Bruce Glassman

Three Cheers for the Little Guys – 8 Small Breweries to Check Out

Three Cheers for the Little Guys - 8 Small Breweries to Check Out

If you’ve heard about San Diego craft beer, you’ve probably heard about Stone, Green Flash Ballast Point, and AleSmith. These are San Diego’s biggest and most widely distributed breweries (and they all produce fantastic beer!). Because they’re so good and so big, you can likely find their beers in shops all across the country. When visiting, these are also the breweries at which you’ll have the most “polished” brewery experience. Their spacious tasting rooms are beautifully designed and there are tons of taps…

So here’s an idea:

If you’re planning to spend a day or two touring San Diego’s 120+ breweries, make sure you make some time for the little guys. Why? Well, for five reasons specifically – and here’s my thinking:

1. The new guys have to be excellent or they’re dead in the water

With so many great breweries in town, the barrier to entry for the new brewers is pretty tough. And the bar has been set awfully high. But that’s good. That means the newbies have to come out of the gate with quality brews if they’re going to have a chance of survival – and most of them do.

2. You can only get the little guys here in San Diego

If you’re going to be here for a visit, why not experience some of the breweries that can’t be seen or tasted anywhere else? A lot of the small brewers are doing creative and interesting things, experimenting with new techniques and ingredients, and doing small batches that are here one day and gone the next. Being small and independent gives them the freedom to play around and – while that’s not always a recipe for success – at least it’s interesting.

3. The small guys need visitors

Most of the smaller breweries rely entirely on tasting room sales to stay afloat. Their systems (most of which are 10-barrel systems or smaller) can’t produce enough beer to go into full-scale distribution or even bottling. So the business model for these breweries is to sell everything they make through their tasting room.

4. You’re encouraging independence and innovation

By supporting the small brewers, you’re also supporting the notion that anyone can make great beer on any scale. The more brewers we encourage, the more diversified our talent pool will become, and that’s good for everybody.

5. It’s all about the beer

The typical tasting room at one of San Diego’s nanos is housed behind a rollup door in a light industrial office park; Not exactly a feature spread in Home & Garden. Concrete floors, simple seating, and inexpensive design are the hallmark of the San Diego small guy. But there’s actually a benefit to going without all the bells and whistles: it makes you focus on the beer. And, let’s face it, even our greatest brewery success stories began in humble basements or garages where our brewers first unleashed their true passion for making beer. 

It is important to point out a few things about San Diego’s nano breweries. First, with 120+ breweries in the mix, not all the small guys are making gold-medal beer. So, let it be said that just being small is no guarantee of greatness. Second, not all the new small guys are new to brewing. In fact, a number of the really good new breweries in town have been started by brewers who had considerable pro brewing experience under their belts.

8 Superior Small Guys

New breweries in San Diego county are currently opening at an average rate of one per month! So there’s no worry about finding small, new places to visit, no matter where in the county you may be. Here’s a list of 8 superior small guys who have shown the beer community at large that they have what it takes to stick around:

1. Benchmark Brewing (Grantville)

This family-run operation is headed up by a former brewer from AleSmith who knows his stuff. Their charming tasting room is outfitted with lots of comfortable, “crafty” touches, and top-notch beers.

2. Bolt Brewing (La Mesa)

Their brewery is a quonset hut. Their bar is a small structure with a rollup door, and their tasting room is a sunny outdoor patio space. Despite the lack of frills, Bolt’s lineup is high quality and nicely varied, with excellent options for hopheads and malt lovers alike.

3. Council Brewing Company (Kearny Mesa)

This husband and wife team (she’s the brewer) offer visitors a nice selection of hoppy ales, as well as a number of more interesting, less commonly brewed beers. The tasting room is airy and comfortable, with high ceilings and rollup doors that open to drench the space in sunshine.

4. Fall Brewing Company (North Park)

Set in a semi-residential neighborhood on San Diego’s most beer-centric street (30th Street), Fall is a cozy and welcoming place that offers a quality lineup and showcases the talents of a longtime brewer who brings his experience from Mission, Maui, and St Archer to this new endeavor. 

5. Half Door Brewing Co. (Downtown)

This family-owned-and-operated establishment sits inside a historic two-story house on the corner of Island and 8th Avenue. The brewer, who came up at Coronado Brewing, crafts a nice range of small batch, full-flavored beers, all of which pair well with the pub-style menu they offer (try the fish & chips!).

6. O’Sullivan Bros. Brewing Company (Scripps Ranch)

A simple, tiny tasting room with 10 taps, this nano offers visitors a nice selection of Irish-inspired beer styles, including malty browns, ambers, stouts, and porters.

7. 32 North Brewing Company (Miramar)

This new brewery offers an impressive mix of beer styles and interesting flavor combinations. The tasting room, though simply appointed, is spacious and open with plenty of room to move around.

8. Toolbox Brewing Company (Vista)

This little brewery came out of the gate with a desire to be different. They offer well-made hoppy ales as well as some malty ones. What distinguishes them is their selection of brettanomyces (wild yeast strain) beers, which produce oodles of sour, funky, fruity, fabulous flavors.

> Explore San Diego’s 120+ Breweries

Ann Wycoff

Local Favorites in San Diego’s East Village

Quartyard-1200x630

Downtown San Diego keeps evolving and expanding as different parts of city find their identities and offer exceptional experiences. In recent years, the East Village has truly transformed into a dynamic part of town with a mélange of new restaurants, coffee houses, cafes and bars fueling the scene. From fast casual

to fancy, here’s a guide to local favorites in the East Village.

