The weekend before my son turned 16, we'd been invited to a birthday party in San Diego. Not ones to let a beer opportunity pass us up, we accepted and packed our bags. We spent the entire weekend exploring San Diego and it's many breweries. And with so many to choose from, we had to narrow our list to a manageable amount. We ended up with: Saint Archer, Stone, Iron Fist, Belching Beaver, White Labs, Coronado Brewing, Modern Times, Ballast Point and Green Flash.
San Diego Brewery Romp
First stop into San Diego was Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. What an amazing place. Huge brewery, larger than I've ever seen. Gorgeous building with a huge restaurant and taproom. The inside felt like a mountain lodge, with wide open loft ceilings, lots of stone (see what they did there) and wood. An amazing outdoor patio seating with an outdoor bar, and finally the gardens. The gardens were not so much garden as a park. The whole area is set up like a park where you move chairs and benches around to sit where you like. Lots of trees, rocks and a small brook filled with Koi fish.
They also had a great tap list with standard beers, some new to us and lots of other great breweries. We sampled several beers, including their 19th Anniversary Thunderstruck IPA and the wonderful Spacebar Friends Altbier.
Next up, and the final stop for our first evening, Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen Restaurant. This was located closer to our hotel, and in the downtown area of San Diego. Parking was crazy, and the tasting room was packed. The crowd felt very college, or hipster. Not our normal thing, but we were on an adventure, so anything was fine with us.
They had a great covered outdoor area with lots of seating, tv's and pool tables. Beer selection was rather uninspiring that night. I ended up going with their Barometer Drop Baltic Porter, and The Commodore, an American Stout. Both were great beers, The Commodore edging out the porter. The venue was way too loud for us though, so we left and called it a night.
The next day we headed out towards the ocean, and stopped by the Iron Fist taproom. This is a great little place with an outdoor patio and lots of great beers on tap. Very dog friendly, there were 3-4 dogs in there that day. Rather than start with pints, we opted for a flight of their beers.
I went with: - Counter Strike, an American IPA - The Gauntlet, an Imperial IPA - Nelson the ImPaler, an American Pale Ale - and Renegade Blonde, a Kölsch.
All four beers were fantastic, with Counter Strike being my favorite of the bunch. They had a lot of experimental beers on tap, which we love to see. I ended up picking up a t-shirt while we were there.
After Iron Fist, we took a stroll around Seaport Village and watched the boats go by. The bay was full of so many boats and watercraft, and we had a great time enjoying the view. After wandering the bay, we took the bridge over to Coronado Brewery on Coronado Island. No pictures there, the brewery is more like a restaurant than anything else. We used the opportunity to get some food in our bellies though, and sampled a few of their standard offerings.
Next stop, Modern Times Beer. I love these guys, their beers are fantastic. Their brewery/tap room is a lot like the breweries we have here in Torrance. It's in an industrial area inside a large metal building. The walls were all covered in artwork, newspaper clips and more, which gives the place an eclectic feeling. The bar looked like it was built on top of huge stacks of books.
The tap list itself was nothing outstanding, but full of all their normal brews. While there we tried the Anniversary IPA, Black House, Fortunate Islands and Oneida. Tanessa tried their Mega Black House which was amazing! I'd meant to try their coffee while there, but it totally slipped my mind.
This is a great taproom to visit. Great music playing, nice eclectic crowd, and great beers. The staff were also wonderfully helpful and nice.
Our next brewery stop was Green Flash up in Mira Vista. This brewery was huge. Their taproom sits right next to the brewery and is wide open to all the brew equipment and casks they have stacked everywhere. Green Flash has a pretty modern branding style, and the brewery also feels very modern. They have a large and varied tap list to choose from, with some experimental beers as well.
They also have a nice outdoor patio area, with their own food truck for eats. It's another dog-friendly spot, and a good diverse crowd.
While here I tried their Hoppy Birthday American Pale, and the Jibe Session IPA. Both great beers. They also have a large swag room with clothing, books, glasses and more.
I was really excited to visit Saint Archer. I love their branding, and really like their beers. Founded by skateboarders, they have a very cool aesthetic to the way they do things. Their tap list wasn't as extensive as the other breweries, but they did have a few experimental brews to try.
I went with the Grapefruit Pale Ale, the Mandarina Pale Wheat and the Scottish Export. The grapefruit pale was outstanding, and I hope it becomes something they bottle/can soon.
Belching Beaver has a taproom in North Park San Diego, on our way to a birthday party, so we made this our final stop for Saturday. It's a cool little local spot, with roll-up doors, couches and lots of seating. It has a slight college campus feel, but was still a cool spot to hang out in. Not a huge tap list, so we went with the Beavers Milk milk stout. Great beer, love their branding!
On Sunday, we stopped in to White Labs tasting room on our way out of San Diego for the last brewery stop of the weekend. White Labs makes brewers yeast, and is probably in almost every craft beer you've had. We use it in our Crooked Brothers beers.
Their tasting room is very different than others. Because they make yeast, they created a tap room to show off the varying ways their yeast can affect beers. To do this, they brew up a style of beer and then break it into 4-5 different yeast cultures. It's a wild way to try beer, and a really interesting way to learn how yeast can change a beers flavors and smell.
I went with their IPA flight, that had Scottish Ale Yeast, San Diego Super Yeast, Antwerp Ale Yeast and one other I forgot to write down (head slap). The Scottish Ale Yeast was my favorite for the IPA's.
Overall, we had an amazing time. There are still so many breweries to try in San Diego. We could probably make weekend trips like this for 3 months and still not hit them all. I've created a Foursquare list of Southern California breweries if you're interested.