Anyone even slightly familiar with this column has been introduced to my outlook on sour and tart beers. We're not on the most affectionate terms, to say the least. I don't despise them; I just don't get them. When I crave a beer, no part of me is yearning for fruity or vinegar-y flavors. Of course, not everything is for everybody, so it shouldn't bother me—and yet it does. As an ambassador to the craft-brew world, I honestly desire to greet them with open arms and an eager palate.
This is precisely why I was so excited to hear about Toolbox Brewing Company landing in Vista (1495 Poinsettia Ave.). At every turn, my friends were gushing about this brewery that not only featured tart and funky beers, but also seemed to have one that everyone enjoyed. If there were ever a brewery that stood a chance of breaking down my walls and forever vindicating this suite of beers, this could be the one. No pressure or anything, Toolbox.
Before I reached for my first potentially life-changing sample, I noted that there was a lot to like about Toolbox Brewing Company in plain view. The tasting room is small, but it's cozy and well-appointed, with thoughtful, hardware-themed decor. It's dog- and kid-friendly, which is always a plus. Most notably, outfitting the taster caddies with a labeling mechanism was a wonderful value-add, especially given the antagonistic relationship between alcohol consumption and short-term memory. For a business that's been open for only about six months, it showed a tremendous amount of polish.
Even knowing what types of beers Toolbox Brewing Company favored, it was still disorienting to be in a San Diego brewery where the IPA was so heavily outgunned. The board stacked saisons, tarts and farmhouse offerings seven deep—eight if you count the Smells Like Nirvana "hoppy pale Brett." The moment of reckoning had arrived.
I was midway through my first sip of Autumn Blossom, a "Brett Saison w/ Blood Orange," when a peculiar feeling took hold of me. Strange as it was to admit, I was absolutely not hating it. I know that's not the highest praise in the world, but, remember, I was bracing myself for impact more than sipping casually. In reality, this medium-bodied saison possessed a moderate tartness and potent notes of red grapefruit and orange that were both refreshing and invigorating. I was not hating it more and more by the minute.
I continued to be pleasantly surprised with many of the other selections. The bright, citrus notes of the Sweet Baby Trey farmhouse ale had a white-grape-juice sweetness with a musty undercurrent that made it likewise very drinkable. Things were going favorably enough to have considered myself a newly minted fan were it not for the enamel-peeling bite of "tart x with apricots." Everyone I polled relished its sting, but my tenderfoot tongue had met its match.
Toolbox Brewing Company may not have made me a convert, but it's certainly helped me appreciate tart beers far more. And no matter where my personal preferences lie, the vast selection of flavors (if not styles) is likely to give even unabashed sour fans something new to try.