Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I visited the original Toronado last week, and it matched my expectations.  It is well-worn and a beer drinker's beer bar.  It was easy to see the design features that the San Diego Toronado incorporated, from the Dutch door and street facing windows providing natural light, to the large sign clearly stating the beer on draft, to the dark wood decor, to the stickers and large red Oldsmobile Toronado sign.  I didn't experience any of the infamous Toronado attitude.

There were about forty or so beers on tap with a few more beers on cask.  The list included beers from Belgium, Germany and England.  California was well represented on the craft list, but I noticed beer from Washington (Pike), Oregon (Deschutes), Colorado (Avery) and New York (Ommegang), too.   I did not check the bottle list, but some people at a nearby table were having a vertical Firestone Anniversary and Parabola tasting, so I suspect the list, like the San Diego Toronado, is comprehensive.

I wanted to try a local beer not readily available in San Diego, so I went with the cask version of Moonlight's Bombay by Boat IPA.  A properly served cask beer might not the best choice after the exertion of my long walk.  (I often choose the wrong beer when faced with a long list of options, it's so annoying.  There has to be a word, other than "dumbass," for making a poor choice when faced with nearly fifty beers. )  Bombay by Boat by was fine, but not great.  My notes say, "hoppy, nothing special, but by no means bad."  Not a ringing endorsement.  A week on, I'd say this beer is better than my notes.  It is a good IPA, not in my personal upper echelon of IPAs but not in the cellar either, and worth trying if you see it available.

I had a small glass of Ommegang's new Zuur, a Flanders Brown Ale, or as BeerAdvocate calls a Flanders Oud Bruin.  This had to have been on of the ugliest beers I ever seen, a mud brown color with hints of red.  It was cloudy, which seemed to accent Zuur's putrid, reddish brown clay look.  It had a whisp of foam that quickly dissipated, which left me staring at the murky beer with apprehension.   I took a taste and all thoughts of Zuur's appearance vanished.  What a different tasting, excellent beer.  It is a sour beer with little to no hop presence.  Zuur's sourness was not overwhelming, and like all good sours it becomes more compelling as you work your way down the glass.  It reminded my of Russian River's Consecration, but was not as sour or wine-like.  I am not sure whether this is a limited-release or not, but I need to buy a bottle.

The Toronado is a place all serious beer drinkers should visit.  It is worth a visit even if you are a casual beer drinker, especially if you have an adventurous streak because you will find beers you won't see at most bars and restaurants, even those that fancy themselves beer destinations.  Next time I visit Toronado, I'd like to go with more people, rather than another solo excursion.

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