Our final stop during our San Diego brew adventure was at Mission Brewery. Mission has a long history of brewing in San Diego, dating all the way back to 1913. The brewery closed their doors in 1918, but the name was revived in 2007, when owner / founder Dan Selis launched a new line of Mission beers. In 2011, Selis moved his brewery from Chula Vista to its current location in a former Wonder Bread bakery in downtown San Diego.
The 14,000 square foot brick building dates back to 1834 and lends a beautiful setting for the brewhouse, tasting room and bottling line. Mission is conveniently located in downtown San Diego, next to Petco Park (home of the San Diego Padres) and only minutes from San Diego International Airport, making it the perfect beginning or end point for your brew trip.
Inside, local history gets a modern upgrade, as the 150+ year old building and its’ metal chandeliers, combine with the shiny stainless steel brewhouse and black leather barstools. It strikes a pleasant balance for beer lovers competing amongst one another on the shuffleboard table or while sitting at the bar watching the local sports teams on TV.
Mission makes 4 year-round beers in 12 oz. bottles: Amber, Hefeweizen, Blonde and an IPA, which took a Bronze medal at the 2007 GABF. Their big beer lineup consists of a 9.25% ABV West Coast Double IPA called Shipwrecked and a 10% ABV Russian Imperial Stout called Dark Seas, both of which are available in 12 oz. and 22 oz. bottles. In addition to Mission’s lineup of bottled brews, they also offer a variety of draft only and seasonals releases ranging from a Dunkelweizen to a Coconut Brown Ale to an Imperial Red Ale and more.
Last month, we spoke with Mission’s National Sales Manager, Martin Saylor, at Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines in Vail. He mentioned that Mission is looking to bring bottles to the Colorado market in the near future. Beer hunters, keep your eyes peeled, as our first shipment from Mission should be heading our way in about 4 weeks! Mrs. Insane and I can’t wait to have some Shipwrecked Double IPA in our fridge.
Mission Brewery is located at: 1441 L St, San Diego, CA 92101. 619-544-0555.
When I hear the term “Big Beer” in Colorado, I immediately think of Avery Brewing and Great Divide Brewing. Both have a vast selection of big beers ranging from 8%+ ABV Imperial Stouts, Double IPA’s, Barleywines and so on. When I hear the term “Big Beer” in reference to Southern California, I think of San Diego’s AleSmith Brewing. AleSmith has been serving up tasty brews since 1995 and over time, they’ve grown their line to include a variety of fantastic, high ABV beers.
AleSmith might be best known for their popular Speedway Stout, which is a 12% ABV Imperial Stout brewed with coffee. Speedway Stout is full of chocolate, coffee and roasted malt flavors. The thick, creamy mouthfeel lingers and leaves you wanting more. Speedway variations spring up from time-to-time in the tasting room. Past experiments have included batches brewed with dried sour cherries, mint chocolate and peanut butter & cacao nibs. Wow! Send some to Colorado. Please??
Old Numbskull Barleywine is an American-style Barleywine that weighs in at 11% ABV. If you’re not a fan of the big hop flavors found in fresh batches, tuck some away in the back of your cellar for a few years. The caramel and malt notes that come through once the hops fade after a year or more are divine. Fresh, aged, both, whatever, it’s a great take on the style.
Scotch Ale fans never seem to have very many options. That poor beer just doesn’t get enough respect in my opinion. Luckily, AleSmith gives the style its’ due with their Wee Heavy. The 10% ABV Wee Heavy is a sweet, smokey, lightly hopped traditional Scotch Ale.
The Grand Cru might be the most complex beer in their year-round big beer lineup. This one is a 10.5% ABV Belgian Strong Dark Ale that is brewed with dark Belgian candi sugar and fermented with authentic Belgian trappist yeast. The dark brown brew has flavors of dark fruit, vanilla, brown sugar and caramel.
