Taps: 20 / Bottles: 85
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: Y
Ratings: 136 | Reviews: 115 | Display Reviews Only:
4.5/5 rDev +3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | $$
Oh, that’s what he meant by ‘green cushy chairs’, but I digress. Stupid, badly hungover mornfternoon, but feeling better with a little Ballast Point tasting room time in me (and breakfast didn’t hurt). Back in town, this strip mall of crazy, and parking, more so, hunted out (Thought we might scrap for that little piece of real estate where we dropped the car). And up there in the corner, the this...
Small small surprisingly small place. Straight wood bar to the left seating 8 on green leather stools, and a service corner up front. A center logo mirror on barback center over a row of 20 taps, and glassware shelved to the left with some giant chalice & tulip pieces, with more down below. Belgian Independence Day flaggings line above, and mug club mugs hooked running the length from a bar overhang in roofing shingle wood exterior. A collection of O’B shirts displayed up there, with an American flag on one end and a Houblon Chouffe banner on the other.
Crappy drop ceiling above chateauesque crossbeams lined with coasters, angled from the walls up (left over from the days of the old german deli once occupying this space), and holding baby spots and a few spinnys, too. Brackish flooring tiles, and green walls bar back, rear & side, pasted with brewery tins, signage, & mirrorage. Flats in 3 corners, and on the rear wall, too. Hey, the Yankees are on this early afternoon Saturday (‘cause they’re playing the dirty Angels). Light bar counter space to the rear with a few jerobaums on the end next to the dartboard, below drop wand single bulbs overhead. Seating riddle adbout, nearly a dozen tables in all. Recs along the perimeter and roundies in a row off the bar, nicely green cushy chaired up; I can nap here. Large windows up front and the forward side over the wraparound porch, with plastic tables & chairs, a dozen or so, offering views of more street parking. I’d rather chill inside.
Horizontal board over a kitchen peek-a-boo opening to the left of the bar listing taps and a few bottle specials, and pricing, by style color coded (local/craft, specialty, strong, Belgian, Euro), by pint & pitcher, so you don’t go in color blind for what’s what. 20 taps, nearly all of it regional California craft beer (Port Hop 15, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Ballast Point Sculpin, Firestone Walker Double Jack, Bear Republic Racer 5, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Sudwerk Pilsner, Alpine Nelson IPA & McIlhenney’s Irish Red, Russian River Blind Pig & Redemption, Monkey Paw Oatmeal Pale Ale, Low & Slow Rauchbier, Downs Family Irish Stout, Sweet Georgia Brown, Mandrill IPA, & Rich Man’s IIPA), save the 2 random imports (Aecht Schlenkerla Fest Bier, Smithwick’s Kilkenny Irish Red). I drank an Alpine Nelson IPA, having missed it kicked at the Real Ale Festival, Carlsbad, just yesterday.
And a bottled list of 50+. Oh wait, it’s a front page and there is another. And more. The list runs from 1-251+ (1-60 Belgian ales, 61-75 Belgian fruit beer, 76-90 sours, 91-140 non Belgian imports, 141-250 domestic ales, 251+ mead), and includes large format, magnums, etc. (another 31+ more). Benchmark Orval runs a cool $8, but the Russian River & Lost Abbey selections; you know, some of this is quite pricey.
Killer goddamn tap list, and the food does look reeeally good but we’re in between those hours. Good house, fun, playful ‘tenders, and lots of regulars. And babies. I could do a lot of time here if I had a lot of time here. Very much so do dig.
07-12-2012 20:32:22 | More by slander
4.28/5 rDev -2.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$
We stopped in to this unassuming but at the same time "must hit" little place for an afternoon brew or two and some lunch, comfortable seating, sports bar feel, sparse but friendly crowd, quick and informative bar maids. The selections were the expected array of top quality, super hoppy SD/CA 2x IPAs, extensive and varied bottle list and other assorted goodies. This place is sort of in the middle of nowhere, but only about 10-15 mins from most places in SD. Go for the high quality brew, sports on TV, (we were told that Chargers games are a blast here), fun crowd, tasty burgers and other pub grub with a Cali twist. Highly recommended.
08-15-2006 01:59:25 | More by Billolick
4.95/5 rDev +13.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5 | $
A much needed update to my original BeerFly which is nigh on 2½ years old now. In short, OBriens is *THE* place to be in SoCal, period.
My latest of many visits over the years was for the OBriens 2nd Wet Hop Festival, that speaks volumes for the place in itself. The set up was laid back but attention to detail was impressive. It was busy at times, but the Service was absolutely top-notch, from all the servers, we even had table service when the servers were passing by, always asking how we were doing, anything else? Could not knock the quality, attitude and informed service one bit.
Aside from the 2nd Wet Hop Festival treats, the bottled Beer List itself has expanded slightly, not the greatest of numbers but a well thought out varied selection that will appeal to all. You can also buy One (for now) bottle to take-out too. But Draft is where it is at though, loadsa Hoppy Specials and the Beer Engine is still going strong with interesting Cask Ales at all times.
