Taps: 30 / Bottles: 200
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings: 99 | Reviews: 78 | Display Reviews Only:
4.44/5 rDev +0.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | $$
Back down from up north, pondering what to do with our day before the flight tonight. Presently mulling around San Diego suspiciously, we have options, sure. I mean, we already looked in on daytime Toronado, so what else? Well, we bagged Hamilton’s the other day having seen the event madhouse that was on the drive by, but with time on our hands now, maybe a visit weekday midafternoonness is in order...
It’s a dark room and the blinds are drawn; a safe haven for vampires, no doubt. Your eyes adjust, and your nose knows of dank beerings. We drop to the bar; a long “L” to the left, wood top, slat wood base, foot box, and seating for 2 dozen on stools of leather. A row of 24 taps on the barback, plus a kegerator to the right with 2 more handles and a pair of handpumps up front for 2 ciders (Their regular use handpumps are further down the bar and are currently off), so 28 taps in all. A mounted flatscreen sits above the tap tower on center. To the left, a large horizontal board along side with tap selections printed in alt colored chalk; beer, style, ABV & price in 2 rows, and cider flights listed below, along with wines & sake, and to the right, a specials board listing cider flights (seems there’s something cidery going on, eventswise). Clutter countered and baby sampler glasses tucked below. On the front side below the bar are the ‘faces with the double set of eyes’ bottle openers shown on the front & back covers of the Pink Floyd ‘Relics’ Album (have never seen the female one before). Instant street cred.
A pair of phat tubes run from behind the bar overhead and to the rear; the lines a glycol system, need I say more? Further down the bar, a pair of 3 door coolers split by shelvings in between. On of one of them, empties of all sizes, mugs, glassware & growlers lining above, coasters plastering the top trim, and a flatscreen atop, and the other cooler holds shirts shelved above. Blackish walls, and the rafters above lined with tap handles past. Strung sprucings, white holiday lighting, blended ductisms, and another flat in the front corner.
A slat ½ wall divider off the bar with 4 bar counter spurs offshooting, and a pair upfront, 1 to each side of the door. Slight rampings down into the other room (Ben nearly wiped) beyond the divider. 4 more counter spur shortys on the inside wall and 3 booths up front. 2 pool tables in the center and a looong table bowling game. A large Guinness mirror on the far wall lined above with bottles not so random, and the walls and ceiling plastered with neons, placards, & flaggings otherwise.
We have decided to engage in table bowling; the pieces given to us in a box, handled. I talked some smack and then got smoked, badly. The table slants to the not where I can hit, apparently, and has nothing to do with my skills or drinking.
They’ve got a killer corner juke of put together mixes. Most are by group, but some are themed. I’m angry I didn’t scope out the tune scene first and then ply the juke with music to exceed the length of time we’d be here. Any juke with the Stone’s ‘Time waits for no one’ is instantly credible.
28 taps in all, 10 of them Bear Republic offerings on the heels of that maddening event they did the other day (Hop Rod Rye, Red Rocket Ale, Double Rocket, Ryevalry Belgian IPA, Big Bear Black Stout, Sour Black Mamba Wit, Cher Ami Belgian Pale Ale, Carburetor Doppelbock, Pete’s Tribute Brown, Rebellion Delta). The remainder is a mix of mostly west coast craft (Rubicon Monkey Knife Fight, Green Flash Palate Wrecker & Imperial IPA, Port Hop 15, Stone Old Guardian, Drake’s Dry Stout, Ballast Point Sculpin, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Big Sky Heavy Horse), scattered imports (Unibroue Trois Pistoles, St Bernardus Tripel, Celis White, Guinness, Professor Fritz Briem Piwo Grodziskie – Grätzer Ale, Stiegl Paracelsus Zwickl, Staropramen Lager), and a pair of ciders (Wandering Aengus Anthem & Wanderlust). I drank the Ballast Point Sculpin & Deschuttes Black Butte Porter. Beer was clean and fresh.
Damn, it’s dark. I am writing by damn near neon light, they’re hiding something. Oh, this is the sister act to Monkey’s Paw; I see what you mean there. Some of the best bars are not so shiny, pretty, clean, neat, and new, and this is one of them. I mean that in the very very best of ways. I could do some good time here. And we stumbled back out into the light…
10-18-2012 15:06:24 | More by slander
4.45/5 rDev +0.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5 | $$
It's sad, but between the loss of at least one notebook and my laptop, I was put off of doing BeerFly reviews for a while. I finally got back on the horse while visiting my dear cousin Colby last summer, but am only now getting around to their transcription. My apologies.
