If you use Petco Park as the center of San Diego -- I don't know why you would, it's a bit off to the side of downtown and nobody really lives right there, but humor me -- Alpine Brewing is a thirty minute drive into the mountains. Sometimes the brewery is closed on a regular old work day, it was for us, but the brewpub is more accomodating. You won't always get their most sought-after beer (Nelson IPA and its 122 Style+, 12 BAR, probably), either, just because they are a small brewery and you get what they've recently brewed.
But it is that fact, their size, that means you have to make the trip if you can.
Because you won't get Alpine on the east coast. I don't even see it in Northern California. When I asked the brewer-slash-bartender (another clue) how we could get more of their beers into more bars, he laughed -- "Did you see the brewer two doors down in the strip mall here? That's our brewery."
It's worth the drive.
My wife and I enjoyed a sampler of six: Hoppy Birthday, Duet, Pure Hoppiness, Keene Idea, Captain Stout, and Alpine Ale. Sure, it was IPAish. Full of hops. In fact, my note next to Pure Hoppiness might say it all, scrawled there in red capital letters, underlined thrice: BOOM.
But there's a refinement to their beers, too. Hopefully one that will survive expansion. Duet was Amarillo and Simcoe, in perfect balance. Well, maybe not perfect, they weren't blended. It was more of a dance between the two hops, one that started in one direction before the music changed, or evolved... maybe a mashup of two single-hop beers. So many beers feature a blend of many hops, but this one has just two hops, and it's very noticeable. Duet gets bottled... you might be able to find it if you make a friend in San Diego. Maybe you can put your own words to the dance in that bottle.
The stout was good, coffee and chocolate and all the check boxes you want in a good stout. If you make it to the brewery, have some fun and ask for a little taster of the Captain and Willy Vanilly, their cream ale. The Captain Willy is basically a vanilla milk stout of the highest order.
It's a small brewpub, with a nice spicy spinach dip and other semi-standard fare. You have to walk outside to a little outhouse -- with regular toilets and running water of course -- and the kitchen is right there, a bit in your face. If you get there at the wrong time, you might have to wait. We got there a half hour before the Chargers game, and by the end of our stay the line was long. We didn't get Nelson, which was a bummer, but what can you do.
You can enjoy the beer they pour you, because it will be excellent.
Alpine Brewing Keene Idea
Appearance = 4/5
Creamy, copper, head stuck around in some capacity the whole time, all sorts of lacing.
Smell = 4.5/5
Citrus and floral, maybe a bit of breadiness.
Taste = 5/5
From my notes: Floral, bright, citrussy and piny but soft and buttery, citrus not grapefruit but grapes? Imagine a beer that tastes like that from start to end. Isn't nelson hops awesome? It's soft and wet and yet bright and floral and even has a bite, but it's more like a grapey pine tree than many citra-hopped beers with their heavy grapefruit first step. The difference between this and Nelson, the beer, might be that the 'fruit' is a little more grapey than peach. Amazing beer.
Mouthfeel = 4.5/5
Buttery and oily, wet and dank, into a crisp finish. A top-shelf mouthfeel.
Overall = 4.75/5
Just a really great beer. Maybe it wasn't Nelson, but it was great. My wife and I ordered a full pint of this as we finished our shared sampler, and were happy for it. It's a bit how I imagine the forests of New Zealand, having never been there: wet, dank, piney and floral... but when the sun shines through you get the crisp finish that gets you going back for more. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe I can go get some more Alpine beers the next time I'm down in San Diego and send you some. They are remarkable.