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!
Well, here we are again, in the middle of our annual “Beer Fest Drought”. Gone are the days of Summer, when it seemed like we had multiple brew fests every weekend. Luckily, wedged between January’s Big Beers up in Vail and February’s Firkin Rendezvous down in Colorado Springs, we’ve got the Denver Brew Fest to help get us through these tough times. The Denver Brew Fest is a semi-annual event, (the Winter Brew Fest is in January and the Summer Brew Fest falls in July), that takes place at the historic Mile High Station.
Mile High Station, which dates back to 1897, was previously occupied by Midwest Steel & Ironworks and at one point, was utilized to help construct ships for the U.S. Navy during WWII. The building has since been renovated and now serves as a popular spot for receptions, corporate events and private parties. Its’ 2-story layout and unique architectural features, make it the perfect backdrop for a beer festival.
The Winter Brew Fest offers a VIP option, which allows attendees admittance 1-hour early. All festival goers have unlimited access to more than 100 beers from more than 40 different breweries. In addition to a wide variety of Colorado breweries, there are also quite a few from out-of-state, including Firestone Walker, Stone, Boulevard and Green Flash. Aside from the great selection of craft beer, the Denver Brew Fest has live music, a beer and cheese pairing, food trucks, photo booths and more.
This was our first time attending this festival and it’s clear these guys know how to run a great event. A few hours into the night, some bottlenecks and long lines began to form at the more popular tables, but there was plenty of beer to be had and it didn’t seem to get in the way of anyone’s good time. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and took the opportunity to revisit some of our favorite breweries, while discovering a few new ones along the way. Hope you enjoy the pictures.
Mark your calendars for the Summer Brew Fest, which is set for July 26th, 2013. Tickets and full details can be found on the official website.