Feb. 14 2014 06:41 PM

An old brewery learns new tricks

The hangar steak with the Gliderport Pale and Cove Stout
Ian Cheesman

The grand reopening of a restaurant usually guarantees little more than a change of ownership and a few fresh-faced servers. La Jolla Brewing Company (7536 Fay Ave.) has expanded on that by refreshing the restaurant interior, the brewer, the kitchen staff, the beers and the food. To have a start that's any fresher, they'd need to become a Laundromat.

I didn't frequent La Jolla Brewing Company (LJBC), so I can't account for how different things are, but significant thought clearly went into it. The new layout, apart from being quite spiffy (a real interior-design-industry term, rest assured), offers bars for carousing, booths for cramming and fire pits for lounging.

LJBC sports 24 taps, of which five will be inhabited by the brewery's own stable of beers. At the time of my visit, four of those were available, including the Neptune Nitro, Gliderport Pale, Bird Rock Brown and Cove Stout. Much like actual La Jolla residents, these beers have opted to live among well-established and highly accomplished neighbors—including outstanding beers from Deschutes, Great Divide and Lagunitas. San Diego breweries are also represented well, though mostly by our region's heaviest hitters (Stone Brewing, Green Flash, AleSmith, etc.).

The beer pricing is a little uneven. Five-ounce tasters of the house brands were reasonable at $2, though the incentive to upsell those is clear. On the flipside, $8 for a pint of Ballast Point Sculpin IPA made me wince a little. It's not outrageous (especially given the locale), but my inner cheapskate demanded I sound the alarm.

LJBC's house beers deliver what their descriptions promise, albeit in less robust form than most San Diego palates are accustomed to. The Neptune Nitro, with its aromas of cereal grains and bready sweetness, is delicate to the point of insignificance. It's not terribly flawed, per se (fans of Boddingtons Cream Ale will certainly find familiarity within); there's just not a lot there. Alternatively, the Gliderport Pale delivers a sophisticated and complex hop character with a sturdy malt backbone that easily makes it the brewery's strongest offering.

The food menu features upscale pub grub, mostly of the burger and flatbread varieties. Upcoming versions of the menu will include pairing suggestions, but I'll go ahead and kick-start that by insisting you not leave the premises without trying the mini-crab-cake appetizer with the Bird Rock Brown. I'll further suggest that if you opt to try the steak (and, given the decadence of the bacon-and-thyme jus it's served in, you'd be mad not to), reach for one of the boozier stouts on the guest taps. The Cove Stout is tasty in its own right, but as a classic dry Irish style, it's not well-suited to contend with that dish.

Whatever you might have thought of its predecessor, there's no question that this La Jolla Brewing Company has a lot of ideas and is eager to show what it can do. For all that's already changed, there are still new beers left to unveil and even beer cocktails forthcoming. Swing by and check it out before they're tempted to add "martinizing" to the menu. 

Write to ianc@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Ian blogs at iancheesman.wordpress.com and you can follow him on Twitter @iancheesman.


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