San Diego, California

November 1-10, 2013

Our Travels for Beer bring us to San Diego, California’s second largest city, located south of Los Angeles, with 1.4 million people.  More important to us are the over 70 breweries and brew pubs! Birthplace of Stone Brewing and the West Coast IPA beer style during the 1990’s, it’s the perfect place to visit…. especially during their 10 day beer week festival. The brewers had just returned from the Great American Beer Festival held in Denver, with medals in their pockets. 







 IMG_5626webMission Brewery  IMG_5615cropwebMission Brewery  IMG_5637adjwebMonkey Paw Brewing


Our first walk around the downtown area of the city included stops at Mission Brewery and Monkey Paw Brewing.  Mission set up brewing in an old Wonder Bread plant from the 1800’s.  They are still using the original grain silo alongside their shiny new brew tanks. They had a great selection on tap including their Hefeweizen. Monkey Paw had just won a gold medal at the GABF for their Bonobus Pale Ale, and we were lucky to meet Cosimo the brewer.  He was kind to give us an enthusiastic tour behind the scenes.


IMG_5641web IMG_5678web IMG_5675cropweb


The Festival was held on the Broadway Pier, a great choice on the water for tasting new beers. Only one city could feature specifically local beer for a festival…San Diego. They did a great job and offered great beer. Friday was a limited entrance with unlimited food choices and beers to taste.  Saturday was open to a larger crowd with limited amounts of tasters.  There were many brewers present to talk about their beer. We met head brewer Marty Mendiola, Brew Master at Rock Bottom of La Jolla and he invited us to his beer dinner later in the week


photo IMG_5708cropweb IMG_5799


We also met Chris Ketcham, Brewing Manager at Stone in Liberty Station, who was serving his Ryeson, a Saison brewed with Rye. The day after the two day festival, we hopped (!) on a bus tour of three breweries.  First stop was Stone Brewing.  Yeah, you’ve heard of them.  But when you try to find the place, you quickly learn there is no signage.  I noticed only one sign inside that said Stone, next to the big boulder in the lobby.  Kind of Arrogant? Now you get it?  The floor plan is very open and spacious using only natural materials.  The outside covers a huge area with natural settings, wandering paths, and many little hideaways. It was very cool.  Nina had an opportunity to show her jewelry to Melissa, a Stone representative, with the hopes of placement within their store.


IMG_5743cropweb IMG_5733web IMG_5756web


Next stop was Lost Abbey Brewing. Set in an industrial park, these beers are good, with a wide spectrum.  Their beers are imaginative, and it’s evident by all the wooden barrels in the room holding a brew that’s maturing into something incredible. San Marcus Brewery and Grill brews the basic styles, with good solid tastes. The oatmeal stout and Hefe were right on the mark. Ballast Point Brewing, at their newest location downtown in the Little Italy area was our next stop.  They had a wide variety to choice from plus a great food menu and friendly staff.  We enjoyed a smoke fish plate with salmon, wahoo, and tuna. It was a fantastic match with our Piper Down Scottish Ale at 5.2%.


IMG_5765web IMG_5780web IMG_5785web


Societe Brewing Company is run by two guys who previously brewed at Russian River Brewing.  The focus is on handcrafted IPA’s, Belgian inspired and wine barrel aged sours. The blackboard had three categories; Out West, Old World, and Stygian. It’s a big place with a great view of the brewing action. Karl Strauss has six locations, and started in 1987, the early stages of the Brewing Revolution. One of the Founder’s cousins, Karl from Germany a trained brewer, lent his name and original recipes to help start the brewery. Their Red Trolley ale won gold at GABF 2013. They have a full food menu.  Pizza Port has four locations in the area and won three medals at GABF.  It’s a cool vibe beachy kind of place serving good pizza alongside good beer.  Reminds me of a place in NJ…


IMG_5821adj-copyweb IMG_5858cropweb IMG_5864web


Green Flash Brewing is a huge place and is famous for their West Coast IPA. They had a large variety of beers to choose from, along with food from a Food Truck parked outside. We spoke at length with Dave, an employee with the title of Director of Beer Education.  Now you know they take it seriously. AleSmith is an artisan brewery with many awards won internationally and at home including two this year at GABF. Their fans are loyal and avidly await their next release.  Ale Smith won gold at the GABF with their Old Numbskull Barley Wine. We were so impressed we boxed up a collection of 12 bottles and shipped them home. The dinner at Rock Bottom consisted of 4 beers paired with Duck Ravioli, Beer Cheese soup, ale braised short ribs, and pumpkin bread pudding. Rock Bottom won three medals at the GABF! Congratulations.


IMG_5926cropweb IMG_5933web IMG_5652web


On the waterfront in downtown, we came across this interesting storefront “Cerveza Store”. Cool name and filled with all kinds of cheezzy beer stuff.  Nina was invited to an event, “Stay Flashy” at Small Bar featuring Green Flash Brewing for an opportunity to show off her Introductory Collection of Hops Jewelry. Check out for a terrific Holiday Gift.  Small Bar had 42 beers on tap, mostly from San Diego, which was a great place to taste the city’s favorite IPA’s.

San Diego Beer Week was the perfect time to visit the area and experience their brews. Brewers of the area won 14 medals at this year’s GABF.  So many events were scheduled each day and night it made my head spin, even without tasting the beers.  I’m a fan of IPA’s however after a couple, I find myself wanting a little malt in my beer.  The European Classics seem to be missing from their blackboards.  The beer scene is quickly growing here each day.  No one we spoke to or articles that we read, could agree on exactly how many breweries there actually were on that exact day, but one thing is sure; it’s easy to quench your thirst in San Diego.

Leave a Reply