A Day of Dining in East Village

Copa Vida

Start the day with a single origin espresso or exotic tea, along with an order of chorizo egg hash with jalapeno cilantro sauce. Lunch means turkey melts, Mediterranean couscous salads, and Croquet Monsieurs. The airy bright modern space also offers barista classes in coffee brewing, latte art and tea education.

Where: 905 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Copa Vida

Lucky Lunch Counter

For breakfast all-day or a low-fi lunch, retro diner Lucky Lunch Counter is home to a seriously good pastrami sandwich, ballpark hot dogs (nodding to the baseball-themed interior) and build-your-own salads.

Where: 338 7th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Lucky Lunch Counter

Rare Form & Fairweather

The Petco Park-adjacent deli and bar, Rare Form, serves up grilled cheese on rustic sourdough, seasonal sausages, and Cuban sandwiches, along with innovative craft cocktails like their herbaceous Basil G&T. After dining, trot upstairs to their gorgeous tropical bar overlooking Petco Park, Fairweather, for a rum grog or planter’s punch.

Where: 793 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Rare Form & Fairweather

Padres Game Day Eats

Bub’s at the Ballpark

A bustling hub for Padres’ fans that serves food late! Bub’s boasts the best chicken wings in the city – recommended with their Carolina Gold (barbecue with honey) or mango habanero sauces. There’s also corn dogs, sliders, tater tots, indoor basketball hoops, beer galore, game day specials and flat screens at every turn.

Where: 715 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Bub’s at the Ballpark

Quartyard

Before heading over to Petco, stop by Quartyard,an Urban Park constructed from repurposed shipping containers, for pre-game eats from food trucks and Sausage & Meat, craft beer, cocktails, and backyard games.

Where: 1102 Market St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Quartyard

The Blind Burro

The Blind Burro, another high energy, bar-centric spot, spins out Baja-style coastal cuisine, cervezas and fine tequila. Try the salsa flights, rib-eye carne asada tacos, Mexican white shrimp and scallop ceviche, and their sweet potato-chorizo taquitos, paired with a Burro margarita with muddled jalapeno.

Where: 639 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about The Blind Burro

Salazar’s

For traditional Mexican, Salazar’s has been a family owned institution in the East Village since 1972. Think cheap beers, pollo asada burritos and shredded beef tacos.

Where: 1502 Market St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Salazar’s

Hive Sushi Lounge

College kids flock to the Hive Sushi Lounge (1409 C St.), a cheap and cheerful haunt open nightly.

Where: 1409 C St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Hive Sushi Lounge

Basic

Another East Village anchor, Basic, is a lively lounge-y warehouse packed with locals enjoying thin-crusted pizzas, craft brews, cocktails, billiards and good music into the wee hours of night.

Where: 410 10th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Basic

On the Edge of East Village

Monkey Paw Brewing Company

On the outer edge of the East Village, Monkey Paw is a casual brew pub with gold medal beers spilling from the taps and is known for their Philly cheesesteaks, waffle fries and old-school jukebox.

Where: 805 16th St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Monkey Paw Brewing Company

Stella Public House & Halcyon

An artisanal farm-to-pizza concept coupled with 20+ craft beers and an open-air chill vibe makes Stella Public House another East

Village favorite. Not to mention it shares the space with Halcyon, a hipster coffee spot and bar that serves up breakfast, paninis, and coffee-based cocktails. Stella sports communal tables, wood-fired pizzas, and small plates like lamb meatballs, beet towers and speck-wrapped asparagus. Both spots overlook the greenery and public art of Fault Line Park.

Where: 1429 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Stella Public House
> Find out more about Halcyon

A Bit More Upscale Dining

Water Grill

A mecca for seafood with a rockin’ raw bar, succulent shellfish platters, fresh line-caught fish and sophisticated wines.

Where: 615 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Water Grill

Bottega Americano

Bottega Americano also charms as a vibrant urban food hall with a whirlwind of visuals-chefs throw pizza dough and pull pies from the wood-fired ovens, ribbons of rainbow colored pasta hang on display, oysters beckon from the raw bar, salumi hangs from above, picture perfect pastries tantalize from the bakery, gourmets goods fill the market place, diners share plates at communal tables and mixologists sling scintillating sippers behind the bar. Floor-to-ceiling, black-and-white images fill the walls with 1950s glam shots from Italy. It’s a scene with gorgeous décor and truly reflects the best of the best in the East Village.

Where: 1195 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Bottega Americano

Arlene

From Motown to Trap Music – What’s Your Specialty?

From Motown to Trap Music, San Diego bars offer some great specialty nights each week.

If you’re looking for a night out with a fun theme or genre specific, here are four favorites in San Diego!

Motown Monday at Bar Pink

Motown Monday at Bar Pink

Bar Pink, located in the center of North Park, offers a great night of Motown music and old dance tracks. The bar is dark and the décor is reminiscent of the drunken elephant dream sequence in Dumbo, so you really can’t go wrong. Pink plastic bubbles adorn the bar area and black booths line one wall. Play pool or dance to the likes of Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 and Diana Ross. Songs are both originals and DJ edits of the classics so your feet will be moving and grooving all night long. Heads Up: This is a cash only bar.

Where: 3829 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
> Find out more about Bar Pink

Trapped at The Office

Trapped at The Office

If you are a fan of bass heavy Trap music, UK Bass or Dub Step then this is the spot for you!  Every Tuesday resident DJ’s with special guests bring Trapped to The Office Bar in North Park. A small dance floor gets packed with fans of hard-hitting 808 drums and hi hat sounds.This night is unlike any other as it is hosted in a moderately sized bar rather than at a festival or large club, which provides a more intimate and engulfing experience. The bass fills the bar so be prepared to feel the music and bob your head to the beats.

