As promised in my last blog entry, here’s the first entry on my list of favorite experiences as a San Diego local.
1. Enjoying some of the best beer the United States has to offer
As a pseudo San Diegan, I’ve taken on San Diego’s reputation for creating craft beer as one of my personal bragging rights. Unfortunately and obviously, I have had absolutely nothing to do with contributing to the amazing infrastructure of San Diego’s craft brewing industry which has spurred not only a thriving cultural scene structured around beer, but has also significantly influenced the national craft brewing industry. But I am certainly doing my part in the PR department. Not because I feel obligated. I truly believe that a trip to San Diego would be wholly incomplete without scheduling ample time for sampling the local brews (unless you don’t like beer, in which case, you can stop reading now 😉 ).
Whether you trek to a brewery or do the tasting in the comfort of one of San Diego’s many restaurants and bars offering rich selections of local brew, is entirely up to you. Or both! There is an endless assortment of innovative breweries which often claim local and sometimes national and even international fame including Stone, AleSmith, Ballast Point, Lost Abbey, Mission, Pizza Port, Coronado, Firehouse, etc (here’s a clearer list). A trip to any of these breweries is a sneak peek into the super trendy world of craft brew, which is giving wine a run for its money. Your added benefit is you will learn more about hops than you ever cared to know.
Due to the thriving beer scene (as defined by this New York Times article), there are many tour services popping up making it even easier for you to enjoy a worry free tour of several breweries without driving or having to worry about hours and scheduling. The driving point is important, as craft beer tends to be higher in alcohol content than typical domestic beer. Otherwise, if you decide to go solo, make sure to call in advance to ensure the brewery is open and offers tours.
If you feel like taking it easy and you can live without an in-depth perspective on the importance of hops and an insider’s glimpse into the mind of a beer brewer, than skip the brewery tour and go straight to one of San Diego’s many restaurants and bars rich in local and national craft brew selection. Depending on how much you love beer, I suggest approaching this in one of two ways.
Your first option is to have a casual yet elongated, tasty and relaxed lunch at one of my two favorite Pizza Port locations in Solana Beach and Ocean Beach, or the Coronado Brewery. Pizza Port obviously specializes in pizza, where the Coronado Brewery offers a tasty American-style menu. And each of these restaurants are about five minutes from the ocean, so you can enjoy a stroll along the ocean after you’ve indulged. This is a great option if you aren’t a beer fanatic but want to enjoy some quality local beer.
Your other option is just to go straight to where all the brewers go to drink beer, which I’d say, is a safe bet. The destination? 30th St. This is, hands down, my favorite destination in San Diego. I even bought a condo on 30th St so I wouldn’t have to go far to enjoy all the beer this street has to offer.
30th street connects three neighborhoods in San Diego rich in history and character – University Heights, North Park, and South Park. Along 30th St you will find bars and restaurants with some of the best beer selections you can find – anywhere. Seriously, I found myself longing for an evening in Toronado as I perched on a bar stool at the Délirium Café in Brussels, Belgium. But, after all, I am a California girl.
There’s even a beer bus that runs between the neighborhoods every third Wednesday. But if you happen to be in the neighborhood on a night when the bus isn’t running, your biggest dilemma is choosing between the neighborhoods and all the awesome places in each of the neighborhoods. My recommendation is to begin in the center, which is the community of North Park, at the intersection of 30th St and University Ave, and go from there. From this intersection, you have no more than a two block walk to three of my favorites – Toronado, The Ritual Tavern, and The Linkery. The Ritual’s beautiful interior and intimate bar paired with service that treats you like family and a small but impeccable beer selection match the spirit of the 30th St culture. And before you know it you will be enjoying a deep conversation with several home brewers, maybe a brewer from Stone and possibly even dining on one of their special beer tasting dinners. After the Ritual, head down to the Linkery before they close for an after dinner drink to sample their fabulous cask selection in affordable half pints and watch the city go by from their fabulous urban location. Then stumble back up to Toronado to finish the night off with a bang in the stark, yet holy (for beer lovers) environment.
Other favorites include the family friendly picnic tables and outside bar surrounded by sand at the Station Tavern, to traditional, down & dirty, and legit at Hamiltons (both in South Park), and the higher art of bar food and beer at Blind Lady Ale House in University Heights.
Only after an evening exploring 30th St will you fully understand what warranted one of my favorite beers to derive its name from this special place – the 30th St Pale Ale by Green Flash.
Stay tuned for my next favorite San Diego experience, More than just pasta and olive oil in Little Italy, to be published within the week!