. 

Write to and Ian blogs at and you can follow him on Twitter @iancheesman.


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