Where: 3926 20th St, San Diego, CA 92104
> Find out more about The Office Bar

Hickies & Dryhumps at El Camino

Hickies & Dryhumps at El Camino

A long time favorite of the San Diego locals every first and third Friday of the month, Hickies and Dryhumps, is a 90s only night at El Camino bar & restaurant in Little Italy. This night was aptly named for perhaps some of the behaviors of those who grew up in that era, but I won’t name names! This specialty night originated at another venue and has moved to three different locations because of its popularity. Social media reminds you every afternoon before the event to arrive early and always for good reason. The entry line will regularly be as long as the entire block! Hits from the 90s create a very nostalgic vibe for many of the guests. Everything from N’Sync to Snoop Dogg will be played with a slow jam or two to create the true 90s vibe. Be prepared to sing along. One of the pieces of this bar is the roulette and blackjack. You can either live roll the dice and try your luck, and do it at the Austrian site online roulette

Where: 2400 India St, San Diego, Ca 92101
> Find out more about El Camino

80s vs 90s Music at Whistle Stop Bar

80s vs 90s Specialty Music Night at Whistle Stop Bar

If you prefer a mix of decades, 80s vs 90s at Whistle Stop offers just that. Resident DJ’s Gabe Vega and Saul Q play the best from those decades and create a massively fun night out. Whistle Stop Bar is also cash only so come prepared.

Where: 2236 Fern St, San Diego, CA 92104
> Find out more about Whistle Stop Bar

> San Diego Nightlife – The Hottest Party on the West Coast

Bruce Glassman

8 San Diego Brews Spreading the Holiday Beer Cheer

8 San Diego Brews Spreading Holiday Beer Cheer
8 San Diego Brews Spreading Holiday Beer Cheer

Photo by Bruce Glassman

There’s no shortage of beer innovation in San Diego – it goes on all year long – but the holiday season always provides an extra-special inspiration for many brewers. All over the county, brewery tasting rooms are tapping small-batch and specialty brews that were created especially to bring extra holiday cheer to craft beer fans.

Given their limited quantities of holiday brews, most of the medium and small brewers in town will restrict their special releases to their tasting rooms. In some cases, very limited bottlings will be available, but – again – mostly at the brewery location. If you’re in the holiday spirit – or want to get some holiday spirits – I encourage you to check your favorite breweries online (or use TapHunter or similar apps) to see what’s being offered and when. Then head out and get to those tasting rooms, as specialty beers from good brewers never last long.
San Diego for the Holidays

If, for some reason, you miss out on a holiday beer you wanted from a small brewery, don’t fret. There are also a bunch of great holiday releases that you can find in bottles at many major retail outlets, including many of the big supermarkets (and also at the breweries themselves). These beers tend to be from the larger producers in town, but they are every bit as fun and tasty as anything being made in San Diego. They also make awesome gifts for those special beer-lovers in your life…

Here’s a round-up of holiday beers I was able to preview. In addition to tasting notes, I’ve also included some thoughts about pairings. After all, with all those pecan pies, Christmas cookies, and buche de noels around the house, you’ll want a few beverages to help wash them down. Besides, who needs more eggnog, anyway?!

1. Six Suits A Hangin’ (Karl Strauss/Pacific Beach)

This Imperial Belgian-style brown ale is a dark, rich, full-bodied brew that has been aged in French oak. It has aromas of freshly baked bread and spices, and has flavors of molasses, caramel, nuts, peppery spice, with a hint of tropical bubble gum. This beer paired very well with apple pie and pumpkin pie, but was an absolute knockout with orange bourbon pecan pie.

> Find out more about Karl Strauss Brewing Company

2. Jolly Folly IPA (Green Flash/Mira Mesa)

Holidays are for hop-heads, too! Even though most holiday releases tend to be heavier, more malt-driven styles, there are a few beers out there for hop lovers as well. This IPA is bold, West-coast-style hoppy brew with major aromas of pine (Christmas tree!) and freshly cut grass. With a medium mouthfeel, this beer delivers crisp, piny hop flavors with a hint of honey and pleasingly bitter finish. We paired this with a spicy chili, which was wonderful, but other spicy or highly seasoned stews or soups would fare equally well.

> Find out more about Green Flash Brewing Co.

3. XOCOVEZA (Stone/Escondido)

How about a Mexican hot chocolate for the holidays? Well, Stone has brewed the beer version. This thick and rich mocha stout is brewed with cocoa, coffee, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and Pasilla peppers, all of which waft from the glass as soon as it’s poured. Dark chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon are predominant flavors, along with notes of vanilla, smoky pepper, and nutmeg. Stone has released a few variations of this beer, including an extra-special “charred” version, which has been aged in bourbon barrels. Perfect pairings include chocolate, pecan pie, almond cookies, and roasted nuts, but this is one you can also simply sip by itself in front of the fire pit.

> Find out more about Stone Brewing Co.

4. Mission Holiday Ale (Mission/Downtown)

This Belgian-style dark ale smells of raisins, candied fruit, figs, plums, and the characteristic “breadiness” of the Belgian yeast. The beer tastes of molasses, raisins, and candied fruit, with a light spiciness. Best pairings include cherry pie, chocolate cookies, and candied nuts.

