Ballast Point Brewing’s new Long Beach restaurant, brewery, taproom, sour facility and retail store is, even for a place drowning in beer, huge. Like, really huge. It’s also stunning and, at least for now, maddeningly busy.
At almost 12,000 square feet, the latest brewpub-like outpost from the 20-year-old San Diego brewery seats 670 people in no less than seven distinct dining areas. That capacity was easily reached during opening day last Thursday, when chaotic crowds clogged every inch of the former banquet hall space.
Serving more than 80 taps of Ballast Point’s hoppy, fruity, sweet and sour beers across three separate bars on two levels, the waterfront location with nearly unimpeded views of Alamitos Bay could be a Sunday Funday wonderland.
That is, if you can get a drink.
While Ballast Point's DIY service system, which consists of grabbing a table and ordering at any register, works just fine at its other locations in San Diego, Temecula and Miramar, it might not be the most efficient in the unwieldy, high-volume Long Beach space, its largest.
On opening day, a 90-minute visit netted only one beer, a Sculpin on nitro from the lower patio bar. And on a return visit after the holiday weekend, lines up to 30 people deep continued to stagnate at each bar’s register, snaking through the main room, the lower patio and along the handicap-access ramp by the bathroom (you can get only one beer per person, so anyone holding down the table needs to get in line for their own; the few servers running around bussing tables also can bring you one beer at a time, but the wait for it is the same). A register near the front that only takes food orders and hands out numbers on stands didn’t fare much better.
Long lines outside have been common, too. As night fell on opening day, a manager held people outside for nearly an hour wait. A line also had formed by mid-afternoon on the following Tuesday, to give the kitchen and bar time to catch up on orders. (The wait is not for a table, mind you. It’s for the opportunity to enter and find a first-come-first-serve table.) Ordering anything off the small menu of midpriced pub food meant another wait of up to an hour and a half.
Of course, these kinds of issues are common for new restaurants getting into the flow of things and are all part of the initial kinks that a place usually irons out during the soft opening period. Unfortunately for the exasperated staff of Ballast Point Long Beach Kitchen & Tasting Room, their soft opening was anything but mellow.
Still, there are plenty of things to be excited about. As of last week, brewing manager (and longtime Long Beach resident) Chris Klein is making the first beers inside the location’s 15-barrel brewhouse. Two large oak foeders (basically big vertical barrels used to age wine) can be seen through the windows from the dining area, and the company has said it plans to make Long Beach its new sour beer headquarters. As production ramps up and the R&D section of the menu starts to feature Long Beach–made specialties, expect a line of kettle sours and Brett-fermented beers, both relatively new ventures for Ballast Point.
And then there's the view. Even after all that waiting, it's hard to stay upset when most seats in the house feature killer sightlines of the bay outside. Give Ballast Point some time to get its service-flow sea legs, then stop by for a proper Sunday Funday.
110 Marina Drive, Long Beach; (562) 296-4470, ballastpoint.com.