BLONDES ON BEER:
Slightly off the beaten path of busy OB — about half a mile from the beach — sits the Mike Hess Brewing Ocean Beach tasting room. With a motto of "Great beer, no exceptions, no excuses," the brewery offers types you may know, with tastes you may not.
The Claritas Kolsch for example, uses a classic style from Germany, and is made true to taste but amped in body and Alcohol by Volume (ABV). The Grazias Vienna Cream Ale, which is often made like an amber lager with Vienna malts, is made with ale yeast instead of lager yeast.
And while adding citrus to IPAs is a somewhat common practice, the small collection of IPAs that have citrusy additions have their own twist. These include: Grapefruit Solis, Tangerine A-Fair and Into the Sunset with blood orange.
This year, Tangerine A-Fair is the official beer of the San Diego County Fair. "Last year, Into the Sunset was the official beer and they asked us to do it again," explained our beertender Logan Ayyoub. "The Into the Sunset became so popular, we kept it on as a mainstay as well."
Another mainstay, the Solis West Coast IPA, is always on the menu, but, it too, has its own spin on the West Coast IPA.
"Our Solis is a rotating recipe: every batch is a different recipe and essentially a different beer, even though it has the same name. We always change the hop profile and very often we change the malts as well. A lot of those batches are collaborations with other breweries. It's one of our flagship beers and a mainstay. Not a lot of breweries have that, where one of their main beers is always changing," Ayyoub said.
As to how Mike Hess fits with OB, he opined: "The beer we make is very drinkable and enjoyable. We don't have the craziest beers or most intense beers all the time. Almost all the beers we have, you could drink any time. It's OB, you want to hang out, go to the beach, relax, have a good time, that's the OB vibe. I think that's our deal."
Events at the tasting room include Dungeons & Dragons nights, Magic the Gathering Drafts, jigsaw puzzle competitions, trivia on Thursdays and fundraisers on most Wednesdays.
Ashley: I love that it is open, breezy and light. The art along the walls is just gorgeous. The art was created for Mike Hess, and features unique outline-type drawings of mythical creatures and ones representing the beer (such as a dolphin) accented with flowers or other decor.
Crystal: My favorite part about Mike Hess OB tasting room is that it's away from Newport Avenue. There are moments where it's just you and five other people enjoying delicious cold beers without the annoyance of a loud, elbow-to-elbow crowd.
There's plenty of room to play games with your friends or bring your dog and just chill. The beer selection is perfect for sunny beach days: easy to drink, gentle on the palate and not overly boozy. When you're sitting in the tasting room, beer in hand, watching passersby enjoy OB — it's a beautiful and peaceful experience.
Ashley: Grapefruit Solis: It's strongly bitter but fruity fresh. As you drink it, what starts with pithy bitterness develops into more well-rounded full-fruit flavor. It basically tastes like you bit into a grapefruit by the time you're done. It is a fruity, citrusy powerhouse.
Tangerine A-Fair: Citrusy on the nose and slightly sweet, definitely sweeter than the grapefruit. An admitted rookie mistake, I tried this one after the grapefruit one, so the flavor might not have been as strong as it would be otherwise. In trying it again after something a little less intense, it was definitely better.
Claritas: So clean and so simple. A kolsch is a clean beer anyway, but this has a little more body because of its higher ABV. It has a lot of familiar flavors as a standard Kolsch but a newer approach.
Regular Solis: Upon tasting this for the first time, I knew there was no way this was the same base/batch as the Grapefruit Solis — and I was right! We were told, because the Solis changes so often, the batch that made the grapefruit version is different from the original. The original has a completely different flavor profile, more piney and earthy than its citrusy counterpart.
Crystal: Steel Beach: A very drinkable American lager. Perfect for sunny beach visits, not heavy and not too alcoholic. Far from extreme in flavor, this is an ideal stepping stone into the craft beer arena.
8 West: I love any beer dedicated to OB! This orange honey wheat is subtle but flavorful. Another easy to drink, refreshing and light beer perfect on a sunny day.
4:59 Little IPA: All the flavor of an IPA with little to no bitterness. This one goes down smooth and is the perfect beer for people to ease into the IPA world.
Grazias: A Vienna cream ale that will make you rethink what a cream ale should taste like. It's sweet, smooth, and a little toasty — a very pleasant break from lagers and IPAs. This one is my favorite from our sampling at Hess and at 6.3 percent, you only need a couple for a good buzz.
My Other Vice: This Berliner Weiss is my typical flavor preference (a sour wheat) but too low in ABV for my liking. I love sours, but they better pack a punch.
Out of our wheelhouse choice
Brunus Robustus, 7.4 percent ABV porter
Crystal: Smoky with a thick mouthfeel, this medium-bodied beer is almost a meal. I bet this beer would pair well with some nice barbecue. I haven't been convinced I like porters, but I'm glad I tried it.
Ashley: Identified as a "hoppy porter," this beer has a more bitter and smoky profile than sweet. It is somehow lighter than a typical porter, but it has more body due to the hops and more of a burn-y quality.
Coming next month: The Blondes on Beer visit Eppig Brewing Waterfront Biergarten in Point Loma.
Life in the '07: To celebrate being a ZIP code 92107 business, Mike Hess has a party on the 7th of every month with 20 percent off your tab, local artwork showcases, sometimes food vendors and special beer releases. Learn more: facebook.com/MHBoceanbeach/ or bit.ly/2y7tSEP
Mike Hess by the Numbers
Open since: August 2015
Number of taps: 13-20
Alcohol by Volume: 3.5 to 10.2 (as of our visit)
Hours: 3-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon to midnight Friday/Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday
Address: 4893 Voltaire St., Ocean Beach
Contact: (619) 795-1095