By Frank Sabatini Jr. / Photos by Sara Norris
The cold war between beer and liquor can't be won. Thanks to certain San Diego mixologists, however, joining forces is on the table.
Case in point: the Hops and Robbers beer cocktail at La Jolla Brewing Company comprises two ounces of Espolon Reposado Tequila and an ounce of Sunny Jim's IPA, made on-site with American, Australian and New Zealand hops. A splash of house-made grapefruit cordial also goes into the pint glass with ice and a lime wheel.
"I love tequila, and that's the sole reason I like this drink," says managing partner Leigh Gibson, who enlisted the help of the drink-menu mavens at Blind Tiger Cocktail Co. to match each of La Jolla Brewing Company's five in-house brews to spirits.
Leigh, who also owns Dirty Birds in Pacific Beach, has taken the new 5,000-square-foot brewery "a step further," offering unconventional cocktails he feels will give the venture a competitive advantage.
Bar manager Derek Reaves is also smitten with the tannish-colored tipple, describing it as "hoppy up front, and then tapering off with the flavor of the tequila."
The brewery's signature suds pay tribute to La Jolla landmarks. Sunny Jim's is named after the hidden coastal cave, accessible only by kayak, which appears in the brewery's logo. There's also a malty Bird Rock Brown Ale, an Irish-style Cove Side Stout and an American-style Glider Port Pale Ale. The Neptune Nitro is a light, golden ale named after the nearby Neptune cottages built in 1894.
Recipes for three additional beers, including a double stout, are in the works and will surely end up as bedfellows to other high-octane spirits.
Other local crafts already flowing through the venue's 24 taps include those produced by Stone, Ballast Point, Green Flash and more. Sustenance extends to IPA-battered fish strips, Caribbean-style bahn mi sandwiches, mac-n-cheese bowls, duck confit and stout-infused ice cream floats.
Leigh and his team renovated the space (formerly La Jolla Brew House), adding towering brass beer tanks and 10-foot-high panels of illuminated beer bottles casting a glow over communal tables and booths. The modern-rustic décor flows to an outdoor patio with fire pits, where the idea of mixing beer with liquor seems like a good one, and peace of mind wins the war.
7536 Fay Ave., La Jolla
Just Four Fun
A quartet of La Jolla Brewing Company's beer cocktails, broken down by bar manager Derek Reaves
In the glass: An ounce and a half of Tanqueray Gin, one ounce of Neptune Nitro (golden ale), honey syrup, lemon juice and organic fennel bitters, shaken and served in a martini glass. In the mouth: Sweet, with a velvety texture.
View from the Top
In the glass: Three quarters of an ounce of Glider Pork Pale Ale (reduced to a syrup), two ounces of aged dark rum and fresh lime juice, served in a highball glass with a lime wheel. In the mouth: Slightly creamy and similar to a daiquiri in terms of the rum and citrus.
Just Around Midnight
In the glass: One ounce of Bird Rock Brown Ale, two ounces of Bulleit Bourbon and dashes of lemon juice and Angostura Bitters. In the mouth: The bourbon is distinct; the lemon bridges it to the ale.
Last in Translation
In the glass: Three quarters of an ounce of Cove Side Stout (reduced with sugar and cinnamon sticks), two ounces of Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey and splashes of Green Chartreuse and lemon juice. In the mouth: Smooth, all the way through. The sugar quells the bitterness of the beer, while the cinnamon adds a whisper of fragrance.