When I heard Bay Bridge Brewing (688 Marsat Ct., Suite B) was opening a tasting room in Chula Vista, I was ecstatic. The South Bay is a brewery desert so a new oasis was welcome news. But when I learned it was helmed by the same guys behind the long-shuttered Brewhouse at Eastlake, I had to admit being skeptical. That venture came to an ignominious end under an avalanche of angry Yelpers, so I approached their latest incarnation with caution.
Happily, my trepidation proved unfounded. Bay Bridge's tasting room was easy to find in a nondescript industrial park in southwest Chula Vista. Decorated with sports memorabilia, it had a distinct man-cave vibe. A dartboard hung from one wall, a TV from another. It felt more like a friendly neighbor's garage than a production brewery. Pints at Bay Bridge are $5, and a flight of five 5-ounce tasters sets you back $10. Everything it brews is balanced and true-to-style. In this day of aggressive, hop-forward IPAs with barely-there malt profiles, its Star of India IPA tastes like a trip back in time. It was a reminder that balance is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to the style.
"That's what we like, and that's how we design our beers," head brewer Doug Chase said.
Many of the recipes were developed when Chase, along with co-founder Jim Shirey, began home brewing in the late '90s. They are key figures in the short brewing history of Chula Vista, and if not for their efforts a decade ago, the city might still be completely void of breweries. "When we first applied for our business license, we were told brewing was not permitted in Chula Vista," Doug said. "[So] we worked with the planning commission and the city council to get the law changed."
There is a beer for even the most craft-averse drinker at Bay Bridge. Its Wolf Canyon Wheat and Bonita Blonde are perfect transitional brews for those still stuck on the fizzy yellow stuff. Palomar Pale Ale is a throwback to the old days (of just a few years ago) before local brewers decided "Pale Ale" was just another word for "IPA." While not a style I drink often, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed its Rolling Hills Irish Red. Deep burgundy in color, this rich ale is slightly hoppier than expected, but maintains the balance of flavor that defines Bay Bridge. I even ordered a second just to make sure.
Bay Bridge brews approachable, quality beer in a long-ignored neighborhood thirsty for local options. It will not challenge your palate with aggressively bitter IPAs, bury your wits under 13 percent ABV stouts, or have you competing with Whalezbros for uber-limited releases on brownpapertickets.com. Its wares, served up in an atmosphere devoid of pretension, are brewed to please everyone from the craft newbie to the seasoned beer geek. And if you still think a brewery needs trendy styles and sales gimmicks to be worthwhile, then I have a bridge to sell you.