Don’t forget the Grand Cru’s little brother, known as Horny Devil. This bad boy is an 11% ABV Belgian Strong Pale Ale. Like the Grand Cru, the Devil is also brewed with Belgian trappist yeast, but uses a lighter Belgian candi sugar and coriander seeds in the brewing process. The result is a beautiful golden beer with citrus, bread and spice notes.
AleSmith has a small barrel-aging project and many of the barrel-aged releases are only available on draft in the tasting room. They occasionally release 750mL bottles of their Barrel-Aged big beers like Speedway Stout and Old Numbskull, which are only available during release parties at the brewery. Take note beer traders, I highly recommend seeking these bad boys out.
While the big beers tend to take center stage, don’t ignore the smaller, more sessionable brews like their IPA, Anvil ESB and X Pale Ale or their great seasonals like YuleSmith, My Bloody Valentine or Decadence (their Anniversary beer which is a different style every year).
Drop by the tasting room on your next trip out west to see what they’re all about and grab some bottles to bring back for your cellar. You’re gonna love ’em!
AleSmith Brewing is located at: 9368 Cabot Dr, San Diego, CA 92126. 858-549-9888
No beer trippin’ report in San Diego would be complete without a visit to at least one of the Pizza Port locations. The original Pizza Port was founded in Solana Beach in 1987, by owners Vince and Gina Marsaglia. Vince began using the restaurant’s extra space to experiment with homebrewing. 5 years later in 1992, a 7 BBL brewhouse was installed and the brewery was born. In 1997, Tomme Arthur took the reigns in the brewhouse and the rest is history.
Since then, Pizza Port has grown to 4 locations (with 1 more on the way), opened a bottle shop in Carlsbad (offering 600+ of the best beers available in the San Diego area), named 2003 and 2004 Small Brewpub of the Year at GABF (Solana Beach) and 2009 Large Brewpub of the Year at GABF (Carlsbad) and opened a production facility in San Marcos, CA. The brewpubs have also taken home numerous GABF and World Beer Cup medals. Tomme Arthur has since moved on to become Director of Brewery Operations at Port Brewing and co-founded the The Lost Abbey line of Belgian influenced beers in 2006.
Each Pizza Port location offers a wide variety of beers brewed on-site, plus a lineup of guest taps from some of the world’s top craft breweries. The great selection of beers, ranging from west coast hop bombs to authentic Belgian ales, is sure to satisfy even the most hardcore beer nerd. If you can’t decide which location to visit, let the beer do the talking. The Pizza Port website has a webcam feed showing all of the beers pouring at each location.
The close proximity to the beach and the laid back vibe, combined with a tasty menu and a ton of great beers, makes Pizza Port one of our favorite places to visit in the San Diego area. Pizza Port shows no signs of slowing down, as they’re currently working on a new location in Bressi Ranch (near Carlsbad). I guess we’ll have to add it to the list for next time.
On this trip, we only had the time to visit Pizza Port Carlsbad, but we’ve visited the other locations in the past and encourage you to try them all. Here’s a handful of pictures from our recent visit.
The team behind the annual Winter and Summer Brew Fests in Denver, known as RightOn Productions, has decided to take their beer, food and fun fests on the road. Last weekend, they brought the Inaugural Winter Brew Fest to Broadway Pier in lovely San Diego, CA.
Lucky for us, we got invited to come out and cover the event. Trust me, we didn’t need much convincing. We LOVE a good brew fest and we love San Diego. Yep, count us in!
The event was held at the Port Pavilion at Broadway Pier, which is a modern, environmentally friendly Cruise ship terminal. Port Pavilion is easily accessible by car, bus and train and offers scenic views of the USS Midway and San Diego Bay.
The San Diego beer scene is on fire right now, with more than 63 breweries in operation and 32 more in various stages of planning. The San Diego beer scene is almost as exciting as the current Denver beer scene. The inaugural festival gave us the opportunity to try beers from some of the local up and coming breweries such as Iron Fist and Manzanita, but we were just as excited to revisit old favorites from our friends at Mission and Ballast Point.
