Nov. 30 1999 03:51 PM

It's a home worth staying in

for web
A mason-jar family portrait
Photo by Ian Cheesman

These days, it seems like no matter how fledging a brewery, you can count on it dedicating a substantial portion of its square footage to a tasting room. I know that's hardly a revelation, but that hasn't always been the case. In our not-too-distant past, tastings were more commonly held adjacent to a makeshift cooler in whatever corner of the brewery was free of tubing and sacks of grain. Modern tasting rooms are practically cathedrals to beer by comparison, providing devotees a welcoming space for worship.

What's more, these tasting rooms are often as accommodating as they are roomy. It's not just a growler-filling station; it's the place to watch the sportsball match, grab some lunch and have a pint with your mini-me and dachshund in tow. And as much as I appreciate all those options, sometimes all I want is a cold craft beer served at the dark end of the bar. When that's your pleasure, Poor House Brewing (4494 30th St. in North Park) is your place.

Poor House Brewing has a distinctly dive-bar feel, though only in the most affectionate sense of the term. It's a dimly lit but inviting space where great music overhead nudges conversation to be slightly louder and livelier. The bar eats up 60 percent of the square footage (at least until they fully expand into the neighboring suite), and essentially the only decorations adorning the walls—other than drink-special signage—is a crowd-sourced tapestry of customized dollar bills. It's not a showpiece for the brewery; it's a place for people to focus on beer and each other.

This isn't to suggest that Poor House Brewing eschews what other tasting rooms allow. You can still bring your pup and enjoy the occasional game on TV. Food trucks and events, like the all-day craft-brew-and-sushi pairing on April 12, will still dot their calendar. I'm just saying that Poor House isn't where I'd host my corporate team-building event, and I appreciate that.

There's usually about 10 or 11 beers on tap, including Poor House's infamous 18.5-percent-ABV "Panty Dropper." With its warming aroma of gingerbread and boozy kick, it's sort of a spiritual successor to Fireball Whiskey (which is appropriate, given the timeless dive-bar tradition of providing cheap shots). It's syrupy and sweet, but there's just enough pine-hop presence to prevent it from emulating cough syrup. It's a monster, but one you'll happily sip rather than shoot with a wince.

Many of brewery's lighter beers, such as the Poor House Belgian Ale and 'Wit'ney Witbier, favor a citrus-forward palate that felt a little redundant back to back. That's not to say I didn't enjoy them, but, in retrospect, I would have been happier inserting the Poor House American Strong Ale between them. My favorite was probably the Clusterfukk IIPA, a dank and delicious quaff with a tenacious grassy finish.

Poor House Brewing may feel a little odd compared with glossier tasting rooms, but in everything from its solid catalog of craft brews to the simple comfort of complimentary bowls of peanuts, it knows what it's about.

Write to and, or follow @iancheesman on Twitter or read his blog,


  • The renowned Mexican black and white photographer presents an exhibition exploring the principal themes within three groups: "Bestiarium"," Fantastic Women" and "Silent Natures."
  • Presented by Pacific Arts Movement, the sixth annual mini film fest features 14 film programs from 10 countries that includes everything from docs to romantic tearjerkers. See website for full lineup and...
  • Debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding cannibalism at this new exhibition that takes a hands-on approach to the subject. Includes video games and interactive activities where patrons will have to decide...
  • The former local boy and creator of the highly influential blog, Advanced Style, will be signing and discussing his third book, Advanced Style: Older and Wiser, which features inspiring pictures and stories...
  • C.J. Chenier and Bonsoir Catin headline this annual Cajun inspired festival. Also enjoy 10,000 pounds of crawfish, dancing and cooking demonstrations. Held at Spanish Landing Park, across from the...
  • A Cinco de Mayo party featuring $2 tacos, cocktails and live music from Bostich+Fussible, Javiera Mena and Gepe
  • A spoken word showcase hosted by English instructor Karla Cordero and her City College students. There will also be a special reading from poet Mercedez Holtry, as well as an art and photography show....
  • Widely known as host of "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live and for his role in the Showtime dramedy Weeds, Kevin Nealon brings his unique humor back to the stand-up stage
  • New works from over a dozen UCSD undergraduate students. Participating artists include Charity Algarme, Richard Lin, Joseph Maas, Ignatius Nguyen, and more
  • This video art exhibition from UCSD MFA candidate Stefani Byrd features two installations that explore the themes of breath, mediation, and the nature of time. Takes place in the VAF Performance Space,...
See all events on Thursday, May 5