California Trip: San Diego Breweries
This is the third, final, and, dare I say, most important post about our California trip. Today I'm sharing all about the San Diego breweries we visited. While we certainly didn't hit them all (there are about 130 breweries in the area!) we definitely found some great ones. Even though craft beer wasn't the main focus of our trip, I'll admit that it was one of the deciding factors for a California trip. San Diego is an area at the forefront of the craft beer scene. With roughly 130 small to medium to large-ish breweries in the area, we had to decide where to go. We also really only had two and a half days to visit craft breweries so we had to decide which ones were going to make the cut. Here's our criteria for the visit: either a well-known brewery or a recommended, local brewery. Those rules served us well and we saw and sipped some pretty incredible craft beer at San Diego breweries.
Stone Brewing Company, Escondido
Our first stop was Stone Brewing Company's brewery and restaurant in Escondido. If you're a craft beer drinker, you know Stone. Even if you're not, you may have heard of Stone Brewing Company's beers like their "Drink Before" series. I was most excited to visit Stone and then was the most disappointed. This location is set up to be both a brewery and a restaurant in a garden-like setting. First of all, it's huge. The building is a massive warehouse that combines a tasting room and store, their brewing and bottling area, and a full-on restaurant with two bars (at least that we could see). Second, it's crazy. Maybe I can give them a break because it was Saturday night, but it was not relaxing. The tasting room is off the entrance but it's also a retail store for their beers and merchandise. We couldn't figure out where to go to order a beer until we wandered into the restaurant part!
The restaurant itself is gorgeous. Soaring ceilings, boulders popping out of the floor, streams running between tables, and views of the beautiful outdoors make it an oasis. But again it was crazy busy and there were people everywhere. We didn't know whether to go outside or sit at the bar or try to get a table. Where do we order the beer?!? We finally perched at a small bar table looking into the brewing area. The beer was decent; definitely Stone's good, solid quality. I wouldn't say that we were blown away by what they had to offer but it was decent.
I really, really, really wanted to be impressed with Stone Brewing Company's Escondido location. I'd read about it and thought that it looked like such a beautiful place to sip craft beer. But being there felt chaotic and crazy and there were kids running around everywhere. I don't mind family-friendly, but a brewery? Perhaps it would be better if you visit in the middle of the day or in the middle of the week. But otherwise, prepare for crazy with a side of beer.
Ballast Point Brewing Company, 9045 Carroll Way, San Diego
Ballast Point's sculpin and pineapple sculpin beers are recent additions on our craft beer radar. We were excited to visit one of their outposts in San Diego. The multiple large and impressive locations of West Coast breweries was something that we're still marveling at. I mean, we're getting excited that Yards is finally adding a larger facility and tasting room in addition to the original. The titans of the West Coast have three to five locations and think nothing of it.
Ballast Point's restaurant and brewing facility on Carroll Way was definitely impressive. You can tell it's a massive operation when you pull up to the parking lot and see the tanks that stand as tall as the warehouse. We didn't tour the brewing area but we could see, through a large glass wall in the restaurant, all the tanks and equipment.
The restaurant itself was so dreamy. We sat in the bar area but you better believe that I wandered around. There were so many beautiful details from the polished wood bar to the decorative ropes hanging from the ceiling to the wall of wine bottles. It was not a down-and-dirty pub; this was an elegant restaurant. Nick and I ordered a flight of beers, all equally good IPAs, and inhaled an order of their guacamole. Pretty and delicious is how I would describe Ballast Point. Go!
Coronado Brewing Company, 1205 Knoxville Street, San Diego
Who wouldn't be obsessed with a brewery that has a mermaid on their label? I've loved Coronado Brewing Company for a long time, not just for their mermaid logo, but also their beer. We decided to visit their newer brewing and tasting room location, rather than their brewpub. The location is a big warehouse that holds their tanks and bottling line. A small area by a wall of barrels has picnic tables and another area along the wall has a bar serving nearly twenty beers on draft. There's no food but they had a food truck hanging out in case you got hungry.
The beers were crazy delicious. They offer a variety of different styles, most that we'd never had being on the East Coast. I loved their special collaboration with Bear Republic, Merbear Rye IPA, and the classic Mermaid's Red was even better fresh in the tasting room. And because I love mermaids and Coronado Brewing, I had to get myself a "Mermaid For Life" shirt. Coronado Brewing Company is one that is definitely on the "visit again" list for San Diego breweries.
Green Flash Brewing Company, 6550 Mira Mesa Boulevard, San Diego
Another brewery that's right up there with Coronado Brewing on the "visit again" and "absolutely loved this" lists is Green Flash. Before coming to the brewery, I only ever sipped their West Coast IPA. Turns out that's okay because they had over 30 beers on draft to sample from. Yup, thirty beers. I think the most beers I've ever seen on draft was ten and I considered that high volume.
Not only did Green Flash have thirty beers on draft but most were IPAs. Though I love my toasty red beers, this was IPA heaven and it did not disappoint. Their tangerine soul style IPA was deliciously refreshing, everything you know and love about West Coast-style beers. Nick and I were so impressed by their tasty beers we did two flights. The sunny and relaxing outdoor patio, complete with lawn games and picnic tables, made it easy to linger, too. Why can't we have more places like this in New Jersey?!?
Acoustic Ales, 1795 Hancock Street, San Diego
Acoustic Ales is a local brewery right near San Diego's airport. It popped up on our radar when we had lunch at Lucha Libre. It's a quirky stop with a very relaxing vibe. It's housed in the old Mission Brewery that was part of San Diego's beer scene over 100 years ago. The tasting room is across the plaza from where they brew so you know it's fresh. While I wouldn't say I was overly impressed by their beers, the appeal of Acoustic Ales was in the friendly vibe of their tasting room.
Modern Times Brewery, 3725 Greenpoint Street, San Diego
If you follow me on snapchat, I hope you caught what I had to say about Modern Times. When we walked into this big warehouse turned tasting room/brewery/coffee roastery/community space, I immediately told Nick that if I started a brewery, this is what it would look like. Modern Times has that whole artsy brewing thing down to a science. I loved every thing in their tasting room from the post-it note mural to the book-binding covered bar. I'm disappointed that we didn't have time to visit their North Park location. To top it off the beers were phenomenal. Unlike many of the other breweries, we didn't get to choose our flight but instead were offered one with predetermined choices. No complaints here every single one was tasty. Modern Times, I love you.
Golden Road Brewing Company, 5410 San Fernando Road, Los Angeles
I know, I know, this is a post about San Diego breweries. Golden Road didn't really fit into my post about LA so I thought I'd sneak it on here at the end. Golden Road Brewing Company was not on our list of places to go in Los Angeles but, with a few hours to kill before our red eye flight, Nick and I ventured out here.
This was more restaurant than tasting room and it had so many different rooms. When we got there it was pretty crowded with people escaping offices and nearby movie/tv sets for lunch. Since there are several large tvs in the main dining room, a pretty dedicated bunch of fans for the Polish soccer team took up residence at a bunch of tables. Yes, it was crowded but we managed to find a seat on the large patio outside. When we were leaving we also discovered another outdoor area on the side of the building where it would be fun to sit too.
The beers were easy and drinkable and it was just so laidback. We also grabbed an order of tacos and those were pretty delicious too. Golden Road was also a prime spot for people watching. My only complaint is the ridiculous valet parking (such an annoying thing everywhere in California) and the crazy and somewhat dangerous street parking. But once you have a spot and grabbed a beer, everything's good at Golden Road Brewing.
Any places we missed? You know I'd love the opportunity to go back to California!