The food trucks parked outside along the bay were no joke either. They had prepared beer-centric menus just for the brew-minded crowd. We couldn’t get enough from the guys at Underdogs, who were serving up some mean sausage creations. I went with the “Mac Daddy”, which was a Stone Porter Sausage, topped with macaroni and cheese and bacon. Oh delish. The cheese sauce on top was made with a Saison from Iron First Brewing.
Inside the pier, the crowd sipped on beer, nibbled on Cabot cheese and grooved to the sounds of local bands. All in all, a great time and another well run festival from the RightOn crew. No word yet on whether they plan to expand the event to include a San Diego Summer Brew Fest. We can only hope.
Until next time, check out some of the sights from the San Diego Winter Brew Fest.
To see more highlights from our San Diego adventure, visit the Beer Trippin’ portion of our site.
After two great stops at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens and Port / The Lost Abbey, it was time to start heading South towards San Diego. So for our last stop of the day, we decided to visit Green Flash Brewing. This place caught me completely off guard. From the outside, Green Flash looks like a place where they should be programming satellites or making sketches for the next hybrid car. Not your average looking brewery by any means.
While we were scratching our heads on the way in, we slipped through the glass door and made our way down a long hallway lined with beer posters. The hallway eventually led us to a tasting room surrounded by a large brewery, bottling line and pallets and pallets of beer. Oh glorious beer! It was clear we were in the right place.
We happened to hit Green Flash while they were pouring all 10 of their Anniversary Ales. The brewery releases a different style one-off each year to commemorate the special occasion. Past releases have included Barleywines, Strong Ales, Double IPA’s, Imperial Stouts and most recently a Flanders Red. The prices were stupid good at just $1 for a taster and $4 for a full pour.
In addition to their anniversary collection, there was also a variety of beers to sample from their year-round lineup, seasonals and special one-offs just for visitors to the tasting room. Palate Wrecker Double IPA is a favorite of mine and I rarely pass up the opportunity to try a splash of this west coast hop bomb. Luckily for me, a fresh keg was on tap.
The 9-year old Barleywine was tough to beat too. I don’t remember the last time I’ve had a beer that was nearly a decade old and this was my second one in under 4 hours. (Stone was also pouring beers going back to ’03!) I think I need to “beer trip” through CA more often.
Visitors can make a day of sampling the more than two dozen offerings in the tasting room. On brewing and bottling days, guests have the perfect vantage point to watch the Green Flash team go to work. The small beer garden on the side of the building is a nice little hangout and a great chance to try some of the local food trucks.
While Green Flash may look a little different on the outside, Mama always said it’s what’s on the inside that counts. And on the inside of Green Flash, is great beer. Seriously tasty, great beer and that’s what really matters.
Green Flash Brewing is located at: 6550 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92121. 858-622-0085
Just a short drive from our first stop at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, is Port Brewing & The Lost Abbey in San Marcos, CA. Although only separated by a few miles, the two breweries feel like they’re worlds apart. Unlike Stone, you won’t find any zen gardens, koi ponds or fancy restaurant here. Instead, you’ll find a tasting room that’s situated right next to a buzzing brewery and a row of bubbling fermenters. Here you can choose from an assortment of beers that range from hop-forward American ales to Barrel-Aged wild ales and Belgian-style masterpieces.
Port Brewing & The Lost Abbey is situated at the original location where Stone was founded back in 1996. The Port / LA crew bought the building in 2005, when Stone moved to their current location down the road in Escondido. Stone’s original brewhouse (pictured below), is still being used today by Port / LA.
The Lost Abbey portfolio consists of more than a dozen Belgian-influenced masterpieces, ranging from Saisons to Quads to Wild Ales. Sour fans can’t seem to get enough of Tomme Arthur’s Barrel-Aged goodies like Red Poppy, Framboise de Amorosa and Cuvee de Tomme.
