Grab yourself a good craft brew cause continuing further without one may cause extreme thirst.
Last week I highlighted the plethora of breweries in San Diego County and mentioned that I was planning on visiting several of them. Well we're back to highlight the 48 different San Diego beers we sampled during our time in Ron Burgundy's hometown. Known for their aggressively hoppy beers, San Diego County breweries have been taking awards for years and more importantly been recognized as one of the hottest brewing spots in the World.
First on our list was a re-visit of the Stone Brewing Co. and their World Bistro & Gardens. We began our adventure with a pint at lunch. This was one of a few pints we had all weekend, as we opted for Sampler Sets to sample as many beers as possible. Jenny selected a seasonal beer from AleSmith Brewery, YuleSmith Holiday Ale (9.5% ABV). Meanwhile, I choose to have my first taste of Stone's latest creation, 2009 Double Bastard Ale (10.5% ABV). This ended up being my favorite on this trip to Stone Brewing Co. (On a side note: I had their Mac & Beer Cheese for lunch. Mike's Beer Cheese is heaven-sent, if you ever see it served, EAT IT!)
After stuffing our faces, we went Stone's FREE Brewery Tour throughout the premises. Afterwards we were greeted with a free "guided tasting" beginning with Stone Pale Ale (5.4% ABV). That was followed by their rich Stone Smoked Porter (5.9% ABV) which goes great with ice cream, as displayed in this tutorial. Next we split decisions as Jen sampled her regular Stone favorite, the OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2% ABV), while I sampled their well-known Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2% ABV). The guided portion of the sampling was wrapped up with Stone IPA (6.9% ABV), Stone's best-selling beer, and a style that San Diego is quickly becoming known for. Lastly we were able to pick a last style of our choice, due to class participation. Jen and I both choose to end our Stone Experience by sampling the newest addition to their year-round releases, Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (8.7% ABV). We couldn't stop there so we purchased a 22-ounce bottle of the 2009 Double Bastard Ale to go, as well as their 100% FIGHT ALD-supporting 2008 Sawyer's Triple (7.6% ABV). On our way out Jenny sneaked a small taster of the casked Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans, this was her favorite on this trip to Stone Brew. (Sawyer's Triple makes San Diego Beer #49.)
We left Stone Brew with smiles on our faces ready to sample more of San Diego's quality craft brew. We left Stone headed out making an attempt to make the 2 P.M. Brewery Tour at Ballast Point Brewing Company, however we simply ended up enjoying a Sampler Set of every (fish-themed) beer they had on tap. First up on Ballast Point's scale was their Yellowtail Pale Ale (5.2% ABV), followed by their Calico Amber Ale (5.5% ABV). They were followed by a light and very unfiltered Wahoo Wheat Beer (4.0% ABV), pictured at top of the page. Next up was their Black Marlin Porter (6.0% ABV), none of these four beers had any particularly poor or outstanding qualities, however the next two did! Their Big Eye India Pale Ale (7.0% ABV) was very hoppy and had a refreshing finish, this was my favorite at Ballast Point. Meanwhile their Piper Down Scottish Ale both smelled like and tasted like a Caribbean Rum rather than a Scottish Ale, and it was only 5.6% ABV. This beer took the cake for Jenny as she enjoyed the unique flavors caused by the beer's bourbon-barrel aging process. They were followed up by their current seasonal beer available, Victory at Sea Imperial Porter (10.0% ABV). The final two in the Ballast Point lineup were the easy-drinking Rocktoberfest Marzen (5.7% ABV) and bitterly hoppy Dorado Double I.P.A. (10.8% ABV). We couldn't leave without purchasing a pint glass. We choose the Big Eye I.P.A. for it's flavor and logo.
Over 15 beers in, we were needing a seat, a bite and some rest. We tried to rest our tired soles at Firehouse Brewing Company but either a wrong address or a confused GPS receiver failed to accomplish that. But we finally parked on some bar benches at San Diego Brewing Company, nearby in the area. There we were assisted to a much needed appetizer and San Diego Brewing Company's near-full line-up of beers (ABV's mostly unknown or not stated). Leading off the first of six was Padre Pale Ale, a beer I had sampled at the Stone's 13th Anniversary Festival at the end of August. Next in line was their stellar Amber Ale, this was my favorite having a perfect balance of malt and hops, followed by Grantville Gold which I believe to be the lightest beer we had all weekend. Their El Hefe had very strong banana notes which I disliked (not a fruit beer kind of guy) but Jen enjoyed very much. Their Monster Mash Porter had very complex notes and almost pulled me away from Amber being my favorite, but alas it couldn't. Jenny's favorite was also a beer she sampled at the Stone 13th Anniversary Festival, their Blueberry Wheat. Very rich and blueberry-flavored this is one fruit beer that commands my respect. (I still wouldn't order a pint of it though!)
Less than impressed by the palette of beers offered at San Diego Brewing Company we felt the need to keep the ball rolling. We drove to Coronado Island to visit the Coronado Brewing Company. After reviewing both their beer and food menu, we again were less than impressed, that coupled with slow service caused us to ditch out for the blistery beach near the historic Hotel del Coronado. We then drove back across the Coronado Bay Bridge to San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter and the Downtown location of San Diego's first microbrewery, Karl Strauss Brewing Company.
Established in 1989, Karl Strauss became San Diego County's first microbrewer. Now with five locations throughout the county, Karl Strauss is synonymous with San Diego beer. Having purchased a six-pack of their Red Trolley Ale for Thanksgiving in L.A. we were slightly familiar with one of their beers upon arrival. Running on fumes after sampling over 22 beers at this point, we were looking for dinner and something to compliment it. Karl Strauss' line of beers was just that! Here is how the lineup at dinner went: Woodie Gold, a light pilsner that would be great in the heat of summer; Jenny's favorite, Windandsea Wheat Hefeweizen which at 5.1% ABV is one of the higher alcohol contents for a hefeweizen; a less-than-stellar Amber Lager (4.2% ABV); the very palatable Red Trolley Ale (5.8% ABV); my favorite, their uber-hoppy Tower 10 I.P.A. (6.5% ABV); and their special release, a darkly malted Padre Porter (ABV undocumented).
After hours of sipping on samplers we had our fill for one day and called it a night after visiting Karl Strauss. We had almost sampled 30 different beers before the day was done. We'd visit more in the morning, three more breweries in fact all throughout San Diego County. We'll review those choices in next week's Tuesday Brewsday slot. Stay tuned and check out the continuation of this story next week.