As part of our Trail to Tavern series, we reached out to one of our favorite road warriors, Katherine, to see if she had made her way to any local trails and taverns around the country lately. Last month she sent word from Florida, and this month she and her beau hit up the bottle shops and breweries in San Diego, CA. Enjoy responsibly.
We live in Illinois when we’re not living on 4 wheels. Recently we packed up and called Arizona home for a month. Itching for some salt water (that wasn’t sweat…) we decided to visit some friends in LA then check out the beer scene in San Diego. We’re beer people and have heard through the hops-line that there was a plethora of good beer in the San Diego area. On a whim, we ended up finding a spot to stay in Escondido and quickly found that any time you mention “Escondido” to anyone in Southern California they say, “You’re going to visit Stone Brewing, right?”
At Stone Brewing, the first thing that hits you is the massive tap room. The ceiling must go up 2-3 stories, with plants and water features throughout the building. You sort of feel like you’re in a terrarium. A beer terrarium. There’s also a lovely outdoor area that’s great for kids to run around in the gardens. Take a brewery tour (thought they fill up quick on the weekends, it’s first-come first-served) or just relax in the gardens and eat up. You cant go wrong with anything on tap at Stone. They’re really into organic ingredients in their beer and they actually bought a farm specifically to grow organic veggies for their bistro. That’s pretty cool.
A 15-minute drive from the brewery leads you to the trailhead at Lake Hodges. Lake Hodges isn’t actually a lake – it’s a reservoir – so you can’t swim in it, but there are lots of great trails that loop around the lake. Just a word to the wise – it gets pretty hot in the summertime. So pack a lot of water and if you get sweaty, you’re just an IPA away from Stone Brewing.
Next up was Toolbox Brewing Company, one of the most unique and special breweries we’ve been to. Their tap handles were made of tools (reminiscent of the San Diego Skyline), and the overall design of the place reminded me of an extremely clean mechanic’s shop! And I’m a sucker for a wall of beautiful barrels. We sat at the bar and got the rundown on their experimental recipes (wild yeast, anyone?). A quick peak in the back shows the unlikely combo of beer steins and petri dishes scattered at various brewing stations. These guys have something really cool going on. I gotta throw some love toward the Bog Sauce – a cranberry and raspberry Berliner weisse. Apparently they make a cucumber version too, so we’ll just have to come back after a day at the beach – Carlsbad is just a few miles up the road!
Modern Times Flavordome in North Park has an Alice and Wonderland thing going on. Lampshades hang from the ceilings, floppy discs cover the walls, old VHS videos have been turned into a bar and you don’t know whether to get beer or coffee. What kind of bar is this?? A Modern one. Sidle up to the bar and oder a flight, first thing – they serve flights in old wooden cigar boxes! Then give yourself a shot of energy with a nice cold brew over ice. Anywhere that brews their own beer and roasts their own coffee is A-OK with us. They don’t serve food, but pack a picnic or get delivery from nearby restaurants because you’ll want to stick around a while – they have 16 beers on tap and change them up regularly. If they have the Guava Gose when you’re there, DO IT.
Our last stop in SD was Council Brewing – a small batch brewery with big ‘ol flavor. I knew I would love it when we walked in and were greeted by a gigantic wall of barrels! Aside from making for great photo-ops, I’ve heard that old barrels make good beer, too – good beer takes time to age. Aged beers like tart saisons, my favorite.
You’ll see the word “beatitude” all over the place. Beatitude is the French word for bliss, which is what you’ll experience when you dive into one of the sour beers. We tried several sour fruit beers under the Beatitude line, and loved absolutely everything we had (though the Prickly Pear was exceptional!). I love a good IPA as much as the next girl, but sometimes something tart just hits the spot when it’s too hot for hops. A great open space and nice patio, only bummer is that you can only get Council Beer in the SD area! Stock up while you’re here and be sure to stop by anytime you’re in the area. These guys are only getting better with age.