Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Out and About: Craft Beer & Pub Grub, O'Brien's is Tried and True

By Erik Battenberg

O'Brien's Pub
You know how you have that tee shirt that you’ve worn for years , it’s a little rumpled but still feels good every time you put it on? The one you keep wearing even though your significant other tries to get you to don something more stylish? O’Brien’s Pub is kind of like that shirt.

O’Brien’s, at 4646 Convoy St. in Kearny Mesa, is one of the city’s oldest and coziest craft beer bars. While there are lots of newer spots that might have better d├ęcor, nicer fixtures, tastier food, a more-attractive clientele or other advantages, O’Brien’s is still a great place to spend an afternoon or evening.

As the name suggests, O’Brien’s is a bit of an Irish pub, with green walls and chairs, dart boards, Harp and Guinness on draft, an unfortunate tendency to show soccer games on its TVs and signs with barroom homilies like “Save the Earth, it’s the only planet with beer” or “There will be a $5 charge for whining.”
But it’s really more a craft beer bar than anything else. There are 28 taps and, aside from the aforementioned Harp and Guinness, all are dedicated to good beers, whether they’re from local breweries, other U.S. cities or Belgium.

O’Brien’s has longstanding relationships with many of the top craft breweries and always has good stuff available. It usually has Russian River’s famed Pliny the Elder and/or Blind Pig on tap, as well as fresh kegs from Alpine Beer Co. If you know craft beer, you know these are good offerings.

If you’re new to craft beer or are otherwise unsure what to order, ask bar manager Tyson Blake for help and you’ll be in good hands. Few people are better at explaining a given beer’s characteristics. Tell him what you like or the kind of beer you’re looking for, and he will pour you a couple tasters to help you decide.
O’Brien’s serves lunch and dinner with a menu that’s heavy on pub grub. I don’t go out of my way to eat here, but the food is good enough and certainly helps soak up some of the delicious beer on hand.

The menu includes three kinds of French fries – regular, garlic parmesan and beer-battered – plus jalapeno poppers, chicken wings, nachos, burgers, sandwiches, soups and, yes, salads. It also has self-serve, all-you-can drink soda and tea for $1.25, which is nice if you’re the designated driver.

The pub has a smallish bar with about eight stools and about a dozen tables inside. Some complain about the green pleather, low-profile, swivel chairs on wheels, but I think they’re comfortable. There is a large patio outside with more tables and (plastic) chairs, but beware that smoking is allowed and this place draws people who still like to puff cigars. The smoke can sometimes be hard to escape.

O’Brien’s regularly has special beer tappings that can draw huge numbers of beer geeks, but its day-to-day crowd features a lot of regulars who work or live nearby. Many have been coming for years (and years) and it’s not uncommon to see a bartender who’s ending her shift give folks hugs on her way out the door.
It’s fun to go to new places and try new things, but O’Brien’s is a pub I’ve enjoyed for years, and expect to enjoy for years to come.

Part of enjoying craft beer is making sure everyone arrives home safely. If you are drinking, designate a sober driver, call a cab or use a service such as Uber or Lyft. New Uber users can get a $20 discount on a ride by using promo code mqgae.

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