> Find out more about Mission Brewery

5. Gift of the Magi (Lost Abbey/San Marcos)

According to their web site, this rich golden ale is brewed with a small amount of Myrrh (an herb) and is bittered with the help of Frankincense (for some reason they left out the gold!). On the nose, this beer smells of caramel, honey, and raisins and has flavors of caramel, raisins, and pecans, along with a pleasing spiciness, a light funk from the Brettanomyces yeast, and crisp hop bitterness. Pumpkin cake and almond biscotti were equally perfect pairings with this beer, but this gem would also surely enhance any fruitcake.

> Find out more about The Lost Abbey

6. Santa’s Little Helper (Port/San Marcos)

This imperial stout is a perfect example of its style. Rich aromas of chocolate, coffee, and caramel come out of the glass, backed up by plenty of chocolate, coffee, and caramel flavors in your mouth. If you want to turbo-charge your stout experience, Port also offers a bourbon-barrel-aged version of this beer, which has all the deliciousness of the base stout with the added decadence of bourbon notes. Chocolate covered espresso beans and chocolate covered walnuts were seamless pairings for this brew, as would be any kind of chocolate cake or mocha dessert, such as Tiramisu.

> Find out more about Port Brewing Company

7. Macaroon Nut Brown (Aztec/Vista)

Ever wonder what a beer equivalent of a Mounds bar would be? Well, wonder no longer. Aztec’s special end-of-year release has big coconut on nose and an intense coconut flavor. It’s a brown, so it has a lighter mouthfeel and body than a stout, along with a lighter maltiness. Pair this with chocolate cookies, chocolate covered walnuts, or – yes! – even a Mounds bar.

> Find out more about Aztec Brewing Company

8. Enlightenment (Twisted Manzanita/Santee)

Here’s what you’d get if you dropped your candy cane into your beer glass and waited for it to dissolve…This Santee brewery usually creates their peppermint-infused chocolate stout just in time for the holidays. The beer has strong aromas of eucalyptus and peppermint, with candy cane flavors that are supported by a light maltiness, a light mouthfeel, and hints of dark chocolate. Pair this with dark chocolate truffles, chocolate pastry/cookies, cheesecake, or vanilla ice cream.

> Find out more about Twisted Manzanita Ales & Spirits

> Sip & Savor at 100+ San Diego Breweries

Happy Holidays!

Arlene

Fall-iday Cocktails in San Diego’s Mid-City

Holiday Cocktails - Polite Provisions
Holiday Cocktails - Polite Provisions

Warm up (or cool down) with a fall/holiday inspired cocktails.

When most people think of holiday weather, they don’t think of temperatures in the mid to high 60s…unless of course, you live in San Diego!

We may not have miles of Maple leaves changing colors on the SoCal coast or blankets of fresh snow covering the roads but we do offer some cocktails that’ll make you feel all warm and cozy inside, without the need to pull out the old leaf blower.

I’ve gathered a few places in the mid-city area that have created exceptional cocktails based on recommendations by friends in the bar industry here in San Diego so if you’re looking for something that reminds you of cozying up near the fireplace (or beachside bonfires here in San Diego), then take a gander at the following suggestions.

San Diego for the Holidays

Park & Rec’s Tiki Cocktails

Speaking of bonfires, nothing says San Diego winter like a tiki cocktail! I know it’s not your average eggnog, don’t worry we’ll get to those, but it is something you’ll want to try while playing corn hole or shuffleboard at Park & Rec, a bar that let’s you go experience recess all over again only this time with better tater tots! The Tiki Blinders, duly named after a television drama that is ironically set in prohibition-era London, is made with Irish whiskey, spiced rum, pineapple, lime blood orange liqueur and bitters. It is earthy and sweet with a slightly bitter finish. Lucky for us, there is no secret knock or password required for this delight.

Where: 4612 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Park & Rec

Polite Provisions’ Hot Buttered Rum

Polite Provisions, a cocktail bar reminiscent of the Edwardian era is located in-between the centrally located neighborhoods of Normal Heights and University Heights. It has created a delicious take on the classic holiday favorite for cold weather, Hot Buttered Rum, which is sure to keep you feeling the holiday spirit. It’s light silky texture is very easy to drink if you’re not one for spirit forward cocktails. Several spices including nutmeg and clove make this a drink that will reawaken memories of holidays past. Another notable cocktail is the Blind Date that includes a date infused rum, cream and brown sugar. Trust me, this one is way better than cousin Eddie’s nog!

Where: 4696 30th St, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Polite Provisions

Sycamore Den’s Noggin Boots & Chapman’s Fix

The final destination that has notable cocktails this holiday season is another Normal Heights mainstay named Sycamore Den. If you grew up in the 70s or 80s walking into Sycamore may give you childhood flashbacks before you even order a drink. Lined in wood and housing it’s own fireplace, Sycamore has an entire menu devoted to the cooler weather for you to enjoy. Another eggnog inspired drink named Noggin Boots, which you may do after a few of these, is creamy and slightly frothy with a touch of nutmeg. The twist to this cocktail is the coffee infused white whiskey, coffee liqueur and cacao rum that adds a slightly bolder coffee flavor.

On a more tart note, the Chapman’s Fix is served over crushed ice with “hints of apples, baking spices and America”. I’m not exactly sure what’s more American than apple pie but this just might be it. This rye cocktail also has hints of lemon, honey and cinnamon for the warmer San Diego days.

