By Brian Riehm
Bitter Brothers – Hidden Gem on Morena
When we think of beer neighborhoods, Morena Boulevard in Bay Ho and Bay Park doesn’t necessarily come to mind. But only a stone’s throw from the Costco, Bitter Brothers has opened up a quality brewery, operating since the start of the year at its location at 4170 Morena Blvd. Co-owner Bill Warnke was on hand to chat with my brother and I about his beers when we visited. He said that he came to the beer industry by way of being a chef, which got him interested in the local beer scene. He worked for a while with Lightning Brewing in Poway before deciding to go into the beer business with his brother.
The Bitter Brothers facility is fairly large for a brewery of its size, ensuring everyone has a place to sit. The beer selection has a nice variety as well, with offerings such as West Coast style IPAs, but also more traditional styles such as stouts, weizens, ESB, and a tart Berliner Weisse. As a tall guy, I liked that the stools were adjustable and my wife liked the purse hooks under the bar on a previous visit.
I tried out some four ounce samples. At only $2 per sample, this is a quality beer bargain. I usually start with milder varieties, because starting with an IPA will ruin your palate for other flavors. First up was Brotherly Love, a Dunkelweizen, with mellow chocolate notes that don’t overpower the malted wheat. (All of the beers have sibling themed names, as befits a brewery owned by two brothers.) Next was Extra Special Brother, a traditional Extra Special Bitter, that had all of the malt character and mild sweetness I expect. Ironically, ESBs are not especially bitter, despite their name. Bill said that they are trying to deliver beers “true to the style” and I think they have hit the mark.
Black Sheep on Nitro, is a coffee porter filled with a very mild coffee flavor. That is unlike many coffee porters I have tried which have been very bitter. This has a gentle sweetness that might tempt you to drink too many. I moved on to an IPA, Prodigal Son, made with Amarillo hops. These hops bring the citrusy and bitter taste expected of a true West Coast IPA. If you are a hop-head, this is your kind of beer.
My final ale was the best of the evening. I finished with the Double IPA, Big Brother, and wow, was it impressive. Very balanced and less bitter, it was full of flavor, but remained balanced. I couldn’t be sure, but it tasted like a mix of yeast varieties had been used, including a Belgian. As befits a double, it had a higher alcohol at 9% ABV. It had been recently tapped. $1 of the pour went to ALS charity. This is a worthy beer to raise money for a good cause.
To sum up, Bitter Brothers is a small brewery doing a lot, but not trying to do too much.
Brian Riehm is a long-time Clairemont resident and follower of the local craft beer scene. You can keep up with all his beer reviews by following @BrianRiehm on Twitter and reading his blog (brianssandiego.blogspot.com/)