Wednesday, February 9, 2011
If it's a Wednesday, it must mean it's time to let our good friend MAX off the leash to opine on all that is good (and not so good) in the world of beer.
It’s good to be back with you, my horde of hop-heads, and today I’m here to talk about the wonderful world of breweries! Over the past week and a half I have visited 5 San Diego-area breweries, and I wanted to discuss the highs and lows of my experiences.
Last week, I visited both Alpine and Pizza Port Ocean Beach and just this past weekend, I, along with 33 other beer nerds, geeked-out at Stone, Alesmith and Ballast Point Scripps Ranch. Jealous yet?
I started my “research” at Alpine Brewery, a quaint little spot in the hills of East County San Diego. Recently they added a BBQ joint to their tap room. Highs: Their pulled pork sammy is freakin’ off the hook (get it with baked beans and a six-taste sampler.) Alpine is known for their IPA’s and they didn’t disappoint with tasty gems like Duet and Pure Hoppiness on tap (I took home a growler of each) but the high point on this particular occasion was Odin’s Raven, a 10% porter with notes of coffee, chocolate and a hint of vanilla. It was an absolutely perfect pairing with the pulled pork, bringing out the spices of the sauce, and melding with the chocolate. YUM! Lows: Did I mention it’s in Alpine?
Next stop, Pizza Port Ocean Beach: pizza and beer by the beach – I know, rough life I lead. Highs: The San Franciscan is a FANTASTIC pizza if you like lots of meat and cheese, which I do. Add a pitcher of their Jetty IPA and two of my best buds and you get beer, beach, and buds – Like I said, rough life I lead. Lows: Their Port Brewing tap list was just so-so. They didn’t really have anything on that was out of this world. Of course, my pal Steele left his card there, went back the next day to retrieve it and they had on CHO-SAIKO!!! Argh. You will probably hear of this beer again in my top 10, definitely one of the best IPAs I’ve ever had.
And then there was the Hoffer’s Brewery Tour, where 34 hop-crazed goof balls get on a stretch limo bus and go to three breweries. Uh, ya, things get a little sloppy to say the least. First stop, Stone Bistro (and yes, we were all drinking on the bus ride up.) Highs: If you have never been to this place, leave your cubicle, your office, your bedroom and run, don’t walk. It’s Disneyland for alcoholics, no joke. Beautiful gardens, a babbling brook, the smell of hops & fermented beer lingering in the air. Gorgeous. Lows: Seventeen dollars for macaroni and cheese? Are you high?!? Terrible service was also a problem, both from the bartenders and wait staff. A kid’s rugby team throwing their GD ball all over the place, also a problem. Yes, Stone is a kid-friendly spot. But the biggest problem was their freaking tap list! They had about seven Stone beers on tap, all of which I can find in bottle at my local liquor store. They didn’t have a single unique beer of their own on tap, not a single limited release, nothing that I even wanted a growler of. The best thing they had on was from Deschutes (their Once in a Decade Ale.) I will not be going back to Stone any time soon.
Back on the bus, we continued to drink as though there were not still two stops to go. Alesmith was next which was my personal favorite on the tour. They recently renovated this particular spot and if you just picture a big warehouse-style garage with a wall of taps, then you’ve pretty much got it. Highlights: THE BEEER, silly! They had just tapped My Bloody Valentine and I think our group alone went through about a keg of it. MBV is a one-off (made once a year) that they release around Valentine’s Day. Deliciously sweet, but not offensively so, with a murky reddish-brown hue to it. I also rediscovered their Horny Devil, a big, spicy Belgian Strong Pale Ale. At 11%, you must pace yourself, Daniel-Son, but a potential addition to my top 10. Lowlights: The space is not very big, and when it’s already kinda busy and you dump off 34 tipsy beer fiends, the natives do not respond well. The service was lacking, simply due to the amount of people they were serving. I definitely recommend this spot.
Another short bus ride, and a growler of My Bloody Valentine later, and we show up at the doors of Ballast Point, our final destination. BP has two locations and we chose their primary brewing facility in the Scripps Ranch Industrial dead zone. Highlights: I knew the bartender (thanks, Alise!) so I walk in, the line is out of the door and she hands me a Victory at Sea! Um, yes please! I know, I’m such a line-cutter and I’m sure Karma will get me eventually. And it didn’t help that I repeated this process once more and went right back to enjoying a second Victory at Sea. If you have never had a Victory at Sea, imagine an 11% vanilla porter that just slid down a rainbow of hell, yes and into your belly. Ya, kinda like that. Lows: Just too crowded. Definitely enjoyed myself and can’t wait to go back again. Next time, however, maybe not on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
That about sums up the breweries that I hit on this adventure and if you’re interested on the details of our next brewery tour, you know how to get a hold of me: Comment section below, Facebook, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join me next Wednesday when I start the countdown of my 9 favorite breweries and the beers that make me love them.
Until the next time, my beer loving brethren, have a beer for me.