Where: 3391 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Sycamore Den

> Discover San Diego’s Dining & Nightlife Scene

John Alonge

Holiday Happenings at San Diego County Wineries

San Pasqual Winery La Mesa Tasting Room - Wineries in San Diego County

San Pasqual Winery La Mesa Tasting Room - Wineries in San Diego County

With the Holiday season fast approaching, what better way to start your celebration than a visit to one of San Diego County’s family-owned wineries? Many of the local winemakers host Holiday-themed activities at their vineyards, a perfect prelude to the coming seasonal festivities. Here are some suggestions for getting in the spirit while savoring local wines:

Principe di Tricase Winery and Christmas Tree Farm

Where else can you select the perfect Christmas tree while sipping wines made from Italian grape varieties like Nebbiolo and Aglianico? The owners of Ramona’s Principe di Tricase Winery also operate the Highland Valley Christmas Tree Farm on the same property. Choose a beautiful Monterey pine or a fragrant cedar from among the 6,000 trees while you enjoy award-winning wines crafted from the four acres of vineyards next door.

Where: 18425 Highland Valley Road, Ramona, CA 92065
When: Beginning the day after Thanksgiving
– Tree farm open Thursday & Friday 3:00 to 5:00 PM and Saturday & Sunday 9:00 to 5:00 PM
– Winery open Saturday & Sunday 12:00 to 5:00 PM
> Find out more about Principe di Tricase Winery and Christmas Tree Farm

Ramona Valley Vineyard Association Holiday Wine Trail

Purchase the $15 Passport for access to special tastings at 15 Ramona Valley wineries, along with a souvenir glass. Each participating winery will offer a special wine and food pairing, bottle purchase discounts and other Holiday merchandise at a discounted rate (charged at each winery).

Participating wineries: La Finquita, Hatfield Creek, Ramona Ranch, Milagro Farm, Mahogany Mountain, Lenora, Turtle Rock Ridge, Pamo Valley, Eagles Nest, Vineyard Grant James, Principe di Tricase, Highland Hills, Hacienda de las Rosas, Poppaea, Hellanback Ranch

When: December 5-6 and December 12-13
Cost: $15-$20
> Find out more about the Holiday Wine Trail

Sierra Roble & Shadow Mountain Wineries Holiday Open House

Take a drive up to the scenic mountains north of Warner Springs to enjoy a wonderful Holiday tasting experience. Enjoy a tasty bowl of posole soup at Shadow Mountain and delicious handmade tamales at neighboring Sierra Roble, paired with a variety of beautifully crafted wines.

Where:
– Sierra Roble Winers – 34810 Hwy 79, Warner Springs, CA 92086
– Shadow Mountain Vineyards & Winery – 34680 Hwy 79, Warner Springs, CA 92086
When:
Saturday, December 5
Time: 1:00 to 4:00 PM
> Find out more about the Holiday Open House

Ramona Ranch Winery Wine Crafting

Create your own Holiday ornaments while sipping delightful wines at Ramona Ranch. All classes include materials, instruction, wine and a guaranteed good time.

On Saturday, December 5th, Design Works will be on site for a wine tasting and crafting class. On Sunday, December 13th, Woodcrafter Jeri will lead participants in the creation of their own unique wooden snowman accompanied, of course, by a wine tasting.

Where: 23578 Highway 78, Ramona, CA 92065
When: December 5 & 13, 2015
Reservations: Call Teri at 619.925.5008
> Find out more about the Ramona Ranch Winery

San Pasqual Winery Cork Wreath Making Class

Make your own Holiday cork wreath at this entertaining class held at the charming San Pasqual tasting room in the heart of La Mesa. Class fee includes all materials, instruction and a glass of wine.

Where: La Mesa Village – 8364 La Mesa Blvd., La Mesa, CA 91942
When:
December 4 and December 18
Time: 6:00 to 8:30 PM
Cost: $35
> Find out more about the Cork Wreath Making Class

Edna Gutierrez

6 San Diego Restaurant Week Joints to Check Out This Year

Balboa Park Dining at The Prado -Courtesy Erik Isakson -exp. 7_2015Just when San Diego’s summer crowds start to fade, but the sun decides to stay, San Diego’s restaurants agree this is no time to rest. So they kick into high gear, to cook, prepare, boil and sear, fresh local veggies, meats and fish. All because San Diego Restaurant Week is here!

I am a poet and I don’t know it, but the truth is that it’s easy to get inspired with the delightful culinary scene that’s taking over San Diego, and it’s during San Diego Restaurant Week when locals and visitors get to try all the amazing dining options that abound. From September 20-27, more than 180 San Diego restaurants will showcase three-course prix-fixe dinner menus prepared with the best local ingredients for just $20, $30, $40 or $50 per person. Lunch prix-fixe menus are also available for $10, $15 or $20 per person.

With so many options around and just one week to spare is hard to decide where to indulge on that local fare. From new to hidden gems, to restaurants that showcase San Diego’s unique Cali-Baja scene, here are some lunch and dinner options to savor the fresh flavors of San Diego.

The Newbies

Galaxy Taco

Exterior courtesy Galaxy Taco
Lunch: $15
Trey Foshee’s Galaxy Taco opened this July in La Jolla and celebrates the culture and cuisine of Mexico with quality local ingredients.

Oceana Coastal Kitchen

Oceana patio night- courtesy Oceana Coastal Kitchen
Dinner: $30
Executive Chef Steven Riemer’s Mission Bay restaurant highlights the purity and flavors of local California produce and their commitment to sustainable ingredients.