Since July 03 and my prior Review I had upped the Food mark. Its not Cordon Bleu but the Pub Grub is stunningly attractive, wholesome, home made and takes some beating. The legendary Burgers often come with hot spicy beer cheeses now and the legendary Garlic Fries come with a beer-battered option, leave your cholesterol monitor at home! All this at very reasonable prices too.
Finally, working backwards, Atmosphere Its a 5.0, for me at least. Great Beer Bars so often suffer from high prices or attitude, you will find neither here, where else could you sit next to a table that had Vinnie Cirluzo of Russian River, Tomme Arthur and Jeff Bagby of Pizza Port, Tom Nickel (ex?) Oggis as well as the guy who owns/runs the Toronado in SF ..all relaxing and having a good laugh and drinking Wet Hopped beers and erm, well, playing Connect 4. Egos are left at the door here, I really like that, and the comfy Green Chairs of course. This is a real Down to Earth Gem thoroughly wholesome, incredibly relaxing and a genuine unique treat. It is so easy to spend 10 hours in here and not even know it, I know I have done it several times.
Original Review: 4 - 4.5 - 4.0 - 5.0 - 4.0 >> 4.45
Revised Review: 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 4.5 >>
<DO NOT> leave SoCal or SD without visiting OBriens!!
Last Visit: 22nd / 23rd October 2005
**** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** ****
Sat right in the corner unit of a strip mall, the unassuming exterior of this small bar hides a Cave à Bières gem.
When we arrived, there were some people sat outside behind a small fenced terrace area at the front. Inside it is rather small, quite cozy and was busy when we arrived*. The bar is to the left as you walk in, & runs all the way down the left handside with 20 Taps set against the back wall. Seating is available on the right hand side. All the seats are very comfy green swivel armchair affairs with castors, a unique touch & highly appreciated. Lots of coasters, & some Bar Towels, adorn the false beams & a small 45 degree false tiled-roof that runs all around the real ceiling, which helps to give a pub feel.
The range is excellent. There are two Beer Lists, one for draft, & one for bottled. Draft beers include many local offerings with a solid focus on hoppy beers. The bottled list has a great selection of Belgium Beers, all served in the correct Glassware which is a welcome refined touch, still quite rare I find. I started with an Oud Beersel Gueuze, & finished with a Rochefort 6 - the latter quite a rarity given its bigger brothers' dominance.
But the best was yet to come, a lone black-handled Beer Engine, with a homemade pump clip fashioned from a reversed coaster with the words Oak Aged Arrogant Bastard written on it. Could it really be that this legend was right here!? It was! I recall that we had at least two pitchers on our Table, before it ran off. I had 2 pints, & the effects of the oak aging were clearly evident, the beast had refined edges with a little more complexity.
We also ended up sharing some fine beery snacks, which were great, especially the Baked Potato covered in some fiery cheese. *We also happened to drop on a Mikes Beer Cheese Tasting. Our luck was limitless it seemed. A plate of 3 mixed cheeses & crackers was summarily ordered. It proved to be a huge hit with the group. The Double Napalm Bastard cheese was awesome.
Quite simply - we were spoiled from start to finish. The service was very pleasant from the waitresses, & even the workaholic Tom Nickels himself at one point.
All this, as well as BA friends; 'xlperro', EyeChartBrew, chuck,
mzwolinski, & we even had the company of the lovely BeerWench for a while. What more could you ask for?
A cracking Beer Bar and my favorite bar of the whole days SD Pub Crawl. It was a real shame to leave it.
Last Visit: 12 July 03.
11-05-2005 17:34:36 | More by TheLongBeachBum
4.28/5 rDev -2.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$
O'Brien's is a small pub on the end cap of a strip mall off Balboa avenue, pretty much between the 805 and CA-163. The parking lot is fairly large but it is difficult to find a spot during peak times.
The space is relatively small with the bar along the left side and seating on the right. There is also a small patio. O'Brien's has an impressive collection of coasters tacked to their support beams. They also have a pet fish in a Chimay glass.
The beer selection is impressive, especially considering how small the bar is. The draught list includes beers from Stone, Russian River, Craftsman, Alaskan, Alpine, New Belgium, and others. A couple of the beers seemed to be limited in nature too. The bottle list seemed impressive too, with at least 100 beers available.
Service was good on a weekday early dinner. The bartenders were efficient and knew their beers.
No complaints about the pub grub either. My burger was tasty and enjoyable.
Overall it took me a few trips to SD to get around to visiting something other than a brewpub but I am glad I had a chance to make it here. I would absolutely visit here on return trips just to see what interesting new beers are available.
08-12-2008 14:13:32 | More by Dogbrick
4.13/5 rDev -5.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5 | $$
Another exceptional beer bar in San Diego.
