Epic California brewery road trip and bottle share!
This is a huge summer for me when it comes to beer travel. I kicked it off with an epic week-long California brewery road trip with my buddy Steve of Beer By BART and contributor to Celebrator magazine.
The ultimate goal of the trip was to arrive at a friend's place in San Diego, where we met up with a crowd of uber-beer geeks for a massive bottle share that included some of the world's most exciting and rare sour and barrel aged beers. After two days of bottle sharing there, we rode in the short bus over to Escondido for the 7th Annual Stone Sour Fest and partook of more tart and funky brew.
The trip involved taking several days to drive from San Francisco down to San Diego. Along the way, we stopped at a litany of breweries, many new ones and a few old favorites. There are new breweries popping up every month in CA right now, it's actually hard to keep up with them all! Here's the list of breweries we visited, in order:
- Firestone Walker, Paso Robles (Duh, everything is fabulous at FW, more Sucaba please!)
- Creekside Brewing, San Luis Obispo
- Tap It Brewing, San Luis Obispo
- Central Coast Brewing, San Luis Obispo
- Figueroa Mountain Brewing, Buellton (Great beer, excellent tap room space.)
- Hollister Brewing, Goleta (Great beer, especially the "Tiny Bubbles" Berliner Weiss.)
- Telegraph Brewing, Santa Barbara (They're expanding, hopefully they'll make much more Reserve Wheat, my favorite!)
- Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, Long Beach (Every beer was excellent, a trip-wide favorite!)
- Pizza Port Bressi Ranch, Carlsbad
- Societe Brewing, San Diego (Amazing single hop IPAs, can't wait for the sours!)
- Rip Current Brewing, San Marcos (Killer IPAs & Scottish styles!)
- Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad (Lots of fun, a loud pizza place with great beer.)
- Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido (What an AMAZING space!)
We had a really excellent time meeting many of the brewery owners and brewers, checking out their brewing spaces and gear, and tasting their freshest beer. Simply put, it was awesome! They REALLY know how to do IPAs down in Southern California, I have to say. I thought the NW had it locked up, but the brewers are out of control down there.
Here are some pics from the brewery visits:
After finally arriving in San Diego, we met up with a bunch of guys who run what has to rank among the world's most amazing of bottle shares. The stuff they had gathered over the year for this event made me feel straight up guilty about the beer I had brought (which wasn't at all shabby and would've been among the better beers at a regular beer geek bottle share!). They had even made a multi-page list of the beers they had gathered for the first evening's tasting.
The bottle share included the Port Brewing Track Series Ultimate Box Set, a $450 set of thirteen 375ml bottles in a road case, like a band would use to haul audio equipment. These sets are super rare and hard to get. There were less than 600 of these box sets released and they went to winners of a lottery. When someone noted that there were too many people at the bottle share for us to all sample from 375ml bottles, our host replied, "that's why we got two sets." WHAT?! In addition, there were sets of gueuze and other sours brought over to the States from special events in Belgium, such as Tour de Gueuze, as well as from South America, there are just too many rarities to list (see the pics!).
This will put the Epic Bottle Share into perspective: someone brought four Westy 12's and at the end of the weekend they were all still untouched. They weren't as interesting as the other options. Yeah.
This bottle share went on for two days. Yes, that's right. Friday and Saturday, two whole days. So what did we do on Sunday? Headed over the to the 7th Annual Stone Sour Fest! Frankly, there was no way the beer at Sour Fest was going to outshine what we'd had over the previous couple days, but we did get to sample loads of great sour ale in Stone's beautiful World Bistro beer garden. I highly recommend stopping there if you're ever in Escondido. I flew back home on Monday morning already looking forward to next year's San Diego trip!
Below are some pics from the epic bottle share and Stone Sour Fest.