Neighborhood Hidden Gems

The Patio on Goldfinch

the patio on goldfinch entrance
Lunch: $20
Nestled in the historic neighborhood of Mission Hills, The Patio on Goldfinch features a cheese cave, barrel-aged drinks and a seasonal food menu.

Waypoint Public

Waypoint Public Exterior courtesy Zack Benson
Dinner: $30
The relaxed bistro and beer bar in the artsy neighborhood of North Park specializes in a seasonal menu that can be perfectly paired with its wide craft beer selection.

Cali-Baja Scene

Bracero

Interior bar at Bracero courtesy Walter Wilson Studios
Lunch: $15
This acclaimed Chef Plascencia’s restaurant in Little Italy was one of the most anticipated restaurants openings of 2015 and showcases a menu that perfectly reflects San Diego’s Cali-Baja cuisine.

The Hake Kitchen & Bar

The Hake Edits-9 (1)Dinner: $50
Located in the heart of La Jolla Village, this restaurant’s Latin-inspired fare offers a modern interpretation of classic dishes.

San Diego Restaurant Week’s Get Social for a Good Cause

This year San Diego Restaurant Week & Sysco have joined forces with the “All For Kids Campaign” that aims to provide local, unprivileged children with school backpacks through a partnership with Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank’s Backpack Program. The social media campaign will give $1 for every participating tagged restaurant & hashtagged Instagram post.

> Browse 180+ San Diego Restaurant Week Participants

Bruce Glassman

Walk This Way: 8 Great Downtown San Diego Tap Lists

8 Best Taphouses in Downtown San Diego
8 Best Taphouses in Downtown San Diego

Photo by Bruce Glassman

Yes, San Diego is home to more than 100 awesome breweries, and each has its own tasting room (some have two or three!). But, San Diego is a big county and, though many breweries are somewhat “grouped” in geographical areas, the majority of them are a 20-40 minute drive from downtown. So, how do you sample some of America’s finest beer from America’s Finest City if you’re only going to be downtown? It’s simple: There are a slew of great bars to choose from, if you know what to look for. And they’re all within a 20-block radius of one another, which means, you can easily sample a few different places while you stroll around.

You can find San Diego beer on almost every menu in the city at this point, which is great, but the majority of downtown restaurants and bars are still pushing the mass-produced stuff harder than the craft stuff. The eight places on the list below are notable for the depth and breadth of their craft beer taps and bottle lists, most of which often include at least 50% San Diego beers (though these things rotate and change on a sometimes daily basis).

Just for fun, I’ve also noted the places that do some interesting craft beer cocktails. These offerings come in especially handy when craft beer lovers are out and about with craft-beer newbies…they offer a “kinder gentler” way to start appreciating the wonderful array of flavors available in great craft beer.

Here’s the list of my recommendations, starting on Beech Street (in Little Italy) and working south and east toward Island:

1. Craft & Commerce

Spacious and welcoming, with seating options both indoors and out, this craft-and-cocktail-centric restaurant is easy to settle into. In addition to its full menu of tasty and creative comfort food, Craft & Commerce has about two dozen taps of well-chosen craft beers. They also offer about five different craft beer cocktails, including a delicious IPA cocktail (IPA, grapefruit-infused asperol, orgeat, and lemon) and the Pony Boy (Ballast Point’s Wahoo Wheat with cynar, lemon, and honey).

Where: 675 W. Beech St. San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Craft & Commerce

2. Downtown Johnny Brown’s

Feel like going on a little treasure hunt? You can’t see DTJB’s from the street (it’s tucked inside the courtyard that houses the Civic Center) but this classic San Diego beer bar is worth seeking out. The ambience is no-frills and the food is basic pub fare, but the tap list (about 30 handles) and selection have made it a downtown beer mecca. Also to its credit: DTJB’s was one of the first bars downtown to actively embrace, promote, and support the San Diego craft beer movement – so, big props to them.

Where: 1220 3rd Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Downtown Johnny Brown’s

3. The Beer Co.

Here’s a place where you can taste a small lineup of beers brewed on premises in addition to a nice array of other craft handles. A large bar dominates the somewhat dark but nicely done space, which also has tables and booth seating. The 20+ tap handles offer good variety and tend to focus on easy drinking selections that pair well with the food on the full bar menu.

Where: 602 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101

4. Quad Alehouse

One of the newer (and nicer) beer bars downtown, this spacious and tastefully designed space offers big windows, more light, and a much nicer view than most of its Fifth Avenue neighbors. Being up high, on the third floor, is a nice option, and it’s fun to have more than 28 taps to choose from while you look out at the bustling Gaslamp below.

Where: 868 Fifth Avenue, 3rd Floor, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Quad Alehouse

5. The Tipsy Crow

Head south on Fifth Avenue from Quad Ale House and, within a minute, you’ll be standing in front of The Tipsy Crow. This well-established bar has been offering patrons the “classic” pub experience for many years: the ground floor offers low light, dark wood booths, and small darkened spaces, while the second floor offers a more comfortable lounge-inspired setting. The tap list is a bit lean, but the bottle list, with about 80 selections, makes up for it.

Where: 770 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about The Tipsy Crow

6. The Hopping Pig

One more block south on Fifth brings you to The Hopping Pig, which has more in common with the Tipsy Crow than Quad Ale House. Those who crave the ambience of their favorite dive bar will find this space comforting, and their tap list, which comprises more than 30 handles, will provide more than enough choice to make your visit a tasty one.

