Bottoms Up!

San Diego is a city so renowned for its extensive selection of home and microbrews, that it may be  difficult to decide where to sit down and grab a drink. Read up on just a handful of the Guardian’s top picks for unique drinking locations in America’s Finest City.

 

St. Archer’s
Address: 9550 Distribution Ave., Mira Mesa
Hours:   Mon. through Thurs., 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Pricing: $

Recommended Drink: The cask brew

An excellent indication that somebody has been living in San Diego too long is that they take its brewery scene for granted. Considering the swill imbibed in other cities, San Diego is a veritable mecca of breweries with powerhouses like Lagunitas and Stone within driving distance and local craftmasters Hess and Alesmith only a few miles from campus.

However, in this reviewer’s opinion, the best brewery to visit in San Diego is neither the aforementioned ones (despite their undeniable excellence) nor student favorite Greenflash but St. Archer’s brewery, located in Mira Mesa off Distribution Avenue.

In comparison to Green Flash, St. Archer’s tasting room looks quite quaint. Rather than a huge array of different brews lining the wall, it merely serves around eight drafts. Yet this focus, offering a few excellent beers rather than an overwhelming array of middling beers, is exactly what makes St. Archer’s the place to visit. Each beer simply feels like it was handled with individual care, distinctly smooth and flavorful without an overreliance on hops.

While fans of a very specific beer might rightfully want to seek a very specific brewery instead, for the best all-around selection of quality beers, there is no better place to visit than St. Archer’s. Still overlooked by many, its clean and modern tasting room is an excellent location to idle away the afternoon hours.

Noble Experiment

Address: 777 G St., Gaslamp Quarter
(inside Neighborhood Bar)
Hours: Tues. through Sun. 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Pricing: $$$
Recommended Drink: Dealer’s Choice

There is something to be said for a bar that refuses to be easily found, necessitating an adventurous spirit to even locate its premises. Noble Experiment is such a place, being a throwback to the 1920s idea of a “speakeasy,” a secret bar historically meant as an illicit means to procure drinks during Prohibition. Indeed, the bar is located inside Neighborhood, a Gaslamp bar and eatery. On the way to The Neighborhood’s bathrooms, a wall of kegs can surreptitiously swing back, revealing a doorway to the speakeasy. With a reservation booked (which should be procured at least a week in advance), one can enter to explore its hidden riches).

The first thing to catch your eye should be the incredible wall of golden skulls on shelves filling one wall of the bar. But spectacle, both in such a gloriously morbid display and in the clandestine nature of the bar, is not what ultimately defines Noble Experiment. Rather, it is a tribute to true bartending, with every type of cocktail prepared with delicate term and utmost attention. This is the type of bar where one can ask the bartender to simply “surprise me!”

Noble Experiment is not a place one would want to, or even can, make their regular haunt. Drink prices are high, and the waiting time on reservations makes this a bar to visit only infrequently on special occasions. But in terms of pure quality, class and uniqueness, there is no finer place to visit in the Gaslamp Quarter.

The Shout House
Address: 655 4th Ave., Gaslamp Quarter
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Friday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Saturday 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Pricing: $$ (doors), $ (drinks)
Recommended Drink: none

The Shout House is an odd place to recommend. Its cocktail selection is overpriced and not made with any more care than the drinks in your average dive bar. Even its beer selection is adequate at best, with only the sports bar basics and perhaps one or two local beers on tap.

Whatever inadequacies it may have in terms of alcohol, The Shout House makes up for it by being San Diego’s only dueling piano bar.

Indeed, the bar is not the center point of this venue at all. While its raised position occupies an entire side of the room, it’s merely a distraction, with most of the seating concentrated around the lower stage that features the true draw of this place. Any night of the week, two dueling pianists can be found on this stage taking requests (for a small fee) from the audience to rambunctiously play whatever song is requested of them, from Lady Gaga to Journey to the occasional Beethoven.

With bawdy jokes, shouting crowds and many a drunken bachelorette party, The Shout House is not the type of place to visit if you desire a quiet night with friends.

If you want to get both shit-faced and sing (off key) at the top of your lungs, this is one of the few bars in San Diego that not only accommodates but encourages such behavior.

Hamilton’s Tavern
Address: 1521 30th St., South Park
Hours:  Monday through Friday: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Saturday, Sunday: 1 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Pricing: $$
Recommended Drink: Pliny the Elder

San Diego has enough bars to cater to nearly any desire, replete with karaoke bars, dive bars, sports bars and whatever else one may want. However, for those who care less about the particular aesthetics and perks of a place and purely about the quality of beer on tap, there is no finer establishment in San Diego than Hamilton’s for the true beer connoisseur.

here’s a certain elegance to Hamilton’s complete disregard for such frivolities. As “the oldest beer and wine licensed location in San Diego,” don’t be fooled by its appearance, which makes it seem like only a mere, local watering hole, loved due to necessity rather than choice. The tavern has perhaps the most impressive beer selection in San Diego.

The 28 taps and two casks here feature a selection of impeccably chosen beers, eschewing relying on standards (besides the necessities like Guinness). Instead, its blackboard is replete with such interesting choices as Monkey Paw Oatmeal Pale and Alpine Ugly IPA.

As an indication of its prowess, it’s noteworthy that Hamilton’s is one of the few bars in San Diego that regularly has Pliny the Elder (a near-legendary beer for IPA lovers) on tap.

Kudos also have to go to its bartenders who seem to have a certain knack for always being aware of waiting customers, ready to speedily assist in quenching another customer’s thirst.

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