In 2007, the brewery founded a beer club that shipped beer directly to member’s homes. Popularity grew very quickly and it was later split into two clubs. The Patron Saints club offered the year-round LA lineup, while the Patron Sinners club offered a variety of seasonals, one-offs and rarities like Duck, Duck Gooze and Isabelle Proximus. Sadly, these clubs were shut down in 2011, in order for the brewery to better focus on expanding distribution and in order to ease the stress the club placed on the brewery staff.
The Port side of the operation leans toward bold, flavorful American-style beers. Port is no stranger to hoppy Red’s, big IPA’s, high ABV stouts and other tasty brews. The brewery is currently gearing up to release “Board Meeting” (pictured below), a brown ale brewed with generous amounts of Ryan Brothers coffee beans and TCHO cocoa nibs. The result is a delicious chocolate, coffee ale that you won’t want to pass up.
No matter what styles your palate prefers, Port / LA is there to fill your needs. Grab a spot at the bar and get a feel for the working life of a brewery. Stop by on a brew day and let the aromas flood your senses. If you’re lucky, maybe the resident brew cat will even grace you with his presence.
Big Thank You to Lead Brewer Matt Webster and the rest of the gang at Port / LA for their generous hospitality. You might know Matt from his starring role in the Angel’s Share video below. We truly appreciate his willingness to give us a glimpse into the operation and share the brewery with us.
What can I say about Stone Brewing that hasn’t already been said? While I won’t bore you with facts and figures or the latest production numbers, I would like to strongly encourage every craft beer drinker out there, to at some point, make the pilgrimage to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido, CA.
The 1-acre garden is full of streams, waterfalls, bridges, stone formations, canopies and pathways, and is easily the most picturesque beer garden I’ve ever laid eyes on. To step foot inside, is to be whisked away to beer nirvana. Combine the peacefulness of the gardens, with the deliciousness of the beer and one can easily lose a day just watching the world go by.
Greg Koch and his team at Stone have gone to great lengths to make Stone a “destination” and not just another place to stop for a brewery tour. And yet, just a short distance from the peace and quiet in the gardens, sits a modern brewhouse and bottling line that’s continually pumping out beer 24 hours / day.
The world-class bistro offers the best of both worlds, with tables overlooking the gardens, plus a panorama into the brewhouse. On warm days, guests can sit at one of the stone tables on the outside patio and order from the back bar.
A seat at either the indoor or outdoor bar, will reward you with a selection of more than 30 taps and an ever-changing selection of 100+ bottles from some of the best breweries in the world. The food menu is nothing short of fantastic and ranges from stinky cheese plates to pasta to sandwiches to bone-in steaks.
During our visit, it was the annual “Stone Winter Storm”, which features 100 unique Stone kegs and bottles. This year, Stone was pouring everything from 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale to Special Releases, Barrel-aged variants and more. I started my visit with a pour of 2004 Old Guardian Barleywine.
If you’re lucky enough to visit during one of the many events, you might even learn a thing or two. Stone offers classes through their “Beer U” tastings, “Master Pairings with Dr. Bill” and some of the best festivals on the West Coast, including the very popular Sour Fest and the upcoming Oakquinox (a celebration of Barrel-Aged beers).
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens is one of those places that needs to be on the “Bucket List” of every craft beer enthusiast. Whether you’re a fan of their beers or not, it’s just something that needs to be experienced to truly be appreciated. This wasn’t our first visit and I can assure you, it won’t be our last.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens is located at: 1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido, CA 92029. 760-294-7866.
Where will you find us next? Stay tuned. More to come!
I Love me a good beer fest and here in Colorado, there’s no shortage of good beer fests. We’ve got plenty to choose from throughout the year. But, it’s the Great Ones that keep me up at night. The Great Ones that get me excited like a kid on Christmas morning. The Great Ones that I’d jump on a flight to attend if I ever moved out-of-state. (Gasp!) The annual Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines in Vail is a Great Beer Fest.
Big Beers (or BBB or #Bigbeers for you twitterers / hash tag types), is a world-class event that educates beer lovers, brings us closer together with tastings and bottle shares and when all’s said and done, leaves us thirsting for more. How the hell have I not been back to this event for the past 6 years!?!? No clue, but I guarantee it won’t happen again.