Where: 748 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about The Hopping Pig

7. Neighborhood

This smallish corner bar beckons those who appreciate the eclectic approach to watering holes. Filled with all sorts of curious objects and images, including mounted stuffed animals, rubber dolls, and religious iconography, Neighborhood also provides an eclectic mix of beverages. Their excellent lineup of 28 taps provides good breadth and depth, but the full bar also offers a deep list of bourbons and whiskeys, including their own homemade fireball hooch, which is well worth a try.

Where: 777 G St, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Neighborhood

8. Stella Public House

Seekers of the light will de-light in the space that makes up Stella Public House. Much of the pub/bar opens to the outside and overlooks the Coronado Bridge and a large span of town that backs up to Petco and the new library. 30 taps, including two hi-tech nitro taps, provide an excellent selection of well-chosen beers, about half of which on average are local. Stella also had one of the more developed menus of craft beer cocktails, which includes a MAI IPA (Mai Tai mix with IPA and lemon), a Fizzy Gin (Belgian beer with Tanquerey, lemon, and agave), and a Breakfast Beer (Stoli Raz, Coffee, and Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Stout).

Where: 1429 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Stella Public House

Brent Bernasconi

Hops on the Harbor – Craft Beer, Food and Amazing Views

San Diego Skyline & Coronado Bridge - Hops on the Harbor

San Diego Craft Beer – Check! Delicious Food – Check! Beautiful Views of San Diego from the Water – Check! These are just a few of the highlights of Flagship Cruises & Events‘ Hops on the Harbor.

The Craft Beer

Stone Brewing Co. - Hops on the Harbor - Flagship Cruises & Events

It’s called Hops on the Harbor for a reason!

Each month, Flagship features a local brewery’s line up pouring everything from famous San Diego style IPAs to pale ales to dark and delicious Stouts. During my cruise, we sipped on new (Ruination IIPA 2.0) and classic offerings from Stone Brewing Co. while also having the chance to talk craft beer shop with one of the brewers.

Ballast Point will be on tap in July and I believe it is required by law for you to try the Sculpin IPA before leaving San Diego! In August, Pizza Port will come aboard and hopefully be pouring the delicous Chronic Ale (trust me on this one).

For those indulging their craft beer friend/loved one(s), there is a full bar onboard that will happily mix up a cocktail or pour a glass of wine.

The Food

Just like its grape-derived sibling, the nuances of craft beer are best experienced when paired with delectable dishes. Flagship’s chefs know this and have prepared monthly menus that reflect the tastes and personalities of each brewery.

On the Stone cruise, I devoured amazing pulled pork sandwiches with an Imperial Mutt Brown Ale and rich chocolaty desserts chased by Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout.

For the Ballast Point cruises in July, expect lighter fair and fresh fish pairings like pan seared halibut with citrus buerre blanc and grapefruit marmalade paired with a Grapefruit Sculpin IPA or grilled chicken with charred peach barbeque sauce paired with a BP Pale Ale.

Make sure you check Flagship’s website spielautomaten and view the menu before you hop aboard.

The Cruise

San Diego Skyline & Coronado Bridge - Hops on the Harbor

The whole Hops on the Harbor experience is made complete with amazing views of San Diego from the water.

Once aboard, grab beer and climb the stairs to the upper deck. Take a seat and wave goodbye to the USS Midway as the California Spirit sets sail toward the Big Bay. From there, you are treated to striking views of Point Loma, picturesque Coronado, the Coronado Bay Bridge, the San Diego skyline, and a beautiful sunset!

Make sure your camera’s battery is charged because you will be snapping a lot of photos!

If you get a little chilly and want to warm up, head back inside to dance the night away with live music…and maybe another beer! Or if you’re like me and have little to no rhthym, find one of the comfortable over-stuffed chairs and relax as the California Spirit returns to San Diego’s Embarcadero.

Hops on the Harbor Information

Where: 990 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
When: Fridays
Time: 7:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: Adult – $69.50
> Find out more about Hops on the Harbor

Bruce Glassman

Ales and Ambience: San Diego's 10+ Best Tasting Rooms

One of Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits Tasting Rooms - Miramar
One of Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits Tasting Rooms - Miramar

Courtesy of Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits

Have you ever noticed that things taste better when you”re in the right surroundings? The beer and wine experience, especially, improves when you”re sharing with friends and doing it in a great space. That”s why San Diego”s best tasting rooms and brewery spaces are worth noting (and seeking out).

Of course, great tasting rooms come in as many varieties as there are beers, so I”ve decided to offer a few thoughts on what I think are the best of the best in 10 categories (all of which have to also provide excellent beer). That way, you can decide for yourself which kind of tasting room experience will best suit your needs.

1. Best Interior Design: Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits (Miramar)

This is by far the largest and most “designed” of Ballast”s 4 great locations, and it offers a nice mix of spaces in which to enjoy the wide variety of beers on tap. From the large bar, visitors can sit and look into the enormous production area, where two huge copper kettles are proudly displayed. Nearby, an area with comfortable sofas and chairs provides a more private option for those who want to sit and chat quietly. A large outdoor patio space gives sun worshippers still another option for sitting, sipping, and dining on treats from the kitchen, which offers a full menu.

Where: 9045 Carroll Way, San Diego, CA 92121
> Find out more about Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits

2. Best Outdoor Space: Bagby Beer Company (Oceanside)

There is plenty of nice indoor space at this new Oceanside brewery, but the variety of outdoor space is what makes it unique. Upstairs, a rooftop patio provides good seating and tables, as well as a partial view of the water. Downstairs, the courtyard area encompasses an Adirondack-equipped deck area as well as open-air seating with a view directly into the brewhouse. Another outdoor area surrounds a large bar and a brick oven that cooks up a nice selection of delicious items, including pizza.

