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I Like Beer the Podcast visits Oceanside Ale Works
I Like Beer the Podcast hosts Jeff Spanier, left, Jeff Riccitelli visit Mark Purciel, owner and head brewer of Oceanside Ale Works. Photo by Jeff Spanier
Cheers! North County Cities Columns Food & Wine Oceanside

I Like Beer checks in at Oceanside Ale Works

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to say goodbye to some of our favorite breweries. And we’ve been able to welcome a few new establishments that have taken the opportunity to open up amidst the uncertainty.

And there’s Mark Purciel, owner and head brewer of Oceanside Ale Works, who used the shutdown to redesign his brewery to create an exciting, unique experience for his patrons.

He has created a steampunk meets Disneyland meets the beach vibe that has the feel of an “attraction” versus a warehouse taproom. $4 pints – a flashback to yesteryear for sure – adds to the step into the past atmosphere.

At sunset, the black lights and flame effects illuminate and the space transforms once again. Purciel insisted we return at night to see the special effects and touches he’s put into the design – glad we did!

Purciel is not a newcomer on the scene – quite the opposite. Oceanside Ale Works was the first craft brewery in Oceanside, and one of the very first warehouse microbreweries in all of San Diego.

After an exceptional run through the homebrewing competition circuit, winning 48 out of 50 states, he fulfilled a promise to friends and opened his own brewery in 2006. With his reopening last summer, Purciel has balanced tradition and innovation in his beer lineup.

Oceanside Ale Works’ “Proletariat” line features many of Purciel’s original brews: San Luis Rey Red, Buccaneer Blonde, and Pier View Pale are his first three award winners dating back to his homebrewing days. Pier View is one of those rare finds: a pale ale from the early 2000s, not the hopped-up pales ubiquitous in San Diego now. The red ale, malt-forward, balanced with a little hop bite, is an I Like Beer team favorite.

I Like Beer the Podcast visits Oceanside Ale Works
Steampunk meets Disneyland at Oceanside Ale Works. Photo by Jeff Spanier

Buccaneer Blonde supports our view that IPAs aside, San Diego North County is the blonde ale capital of the world. It’s medium-bodied, full of flavor and easy to drink. IPAs and Sessionable IPAs fill out his Proletariat line. Beer for the People is an Oceanside Ale Works motto, after all.

The star of the show is the Gold Medal Award Winning The Dude Double IPA. For those who enjoy secret recipes, ask for the Strong Blonde, a 50/50 blend of Purciel’s American Strong and Buccaneer Blonde.

On the other side of the board (literally), Purciel offers his “Bourgeois” lineup featuring barrel-aged, sour ales and seltzers. The Aaardbei (Strawberry) Sour pulls no punches and those who love tartness will not be disappointed. The Bourbon Barrel Aged Red with Vanilla Beans is a full-bodied, rich and delicious sipping beer.

Purciel, a retired math and woodshop teacher, has never lost his desire to teach. He happily engages customers in conversation on any topic, but when that conversation turns to beer history, specifically San Diego beer history, he is a professor emeritus. And for good reason, he entered the brewing scene with the giants of the industry and has been personally responsible for training dozens of those who have followed.

“Homebrewing is the key,” Purciel said. “I am a kinesthetic learner, I learn by doing. As a homebrewer, that’s what you do. And on my system that’s what I still do.” His pupils have all been trained not by “push button systems” but on his “old school equipment” that requires a hands-on approach.

I Like Beer the Podcast visits Oceanside Ale Works
“Beer for the people.” Photo by Jeff Spanier

“It’s about learning the art, the craft,” Purciel explains, and that requires careful, constant attention to detail.

Our discussion turns to what’s changed over his years in the industry. It is quickly apparent that he has a wealth of knowledge. Moving on from the technical aspects of brewing in 2022 (better yeasts, better equipment), we discuss what’s changed in beer drinkers.

“Today’s beer drinker is much more discerning than 10 or even five years ago,” Purciel said. “They come with some expectations for style and flavor. They can appreciate what’s going on in the crafting of a beer.”

They also, at times, come in with a close-mindedness about what they like or what beer should be. Purciel sees this as an opportunity to engage his customers in a discussion about what he’s serving.

“You’re not going to love all my beers,” he admits. “But there will be one you love, I guarantee it.”

Oceanside Ale Works is open Fridays through Sunday, with Thursdays to be added this Spring. Swing by to check out the scene, take in some live music, and step back in time enjoying a $4 pint.

Once again, our Cheers! craft beer-loving colleague, Jeff Spanier, has taken over the column. Spanier is a co-founder of the popular “I Like Beer the Podcast.” Look for more of his guest columns in this spot as he visits local breweries throughout 2022. Find the “I Like Beer the Podcast” wherever you listen to your favorite programs.

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