It's a tale as old as 2009—a homebrew hobbyist gets a taste of professional brewing and decides to take advantage of the explosive local craft beer growth to open his very own brewery. Enter Bay City Brewing Company (3760 Hancock St., Suite A), the latest addition to San Diego's craft beer directory.
After co-brewing at Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery for a stint, former homebrewer and now Bay City head brewer Chris West has succeeded where many have attempted but few have excelled: parlaying his bartending and brewing experience into what's shaping up to be a drinking destination behind Valley View Casino Center. Despite the fact that Bay City's current beer catalog numbers in the single digits and its industrial location isn't exactly a common pedestrian route, after sampling its wares I feel confident that it'll become a regular on San Diego's rosters of damn decent draughts.
Flights start with what I consider to be its best beer so faróa Session IPA with Chinook and Equinox hops (4.2 percent ABV) that's surprisingly grassy and bright with a hefty emphasis on aromatics. Next is the American Stout (6.66 percent ABV), a respectable, yet fairly straightforward stout that seems a tad more carbonated than I'd normally expect, but on a sticky summer day the refreshing effervescence is an enjoyable lapse.
The Experimental Pale Ale with Nelson Sauvin & Columbus hops comes in at 5.5 percent ABV, and while I applaud Bay City's valiant attempt to conquer the tricky Nelson, the result is a solidly good, but not great, pale ale. However, the alternate San Diego Pale Ale weighs in at 7.7 percent ABV and gives off nose-wrinkling whiffs of spiced hop essence with just a hint of candied bananas that I can only attribute to the complex Mosaic, Simcoe and Chinook combination or warmer fermentation. This will surely become a solid contender in the illustrious lineup of San Diego pale ales, which is no easy feat. Finally, the Nitro Porter (5.50 percent ABV) provides a decent finale; maintaining a mild aroma after getting warmed up, it keeps its creaminess throughout but overall offers a somewhat lackluster flavor.
I'm curious to see how experimental (if at all) West will decide to push things once it really gets rolling, but in the meantime Bay City's dedication to clean minimalism in both its branding and beers will likely chart a course to success. It's clear that the brewers pay attention to details here: the ABVs on the lusciously sticky Session IPA and darkly enveloping stout demonstrate a lighthearted approach that I always appreciate when it comes to the "extremely serious" business of brewing.
Overall, Bay City Brewing won't surprise or shock you. Expect solid beers that would probably be standouts anywhere else in the country, but in San Diego's uber-competitive landscape, they aren't going to rock the boat. Should you give them a shot? Yes. They're here to stay, and I look forward to seeing where the tide takes them.