On The Road Again
Our adventure began on Friday morning with a trip up old I-70. No trip through the mountains is complete without a stop at Backcountry Brewery in Frisco.
Within a few minutes of arriving, our group had secured spots at the bar and I had a glass of Old Beer Wagon Barleywine sitting in front of me, courtesy of Backcountry’s Head Brewer Alan Simons. The perfect beer to warm up with from the sub-freezing temperatures and blowing snow outside. We enjoyed lunch and I got my fill of Alan’s amazing Barleywine and hearty Breakfast Stout.
Just as we were preparing to press on to Vail, Alan re-appeared and offered us a tour and the chance to check out Backcountry’s recent expansion.
In addition to the new family of fermenters, Backcountry has a new bottling line that should be rolling out 6-packs down the mountain shortly. Alan was kind enough to share some special treats with us like his GABF award-winning Imperial Saison, Imperial Saison w/ Brett and Tart SaiZin, which was aged in Zinfandel barrels. Another great visit to Backcountry. Their great beers and hospitality can’t be beat. Be sure to pay Backcountry a visit on your next trip up that way.
Warming Up With A Bottle Share
We pressed on and in no time, found ourselves pulling into Vail. We hadn’t even checked into our condo yet, when I realized Gary V from American Craft Beer Radio was trying to catch up with us for a beer. With not much else planned for the day and bone chilling, sub-zero temperatures outside, we decided to coordinate a bottle share for the night.
We had a solid group of craft beer enthusiasts including Dave from Fermentedly Challenged, John from Backcountry Pizza, Lauren from Napa of Beer, plus several homebrewers and our host Gary from American Craft Beer Radio. It was a lot of fun just to sit around, taste and share a variety of beers from Cigar City to Jester King. Surly Five is such a tasty, barrel-aged Brett beer. Three Floyds Dark Lord seems to show up at every tasting we attend and I can’t get enough of the rich, inky stout. And Cantillon continues to be my favorite Belgian Brewery.
We talked and tasted into the wee hours. Thanks to everyone involved for a great time!
The Main Event
On Saturday, with no kids to wake me up at 5 AM, I managed to sleep in until all of 7 AM. A quick check on the phone revealed a lovely temperature of -15 F.
Yeah, -15 F is pretty special. No reason to fight it. We just got the gang together, got the fire going, started a pot of coffee and whipped up pancakes, sausage and eggs. Who forgot the bacon???
Before I knew it, we were off to the Commercial Tasting Session.
Starting things off right with some Rochefort and Orval.
I finally had the opportunity to sample the variety of sours from Colorado’s Three Barrel Brewing. They are hoping to get bombers into the Denver market later this year. I really enjoyed all of their beers and if you’re a sour fan, I’d definitely keep an eye on them.
Brewtally Best of Show
With so many amazing beers, covering a wide variety of styles, it was nearly impossible to narrow down a favorite. But here are three that stuck with me.
Big Beer: Bell’s Brewery – Raspberry Wild One. With the ridiculous amount of stellar beers pouring, I could easily list 10 as my “Favorite Big Beer”, but I’ve done my best and narrowed it down to this one. The Wild One. The tartness, mixed with the sweet fruit, was what made me enjoy this one so much. It’s got complexity and depth with the oak presence, acidity and sour notes. Raspberry Wild One was just a great beer that really stuck out in my mind from the weekend. Great job Bell’s!
Belgian: Brasserie d’Orval – Orval. This is the Trappist that goes against the grain. While the other Trappist monasteries brew some of the finest Dubbels and Quads around, Orval takes a different approach with their dry, slightly hoppy and funky Brettanomyces brewed beer. I could drink Orval all day. Drink it fresh for the hops, or age it for a little more Bretty funk. Orval is a delicious beer and the only one the brewery puts into bottles.
