Hidden gem in Poway

I have a secret I want to keep so I shouldn’t write this blog.  I want to be greedy and selfish and keep a good thing to myself.  Alas, the world does not revolve around what I want.   Lightning Brewery’s beer will do all the talking.   I’ve seen the beer tours go through and it’s just a matter of time until word of mouth does its damage.  I will find myself waiting in line at 8 a.m. with 100 other crazies as some ride up in their Lightning Brewery bike jerseys, all for a chance to get one bottle of their “Seasonal Special Release.”  Sigh.

Although I believe the local breweries which have seen success absolutely deserve it, I cannot be blamed me for wanting to hoard something good.  It’s like that band you once saw at the Belly Up or the old Casbah.  The small intimate setting made for great sound and a wonderful experience.  Then 3 years and hours of MTV exposure later you find yourself paying $120 for a ticket to catch them at the Sports Arena.  Yes, the band is the same but the experience is different.  I suppose it’s the experience of a small brewery I’m trying to hold on to.

Taps

The Brewery/ Tasting Room:  The tasting room is the brewery.  Patrons are put right next to the equipment and can fill out into their stockroom.

Stockroom

Taps are connected to a large cooler and a rope is put up to create space distinction (my guess is so people won’t try to help themselves).  Their website requests not to bring more than six people with you.  It is a pretty tiny space and my crowd induced anxiety had me climbing up the walls as soon as a tour came through.

Bottling system

Ben walked freely through the entire space taking pictures, and no one seemed to mind.

"I'm going to have to retake the picture. The girl is drinking."

Taster Prices: $1 each or $5 for 6 (2-4 fl.oz.).  Patrons must pre-pay for tasters, which I saw as a plus keeping everyone very aware of their consumption.  Bottle caps were given out for the number of tasters purchased, trading it in for each new taster.

Owner/ Head Brewer:  On my first visit to this brewery I had the opportunity to chat with the President and PhD, James J. Crute.  He’s a bio-chemist who decided to follow his life’s passion and in 2006 opened up Lightning Brewery.   It was my impression that for him, beer came before business.  It wasn’t about finding their cash cow and milking it for all it was worth.   James wants to make great beer.  He not only answered all the questions the hubby and I had for him, he seemed genuinely interested in us and what brought us in for a visit that day.

The Line-Up:   I have a confession.  I have a favorite.  During my last visit, I stood there smelling and slowly sipping trying to pull out the intricacies of each beer.  All the while inside I chanted “Barrel aged Black Lightning Porter!  Barrel Aged Black Lightning Porter!! Now! Now! NOW!”  It is a limited production release that I tried during my first visit and came home with two 1 liter growlers.  Although I knew I would take another growler home with me, I was so excited to see they had some left and wanted to spend all my bottle caps on it.  Hearty and robust, the flavor lingered on the tongue.  The barrel aging added complexity without overpowering the beer base.   I had the intentions of being a good beer connoisseur, but I failed. Talk about a cash cow.  It’s a winner in my book.  I absolutely enjoyed their other beers, but it’s like having a favorite dish in a particular restaurant.  You really want to try other dishes, but are always led back to your favorite.  I suppose it just means I’ll have to go back (when the Porter is out) and do the tasters all over again.   Oh darn.  Their Electrostatic Ale is one of Ben’s favorites which lured us out initially to Lightning in the first place.   Its high ABV is surprising.  Ben describes it as “malty sweet, with slightly ester yeast spiciness.”   He proclaims it as a “must try” for malt lovers.

Plastic bottle "growler"! James paying homage to his bio-chemist background??

Distribution:  Primarily found in Southern California, recently they posted on facebook about being in Iowa and Nebraska.

Staff: Everyone was friendly and welcoming.  One of the servers recognized us from our previous visit.  I love that!

With reluctance I say, go.  Go now and experience a great small brewery.   Judge for yourself, but try not to tell your friends.   If I find myself years from now waiting in line for a batch of the Barrel Aged Lightning Porter, I’m sure I’ll grumble to myself something along the lines of remembering a different time.   Deep down I KNOW good beer should be shared, and succuss is just an indicator of something very tasty.

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