The particular stretch of Fifth Avenue where Local Habit is located and thereabouts is one of my sweet spot neighborhoods in San Diego. Two large used bookstores, a multi-purposed art/media coffeehouse, several hard-copy music stores, an expansive haberdashery. For vintage pleasure, what is not to like? The entrance and interior of Local Habit has a vintage quality, seemingly entrenched in Hillcrest for many years, and yet the restaurant is less than two years young. Enter, open the menu, check the draft board at the bar. You’ll soon find that there is more here than meets the eye for the contemporary brew scene lover. First of all, the food cozies well to a fine brew. This is by intention. Executive chef and partner in the restaurant, Nick Brune, has designed it that way. There is an obligatory but dandy lineup of Nepolitana-style pizzas with some singular ingredients like cheese curd, toasted coriander, and pickled zucchini. Entree listings have a small vein of New Orleans running through with the copious use of andouille sausage. Indeed, on a previous visit I devoured a truly first-rate gumbo, with its patina of roux following me to the last drop. The menu has an amicable rapport with vegetables and includes a pair of entrees and several sides, most notably oven-roasted brussels sprouts with house made mustard. But tonight, I’m here to drink only. At the compact bar built out with abstract wooden bric-a-brac. Monday IPA night, with many of the drafts from California breweries. Indeed, the ever-changing lineup at LH has offered me my first introduction to breweries like Eel River and Ironfire Brewing. I could splurge tonight and opt for a flight of all nine IPAs for $16. Instead, I order a pint of Ladyface Ale Companie IPA, raw and floral with the sumptuous palate of a goat blue cheese. Then on to revisit the Stone 16th Anniversary IPA with Green Tea Leaves, a masterful gem of the San Diego IPAs. IPA Night, I decide, is a really good idea, because the many different approaches and nuances invite contrast and contemplation. The crowd is relaxed, talking with the bartender or partners of the restaurant, or writing into their tablet devices. The atmosphere invites one to hangout and establish this as your craft beer hoodie. Next week is Barrel Aged Beer Night, I am informed. The combination of a timeless decor and feel with a rotating menu and newfangled concoctions on tap, makes Local Habit a place I’ll come back to many times. For the theme nights, the meet-the-brewer events, special dinners, or simply to enjoy a fresh perspective on beer.
A fresh out-of-the-box craft beer jamboree, the tasting room at Rough Draft was filled with beer tour roisterers upon arrival. One party bus was leaving the lot, another pulling in. I found the strategic waiting/sitting area that preceded the tasting room a good place to gather my beer muse. Sampling rich potions with names like Frontal Labottleme and Freudian Sip calls for a mental feinting couch in the best of situations.
Despite the crowd inside, I found room at the wrap around bar and ordered up tasters. The beertenders, gratifying and informed, could speak to me of differences between the three IPAs on tap. The solid, flowing chalk work on the board clued me in to free wi-fi. Score! My afternoon was now booked.
Rough Draft’s room feels finished, yet unstructured and open. Fermentation tanks and mash tuns stare at you behind the seating area and bar. Overturned barrels provide respite for your taster-weary digits. The back pull-down door is wide open, providing a refreshing shaft of openness. No one shows any concern about today, tomorrow, or the next wage-earning, school day. You, the brewery, the crowd, all feel at that moment like a work in progress.
The brews are entrancingly devised and offer something for both the hop head and the malt advocate. For malty, do try the Belgian Vanilla Stout, unique, with good acidity cutting the vanilla sugariness. And the Freudian Sip Strong Ale will grow hair on your growler. I tasted four beers, all with a strong reach into the San Diego pantheon. There were also four barrel-aged beauties, available by bottle only. I took one home for further research.
Rough Draft is solid therapy for the masses, a beguiling enclave tucked away in the office parks of Miramar. Just like a reputable, 50-minute-hour shrink, you’ll find yourself going back. I’ve done so twice already. Nothing is easier than talking yourself into bliss.
NOTE: Rough Draft celebrates it’s one year anniversary in two sessions on Saturday, March 9. Tickets
Rough Draft Brewing Company
To be honest, I think of Green Flash as something of a San Diego superhero. Blue with lime-green tights. Carrying bottles and pints of beer masterminded by the Justice League of Craft beer in America.
