By Dr. Ink
For those who are sick to death of in-your-face hoppy beers commonly produced in San Diego’s reigning craft breweries, Brabant Bar & Café is your gateway to alternative suds.
The inventory allows for only Belgian imports or Belgian-style beers. In many cases, they’re served traditionally in glasses designed by the actual breweries: a fluted vessel for St. Louis Framboise, for example, and a goblet-shaped one for Kasteel Ingelmunster’s seasonal pumpkin ale.
In the case of the locally produced Thorn St. Brewery Abbey Wall that I drank, it was served in a regular pint glass but carried the expected, fine characteristics of a Belgian dubbel: creamy and semi-sweet, malty and refreshingly non-bitter.
It isn’t as though I mind drinking the hop bombs that dominate the taps in our local craft-beer establishments, but the tongue eventually becomes pickled when drinking too many of them.
This isn’t to say that hops go entirely missing from Brabant’s lineup. The Belgians use them too in beer making, just not as aggressively. Adhering to that balance is Adelbert’s Brewery out of Austin, Texas, which appears on the tap list with a deep, golden ale called The Traveler.
The staff was kind to let me sample the product along with a few others, leaving me to realize that I’ve invested too many hours lately into drinking the overtly bitter stuff.
Happy hour at Brabant means that all its draft beer and wines by the glass are $1 off. Not a bad deal considering that nothing currently listed on the beer list exceeded $8.50 at regular price. In addition, house cocktails that normally run for $8.50 apiece dip down to $7.
A few food items are discounted as well, such as meat croquettes infused with mustard seeds and fried sage priced at $4 instead of $8. Equally tantalizing and beer-friendly were the mussels served in a pond of white wine, garlic, shallots and dill cream sauce. The deal for those is even sweeter; they’re normally $16 but cost only $6 during happy hour.
Located in the address that formerly housed Vagabond, they retained the solid, European feel of the place, enhancing it with coat-of-arms banners and wooden tables, some of which are embedded with chess boards. Playing is free. Just ask the bartender for that old tin box behind the bar that stores the antique chess pieces. And raise your glass to Belgium as you drink.
—Send happy hour recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org. He’ll pass the message along.