Barleywine: Strange Brewing – Dr. Strangelove. This is an American Barleywine with tons of sweet, caramel malt, balanced by a generous does of hops. Head Brewer Tim Myers, said he hopes to bottle Dr. Strangelove later this month and sell bottles at the brewery shortly thereafter. Job well done. Beer hunters, snag some if you can.
With 200+ beers pouring this past weekend, it’s downright unfair to pick just 3, so here are a few others that definitely deserve a mention: Wynkoop – The Chancellor Barleywine, AC Golden – Peach Sour, Mission Brewing – Double IPA, Hair of the Dog – Adam, Three Barrel – Penitente Chimayo, Surly – Abrasive, Rockyard – Buddha Nuvo, Trappistes Rochefort – 10, Renegade – Black Gold (Peanut Butter Cup Stout), Oskar Blues / Ska – OSKAr the G’Rauch, Goose Island – Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout, Elevation – Oil Man Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Boston Beer Company – Utopias 10th Anniversary, Crooked Stave – L’Brett d’Or, Backcountry – Imperial Saison with Brett, Grimm Brothers – Wee Heavy Bourbon Barrel Brett and on and on and on. As you can see, the list was phenomenal!
Here’s some links to last week’s radio shows, both of which were live from Vail:
Vail Big Beers gives beer lovers a rare chance to sample some of the finest beers on the planet AND talk to the brewers that create them. Such a great weekend and a BIG Thank You to all involved. We can’t wait to go back next year.
A few months back, we did a little bit of “Beer Trippin'” up into the High Country and visited some great, great breweries along the I-70 corridor. Along the way, we stopped at Backcountry Brewery in Frisco, CO. Click HERE for the original post.
I had been itching to get back to Backcountry ever since and finally had the chance a few weeks ago. Before heading up, I got in touch with Backcountry’s Head Brewer, Alan Simons, who was kind enough to give us a behind the scenes tour, share some cellared treasures and let us look into Backcountry’s upcoming expansion.
When we arrived at the brewery, Alan was wrapping up from a long day of brewing. We grabbed a table at the bar and hunkered down for what I still think is the Best Happy Hour in the Breckenridge area. No doubt. 1/2 price appetizers and $2.50 beers. Repeat $2.50 beers! And just check out the view!
Alan had just finished brewing a batch of his delicious Breakfast Stout, which should be ready just in time for the Great American Beer Festival. Once Alan wrapped up the glamorous job of washing and polishing the brewhouse, he took us down to the lower level to walk through the brewhouse and check out his office.
Backcountry has really maximized their small space with floor to ceiling stainless steel.
Serving vessels, kegs and party pigs line the cooler walls.
The upcoming expansion will give Backcountry more room to play. It will also allow them to extend their range of distribution. Each circle on the floor represents space for a new fermentation tank.
I hope we see bombers of these bad boys in the Denver area sooner than later.
After the brewhouse tour, Alan pulled up a chair with us at the bar and shared some treats from the cellar.
On the left is a barrel-aged American Barleywine. This was a beautiful beer that was rich and complex. On the right is a Sour Saison. Both were awesome. Really awesome. We also tried the Weizenbock, Black IPA, IPA, Imperial Saison and Porter.
Alan’s certainly working hard to ensure Backcountry brings high quality, well crafted beers to little ol’ Frisco, CO. With a large tourist crowd coming through the brewery all year-long, he’s doing a great job of satisfying both novice beer drinkers, while still creating complex, upper-end beers that are sure to please the hard-core beer geeks.
I look forward to watching Backcountry’s upcoming growth and expansion. Take a trip up and see for yourself. In addition to a bar overlooking Dillon Reservoir, there’s also a full dining room and a lounge area, complete with big, comfy couches and a fireplace.
The Breakfast Stout alone is worthy of a drive up for a snifter. Winter’s right around the corner and those roasted coffee notes are sure to pair well with those chilly nights. Their Happy Hour is second to none and the knowledgable staff is happy to give you a personal recommendation or offer a beer pairing with your food.
Seriously, what are you waiting for? Backcountry Brewery is located at: 720 Main St, Frisco, CO 80443. 970-668-2337.