Dated H, 16 July 2009, this would have been shortly after my arrival in SD that summer.
The entrance was to the far left of the building with the door opening onto a long bar directly inside, along the left wall. The bar had a huge chalkboard detailing the "Hamilton's Tap List". Also behind the bar was a three-door cooler with various rotating beers inside. Coming right were the lavs, followed by a short divider and then the game room which featured two red-felt billiards tables and one of the fastest shuffleboard tables that I have ever encountered. Along the left front wall were three rough-hewn booths. The overhead of the bar area was festooned with tap handles while the game area had a fair amount of signage with a heavy emphasis on Belgians. Mondo Cane!: My cuz-in-law, Tammi, noted that she had never seen so many dogs just hanging out with their owners, having (literally) a howling good time. Noise was definitely on the menu here.
Beers: Better than thirty (30) drafts, almost all west-coast beers, plus the rare (on-tap) Hitachino White and a few others that have escaped my survey. I did not pay a whole lot of attention to their bottle selection as I prefer draft and/or CANs. They had plenty of bottles, but I simply was not interested.
Food: A cautionary note for those who may not like heat - an innocuous burger was initially laden with peppers which died an unseemly death at my hand. Caveat emptor! Otherwise, huge, satisfactory portions.
Atmosphere: A rolling, rollicking party!
06-21-2010 20:03:26 | More by woodychandler
3.93/5 rDev -11.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5 | $
Me and my friend headed to San Diego without making any plans visiting one of the cities famous beer bars. We came across a telephone book at a phone booth and happily found Hamilton's Tavern in the book. We wrote down the address and called the establishment to see if they could give us directions. We got our directions, and in 15 minutes, we were at Hamilton's.
The inside is very dark and pub-like despite the sun shining at the windows (thank you window shutters!). There are a few booths to one side, beer memorabilia all over the walls, two pool tables, a shuffle board, and a small window that takes food orders. Oh, and a bar. There were at least 20 people there when we were there around 6pm, and to our surprise, a few dogs.
The draft menu sits off to one side of the bar, with the names of the beer, the ABV, and price. Beers from Avery, New Belgium, Green Flash, Lightning, St. Bernardus, Russian River, Coronado, Alpine, Anchor, and Bear Republic were available from tap. I saw 4 cask engines at the bar, but it didn't look like any of them were in use. Towards the other end of the bar are several cooler with the bottled beers. Bottled offerings from Cantillon, Kiuchi, Deschutes, Hofbrau, Full Sail, and lots of other offerings. While the food and bottle prices were reasonable, we were surprised about the draft prices; most beers were $5 and below, including Pliny the Elder. Even better, the two Nelson's I got were priced at $4.50 a pop, but received for only $4 each (was there a happy Hour I wasn't aware of).
We munched on some fried mushrooms and chicken wings, a step above the usual bar food quality. How I liked those fried mushrooms while not being fond of mushrooms in the first place will remain a mystery.
The only glitch I found was the glassware/presentation. I only saw shaker pint glasses being used. I didn't see any fancy/correct glassware. Maybe if I decided to just go for the Cantillon, I would have found out. But you know, I'd rather have my Nelson, thankyouverymuch.
The beer selection was what prompted me to drive over to Hamilton's Tavern, and it didn't dissapoint. And as a bonus, draft prices were cheap. I'm definately coming back.
05-06-2010 03:11:05 | More by DoubleJ
4.53/5 rDev +2.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5 | $$
Perhaps it's just as well Hamilton's is not my neighborhood beer bar. Otherwise, there's little doubt I'd be over there just about every night, which would not be good for my health or my wallet.
The location of Hamilton's is pretty interesting. It's located in a cozy neighborhood over on the NE side of San Diego, and is one of the most unpretentious beer bars I've ever seen. It looks like it will be just some typical neighborhood bar, where old timers can walk in for a can of macro swill and a shot on the side. On the contrary, Hamilton's is anything but...
