March 13 2015 04:58 PM

Bright lights and underpowered beers arrive with Kearny Mesa's latest brewery

Photo by Ian Cheesman

Kilowatt Brewing represents the 99th brewery to be opened in San Diego. I'm not sure what that is in terms of geographic density, but it's safe to say we've crossed the threshold of "a lot" of breweries. It's a worthy illustration of our unquenchable demand for new craft beer, but I think I may have a better one: Every barstool in Kilowatt Brewing was spoken for within the first three minutes of its soft opening. This town manages to fill breweries before they're even open.

Those unable to capture a seat at the main bar will still find themselves feeling welcome in the Kilowatt Brewing tasting room (7576 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in Kearny Mesa). It's bright and lively, an atmosphere summoned with loads of creative lighting (hop lamps!) and multiple bands of artwork across the brewery interior. It's a vibe that co-founder and CEO Steve Kozyk will continue to cultivate by inviting new artists to display and create works of art in the brewery. "We hope to create a place where people will be stimulated by their surroundings and motivated to share ideas amongst each other," he says.

Calling the space stimulating might actually be underselling it. For all its various ornamentations, nothing draws the eye quite like the animated sweeps of LEDs illuminating the main bar. I know it sounds a bit distracting (and may well be a seizure waiting to happen), but it's fun to experience a dash of Vegas with your pint.

As is typical for soft openings, the eight beers currently residing on the board are by no means staples. For that matter, Kozyk mentioned that they're still refining their water's mineral profile and the brews' hop schedule, meaning the available offerings didn't truly represent a finalized formulation. Since that potentially gives any tasting notes I've gathered a short shelf life, I'll share some broad impressions instead.

On the positive side, I definitely believe Kozyk's outlook on refining the beers is on point. Many of the pale offerings tended to be somewhat flabby, lacking the hoppy counterpoint needed to align with their styles. The Mango Pale Ale (4.5-percent ABV), however, actually did a wonderful job producing lush tropical fruit aromas while keeping a restrained sweetness in the flavor. 

There were fewer dark beers to contend with, but they were likewise a mixed bag in their first incarnation. The Coconut Chai Porter (5.5-percent ABV) offered a creamy array of milk chocolate, cinnamon and chai spices that really delivered on its name, but the roasty character of the stout would do well to be rolled back a smidge.

While the first pass at Kilowatt Brewing's beers somewhat underwhelmed, the brewery's festive space and embrace of fanciful styles (Fruit Cocktail Pale Ale, anyone?) make it rich with potential. And that's not even considering the added value of a karaoke lounge next door, which likely has a windfall coming courtesy of its new neighbor's clientele. The tasting-room environment alone would make it a fun visual counterpoint on any brew tour, especially given some time to dial in the recipes. If you're thirsty in Kearny Mesa (and, judging by the lines at Council Brewing, you are), it's a spectacle worth beholding.

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


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