San Diego Breweries and Beer Bars

Our little hotel room was nice and dark, so we slept in a bit this morning before venturing south to check out the San Diego beer scene.  Several places were on our hit list, and we managed to get them all in.

  • Holiday Wine Cellar – where we drooled a lot, but only bought a few bottles. Great place for beer, wine and liquor selection, and terrific people who work there.
  • AleSmith Brewing Company – Peter Zien conducted the tour himself, and it wasn’t just an ordinary brewery tour. He really got personal with his information, giving some very specific examples of what he does at AleSmith, and why, and what he hopes to do in the future. It was a very interesting, and more in-depth tour than I’ve ever taken. At the end, for $5, we were offered 8 sample glasses and a “free” bottle of YuleSmith Holiday Ale (the winter Imperial Red) to take home. Our big miss was the Speedway Stout – he’s brewing a batch right now, and only had enough for 8 or so people to try. Here is what we did have:
    • Nut Brown – smooth and light
    • AleSmith X – an extra pale ale that would make a nice session beer
    • Lil’ Devil– sour, light Belgian-style with coriander
    • Horny Devil – a little sweeter than Lil’ and about twice the alcohol
    • IPA 
    • Winter YuleSmith – imperial red
    • Old Numbskull– American-style barleywine
    • Grand Cru
  • Ballast Point Brewing– Linda Vista Brewery and Home Brew Mart – because it is Saturday, we were unable to visit the Old Grove Brewery of Ballast Point, but we were pleasantly surprised to learn that Home Brew Mart is more than a homebrewer supply store – it is also a sampling house for Ballast Point Brewing. We were able to sample a few things ($1 for the regular beers and $1.50 for the specialties), and we took home some bottles.  They had 11 on tap; we tried several:
    • We were quite blown away by two of the special beers – Victory at Sea (an Imperial Porter that has an aroma of chocolate and coffee, but the first flavor was vanilla, and the finish was a dry oak flavor) and Three Sheets Barleywine.
    • We were thoroughly pleased with Big Eye Ginger IPA (7% ABV and 65 IBUs – created by making a sort of ginger “tea” and adding it in the secondary) and Dorado Double IPA (9.6% ABV and 90 IBUs; perfect – the grapefruit aroma and flavor we were looking for this whole trip!)
    • We also had Schooner Wet Hop Ale (4.5% ABV and 70 IBUs), Big Eye IPA (7.0% ABV and 65 IBUs) and Sea Monster (7% ABV and 35 IBUs)
  • Alpine Beer Company – we visited Alpine with the specific intention of purchasing a growler, and ended up having a nice, lengthy tasting with Pat McIlhenney, and the other interesting folks there (including a local homebrewer.)  There were 11 beers on tap, and we sampled 6:
    • Mandarin Nectar (6.5%)
    • Captain Stout (6%)
    • Ichabod (6.6%; a Belgian sour brown)
    • O’Brien’s IPA(6%; made in conjunction with the owner of O’Brien’s, who is a former award winner brewer at one of the Oggi’s locations)
    • Duet– (7%; made with Simcoe and Amarillo hops – my two favorites!)
    • Pure Hoppiness (8%)
  • O’Brien’s (The Hoppiest Place on Earth!) – they aren’t kidding with this tagline! With 19 taps and two beer engines, there is a lot of room for diversity, but they dedicate themselves to the hops, and the tap list shows it.  I started with the Hollister Beer with Hops IPA, which was on the handpump, and as a result, so smooth and perfect – like hops iced tea.  So glad that they allowed for 10 oz glasses, we also had:
    • HopTown DUIPA (Imperial Ale)
    • Russian River IPA
    • Craftsman Brewing Company Cabernale (our second glass of the trip)
    • Green Flash Le Freak Belgian IPA (also a repeat on this trip – yummm!)

While in Alpine, we checked out the new Liar’s Club location, which was not open yet (they said, “come back in one hour,” but we couldn’t wait since O’Brien’s closes relatively early.

We did a few non-beer related things today as well, and a few of those times, it was eating! When in San Diego, we always look for sushi, and because O’Brien’s kitchen closed, we were in need of late night munchies.  We visited the following:

  • Ra – a chain sushi establishment “where the music is pumping, the mood is upbeat and the atmosphere is as stimulating as a bite of wasabi”
    • Not really what I want in a sushi bar, and in fact, the music on the website is almost as annoying as the restaurant. It was so loud – outside and in. It felt like a dance club, and to add to the club atmosphere, the girl next to us was spewing extremely intimate details of her life to a first date – things I kept hoping the music would drown out. Good ponzu sauce with the Tunacado, and nice pickled ginger, but otherwise, nothing really impressive about this stop.
  • Los Palmitos Taco Shop in the Clairemont neighborhood
    • What a rare (for us) and wonderful little find! This place only has four tables and counter service, but the food was so delicious. D had a chorizo burrito with rice and beans, and I had a fish taco. My taco wasn’t quite enough, so I ordered a chile relleno, and it was OUTSTANDING! It was huge – probably 4″ x 6″ – filled with cheese and smothered with all the good stuff. Everything at Los Palmitos was really great (and the soups looked amazing), but this one blew us away. The flavors of every dish were so fresh and obviously hand-prepared, and the salsa bar, which included fresh tomato salsa with chunks of onion and cilantro, a thick and spicier red salsa, a mild green salsa, and hot carrots.

Thanks, San Diego – you rock!

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