San Diego’s best craft breweries – Part 3 – Mission & Ballast Point

by Daniel on June 25, 2012

My final stops in San Diego were Mission Brewery and Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits.  Ballast Point ended up having the single most memorable beer of my trip, so keep reading to hear all about it!

Mission Brewery is right in the heart of downtown making it a convenient stop for anyone visiting San Diego.  Their brewing & tasting facility is quiet impressive, housed in a former brick & mortar Wonder Bread factory.  The interior has been beautifully restored and has very high ceilings of wood rafters.  What I like about the place is that their brewing equipment is exposed in the same area so you can easily see it all without having to take a tour of a separate facility or back warehouse.  It provides a great ambiance and makes for a great experience to enjoy the architecture while you enjoy their beers.  Here’ what I had from Mission’s menu:

  • Blonde, Hefeweizen, Amber, IPA
  • Bohemian Pilsner
  • Shipwrecked Double IPA
  • Dark Seas Russian Imperial Stout

I would say the beers were pretty solid, but there wasn’t really much here that I planned on writing home about.  I mean, the imperial stout was good, but the other breweries I’d seen in San Diego had it beat.  The beers weren’t bad, but they lacked the depth & uniqueness of the beers I’d had at AleSmith, Port, Lost Abbey, Stone, and Ballast Point.  I was actually surprised when I asked the servers about the batch size of their brewing system etc, they didn’t have a clue and had to ask go through a couple co-workers to get an answer.  Overall it was definitely worth it to stop by, but I’m glad I didn’t have to go far out of my way to visit Mission.  They don’t even sell their tasting glasses, which are actually pretty awesome looking.

Ballast Point was a whole different story – lots of interesting and unique beers.  What I like about them is that when they go to brew a beer, they go for something really different with every one they produce.  I was like a kid in a candy store, and I wish I’d had at least one more day to try more of their stuff with such an extensive selection.  Here’s what I was able to sample:

  • Sculpin IPA (7.0%, 70IBU)
  • Brother Levonian Saison (5.4%, 20IBU)
  • Sea Monster Imperial Stout (10%, “?!” IBU)
  • Winter San Salvador Black Lager (6.9%, 23IBU)
  • Tongue Buckler Imperial Red (10%, 100+IBU)
  • Fathom India Pale Lager (7.0%, 70IBU)
  • Indra Kunindra Curry Stout (7.0%, 60IBU)

Everything I tried made me stop and savor to try and discern all of the different layers of flavor.  The Sculpin IPA lived up to its fame, with incredible balance of hop flavor without being overly bitter.  The Sea Monster Imperial Stout was real tasty as well.  However, the winner to me was the Indra Kunindra Curry Stout.  The aroma of this beer is like that of a Thai tom khai gai soup – lemongrass, coconut, & curry.  The flavor is of deep curry, coconut milk, spice, lemongrass and just a little heat on the finish that gives the back of your tongue a little warmth.  There was so much to this beer I had to get another to dig deeper into the flavor profile.  I actually was able to convince the server to pour me a growler to take home and share with my beer buddies because this was just so unique.  At the end of the trip, I had tried some really amazing beers, but this one stuck out in my mind as being far apart from all the others.  It may not have been the absolute best beer I tried, but it certainly was the most unique and one that I DID want to write home about.

Also see my San Diego’s Best Craft Breweries Parts 1 & 2 where I review Stone, Port Brewing & The Lost Abbey, and Alesmith.

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