Where: 601 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054
> Find out more about Bagby Beer Company

3. Most Comfortable & Casual Space: Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment (Midtown) and Mother Earth Tap House (Vista)

For a small, intimate, and comfortable room, Acoustic offers one of the best layouts in town. Overstuffed sofas and chairs add to the “speakeasy” feel, and a bar, high-top bar tables and chairs, provide the more traditional options. For a grander, more spacious option, Mother Earth features a very large bar, plenty of tables (some communal), and a nice outdoor patio space.

Acoustic Ales: 2120 Washington St, San Diego, CA 92110
> Find out more about Acoustic Ales

Mother Earth Tap House: 206 Main St, Vista, CA 92084
> Find out more about Mother Earth Brew Co.

4. Most Kid-Friendly Space: Pizza Port Bressi Ranch (Carlsbad)

All of Pizza Port”s locations are fun, loud, casual, family-centric places, but their newest (and largest) location in Bressi Ranch is by far the easiest for kid-wrangling. Family-style picnic tables fill the large space downstairs, and a balcony area upstairs provides a (tiny bit) quieter option. Outside, a fire pit online casino is surrounded by cushioned sofa seating, which provides a comfy spot for sipping as the sun sets.

Where: 2730 Gateway Rd, Carlsbad, CA 92009
> Find out more about Pizza Port

5. Most Social Atmosphere: South Park Brewing (South Park) and Monkey Paw (16th Ave. at F)

It”s no coincidence that these two places are owned by the same guy, Scot Blair, who also owns Hamilton”s Tavern and Small Bar. Blair”s vision for all his establishments is to provide a welcoming, casual, accessible atmosphere for enjoying great beers. His newest venture, South Park Brewing, combines a small-batch on-site brewing operation with a casual seafood pub. The large wooden communal tables and booths are perfect for families and groups, and the vibe is no frills, relaxed, and friendly. Monkey Paw is more of a traditional pub atmosphere, with large dark-wood tables and a killer selection of craft beers, including great brews made right next door.

South Park Brewing: 1517 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102
> Find out more about South Park Brewing Company

Monkey Paw: 805 16th St., San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery

6. Funkiest Design Elements: Modern Times (Point Loma)

The large warehouse space that houses one of Modern Times two tasting rooms (the other in North Park) provides a somewhat unique opportunity to enjoy an abundance of air above your head – it feels a little like tasting beer in an airplane hangar. But that”s cool. The high ceilings also provide walls that serve as mega canvases; in this case, one wall has been covered with a giant mural by artist Amy Krone, who constructed the image with more than 12,000 Post-It notes. Other funky design elements include the bar made from hundreds of antique books, and a state-of-the art hi-tech growler station that fills with no foam.

Where: 3725 Greenwood St, San Diego, CA 92110
> Find out more about Modern Times Beer

7. Best Beer & Food Combination: URBN Street Brewing (El Cajon) and Karl Strauss Brewing Company (4S Ranch and other locations)

Most breweries in town do a great job with the menus they provide, but only one offers a truly excellent thin-crust brick oven pizza; that”s URBN Street. There are plenty of other tasty items to choose from, but the combination of great wood-fired pizza with a freshly brewed beer…well, let”s face it, that”s tough to beat. The large space provides plenty of options for groups and families to spread out, both indoors and out. For a more traditional “brewpub” menu, Karl Strauss offers a wider selection of specifically beer-centric food (don”t miss the black garlic fondue!), all paired with their food-friendly excellent quality brews.

URBN Street Brewing: 110 N Magnolia Ave, El Cajon, CA 92020
> Find out more about URBN Street Brewing

Karl Strauss Brewing Company: 10448 Reserve Dr, San Diego, CA 92127
> Find out more about Karl Strauss Brewing Company

8. Most Fun Stuff To Do: Stone Liberty Station (Point Loma)

One of the great things about Stone Brewing Co. is that they get to play big. Everything about their two main locations in Escondido and Liberty Station is well-designed, user-friendly, and large-scale. In addition to sampling from a stellar 40-tap lineup (and 100 bottles) at Liberty Station, visitors can play bocce on the bocce courts, watch outdoor movies at night, or hang around the fire pits or water features in the spacious beer garden.

Where: 2816 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens – Liberty Station

9. Most unique space: Half Door Brewing (East Village)

So many small breweries in San Diego have taken up residence in light industrial office parks, brewing in a square space with concrete floors and a rollup door. That”s great – most of those folks have lovingly made each of those spaces their own. Half Door, however, went an entirely different route. They set up in an old two-story house downtown, where a large Southern-style porch is part of the tasting space and the downstairs main room is the bar. The result is an unusually comfortable and homey vibe, where the unique space provides an extra boost to the enjoyment of Half Door”s top-quality beers.

Where: 903 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Half Door Brewing Co.

10. Best view: Amplified Ale Works (Pacific Beach)

Lots of San Diego breweries have created their own beautiful settings in which to enjoy beer, but very few have access to a natural view. It”s not oceanfront, but the view from the patio at Amplified Ale Works includes a nice bunch of beach as well as views of the water. The open space is soothing, and there”s nothing more relaxing than sipping great beers while you inhale the unmistakable salty smell of the sea.

Where: 4150 Mission Blvd, Suite 208, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about Amplified Ale Works

> San Diego Brews and Views You Can”t Refuse

> Sip at More Than 100 San Diego Breweries & Tasting Rooms