At least that is what all of my friends from San Francisco and Seattle like to chant every time we go out. And while I don’t know if I completely agree, the craft beer scene in San Diego gives some validation to the saying. With over 70 microbreweries in the San Diego and surrounding areas, craft beer is the norm, not the exception. While some have nationwide distribution, others are literally still in the “garage” stage with very loose tasting room hours. There is so much enthusiasm in the beer scene that a lot of the bars we went to didn’t even serve Bud Light or Miller Lite, or if they did, it wasn’t posted anywhere.
Our first stop, mainly because it was a few blocks from the hotel and we were thirsty, was the Mission Brewery downtown. Now this is not your glamorous bells and whistles tasting room, this is an old brick and stick warehouse in an industrial part of town that has the tanks on one side and the taps on the other. Great beer, cheap tasting pours and the fact that the kitchen “opens” when the food trucks show up, usually around 3pm, make this an awesome stop. Since you walk through the warehouse doors to get in, it just adds to the character.
Another great stop is Ballast Point’s Tasting Room where ¼ and ½ pour options allow you to mix and match your way through their selections. If you’re more on the adventurous side of beer drinking, try their Indra Kunindra, a dark stout with flavors of curry, coconut and lime leaves with enough spice to keep the palate excited. Ballast Point also makes a Blackberry Sour that is really refreshing when it is warm outside, or unseasonably warm as San Diego was. It has this distinctive sour-ness and acidity that is would be a great pairing with vinaigrette based salads or braised duck.
We also ended up at Karl Strauss’ a few times, because let’s be realistic, how can you go wrong with Jalapeno Cheez-whiz sauce and beer basted pretzels. Their Happy Hour specials made this a frequent afternoon stop after being in the sun all day and with numerous locations, we were never more than 10 minutes away.
The one thing I noticed where ever we were was how much care was also put into the food. Even at the local beach bar, there were no jalapeno poppers or mozzarella sticks on any menu, but fresh tuna tacos, braised short rib sliders and Mexican shrimp and grits instead.
So head out to California for some warm weather and cold beer and see for yourself if West Coast is best coast!