Brewcation: San Diego
A pattern that we’ve established over the last few years is that every time we visit my hometown in Paso Robles, CA — since we have to fly into an airport in a major city, anyway — we tack on an extra day or two in another city. We’d already hit San Francisco and Orange County and Matty mentioned he’d always wanted to see San Diego. So we spent Wednesday and Thursday there before heading up to Paso on Friday for my cousin’s wedding.
We saved a little bit of money by not getting a rental car the first day. We took a bus from the airport to downtown and hoofed it to the hotel. After checking in and grabbing a bite at the hotel restaurant (coincidentally, during SD Restaurant Week) we walked over to the marina area and got tickets for the ferry to Coronado.
Coronado Brewing Company
The drop off area is perfectly manicured lawns and storefronts (and heavily touristed), but we were on a mission anyway: find Coronado Brewing Company. Luckily, it was not far away, just a quick walk up Orange Ave.
With so many beers on offer, I couldn’t pick just one and started off with a flight of the house standards. Coronado Golden, Orange Ave Wit, Islander IPA, Mermaid’s Red, and Blue Bridge Coffee Stout.
And food, of course!
Flight #2 was a Choose Your Own Adventure. My adventure went like this: Silver Strand Saison (favorite), Wind Chime Lime, Zum Wohl Weizen, Hibiscus IPA, and Rye Dogg. I also swiped some of Matty’s flight.
Suffice it to say, we left happy. The full moon and city lights on the ferry’s return trip to the mainland were pretty delightful as well.
The next morning, we went to pick-up a rental car so we could explore further afield. And stopped for breakfast burritos.
Stone Brewing Company
The first beer stop of the day was Stone Brewing Company, or to be more specific, Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido. The specificity is important because Stone now has multiple locations in the greater SD area, including the airport.
Now, it’s no secret that Matty and I are not exactly hopheads. So, why would we visit Stone, a brewery known for their kickass IPAs? Quite frankly, Stone is an institution. Branching out from their mainstays into new beers and new ventures (the farm-to-table bistro, gardens, and coming soon, the hotel business).
We got our tickets for the tour, but had some time to kill, so we took a walk around the gardens. It’s a little like being a kid at Disneyland. The structured paths, planting arrangements, water features, and even the little signs, reminded me of a place trying to create a “world.”
At one point Matty and I even looked at each other as the distinctive smell of hops came upon us and wondered aloud if they were piping in vapors through some strategically placed vents. It turned out to be a legitimate hop addition coming from the boil in the brewery.
We went back inside and took a seat at the bar to have a couple of beers before the tour. I had The Bruery – Hottenroth (Berliner Weisse), a nice little sour start to my (late) morning. And tried some of Matty’s Stone Pale Ale with Ginger, which was good, too.
We took the tour with a small group (about 10 of us). The sensory element to the introduction was nice. Smell hops, chew on different grains. I also like the weird little signs here and there (No Penguins? Lab Goat?).
We finished up back in the merchandise/bar room for a tasting of four beers. The tour guides/bartenders were friendly and knowledgable and our group hung out around the bar for general beer talk.
Our second stop of the day was White Labs. Located in an industrial area, we were there during the week and parking was a bit of a challenge. Once we made it inside, the taproom itself is nicely designed.
We were given a spreadsheet of available beers and the yeast used to brew it.
We made our selections, and had to swap out about 3 of them since they were out.
The idea behind visiting a yeast producer and tasting beers to showcase different yeasts was exciting to us as homebrewers. And there were a few moments when we could really appreciate the differences. Overall though, we just weren’t blown away by the beers. The goal might be to showcase the yeast, but it would’ve been nice if the beers were a little tastier.
It’s possible I was a little tipsy by the time we got to Modern Times, but this was my favorite stop of the day. The space is quirky and fun, the staff was really nice, and the beers were awesome.
While we enjoyed our beers and our time at the bar, a box of Nelson Sauvin hops was also making the rounds for us to take a whiff. More on Modern Times’ hop sourcing here.
We made our way back to the hotel and walked to Little Italy for some tasty eats. Walking off our full bellies, we decided to walk a little further and pay a visit to the Best Damn Beer Shop. This picture only captures about 25% of their beer selection. Amazing!
We couldn’t finish everything we picked up, so some bottles took a ride with us up north to my parents’ house.
Our flight leaving San Diego was delayed, so we got to try one more SD brew on our way out!
Your beers are delicious, San Diego! I hope we’ll be back to try more of them!