Oct. 15 2013 03:59 PM

Mike Hess Brewing and Thorn St. Brewery battle for best kid-friendly tasting room

Darcy at Thorn Street
Thorn St. Brewery is family-friendly, with games and books for young children.
Photo by Joshua Emerson Smith

Babies are hip. San Diego has throngs of 30-year-old moms and dads to prove it. You can see these young families during the day on Adams Avenue, strolling through a street fair or browsing in a South Park bookstore. But what about at night? Hipster parents cannot survive on espresso alone. Thankfully, many imbibing establishments in the city allow children on their premises until 8 p.m. However, that doesn't mean parents won't draw sideways glances from that couple of 25-year-olds for whom a fussy kid may disillusion the magic of the mating ritual.

For you sleep-deprived, entertainment-starved, newly minted parents, I searched the city for the best baby-friendly neighborhood brewery. There are two that rise to the top:

Mike Hess Brewing's North Park tasting room (3812 Grim Ave., ) is brand-spanking new and offers a commodious setup in which to try its lineup of well-crafted beers. The one-story tasting room allows easy access for strollers. Inside, tall tables and chairs are arranged nicely throughout the room, allowing for a free flow of traffic. Toddlers have a decent amount of room to move around, and games are available to please both adults and children. 

One drawback is that seating isn't perfect for small kids. A slip off one of those tall chairs would make for a long fall onto a hard floor. On the flip side, the seating is the perfect height to peer into an adjacent stroller. 

A food tent is often set up with delicious eats that pair perfectly with what's on tap. If you don't tell your kids they're eating pork belly, they'll love it. The scene tends to get younger later in the evening, but everyone's usually courteous and behaved.

Also in North Park, Thorn St. Brewery (3176 Thorn St.) has catered to parents and kids from its inception, offering games and children's books. At some point, it actually had to scale back on the games as happily buzzed patrons were slipping on Legos and Jenga blocks. 

On two floors, the cozy establishment can get packed. But a good portion of the clientele usually is of the child-toting variety, so parents rarely feel out of place, even if they're dealing with the occasional meltdown. There's a side entrance for strollers and a place to park them as visitors haul their brood up the stairs to the couches on the second floor. 

The rotating food trucks outside do kid-friendly vittles, such as grilled-cheese sandwiches, pizza and french fries. If you're not lucky enough to get a seat upstairs, you might end up leaving. But if you secure a coveted couch-nook with some good friends and your wee ones, you're set for the afternoon. 

The winner: While both establishments set a benchmark as baby-friendly breweries, it's Thorn St. that rises above—not so much for the amenities it offers, but for the atmosphere. The establishment has crafted a kid-friendly vibe with as much care as they put into the delicious suds.

Write to joshuas@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on twitter at @jemersmith.


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