Karl Strauss Brewing Company
1157 Columbia Street, San Diego CA 92101 (map); plus 5 other locations in Southern California; karlstrauss.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: The signature burger offering, made with four different types of Karl Strauss beer
Want Fries With That? Without a doubt! Fresh, light, and crisp shoestring fries come standard
Price: Big Beer Burger, $11.95
In honor of San Diego Beer Week (and the hundreds of suds-soaked events taking place all over town), it seemed only right to review the hoppiest burger in San Diego: the Big Beer Burger at Karl Strauss. Not counting the IPA steak sauce (which comes on the side), the burger is made using four different types of Karl Strauss beer.
The half-pound beef patty is basted with Karl Strauss Amber Lager, the bacon is brined in Woodie Gold (a Bohemian Pilsner), and even the onions and mushrooms are cooked with beer (Red Trolley Ale and IPA, respectively). And, since the brewery/restaurant is so well known for beer (and it would be wrong not to drink at least one pint with your burger), you might as well round up the beer count to five or six.
Karl wasn't kidding. The burger emerged from the kitchen as advertised, meaning: big. Served open-faced, with a mound of mushrooms, a thick slice of tomato, and a melted slice of Gruyère, the burger commanded a quiet reverence.
The patty was well seasoned and cooked on the rare side of medium rare, with plenty of rosy pink in the center and a good amount of caramelization on the crust. Biting into it released torrents of rich, beefy juice—the burger was so moist that you could almost drink it. I'm attributing that mostly to the basting, but also to the premium ground beef, which was of higher than average quality.
One casualty from the rush of beef juice was the lettuce, which was quickly drenched and had to be discarded. Though the bottom bun was almost completely soaked by the last bite, it still managed to mostly hold its own and remain intact. Against such a moisture-filled burger, that's no easy task.
Aside from the beef, the highlight was the beer-brined bacon, which was cut in a thick slab, and denser than most. Adding bacon to any burger only costs $1, so you might as well double up.
A large pile of golden brown shoestring fries comes standard. Technically, the portion is large enough that you can lose a few to roving, fry-seeking hands, but they're so good you'll want to eat them all yourself, three at a time.
If this particular burger doesn't pique your interest, there are two other options made with beer: the smoked gouda burger (with beer onions and chipotle ale mayo), and the Red Trolley BBQ burger (with Red Trolley BBQ sauce).