Let me elaborate.
Driving down Mira Mesa Road you can no more miss the silvery reflective spaceship at Flanders Drive than you can miss the Design Center pyramid on Miramar Road. Ahhh, but the secret entrance is in back of the building. You turn north up Flanders and wind westward on Sequence Drive where you find a parking lot chockablock with cars. Or, like me, you end up parking further down Sequence and walking out of the car past streets like Genetic Center Drive and Top Gun Avenue. Surely this is where the Justice League convenes daily to ensure the security of great beer in America.
The tasting room is jammed with drinkers. And yet, by paradox, the room is spacious with the high-ceilinged production facility looming just behind. Tours of the tanks and mechanical moving parts are offered every couple hours, often chaperoned by a brewer. The bar has 22 taps, every one of them strikingly different from each other. This is always a tough choice.
I choose five tasters and sip these potions with their high ABV s-l-o-w-l-y, writing notes for them. I try the Hop Therapy Black IPA, an imperial stout with serrano chiles, the 5th Anniversary Imperial IPA, a rye barleywine collaboration with Cigar City in Tampa. I am most astounded by the entry suggested by the beer server: Little Freak. It is the popular Saison Diego aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels. Magically: a beer and a wine all at once. This could be the solution to those couples’ nights out where one doesn’t like beer and well, you know… Or it could please no one. I loved this beer and will probably return for more tomorrow, since it probably was a top-secret experiment designed by superheroes gone wild and will vanish from the taps at any time.
Green Flash offers an abundance of beer and logo swag at a long counter reaching into the side exit. One more t-shirt to point up how bitter we are in San Diego because of our IPA fondness is always a temptation. The side door leads to an enclosed courtyard/picnic area that is caboosed with a daily food truck. The area is a lovely place to get out of the tasting room limelight and enjoy some food with all the masterly elixirs.
That Green Flash is only in their 11th year of existence is astonishing to me. On their base of solid IPAs, barley wines, and stouts, they seem to experiment successfully with every conceivable beer style. RateBeer recently ranked GF as #21 best brewer in the world. Their move from Vista a couple years ago gave them a higher profile and we city beer lovers access to some of the best out there. Never mind the dicey chance of an optical phenomena on the ocean front. Just keep the capes flying in Mira Mesa.
Green Flash Brewing Company
Smack up against a KO boxing gym, Churchill’s confides clubby smoke, strong beer, and open bottles of port and California reds, waiting for the pour. Other than the house pale ale and the ubiquitous Stella, all the other taps were of local root. Ballast Point Black Marlin Porter and Green Flash Imperial IPA are tried companions to scores of cigar craft.
I ordered the house special: Churchill shaggy wrap cigar (double toro-sized) and a pint of Churchill pale ale for $9.95. The cigar was of mild to medium strength and the smoke tasted of cocoa brownie, autumn leaf mulch, and toasted anise seed. The pale ale was a solid companion to my 90 minutes of cigar pleasure.
I peruse the humidor, claimed as the most extensive in San Diego, dreaming of the leaf-wrapped smoke that might close an evening of fine dining in neighboring La Jolla. My knowledge of the cigar kingdom is weak, but the staff is well-versed in all things Pan-American or candela or figurado.
A lively, talkative crowd sit at the tables opposite the bar, sometimes calling out across the room. Yes, this crowd WILL talk religion and politics. And some generic bullshit that is part of the ritual of group cigar talk. Yet there is equitable space to contemplate a draft and/or smoke at the corner “writer’s table” or the plush chaise in the back of the room. The humidor is lavish and the staff cordial with their help in selection. A small back patio and posh bathroom round out the facility.
Drinking pleasures abound: three Stone Bastards, and three sundry Firestone Jacks are amongst the bombers on the shelf. The whole Chimay line is represented. There is certainly enough on deck here to while away the hours: a perfect concord of earthy, spicy smoke, malt and hops.
Two of life’s great pleasures in one afternoon or evening. Churchill provides an unhurried haven to release all your frisky hipster runoff. Bring your best cigar-smoking friend, bring a laptop. Bring your best self. Sit back. Enjoy.