Update: December 2017
All of the information below explains the feel of South Park Brewing quite well but their beer lists have changed pretty drastically since then so I am updating this post with information about the beers they had more recently and how they taste.
South Park Brewing has largely stuck to the classic San Diego style of hop-forward beers. Though they have a few IPAs that claim to be juicy or hazy, they are really just mild tweaks to the classic West Coast style IPA formula of low malt bill and an intense dry bitter finish. The ESB was too hop-forward for me and didn’t let the malt base shine through as it should in the traditional style.
The four IPAs I tried were all pretty similar except for the Poor but Kind, which had a bit more malt backbone and less hop bite. Tongues of Angels, Haze 57 IPA and Cs of Rye were all fairly dry with a bitter bite at the finish. Of the 3, Tongues of Angels was my favorite, blending citrus and floral hops while not being overly bitter. Haze 57 IPA was not particularly hazy or soft and had a strong herbal hop bite I didn’t care for. Cs of Rye was a mix of citrus and herbal hops similar to the Haze and both had a fairly intense bitter finish.
Poor but Kind is termed a classic West Coast IPA but I found it to be more of a classic NW IPA with the caramel malt base shining through and hops focusing more on bitter character than aroma. I finished with the smoked porter, the beer that impressed me the most out of the list. It was creamy and balanced with a delicate smoke character that is one of the best versions of the style I have had outside of Europe. It has that classic smoke character that is common in German rauch beers.
Another change since my first visit is the fish display on Ice that is no longer there. They still serve fresh local fish and even opened a window so that people in Hamilton’s Tavern next door can order food without stepping outside. My friend and I shared ceviche and everything tasted fresh.
If you are seeking out the best examples of juicy hazy IPAs, you won’t find them at South Park Brewing. You will find a bunch of IPAs that remain true to the San Diego roots with that bitter bite that many have stopped adding.
Soft opening – May 2015
Though still in their soft opening phase currently, South Park Brewing seems to be off to a good start. Sadly, when I visited they were out of a few beers so they only had three on tap, but I did get to try their IPA, double IPA, and oyster stout. Still, what they had was a good start for such a young brewery.
South Park Brewing started out in a larger space than the average new brewery and serves food as well. I was tempted by the variety of fish options and ice cream though I did not partake because I was heading to eat after. Next time I head down there I will certainly try one of them. They also have a fairly large indoor area that has plenty of seating both inside and out front by the street.
Beer wise, they had a few guest beers as well in case someone isn’t a fan of their house beers. I started with the IPA, a 100% Simcoe hop IPA, that delivered the San Diego style of beer with plenty of tropical fruit and citrus and a mild bitterness. The double iPA was a bit heavier and a bit more boozy. It had some spice flavors reminiscent of a saison, though overall it was a bit too heavy for me given the flavors.
Finally, the oyster stout was a solid offering with a bit of caramel and roasted malts, though too salty for me. I was hoping to also try their saison but it had run out before I visited. With a solid IPA so early on I expect South Park Brewing will do some good things once they have a grand opening at some point in the future. For now it is worth dropping in if you are in the area. They are right next door to Hamilton’s Tavern. Maybe next time I will try some of the ice cream.