As one walks in from the street, Hamilton's is a dark, cool looking, informal looking restaurant with high ceilings and almost a warehouse feel to it. There's nothing fancy about the furnishings and decor here, though the vibe is certainly comfortable enough. As you walk in the door, there is a long bar running straight back in front of you, on the left side of the large room. To the right is the dining area, with a number of booths and table and chairs. As I got there promptly at opening bell, I grabbed a seat at the bar (the better to watch some sports on TV and ponder over the draft list board). While the place never got crowded on the early Saturday afternoon I was there, by the time I left (close to 2:00) the place was already starting to get pretty full. Given the quality of the beer selection, that's no surprise. On this particular day, there were close to 30 beers on tap and the selection was first rate. It seemed like just about every place in town had Pliny on tap, and of course Hamilton's did as well. Otherwise, they had a great selection of beers from Ballast Point, Alesmith, the Bruery and Green Flash (a lot of Green Flash), just to name a few. They also had on 4 or 5 different Belgian beers this day, I guess for those who might be a bit bored with the local stuff (not me!). As was typical of pretty much every place I visited in San Diego, service was quick, friendly and extremely knowledgable. The level of beer geekdom at Hamilton's is off the charts, with the staff obviously knowledgable and clearly big fans of good brew (several of the staff were a bit under the weather the afternoon I was there from the previous evening's festivities).
I should mention that Hamilton's also has a pretty good selection of bottled beers, which they keep in two large cold boxes near the end of the bar in the back. However, given the quality of the draft selection, I barely gave the bottle selection more then a passing glance.
The bartender mentioned that they also own the cafe next door, and there is a service window located in the back of the pub, where one can order food. I got the fast nachos, which in retrospect was probably not the best thing to order. It was bit on the salty side, and I didn't realize that it came with french fries in place of chips. Nevertheless, the menu otherwise looked pretty interesting, and I'll definitely give the food another shot the next time I visit.
What can I say? Despite it's unpretentious trappings, this place is clearly world class. It's also pretty obvious the place has a loyal group of regulars who come by all the time, of which I have no doubt I'd be one more if I lived in the area. This place is highly recommended.
12-22-2008 13:41:30 | More by John_M
4.49/5 rDev +1.6%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$
Probably our favorite place in San Diego. A neighborhood place owned by the same crew behind Small Bar, Monkey's Paw and others, Hamiltons is a dark local taproom that serves great craft beer.
One long bar on the left hand side as you enter, with tables behind and a walk up window to order food in the far corner. We got three seats at the bar and were quickly welcomed by the bartender. Very friendly guy, as was the night bartender/co-owner Dennis. We had some nice drafts (strong local presence with lots of Green Flash on our visit) from the strong tap list. The bottle list was similarly excellent.
Food was fine. We had sandwiches from their extensive grilled cheese menu. Nothing outstanding but on par for our food experience in SD.
We loved the gritty feel of the place and the welcoming environment. We would have spent more time and more visits there if not for the distance from our hotel downtown. This is a can't miss spot.
05-08-2013 14:29:54 | More by sholland119
4.24/5 rDev -4.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | $$
I did a three day brewery, brewpub, beer bar tour of San Diego and Hamilton's was my final stop on a pretty busy Sunday (Stone, Lost Abbey, Ballast Point, The Linkery and a couple of bottle shops in between).
I made it around 8 PM to some very loud 70's classic rock. Hamilton's was the most neighborhood of the places I visited. Lots of people seemed to know each other and at least three people were there inside with their dogs - a bonus in my book.
I was pretty tired by this point and struggled to enjoy the atmosphere of loud 70's rock and people playing pool (one group even asking me to join which I had to pass on).
While there were plenty of beers on draft to choose from, I struggled to find one and settled on a Craftsman Pale Ale which was so bad I had to dump it out. I then went with a sure thing and ordered a Pliny. To me, it seemed like the draught list had too much stuff I could get at any good beer bar in the US and not enough unique WC micros. Just me and I could be wrong on this.
Free bottled water was a nice touch.
10-18-2010 02:50:51 | More by Yetiman420
4.6/5 rDev +4.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | $
This is a great stop in SD. It is near the big park. Inside it is dark, the music was super loud when I walked in on a crowded Saturday afternoon. They turned it down though, maybe someone else complained.
