Good beer and great food should go hand-in-hand, but far too often there are places that do one well while completely ignoring the other. San Diego has its share of places that get it right, and it’s worth noting when one of them celebrates a milestone. Since 2010, Rancho Bernardo’s Urge Gastropub –which recently expanded its footprint to include a brewpub and whiskey bank in Oceanside—has gained a reputation for cultivating equally tantalizing menus of grub and suds, and this past weekend marked six years of operation for this North County institution.
Aside from a few notable exceptions like Churchill’s Renaissance, there simply aren’t a lot of restaurant-based parties that I look forward to every year, but Urge has garnered enough of a reputation for its parties with me, so I’m fairly confident that their anniversary bash will always deliver. Last year’s celebration saw the debut of Velvet Speedway, which took AleSmith’s onyx elixir to another level by aging it for a year in Evan Williams Bourbon barrels before infusing it with a vanilla bean and rye whiskey concoction and bourbon barrel-aged Jamaica Blue Mountain cold brew from Mostra Coffee.
As always, the beer list for the anniversary party was top notch, headlined by a sextet of collaboration brews with various breweries around the county. Local newcomer Pure Project provided its first-ever triple IPA, Oni, which used rice and Japenese Sorachi Ace hops. The Asian-inspired flavors were a perfect companion for the party’s special burger, but more on that later. Other partner beers included a plumb and lemongrass sour saison from Toolbox, a tart saison with peaches from Saint Archer, a session IPA from Rip Current and a bourbon barrel-aged Scotch ale from Mother Earth.
For the last of the anniversary beers, AleSmith Brewing Company provided yet another variant of Speedway Stout, this one aged in a Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrel. The Miramar stalwart also revisited last year’s crowd pleaser with Velvet Echo, and VIP pass holders had the opportunity to buy tasters from a keg of the original version, which matured beautifully.
On the food side of things, it’s always fun to find out how Urge will top the previous year’s anniversary burger, and Chef Chuy De La Torre created a straight-up umami bomb to go along with the robust beer list. A bed of pickled vegetables cradled a 10-ounce wasabi-rubbed Kobe beef patty topped with hoisin duck confit, spiced wontons and a poached duck egg. A steak knife piercing from top to bottom bun gave stability to the entire construct and provided an illustration of the futility of trying to get a single bite of the hulking entrée without either cutting it up or smashing it down. Whichever way diners decided to tackle the meat mountain, every bite delivered a series of Asian-inspired flavors. For more adventurous eaters, Urge’s famous ghost wings cranked up the Scoville units with a blend of ghost peppers and Carolina Reaper chilies.
Along with the food and beer menu, patio diners were treated to music from local bands Mrs. Henry and JB & the Movers while mobile silk screeners cranked out anniversary swag. For those who chose to stay inside, a redesigned dining room with new furniture provided a respite from the sun and heat. If you missed this year’s party, you might still be able to catch some of the collaboration brews on Urge’s taplist, but you’ll have to wait until next July to see how they follow up this year’s celebration.