O'brien's pub struck me as a particularly odd looking establishment, located in an even odder location. It's located in the burbs, in a strip mall with quite a few other hole in the wall restaurants and shops. Like some of its peers in the strip mall, O'brien's is a very small establisment... surprisingly small in my mind. As one walks in, there is a straight bar running to the back and left side of the dininig room, seating maybe 10 patrons. The rest of the beer bar is a crowded mish-mash of tables and chairs, holding I would guess another 30 customers. The place has a cramped, crowded vibe, and atmosphere is clearly not what one goes looking for at O'brien's. As for the quality and selection at O'brien's, it's clearly top notch, and undoubtedly explains the place's popularity. I'd guess there was close to 30 beers on tap, with the selectoin first rate. Not surprisingly, the inside and outside tables were packed on an early Friday evening, with folks sucking down the likes of Pliny, Blind Pig, Bernardus x-mas, gouden carolus noel, etc. To say the least, the line-up here is nothing short of exceptional. Service is pretty good considering the crowd and cramped quarters. The 3 women tending bar and waiting tables were for the most part friendly and efficient, which was difficult given the size of the crowd. Food is so-so, but at least it's cheap and the portions good size. Don't expect a gourmet dining experience here and you'll probably be satisfied with the food at O'brien's. Prices are very reasonable; so much so that I was concerned the waitress had forgotten to charge me for part of my order.
This is a very good, solid place. Despite its shortcomings, I quite liked O'brien's, and wouldn't hesitate to come here again. As others have mentioned, I just wish finding parking wasn't such a complete pain in the ass in the smallish parking lot.
12-20-2008 04:47:51 | More by John_M
4.25/5 rDev -2.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 3 | $$
I stopped in for a visit while in San Diego on vacation.
The atmosphere and decor are nothing special. I knew it was in a strip mall but I expected a little more inside. Not necessarily something authentic or high end but something more inspiring. The cushioned office chairs are a nice attempt but they just make seating in the small space a bit awkward.
But you don't go to a great beer bar primarily for the atmosphere. The draft beer selection was outstanding. They had 20+ great choices including some from Russian River, Alpine, Ballast Point and Bear Republic. We had RR PtE and Alpine Exponential Hoppiness.
The women behind the bar were very nice and helpful. And the prices were very reasonable ($4-5/pint).
The only downside was that we hit them while their plumbing was out. So the restrooms were overflowing and the kitchen was closed down. I heard it happens occasionally. It certainly shortened our stay.
O'Brien's could use a more atmosphere but they have a great selection of beer so it's well worth a visit.
08-16-2009 12:50:27 | More by GJ40
4.22/5 rDev -3.4%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$
Well, you'd never stumble upon this place, unless you were buying a car across the street or something. Fortunately we were seeking it out. O'Brien's is located in a nondescript strip center north of town. We stopped on our way back to town after stopping in at Green Flash.
There is a long bar inside the door on the left, with a bunch of table crammed in on the right. The oversized leather office chairs appear to have been reclaimed from the set of Glengarry Glen Ross. Comfortable enough but between the oversized chairs and wheels, moving around with a beer in hand can be an adventurous proposition. There is also an enclosed porch with some PVC tables and chairs.
Once you get a post though, this is a cool place to be. About 20 taps with great stuff. We were there during SDBW and the event of the day was Kern River. About 6 KR taps were flowing, and a bunch of other local delicious craft beers.
Service is very pleasant. As is true of so many places here, counter service only, with exactly one line for food, beer or food and beer. It can slow things down but the people are quite nice. I enjoyed our stop here.
01-20-2012 17:32:53 | More by sholland119
4.44/5 rDev +1.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | $$
I did a three day brewery, brewpub, beer bar tour of San Diego which included a Saturday early afternoon stop at O'Brien's.
As a person who has absolutely no use for Irish bars, I was glad to see O'Brien's had nothing in common with the pedestrian beer selections of Irish American pubs.
The interior is small with comfy leather office chairs that I felt take up more room than necessary given the small size of the corner location with plenty of window and outdoor seating.
I sat at the bar and while I didn't chat anyone up, one could easily become friends with the other patrons.
It was Saturday and I was hoping to catch some college footall but instead they were showing a soccer match and there were mostly soccer fans inside. I had to hold myself to one beer because I accidentaly ordered a IIPA, Alpine Pure Hopiness, and wanted to limit myself because I was driving.
They had Russian River sours and plenty of beers on their bottle list.
10-18-2010 01:07:34 | More by Yetiman420
4.44/5 rDev +1.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5
Strongly recommended to me by xlperro and EyeChartBrew, this was a great stop for beer. Located in a small strip shopping center in the midst of many Eastern ethnic food spots this great little bar/pub sports a great setting and great beer choices. In addition to some really strong draft choices from SoCal's best IPA brewers, the bottled choices were equally impressive with Double Bastard being a recent arrival and the same promised on tap within the week.
Sports TV is big here and the nice outside wraparound deck looked appealing for nice evenings and sunny afternoons. Lots of beeriana and beer coasters line the ceiling and walls. The bartender was super efficient, knowledeable, and was obviously well-liked by all the regulars whom he knew by name and preference. One of my best stops in San Diego.
11-09-2003 04:04:46 | More by AtLagerHeads
O'Brien's in San Diego, CA
97 out of 100 based on 136 ratings.