Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sips on the Road: Bier Thirty, Part One

Karl and Ally at Stone
Celebrating the end of the day has long been accomplished with a nice cold beer, but for my very handsome boyfriend Karl’s 30th birthday, he wanted to celebrate the end of a decade with beer, and so we did.  Twenty real life humans and one cardboard cutout gathered the morning of January 19th and climbed our way in to our party bus to attempt a visit to five different San Diego breweries in seven hours.  Aside from that we were given only one other goal of not racking up a bill for Karl with the bus driver by keeping ourselves “together,” a goal I’m happy to report we accomplished.  In all the day was a complete success and the breweries were welcoming, the great part for me was I had only ever been to one in person having tried beers from only a few as well, so it was a day of firsts for me.

The breweries visited in order were Stone World Bistro and Gardens, Lost Abbey, Green Flash, Rough Draft and the original San Diego brewery, Mission Brewery.  Each is deserving of their own post so over the course of a few weeks I’ll post about each going in order of those visited.

The Crew at Stone
We started with Stone World Bistro and Gardens, home to their primary brewery.  I’ve met very few people who are not familiar with the hop powerful Stone beers or their bizarre brews concocted during collaborations with other US breweries, but what many people don’t know is that they have a wonderful restaurant and garden in Escondido, CA.  Perched on the top of a hill and at the entrance to hiking trails the Stone property is rather unassuming at first glance, though its size gives away the operation, as per the laws of CA it resembles an industrial warehouse space with tilt-up concrete walls and exterior brewing tanks at one end of the building.  Once inside though you know why Stone is a San Diego favorite among beer drinkers and food lovers.  The main entrance crosses beneath an archway of rebar supporting hanging plants to a large wooden door that opens into a vast cavern of various types of stone and the predominant theme of gargoyles as found on most Stone labels.

Once you’re in the entry you have two options, you can proceed in to the gift shop and sign up for an often booked to capacity brewery tour or hit the tasting and growler counter, or you can skip the tour and head in to the bistro.  From the bistro you can see the entire brewing operation though huge glass windows that peer in on gleaming stainless steel fermentation and brewing kettles.   Watching the brewers in action is like a slow ballet as they check on temperatures, gravity readings and the overall health of the beer.

In the Stone gardens
I can remember the first time I visited Stone; the thing that struck me most was the seamless transition from inside to outside.  I also vocalized to Karl that this was what I had envisioned my dream brewery would look like, as with many things I was beaten to the punch; back to the drawing board. The interior of the bistro houses the main bar with a tricky tap handle chart, but if you can figure out how the clever bartenders know which beer is which from the black unlabeled handles you’ll walk away feeling pretty clever yourself.  You could stay inside and enjoy lunch, dinner or snacks among the koi pond and trees, or if you’re like me you’ll want to be outside.  Depending on the time of year, the garden can’t be beat.  At night enjoy dinner on the patio under gas heaters or around the water features with gas fire pits strategically placed around the bars.  Or during the day simply go for a beer and walk your way down in to the lush gardens with a stream passing through the area, a foot bridge leaving the bistro into the garden where you can find Adirondack chairs to relax in under the cover of leafed trees in alcoves of privacy, or gather your group around recently added picnic tables to enjoy the southern California weather.

The garden space can be rented out for special events and even a wedding or two has been held on the grassy lawn.  As the culture of Stone has grown, so has the popularity of the bistro and gardens, I recommend going on a week day when presumably San Diegans are working and the place slows down just a bit and you can enjoy yourself without the hustle and bustle that has helped make Stone one of the premier craft breweries in America. 

Enjoying Stone
Not sure which beer to try, my favorite Stone beer is the smooth Levitation ale, lower in alcohol content than many of the others it also possesses a more balanced all around flavor of hops and malt.  If you’re looking to try their flagship beer look no further than the award winning Arrogant Bastard and if it’s available try the Oaked version, either way their IBU’s are both classified information.  If neither of those suit your tastes go for the hops and sip a Ruination with IBU’s topping out at 100+ you won’t be disappointed and neither will your taste buds.  Not a beer drinker, that’s okay too, they’ve got some great ciders and wine available.  If you’re just there for the eats, I recommend the pretzels to start, their fried saltiness is unbeatable.  EntrĂ©e favorites include the Chicken Tikka Masala (my favorite) or go for the 3 BBQ duck tacos.  Finally, be adventurous and end your night with the smoked blue cheese, jalapeno and blueberry cheesecake.
Check them out on-line at or on Twitter @stonebrewingco

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