Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sunday Funday

I have really been enjoying the micro-brew scene in the San Diego area lately. This enjoyment has been spread across the board, anything from drinking local brews at home, visiting bars/restaurants that carry craft beers, and going to distribution hubs and on-site breweries.

I knew that San Diego had some local breweries, but it has only been within the last year that I have come to realize just how big the scene really is. The expanse of this culture has been brought to my attention not only by friends who are beer nerds, but also by local events and more recently by the 91X morning show and the Union-Tribune blog Brewery Rowe.

Every Thursday the 91X morning crew has a segment called Beer for Breakfast (note: the 91X morning show has since been cancelled). Each week a local brewer stops by the studio and for about 20 minutes the hosts drink the beer that was brought in and the brewer talks about what goes into the making of said beer and a little about the brewery it comes from. I have learned through this show that San Diego brewers don’t mess around. This is no Bud Light being brought into the 91X show. San Diego brewers are known for their robust, hoppy, high-percentage alcohol. Where beers such as Bud Light boarder on 4-5% alcohol content, San Diego beers typically reach into the 8% and higher categories.

One such local place is Stone Brewing in Escondido. Being a central San Diego gal myself, making the trek north to Stone is quite out of the way, but well worth it. Stone did a fantastic job of transforming their brewery into a destination location that caters not only to those who want to tour the facilities, but also to those who want to take the time to really sit and enjoy the beer offered over an extended period of time. No matter what your intentions are at Stone, they can be accomplished as a date, in a friendly group or as a family gathering.

Attractions at Stone include a gift shop, the brewery tour, a restaurant, an outdoor bar and a garden/picnic area. Stone is beautifully designed and inviting. In 2007 it even won The People’s Orchid, a local architecture award, for its “open and airy interior and the seamless indoor/outdoor connection via floor to ceiling glass doors. The element that drew the most attention of voters was the huge outdoor patio and garden animated by waterfalls and fire pits. Stone Brewing World is a destination very much in tune with Southern California living.

But enough background information and on to the meat and potatoes of this blog: A Sunday Funday trip to Stone Brewery.

The other weekend a friend and I headed north to Stone. It was a very nice day in San Diego and the weather got even warmer as we headed north to Escondido. We opted to sit at a table in the outside bar area, because the surrounding garden area at Stone is so inviting and because of the sunshine.

We didn’t end up doing the tour on this trip. It’s recommended to get there early if you want to get a spot in one of the daily tours. Tickets are limited and very popular.

First thing was first, attack the massive beer list. I started with Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale, while my friend went with the Stone Ruination Ale. To curb the appetite for a while I got a side salad. I have to say that the only negative to our trip was the service. It took more than 20 minutes for my side salad to come out. It’s a good thing I had a tasty beverage in hand to hold me over.

Since we were in this visit for the long haul (it takes too long to drive up there to just get one beer and leave), we brought some games for us to play and amused ourselves with quite a few rounds of Phase 10 and Rook.

We also took the time for some more good food. We had the Wild Boar Baby Back Ribs, which were fall-off-the-bone tender and doused in an excellent Stone Red Imperial Ale Five Chili Agave glaze. Of course there were a few more beers thrown in. I had a Stone sampler, which was a small taste of their 4 most popular brews: Pale Ale, Smoked Porter, IPA and Arrogant Bastard Ale.

To finish off the night – for those of you who know me, you knew this was coming – we had some bacon. In this case, bacon came in the form of dessert. To be more specific we got the Stone Imperial Russian Stout Chocolate Bacon Torte. For someone who LOVES bacon, this was enjoyable, but I have to say the bacon may have been a little extreme. The cake was a bit dry for my liking, but it didn’t stop us from eating the majority of the concoction.

Five-hours later and despite the poor service (although it turned out our busboy was more helpful than our server) and the overly bacony dessert we had an overall great trip to Stone Brewery. On our next trip we hope to make it in time to go on one of the brew tours.

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