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Beer Lovers, Unite!

After a night of slaving away at Alchemy, in South Park, preparing luscious libations for the masses, I felt it was time to walk that long block home with a stop off at my favorite ale house, which just so happens to be the halfway point. I teamed up with Christy Thayer, the mixologist from Anthology over in Little Italy, to do a little inspection on the much visited tavern.

Upon arriving at Hamilton’s, I was grateful that the door man recognized me and I didn’t have to dig in my vast pockets searching for a hopeful form of identification that would grant me access to this wonderland of brew-ha-ha. Always upon entering, I marvel at the wood that surrounds me in a warm and seductive coccoon. The long wooden bartop is a lovely piece as it spans the entire length of the room allowing for some 20 or more barstools. The matching 10 high top side tables are arranged throughout the whole bar attached to the woodpaneled walls. There are also three six seater wooden booths adjacent to the two pool tables with faux candle lit lamps, giving this room the feel that you are in another time and place all together. Bottom line, this is a beautiful use of trees.

We cozied up to the bar and were swiftly greeted by general manager and barkeep extraordinnaire, Dennis Borlek. After reading the well written menu board, which lists brewhouse, name, type, alcohol content and price, I decided to try Hangar 24 Pale Ale which has a 5.0 alcohol percentage and costs only $4.50 a pint. Christy tried the Airdale Dark and Stormy russian imperial stout which has a 9.5 alcohol rating for $5.75. We both enjoyed her brew more with the coffee and chocolate notes, while I felt mine left something to be desired, but still refreshing after a night’s toil. There are 28 draft handles here and 2 cask beer engines for those cask conditioned ales. There are also over 200 bottle beer selectios with a focus on traditional Belgian craft beers. So, there was a pretty good chance I woulod be satisfied with my follow up choice. I was quite excited to see a nut brown ale from Coronado Brewing Company called Monkey Brown. And the first few sips gave me that nuttiness and clean fruit that I was looking for. Success!!

The jukebox here is always a riot. There is every bit of rock’n’roll and blues you could ever want. We heard Beatles, Kings Of Leon, Nirvana and Guns and Roses all in the span of 30 minutes. The three flatscreen televisions, which during football season will be showing as many games at one time as is humanly possible, were all triangulated on a young and funny Chevy Chase and ill adorned Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack. For those not drawn into the light of the current DVD, there are literally hundreds of tap handles hanging from the rafters over our heads. This gets a bit dizzying trying to search out something familiar, but Dennis has assured us that he knows where each one is. Interlaced through this would be art manifesto is pine needle garland and what I thought to be periwinkle colored christmas lights.

There is also something here for the non beer drinker. There were three sakes of note available by the shot and a decent wine selection featuring half bottles of Summerland Pinot Noir for a mere $10.00. Apparently, Alchemy will be doing a trade-off with Hamilton’s supplying them with an eclectic wine of the month, while Hammie’s will be granting a beer of the month for them. And if you brought your appetite, there is a pass through window to order food from next door Hamilton’s Cafe. I have tried some of their burgers and was pleased with the Witchfyre burger that had jalapenos, and roasted anaheim chiles. There are many differen’t flavor choices of wings and a stunning variety of grilled cheese sandwiches. I hope to try some of their homemade hop sausages next time I get the hunger.

This place also has some history. This location, a long time known as Sparky’s, has the oldest beer and wine license in San Diego, over 75 years. Makes you wonder who was drinking here on February 11th, 1935, when they opened their doors for the first time. The very house I live in was a recruiting depot for the army during world war II. This brings to mind the name. The tavern is named after Mr. Herman Hamilton. A patriot and war veteran who served in the Montford Point Marines, and who has lived in South Park for the last thirty five years. My neighbor, Bobby, has lived here for fifty years and I wonder if they have ever hung out and swapped stories.

There are some regular events that take place here every month. You can sign up for their newsletter and get the low-down on these. Second Saturdays feature a local brewery at discounted prices with brewer selected cask conditioned ale or “real ale”. Then the team at the cafe wrestles up some smokehouse eats to pair up with the brews for FREE! Recently, they’ve been featuring cask ales for Friday happy hours as well. I think owner and beer connoiseur, Scot Blair, has created an ideal space and environment that appeals to all ages and genres. Hamilton’s was cited by Imbibe Magazine as one of the top 100 places to drink beer in 2008.

This is truly a neighborhood gem. It is true that you might have to sift through a crowd on the weekends or wait in line for the shuffle board table, but having a place where the staff remembers you and the drink selection is quite attainable is key. Make sure to check out the cafe bites with veggie and vegan selections. Maybe I’ll catch you there, one fall afternoon, when the Chargers score a touchdown and their 1970’s disco anthem comes booming over the house speakers much to the thrill and somewhat dismay of the happy, beer-infused clientele.

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-238-5460
  • Name: Hamilton's Tavern
  • Address: 1521 30th Street