As any craft beer fan in San Diego knows, beers from Alpine Beer Company aren’t exactly the easiest to obtain.
But every year during San Diego Beer Week, O’Brien’s pub in Kearny Mesa becomes Alpine central.
On Friday night O’Brien’s kicked off Beer Week with “Alpine Comes Down the Hill,” an event featuring 12 Alpine beers on tap, including some beer typically not seen outside of the small brewery off Interstate 8 in East County.
“What gets people so excited is they can get everything they can get at Alpine here without having to drive the 20 or so miles,” said O’Brien’s owner Tom Nickel. “We’ve had a relationship with Alpine since the beginning and we’ve done an event with them every year of Beer Week. It’s been great.”
O’Brien’s always has at least one tap dedicated to Alpine. But on this night they had a dozen, including Pure Hoppiness, Nelson, Duet, Captain Stout, Hoppy Birthday, Irish Red, Alpine Ale, Koffee Sutra, McIlheney’s Irish Red, and Ichabod Ale. Making rare appearances were Keene Idea, a West Coast double IPA that has been characterized by some as a “double Nelson,” and Odin’s Raven, a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout.
The tap list certainly attracted Alpine fans, as there was a line out the door for most of the night.
“It’s harder to find an Alpine in San Diego than a Pliny (the Elder),” said one bar patron, “so it’s great to see so many of their beers here.”
Most Alpine beers were tapped at 5 p.m. and the Keene Idea blew in less than two hours.
“I thought it would go faster than that honestly,” said Tyson Blake, O’Brien’s general manager. “They do a helluva a job. Anyone who drinks their beer knows they make hops their bitch. They use hops in inspiring ways.”
The O’Brien’s-Alpine relationship is a longstanding one. Nickel has known Alpine owner Pat McIlheney for many years, and Blake has worked with the Alpine crew since his days at San Diego Brewing Co. Blake shares the same birthday (April 29) with Pat’s son, Shawn, Alpine’s head brewer, and the two have celebrated together many times at O’Brien’s.
“I’m sure they get calls every day from bars that want their beer, so it does pay to have that relationship,” Blake said. “I think they enjoy the pub kind of feel and this enables them to offer Alpine down in the city in that kind of environment.”
Beer Week is always an exercise in logistics for bar owners. O’Brien’s usually features about 20 beers every week. But during this 10-day celebration, they will feature about 11-12 new beers every day, said Nickel.
Alpine was just the beginning. And for Nickel, it’s the best way to kick off Beer Week.
“We like opening Beer Week with them, and once you have a good thing going you like to keep it going,” Nickel said.