Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen Restaurant- San Diego (Little Italy)
Open just 16 months, Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen has become a significant brewpub member of the San Diego craft beer scene. Perched up on India Street in the hilly Little Italy neighborhood of downtown San Diego, you can see the bay through the tasting room windows.
It’s a great place to meet friends and family while enjoying fresh craft brews (including experimental and specialty) and tasty culinary delights. My friends and I come here often to try the interesting one-off beers, but today I was here for a craft beer-pairing lunch, so I skipped them and opted for one of Ballast Point’s famous production beers.
Lately, I’ve been craving shellfish for some reason, so I ordered the Beer Steamed Mussels made with ginger, garlic, shallots, chorizo, and mini-jalapeño peppers, served with garlic bread toast. The mussels are steamed with Ballast Point’s Wahoo White, whose citrus and spice flavors are derived from orange peel and coriander additions during the boil when the beer is brewed. It’s this exemplary beer that is the base for the savory broth pool served along with the mussels.
Although a Witbier style of beer such as the Wahoo White would have been the classic pairing with the mussels, I took the suggestion of one of the bartenders and paired this dish with Ballast Point’s Steamboat Black Lager, 6% ABV/46 IBUs. And the pairing worked well! On their website, Ballast Point says they wanted to make a “Hoppy Black California Common” inspired by the German Schwarzbier style. Maybe that is why they named the beer, “Steamboat.”
Much like a Schwarzbier, Steamboat Black Lager is black in color with a tan head. It has a wonderful spicy-citrus-floral-fruity/fig nose with warm, roasty, slightly chocolaty, and red pepper flavors. There is just enough hop bitterness to cut the buttery fat and oils in the broth, and enough carbonation to scrub the tongue between bites of rich mussel meat.
The beer’s well-combined flavors and malt sweetness harmonize well with the spiciness of the chorizo and heat of the peppers. I don’t know if it was the Wahoo White or the Steamboat Black Lager that interacted so well with the mussels, but they were delicious: light, fluffy, and tender with no briny/fishy taste at all; just an earthy, sweet taste with a hint of the ocean.
Like the other parts of this dish the garlic bread toast sopped in the broth was also heavenly, by the way. Bread, broth, and beer flavor qualities worked together to enhance each other, and made for a perfect ending to this delightful beer-pairing lunch.