Go: Kairoa Brewing Company
Know: Want a taste of New Zealand? Travel to University Heights, where Kairoa’s co-owner Shanan Spearing and head brewer Joe Peach are among the Kiwi natives on staff. Maori-inspired imagery adorns the two-story brewpub, while N.Z. ingredients (lamb, mussels, sausage, roasted beet hummus) enliven the dishes and the beers, which highlight fruity hops from the ANZAC region.
Glow: The lamb barbacoa New Zealand Hot Chips ($11) was an unexpected delight, a bowl of fries topped with queso fresco, garlic aioli, shallots, mint chimichurri and a mound of tender, lean, shredded lamb. Other winners include the beer-battered fish and chips with New Zealand-style slaw ($16); the New Zealand pilsner green lip mussels ($18), served in a broth chunky with pork belly and chopped fingerling potatoes; and the fried chook sandwich ($15), a meaty chicken breast fried in a salt-and-vinegar batter.
Mo’: Next time, we’ll aim to try the savory meat or veggie pies ($9) and the fried shrimp butties ($14), a Down Under sort of slider.
Flow: When PACIFIC visited, six house-brewed beers were on tap (the menu lists 10). Of the five we sampled, Southern Sky IPA ($7 a pint), an unfiltered ale with lip-smacking mango and orange notes, soared. Not a beer fan? Kairoa offers 15 wines, $8 to $14 a glass.
No: Cheeky Buggah ($6), while billed as a Belgian-style blonde, tasted like a West Coast pilsner. Were the traditional Belgian spices held up in customs? Expect Joe Peach, a veteran with brewing experience at Poway’s Lightning and San Diego’s Bitter Brothers, to refine his recipes as he gets accustomed to the 10-barrel brewhouse.
Pro: Since its late-January opening, Kairoa has been packed. Even on weeknights, seats in the downstairs dining room are hard to come by. Arrive early or consider ascending to the rooftop bar. San Diego nights can be chilly in March, but the upstairs heating elements may transport you to the Southern Hemisphere, where these are the balmy days of summer.
In the know: No desserts were on the menu when PACIFIC visited, but our waitress tipped us to an unlisted gem: the ANZAC Biscuit ($9), oatmeal cookies wrapped around chocolate ganache and served with berries and green tea ice cream.
Kairoa Brewing Company: 4601 Park Blvd., University Heights, 619.295.1355, kairoa.com