May 15 2015 06:05 PM

Quad AleHouse opens above it all in the Gaslamp Quarter

The taps at Quad AleHouse.
Photo by Ron Donoho

This place doesn't feel like it's on the oft-raucous main drag in the Gaslamp Quarter. The address is 868 Fifth Avenue, but Quad AleHouse is on the third floor, literally and figuratively above it all.

At street level just below is the Gaslamp Tavern, which had been closed since well back into 2014. Turns out the owners were freshening up the Tavern while completely reinventing the Quad space. Both occupy a historic building at the corner of Fifth and E Street that used to house Navy lockers for traveling servicemen. 

Management has given the new, 5,000-square-foot alehouse a nickname: Beer Study Hall. Indeed, the main dining area holds long, sturdy, dark wooden benches, laid out like a room you might find on a college campus. But this is no frat house. There's a refined feeling in the air. And, well, lots of air, streaming in through large open windows that face out onto the colorful downtown streets.

As the name suggests, this is an alehouse, with 28 active taps. The beer list focuses on the local craft offerings, which will change on a regular basis. The most recent cask list includes everything from Belching Beaver Great Lei IPA to Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale; from Hess Jucundus Orange Honey Wheat to Monkey Paw Patas Pale Ale.

There's also a full bar with wine and spirits. Crafty bartenders will mix you up one of their own specialty drinks, or something off the menu like the Tennessee Mule (Jack Daniel's, pomegranate and lime juice, fresh mint and ginger beer) or an Upperclass Irishman (Jameson Irish whiskey, St. Germain, sweet & sour mix and a splash of soda).

The food offerings center around slow-cooked, house-smoked meats: garlic-and-herb roasted chicken; ancho chili-braised beef brisket; hickory-smoked pulled pork; applewood-smoked turkey breast; and my favorite, Moroccan-spiced lamb shoulder. 

You can order any meat as a sandwich, in a salad or as a plate that comes with two sides. The lamb sandwich wasn't heavy or overwrought, even though it came with pickled cucumber, marinated olives, roasted tomato (I always pull out the tomato), baby greens and goat cheese.

My non-meat-eating companion opted for just a side of smoked mac 'n' cheese. It's hearty and filling, gooey-not-crunchy and comes piping hot in a mini skillet.

One of the coolest design elements in The Quad is a geographic, annotated wall map of San Diego's breweries. I'm told, as the list swells above a hundred, it'll be easy enough to add another dot on the map and list the brewery. 

Studying history and current events couldn't be more intoxicating.

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