Tuesday, March 18, 2014

San Diego: The Land of Sun, Surf and Suds

Famed guest Bloggers, Mark and Brenda report on the ever expanding craft beer scene in San Diego:

San Diego... land of sun and surf, palm trees and excellent IPAs. We planned a February trip from Portland in pursuit of some vitamin D, sand between our toes and crafts brews. Little did we know we would weather the worst storm in the last 10 years.

Luckily, we had a beer adventure to take our minds off the weather. After fortifying ourselves with fish tacos (South Beach Bar and Grille in Ocean Beach boasts the best and was recommended by Mr. and Mrs. EyeLuvBeer), we headed to our first brewery: Modern Times. Nestled among strip clubs and industrial buildings, there is no sign for this Brewery, just Google map's reassurance it is here somewhere. When we entered into the spacious brewery, we were pleasantly surprised by the amazing decor...a bar built out of old hardback books, a mural "painted' with sticky notes, and a wall mosaic of comic book pages all warmly illuminated. The friendly greeting we received was followed by a taster tray of excellent beers - those of note being the "Hoppy Tropical Wheat" which would be perfect for a HOT day with its lightness and citrusy hops and the "Black House Coffee Roast Stout" which is brewed from coffee roasted onsite and has a tag line "taste the OCD". Brunch anyone? We finished with a special pour of Monsters Park Imperial Stout. Boozy yet smooth at 10% ABV. We inquired about buying their beer as we eyed towers of empty cans in the brewery, but they were sold out! No "Blazing World Hoppy Dark Amber" for us to warm those rainy San Diego nights.

Alas, it was time to move on. We selected Acoustic Brewing, located in the shadows of the long defunct Mission Brewery. Acoustic has a cigar room,
masculine decor complete with leather couches and iron and wood tables. Mark selected four beers to sample as we nestled into a loveseat. The beers were good, but we didn't imbibe a real standout among them.

And then, it started to rain again so we decided to take a hydration break at the Hotel Indigo Del Mar - our port in the storm for this liquid sunshine getaway. One last brewery made the list for Friday's beer-venture. We took a short drive north to Solana Beach to find Culture Brewing. Located on Cedros street, home of design shops and home stores, Culture is nestled right in with its densely packed mash tun and fermentation tanks. With about a dozen beers on tap, we had to make some tough decisions. We were a bit "tasted" out by this point and each just wanted to quaff a pint. A bit of a citrus hop head, Brenda went nuts over the Keyhole IPA which is brewed with grapefruit rinds. Every ever so slightly bitter sip left her wanting more. Mark enjoyed two stouts including the smooth Nitro Milk Stout and the Guatemalan Coffee Stout which prompted the exclamation: "that's the coffee-est coffee stout I've ever had!"

And so ended DAY 1...

On Saturday, we were so excited to see the sun when we woke up! We headed to a fancy hotel up the road, L'Auberge, for a scrumptious breakfast of veggie frittata and almond encrusted French Toast. We figured a walk down by the beach was in order, but, about 10 minutes later, dashing to the car was in order to get out of the driving rain. In the afternoon, we drove out to Vista to visit a couple of newer breweries. Beer tasting in San Diego means driving and the breweries are in industrial parks. This is very different from the Bend Ale Trail and the bikeable distances around Portland breweries. We retraced our steps from five years ago to the original site of Greenflash where Latitude 33 currently makes its home. We tried a variety of beers ranging from a strong blonde called Honey Hips (8.25%) with a sweet honey nose, perfect for passing out in the clover fields to a double IPA, "Double Hump" that is 10% ABV and very enjoyable.

The second brewery, Belching Beaver, was recommended by a patron of Latitude 33 and worth the trip just to experience the "Beaver Butter" Peanut Butter Stout. This beer cried out to reach its true destiny - a beer float, but we just fantasized about it as we drank this lovely dessert beer.

We headed back to Del Mar and watched sheets of pouring rain at a local bar, Zel's, where we found a great happy hour menu as well as a great taplist of local beers. Then, counter to our usual beer pursuits, we returned to Culture Brewing for another pint of the grapefruity Keyhole IPA. With all the stormy weather, we needed one last blast of sunshine in a glass before heading to....rainy Portland.


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