In my opinion the Pacific Beach Ale House is one of the most overlooked breweries in San Diego. They have a solid standard lineup of beers and some great seasonals. At the San Diego Brewer’s Guild Festival during San Diego Beer Week last year they were pouring St. Sideburn Vintage Ale, a whiskey barrel aged with brettanomyces of their regular winter seasonal, St. Sideburn Winter Ale. I was bummed to have missed it at the festival and thought I wouldn’t get a chance to try it. But on New Year’s Eve I ended up at a party at PB Ale House brewer Erik Jensen’s house with St. Sideburn Vintage Ale on draft. I jokingly mentioned to Jensen that I’d love to come back the next day to get a little bit to take home when I’d be in better shape to fully appreciate it, to which he responded sure, come on by. So the next day I stopped by with a growler that Jensen happily filled off his kegerator.
St. Sideburn Vintage Ale pours a dark brown with a small white head. It has an earthy brett smell and smells more of alcohol than it tastes. The taste starts sweet but not overly malty and gives way to an earthy but not overwhelming brett flavor. It’s not a leathery taste that some beers with brett can have, just a very pleasant earthiness. It finishes more bitter and dry, with what might be some oak but that could be my imagination. I don’t get any whiskey flavors which I would expect to be more present than any wood from the barrel.
St. Sideburn Vintage Ale is a great beer, but not one I could drink all night (where as I wouldn’t have a problem downing quite a few of the non-barrel aged St. Sideburn Winter Ale’s in one evening). I’m not sure how much of this beer is still around, I haven’t ever seen it on tap at the PB Ale House, but Jensen tells me that he currently has a Tripel aging in the same barrel used for this that should be ready soon. Look for the barrel-aged Tripel (the name of which I’m unsure of) on tap at the Pacific Beach Ale House sometime in the coming months.