If you head about an hour east of San Diego, out through the Poway area, past Ramona, over the river and through the woods and all, you will come upon the small town of Julian. Long renowned for their apples and all the fun apple-y products that come from them – pies, cider, etc. – there is now another great reason to head 4,235 feet up in elevation to this small ‘burg: BEER.
San Diego residents should be well familiar with local craft beer institutions like Pizza Port
, Oggi’s Pizza
, and O’Brien’s Pub
. After brewing for many years at the first two of these, and providing outstanding ownership of the last, award winning brewer Tom Nickel
and his wife Lindsey decided to set up their namesake brewery Nickel Beer Company
in Julian in 2013.
The brewery is located in a former police / jail substation, with a gated cell still intact, which hilariously serves as the designated children’s play area now. The building is small but welcoming, and has all the charm you would expect in this small-town setting. We struck up some great conversation with the locals, who on this evening were enjoying a wide variety of the brews on tap.
There are some great offerings in the Nickel Beer Co line-up, including some collaborations with craft brewing legends like Colby Chandler
of Ballast Point
, and an amazing Rye Whiskey Barrel aged Strong Ale brewed with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of O’Brien’s Pub.
Blair Not Bitter (4.1% ABV)
An English style Best Bitter brewed with Scot Blair (owner of Monkey Paw, Hamilton’s, and Small Bar). Locally grown Glacier hops are included in this brew.
JPA (Julian Pale Ale) (5% ABV)
A classic, smooth drinking American style Pale Ale. Hop forward, but well balanced.
Star B Fresh Hop Pale (5.7% ABV)
This lovely fresh hopped ale features locally grown Cascade and Chinook hops from Star B Ranch, plus a heritage variety of hops called Julian Gold that have been growing natively behind the Julian Town Hall since the 1890s.
Volcan IPA (7% ABV)
The “house IPA”, named after the local Volcan Mountain range. Hopped to the top with Centennial, Citra, and Columbus hops, and packs a nice bitter bite.
To finish off the stop, we took a taste of the Sierra Nevada Rye Whiskey Barrel O’Bryen’s (11.9% ABV). This is a big bad deep amber strong ale, brewed with roasted rye. They let it take a nap for 9 months in a Rye Whiskey barrel. Brewed in commemoration of O’Brien’s Pub’s 20th Anniversary, this is one brew worth the wait. Hope you brought a designated driver along with you!
Come to Julian for the apple pie, stay for the beer. And for reals, find a designated driver to make your trip back home safely. Nickel Beer Co’s tap list
is extensive, and well worth sipping through.