By ROB MACDONALD
I pointed the front tire of my old Trek mountain bike north in the 30th street bike lane and left my South Park home on a May-gray afternoon to embark on a North Park brewery tour. I arrived at the first stop on my tour – Rouleur, pronounced Ruler. Through French translation, rouleur literally means having wheels. Located in the coveted Observatory building on University Ave, they are the new kid on the block after opening last August. Roll in and check out this awesome tasting room. Their main brewery is in Carlsbad. Rouleur’s manager and Head Rouleur, Rawley Macias, has been brewing beer for over a decade and is himself a recognized beer judge and avid cycler. They have great core values including organized bike rides on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings.
“We were fortunate to have the opportunity to move in to the Observatory building space. Our focus is to enhance the culture of North Park and make awesome beer,” Macias said. Bike culture is a core tenet at Rouleur. The day that I was there, Rawley said he and his buddies biked from their Carlsbad facility to the North Park site. His wife and kids were having lunch on the table behind me. He said that was his ride home. I ordered the Boneshakeur, a New Zealand Pilsner. Since I was riding my bike, my aim was to start with a lighter, lower 5.6 ABV with many breweries to go.
Next I rode east on University to Bottlecraft. Although not a brewery, I included Bottlecraft on my tour because of its amazing selection of beers. Opening nine years ago, they feature 12 awesome beers on draft plus hundreds of bottles available to drink in or take to-go. They have free spirits tasting every Thursday; free wine tasting every Wednesday; and beer and cheese pairing and a special sour beer tasting monthly.
Continuing east, around the corner on Grim Street, I made my way to Mike Hess Brewing. According to manger Sean Kellogg, they were looking for an up-and-coming neighborhood and settled in North Park just over 10 years ago. This is a huge production facility and the first to establish itself in North Park. Here I had the Claritas Kölsch, a refreshingly smooth, authentically German beer, which they won the “world beer cup gold medal in the Kölsch category. The sense of community at Hess is real.
“We are very active in community events and activities, and fundraising and charity events,” said Kellogg. At last years’ HessFest event, they raised money for the Navy SEAL Foundation and Next Step Service Dogs. Patrons can interact with the brew staff and check out all the stainless steel vats as you walk through the main brewery on the sky bridge path to the spacious tasting room. You can enjoy live sports on a large flat-screen TVs, play darts, board games or just enjoy a good conversation in the spacious seating area. They have five locations and just took over the Alpine beer facility, retaining all their employees. They are dog friendly and sell dog treats as well as fun Mike Hess dog collars.
Back on University, continuing east, arriving at Original 40 Brewing Company, named after the Original 40 tracts of land in North Park and built in a former church building, according to Tim Tucker, manager. Here I had the Friars Robe Brown Ale. I’m not typically a brown ale fan, but this was light and crispy with a mellow finish. Open for three years, they have an excellent large indoor space, with great seating out front, and picnic tables on the side and in the back. Dogs are welcome in the outdoor seating.
Making a U-turn and riding west on University, I arrived at North Park Beer Co., a tasting room and brewery. The taproom was designed by the renowned Basile Studio and is styled after the early 1900s Arts and Crafts period with warm quartersawn white oak furnishings, copper elements, and custom fabricated street lamps. It is a huge space with brew vats on the side and back, and large roll-up windows and tables in front looking out over University Ave, which was where I sat enjoying Nearly Departed—a triple dry-hopped West Coast IPA, watching the street life.
Riding up 30th, I stopped at Second Chance Beer Company. Like Hess, its founders saw the growth in North Park and wanted to be part of it. They’ve been in business five years at this tasting room location. They brew their beer in the Carmel Mountain area of San Diego. Jason McGovern served me up their popular porter Tabula Rasa, a very drinkable, not too heavy porter. They are very dog friendly here. When I was there, dogs were lounging at the feet of their owners. They donate a portion of all proceeds from their Buddy Lager to local dog rescues such as The Animal Pad and Second Chance Rescue.
Not on my tour, but worthy of a visit, continue north on 30th, you’ll find Working Class, Rip Current, Fall Brewing Company, Belching Beaver, Poor House Brewing Company. Off 30th at El Cajon Blvd area, there’s Barn Brewing, Co, Home Brewing Co, and Pariah Brewing Company. To the south, you’ll find Thorn Brewery, Modern Times, and Fall Brewing tasting room, near South Park. So you can see, there is no shortage of fine brew houses in North Park.
With a full belly and light head, I pointed the old Trek bicycle south and carefully headed home on the bike path with a smile on my face remembering all the brewers and patrons I met and stories they shared that make North Park a beer drinker’s dream. So drive, bike, take a bus, ride-share or walk, but get on up to North Park and enjoy the brewery scene. You’ll be hoppy you did.