By BeachRock Bill
“Guess what,” Son Carl said while looking at his phone as we drove north on the I-5 to Oceanside. “Bagby is closed Mondays.”
“FAAAAAAK!” the rest of us yelled. This was supposed to be the post of all posts for BeachRock Bill. The Colonel was in town, my original homebrew partner-in-crime, and the man that literally dragged me into brewing beer (Reflections of a Homebrewer). We were stoked to be joined for the night with not only my son Carl, but also The Colonel’s son, The Analyst.
Our endlessly debated and agreed upon destination was Bagby Beer Company in Oceanside. We were excited because, as The Analyst put it, “You go to Bagby to try weird stuff”.
Needless to say, we were at a loss when we realized Bagby was closed.
We pulled off the freeway at La Costa to re-group and figure out a suitable alternative destination–hopefully someplace close to us that was interesting enough to post about. Searching “Brewery” in Google Maps, I zoomed in on a familiar spot–the old St Archer tasting room in Leucadia, newly re-named as Kings & Convicts. Checking to make sure they were indeed open, I fired up the Turbo Civic, and we headed over. As I drove, I pondered the new destination’s potential for some thought-provoking blog material…
Thought-Provoking Blog Material
When the Saint Archer brewery first opened just off Miramar Road in 2013, it immediately became a regular stop on our brewery crawl evenings.
We knew the brewers, and the styles of delicious beer they crafted were right up our alley. So when the announcement came a couple years later that St. Archer’s owners were cashing out to SAB Miller (themselves a relic of a complicated series of multinational mergers and acquisitions), we were bummed.
Soon after the takeover, our friends left for other opportunities, and while the beer being produced was still solid, we were philosophically opposed to giving our beer money to foreign-owned mega conglomerates rather than neighborhood brewery owners, and we stopped going.
A few years after that, with the world hunkered down in the grips of Covid, a news headline quietly hit the tape–St. Archer, which had become a redundant brand after the dust settled in the merger proceedings between SAB and AB Inbev, was being bought by Chicago based Kings and Convicts Brewing Co. DuckDuckGo these events if you are at all interested, but the big takeaway here is: this was the same Kings and Convicts who had notoriously made the successful low ball takeover in 2019 of Ballast Point Brewery from Constellation Brands. We were extremely curious to be making our first ever visit to a K&C-owned tasting room.
Enough with the History–Let’s Drink!
Walking up to the front entry, and seeing the prominent new Kings and Convicts sign, it’s obvious that any branding related to St. Archer is long gone. Our crew was curious to see what other tinkering The King and The Convict had been doing to the deceased Saint.
It seemed to us that the tap room’s decor and bar area were essentially unchanged from before. There are a couple of Ballast Point sports jerseys on the wall and a couple of their new beers on the board (not a Sculpin in sight) that let patrons know that Kings & Convicts and Ballast Point are now both on the same team. However, we were happy to see that the majority of the offerings consisted of Kings & Convicts stuff. Gone were the familiar St. Archer core beers–Citra 7, Mozaic IPA, and White Ale, and in their place were names such as Sir Romeo, Hidden Paradise, and Legion Lager.
With the four of us wanting to try as many of the beers as possible, no easy task with over 20 offerings on the board, we decided to divide and conquer with 3 tasters each. Grabbing our glasses, we headed over to an empty table in the middle of the room, where we dug into our choices.
Four amateur beer critics hard at work swirling, smelling, and sipping a table full of snifters. We probably looked like idiots to the locals hanging at the bar, but we were having a blast, and before we knew it, had emptied most of our samples. It was time to share our impressions and pick our favorites.
BeachRock Bill–The standout was the Hazy IPA collaboration with Embolden Beer Co. called “Hidden Pleasures.” It had a pleasant hazy appearance, with tons of grapefruit and pineapple on the nose and palate.
Son Carl’s choice was one that we all felt was pretty special–“Legion Lager.” Clean, crisp and, at 4.5% ABV, very chuggable.
The Analyst thought the “King’s Seal IPA” had just the right amount of citrusy flavor balancing out a pleasingly bitter finish.
And finally… (drumroll please!)
The Colonel–” I also liked the Hazy,” he said.
“What? I thought you hated those,” I teased.
The Colonel cracks me up.
In addition to picking our favorites, one of the beers we tried reminded me a lot of Russian River’s “Pliny The Younger” and was right in Wife Helen’s wheelhouse–a 9.5%, sweet and boozy Double IPA called “Legless.” Not being a big fan of “weird stuff,” Helen had chosen to skip Bagby with us, but since she was now on her way over to meet us for dinner close by, I texted to see if she wanted to stop in and give Legless a try.
Round 2–Relax and Enjoy
Our hard work of tasting wore us out, so for round two, we all decided to order a pint of our favorites and just relax and enjoy them–all of us except The Analyst, that is. True to his name, The Colonel’s son was determined to try every beer available, and ordered a few more tasters to finish off the board. Disappointed that the hazy keg had blown, The Colonel instead went for a pint of the King’s Seal IPA, a classic bitter west coast style, and I opted for the more rounded and tropical Sir Romeo IPA. With a long drive home ahead of him, Son Carl stuck with the tasty low alcohol Legion Lager, and when Wife Helen soon showed up, she gave her devilish “its delish” grin of approval after just one sip of “Legless.” The conversation was spirited, the laughs plentiful, and our beers disappeared in a flash.
After the Colonel closed out the tab, and we were heading off to dinner, I asked The Analyst which, if any, of the beers at Kings & Convicts qualified as “weird stuff.”
He felt the weirdest disappointment of the night was the unpleasantly scented, lager yeasted Cold IPA called “The 8th State.”
(I think we were all on the same page on that).
And the pleasant weird surprise of the night was the most unique beer on the board–a gin and juice-inspired Blond Ale called “Sun Ride.” It was drinkably smooth with complex notes of candied citrus and juniper berry.
So, despite the false start, in the end it all worked out and we had a great time. The silver lining turned out to be Wife Helen joining us after all and loving her beer. We will definitely visit again soon.
In the future, it will be interesting to see if, and to what extent, the Ballast Point and Kings & Convicts brands will be integrated. And stay tuned for an upcoming Ballast Point Brewery visit and more “thought-provoking blog material.”
Many thanks to Wife Helen, The Colonel, The Analyst, and Son Carl, for joining me in enjoying well-made, independent San Diego craft beer.