This Brewery/Tasting room was difficult for me to find. This is, in part, because it was pouring rain, and partially because I am as worthless with directions as I am with taxes, blueprints and networking social events. Acoustic’s tasting room is located by the original Mission Brewery building. This is the Mission Brewery Plaza, not the new Mission Brewery down by Padre Stadium.
I sat down in between two guys that were staring intently at their respective phones. One had submerged himself in Axe body spray like Achilles into the River Styx. Rather than being granted immortality, this guy was granted the ability to keep people (with functional nostrils) at a safe distance, in a state of constant panic.
As I shifted myself toward the bar, doing that awkward hop-scooting with the bar stool, Achilles and the other phone gnome did not even shuffle in their seats to acknowledge that I was cramming myself in between them. I wished that I had to fart, because I would have just unleashed it in a triumphant blast and then sat there holding my breath and smiling. This encounter made me take a mental note to be more aware of my surroundings when I am the guy that is already at the bar, and there are other people looking for seats. Time to turn my attention to the beer.
A heavily bearded bartender rambled over and offered pleasantries. I asked for a taster flight. Acoustic offers them on wooden paddles, 4 glasses at a time. Some places groan at having to fill up taster flights (even though that is the POINT of a tasting room) but Acoustic was happy to oblige. * On my second visit to Acoustic, i had the same positive experience with the service.
I got the Belgian Brown called “Mad Dub”, Pre-Prohibition Style Lager called “Hopski”, A Belgian wit called “Witte Snake” (<— awesome name) and finally the “Hop Way to the Danger Zone” TRIPLE IPA, yes TRIPLE. (the brewers of San Diego are on to you, Pliny the Younger, and they are coming for you with unbridled fury) <— more on this, later in the post.
The Belgian brown, called “Mad Dub”is the best brown ale in San Diego. Boom, there it is. Get your ass to Acoustic Ales to try this beer before it is not available. I am not saying that they are taking it off the menu (they would be foolish to do so) but if Mad Dub were to go away without you getting to try it, it would leave a sinkhole of despair in your beer heart. The Mad Dub from Acoustic is THAT good. You know that sweet taste that is common for Belgian beers? Well many times that sweet Belgian taste is overpowering, like someone dropped some Pixie Sticks into your beer. Not with Mad Dub, there is a perfect accent of sweetness and richness that follow the first sip. The end result is a complex, drinkable beer that you are not likely to get sick of. *On my second visit to Acoustic, i enjoyed Mad Dub just as much. This proved to me that my first impression was not some desperate fluke.
“Hopski” was fun, not only to drink, but also to say in my head. Hopski, go ahead and say it outloud. Hopski is described as a pre-prohibition style lager. Don’t know what that is? Neither do I. I tried to ask the staff about it, but they were too busy fighting over frog legs and other cajun food that had been provided gratis by the food truck outside. I am not saying the service was bad at the Acoustic tasting room, they got me my beers quick and were polite about it, but I did not enjoy the attentive, beer geek full of knowledge that some other San Diego tasting rooms have, like Societe for instance. Not on this visit, anyway. Who can blame some hungry people though, I am like a wolf, if you throw food in front of me I will not only ignore all presently existing responsibility, but i will growl, snarl and possibly even stalk and pounce on the food. * 2nd visit to Acoustic, I had Hopski again. I liked it even more. The bartender was not fighting for food this time and explained to me, with patience and detail that an original pre-prohibition era recipe was used. The recipe called for much more corn in the mash, I believe it was 51%. This beer was more enjoyable when I knew what the F it was, so kudos to the Acoustic bartender on the recovery. My wife likes non-hoppy, lighter beers, and she was a fan of this one.
“Witte Snake” is a Belgian Witte flavored with lemon grass, coriander, orange peels and ginger. My experience of this beer was overshadowed by Mad Dub, Hopski and Hop Zone. I remember that Witte Snake is smooth and floral, and that the added flavors do not take over the beer completely. I am going to go back and try this beer again. At least we can agree that the name is awesome. Many of Acoustic’s beers are named with something having to do with music. There was an Iron Maiden reference as well as some nods to general musical terms. *My second taste of this beer made me appreciate it more. My wife was with me, and she does not love many beers outside of her comfort zone. She was a fan of this beer, and ordered a second glass of it. For the record, her favorite beer is PRANQSTER, by North Coast Brewing Company – a 7.6% Belgian Golden Ale. So, finding similar beers is tough (any suggestions are welcomed). Anyway, on this taste session, the Witte Snake was a favorite. Pleasant undertones from the coriander and orange are prominent, and do this beer serious justice. Bravo on the second taste.
“Hop Way to the Danger Zone”is a Triple IPA. Triple IPAs, to me, are one of the great mysteries of the universe. How can a TRIPLE IPA be smoother, tastier and less offensive than a regular IPA?I do not know why, but they are. This beer is not heavy or overpowering, just flavorful and magic. This isnt the kind of beer that will put you down for a nap afterwards. This beer is not a meal replacement. I am not saying that I would want to drink one out of a beer bong either, but I could see myself stringing a couple of these together and being fairly mobile afterwards.
Many San Diego breweries are rolling out their version of the Triple IPA to counter the seasonal obsession with Pliny the Younger. Many weathered beer drinkers believe that Pliny the Younger is not as good as people think, rather it is the product of brilliant supply/demand strategy by Russian River Brewing Company. A small amount of Pliny is made available each year to fuel the fishing tales of beer drinkers that waited in line, or paid a little extra money to experience something rare.
I have not had Pliny the Younger yet, but I have tried other Triple IPAs, such as Acoustic’s “Hop Way to the Danger Zone” and “Green Bullet”, made by San Diego’s Green Flash. Unless you are already a huge fan of Triple IPAs, or a lunatic, I would not recommend scraping your knuckles by fighting for one of the few pints of Pliny the Younger that get released in the early spring each year. Instead, bone up on other Triple IPAs and save yourself the stress and humiliation. *After my second taste of Hop Way to the Danger Zone, my fear is reinforced. People will senselessly hunt Pliny the Younger, while incredibly tasty Triple IPAs like Hop Way and Green Bullet are readily available for the plucking. It is, of course, up to you, but there may be some truth to the idea that Pliny the Younger is just another beer. Do not get me wrong, I want to try Pliny the Younger, but I figure that someday it will happen without my going crazy and stepping on people’s faces to get it.
In closing, Acoustic Ales is planted nicely in the middle of San Diego. The closest brewery is probably MODERN TIMES in Point Loma, so Acoustic is not ideal for a brewery pub crawl. However, Acoustic is prime beer drinking location for a few unique styles and a comfortable atmosphere.
– Tom Murray