Alpine Beer Company breaks the pub mold

by Ashley Williams

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Ashley Williams

Alpine Beer Company’s atmosphere is full of small-town charm and incorporates hints of country, a splash of ‘50s diner and a subtle grunge vibe. If this pub were a person, it would be Kurt Cobain dressed as a greaser wearing a cowboy hat.

A bar serves as the focal point for patrons entering the restaurant, and black and white checkered tiles line the floor. A pair of high tables next to the window, a handful of tables in the center and few booths along the wall also accommodate guests. The place is pretty packed, but it doesn’t feel claustrophobic.

The images and trinkets adorning the walls make for entertaining diversions while waiting for a table.

Alpine Beer Company’s Nelson even made it to First We Feast’s “30 Great IPAs to Drink Before You Die” list last month. Union Beer Distributors specialty brands manager Mike Lovullo reviewed Nelson for the list. He described the beer’s “beautifully ripe, flowery Chardonnay quality,” which is balanced with European rye malt to counter “the bitterness and give this brew a smooth finish.”

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Ashley Williams

There is a decent-sized selection of beers available and the knowledgeable staff will guide anyone to the perfect pint. Those who aren’t set on one beer can get a sampler of four or six to broaden those hoppy horizons. Samples are placed in a numbered, muffin-tin-style tray. The bartender will write a card listing which beer corresponds with each number.

Wine and champagne are also available for patrons feeling fancy.

A trip to this pub isn’t complete without adding food to an order. Choose from a barbecue-inspired menu that includes smoked wings, pulled pork sandwiches and ribs. There are also lighter options for health-conscious individuals and vegetarians, such as salads, grilled cheese, fries and a delicious portobello mushroom-based vegetarian sandwich.

Be prepared to stand in line while waiting for a table. On the Friday night I went, the wait was approximately 10 minutes for a seat at the bar and another 10 minutes for a table. Apparently, I got lucky, because a member of the kitchen staff told me it was a slow night. Yelp reviews reveal it isn’t uncommon for the line to extend through the pub out the door.

Alpine Beer Company is split into a pub and brewery. The two parts are the bookends of a perpetually closed used bookstore silently sandwiched in the middle. I’m all for bookstores, but if this one is never open, I say knock down the joining walls and add more tables to the pub.

The area behind the building seems to be dominated by the beer company, with an outdoor patio nestled among the trees.

The only bathroom is a separate, shed-like building in the middle of the brewery’s backyard. You have to walk down the sidewalk and up a few steps, so navigate carefully if you’re well into your night of drinking.

Speaking of navigating, you should never drink and drive under any circumstances, but particularly in Alpine. Alpine Beer Company is just down the street from the Sheriff’s station and you’re essentially a sitting duck once you step out of the brewery doors. Also, the half-hour drive from College Area to East County is no place to test inhibited driving skills.

Bring along a friend who isn’t 21 years old yet to be the designated driver. Buy him or her some delicious sweet potato fries—the only truly crispy sweet potato fries I’ve ever encountered—and your driver won’t even be bitter about missing out on some IPA.

Warn this friend that parking is less than ideal on weekend nights. There are a few spots directly in front of the pub and a small lot to the side of the building, but chances are you’ll need to park on the street. On the bright side, there aren’t meters in Alpine, so whatever street spot you manage to snag won’t cost you any of your beer money.

The brewery itself is only open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, but the pub is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; and noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Come on a weekend evening for the full, fast-paced experience, or try a weekday for a quieter atmosphere.

Whenever you go, you’re sure to enjoy good beer, food and company. Take a breather from the College Area/Downtown/Pacific Beach routine and give Alpine Beer Company a try.