About 30 taps and they are all pretty high quality brews. The Avery white rascal is all over town and they had it as well, and they were probably wasting a line with guiness and anchor steam but w/e. Some of the cool stuff were 2 Schlenkerla beers, PtE, ballast point oatmeal stout on nitro, Samichlaus . Nothing over the top exciting but enough to keep it real interesting. Soe unique rarer beers in the cooler.
The service was good. 2 broski bartenders but they were chill, and good guys. The one lame thing they did though was chill every glass. For being such a respected bar that seems really out of place, but then again it is rampant in SD.
07-29-2012 16:41:43 | More by crossovert
4.65/5 rDev +5.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5 | $$
Stopped by this place a few times during a recent trip to San Diego. This is supposedly one of the oldest beer bars in the area and it has an old school European pub vibe. Pretty spacious but basically one large room with a long bar, booths for dining, two pool tables, a shuffleboard game and the ceiling covered with old tap handles. I loved the vibe of this place. Lots of locals and beer nerds but the crowd is a bit young and the place is packed on weekend nights.
There is plenty of seating at the bar and the selection is excellent. A large chalkboard displays the draft offerings and there is an extensive bottle list covering lots of styles, breweries(including Alpine!)and countries. East coast offerings are somewhat limited but it looks like they carry the most interesting options that are distributed to the area. 28 taps covering a wide range of styles and breweries but there is a nice focus on locals. On one of our visits we had a pretty nice IPA tasting including Pliny, Sculpin, AleSmith IPA, Napa Smith Hopagedon, Green Flash WCIPA and Mission Shipwrecked DIPA. Being able to drink all of these delicious hop bomb on draft at the same time was awesome. They had more on and Alpine Pure Hoppiness bottles but we skipped them because we were visiting the brewery the next day. I was very impressed with the selection and according to their site they often have cask and brewery events. Very impressive.
Another great feature of this place was the quality of the food. Considering the size of the place they have a pretty large menu with standard pub food and some more interesting options. You have to order at a separate window and you can't get soft drinks anywhere after the kitchen is closed but the food is excellent. We never had to wait long for a meal and everything was delicious.
I went to fifteen different beer related places on my trip to San Diego and Orange County and this was by far my favorite. It's just a great neighborhood bar with delicious food, an amazing beer selection, cool people and great service. If I was a local I would live in this place!
01-21-2012 03:48:21 | More by corby112
4.54/5 rDev +2.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | $$
Beerfly review #100, too many cool places to visit in California, would never expect this place to be in this neighborhood while driving through in on the way there, had a friend drive me here yesterday so I can try the Frankenwine from Drake's, which did not disappoint and I will post my review for that shortly, atomsphere was awesome and laid pack with some pool tables and dart boards, mellow people who seemed like regulars at the place, four different people brought in their dogs, huge fridge with over one hundred bottles with Angel's Share 750 mls just jumping out at your eye from the bottom prices from the tap ranged from four to six dollars, bottles go from four all the way up to thirty for the rare stuff, place was very clean and felt like a quality estalbishment, food looked really good but I had eaten right before going there, I will have to order a hamburger during my next visit, you order in the back at their own little cafe, pretty neat idea, only one bartender but he was really helpful and quick, he even gave a few tastes before I ordered things, poor guy was being badgered by one of the visitors about how he looked like somebody from American Idol, the place had about twenty to twenty-five taps, some of the standouts were Coronado Hoppy Daze Belgian IPA, Karl Strauss Uncle Touchy Imperial IPA, Alesmith Speedway Stout, Speakeasy Hunters Porter, and Pizza Port Carlsbad Polapa Pale Ale on cask for only four dollars, got there during happy hour and all local stuff was one dollar off, think it was between 5 and 8 p.m. but not sure, wish I can be there on the 18th of this month when they have a Drake's barrel aged cask night to along with a couple different versions of their imperial stout to go along with much hyped rye wine, will try to come back here as much as possible when in San Diego, favorite place I went to during my short stay in the area, you need to check this place out if you have not been yet, thanks to KingG for recommending me to go yesterday, going out on a limb here but this place rivals Liars Club and O'Briens in my opinion and they definitely have a better bottle list
04-03-2008 00:39:51 | More by Floydster
Hamiltons Tavern in San Diego, CA
97 out of 100 based on 99 ratings.