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

Bruce Glassman

Three Cheers for the Little Guys – San Diego’s Nano Breweries

San Diego Nano Breweries
San Diego Nano Breweries

Three Cheers for the Little Guys – San Diego’s Nano Breweries

If you’ve heard about San Diego craft beer, you’ve probably heard about Stone Brewing, 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 100+ 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 get the big guys’ beer all over, but you can only get the little guys here in San Diego

If you’re going to be here for a visit (or even if you’re just visiting from another part of town) 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 nano 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 nano breweries 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 100+ 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 Standout San Diego Nano Breweries

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 the beer is all top-notch.
  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. 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)
    A few minutes down the street from Ballast Point’s flagship location, 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, but what distinguishes them is their selection of brettanomyces (wild yeast strain) beers, which produce oodles of sour, funky, fruity, fabulous flavors.

> Safely Sip at San Diego’s Nano Breweries on a Chauffeured Brewery Tour

Bruce Glassman

The Flavor Debate: Pushing the Boundaries of Craft Beer

Craft Beer - Courtesy Candice Eley
Craft Beer - Courtesy Candice Eley

Should a craft beer just taste like beer?

What is beer supposed to taste like?

Hardcore craft beer fans are often divided on this question. On one side, you have the people who say “beer should taste like beer,” meaning that adding “crazy” flavors and ingredients takes away from the “true” craft beer experience. These folks also argue that there are plenty of variations in flavor that occur just by mixing up the four core ingredients of beer: water, malt, hops, and yeast. For example, some malts produce light, bready flavors, while others add notes of caramel, butterscotch, chocolate, or coffee. Some hops add a grassy or piney dimension, while others contribute flavors of tropical fruit and citrus. These flavors all occur “naturally” in the brewing and fermentation process.

The other side of the flavor debate says that the whole spirit of craft beer is about creativity, rebellion, and pushing the boundaries of what”s acceptable. These folks argue that experimentation with “crazy” ingredients or special flavorings only expands the possibilities of craft beer and highlights just how creative brewing can be.

San Diego, which is an epicenter of craft beer innovation, has no shortage of brewers who are looking to expand the boundaries of online casino flavor in beer. And, while there may be those who fundamentally disagree with the notion that beer can be “infused” or flavored with almost anything, the brewers who are exploring these avenues are worth our attention.

Here”s a partial list of ingredients that have been used in – or added to – San Diego beers that I have tasted:

Vanilla, coffee, chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, ginger, allspice, coriander, curry, cumin, cayenne, nutmeg, oregano, rosemary, sage, lavender, lemongrass, lime, grapefruit, blueberry, lemon, peach, apricot, mango, guava, watermelon, orange, apples, chipotle, Serrano, jalapeño, habañero, poblano, ghost peppers, pine nuts, maple, raisins, pumpkin, peppermint, agave, hibiscus, peanut butter, hazelnuts, and pecans. It”s a virtual farmer”s market of flavors!

Now, I”ll admit that not every one of these beers was a resounding success. It wasn’t that certain ingredients were wrong, it was that some of the ingredients were used wrongly – that is to say, ultimately they played too small or too large a part in the finished beer. It was a matter of balance. Most of the time, it was because the “crazy” flavor became the dominant flavor and the beverage no longer tasted like beer.

In many of the “experimental” or “specialty” beers, the flavors and balance were actually very good. And the overall experience was interesting, palate-expanding, and unique. (My first time tasting Ballast Point”s Indra Kunindra – which is brewed with curry, cayenne, cumin, coconut, and Kaffir lime – was actually mind-blowing.) And, even though many of these boundary-pushers are not beers you’d drink a whole pint of or reach for on a Wednesday night after work, they do play a valuable (even necessary) role in the overall craft beer conversation. They prove that almost nothing is off-limits and that beer is a wonderfully adaptable and flexible medium. Above all, these experiments give the curious beer enthusiast an opportunity to experience another dimension of what great craft beer can be.

> Sip and Savor San Diego”s Craft Beer Scene

Note: Most brewers do their experimenting in small batches, so their results are often consumed quickly. This means that, if an experimental beer is on tap when you visit a tasting room, go for it. It may be your only chance…

Bruce Glassman

“Props” for Hops: San Diego’s Sensational Session IPA Craze

San Diego Session IPA
San Diego Session IPA

San Diego Session IPAs offer a big, satisfying flavor without the knock-you-on-the-floor punch after a pint or two. Courtesy of The San Diego Brewery Guide/©Georgian Bay Books

San Diego is world famous for the quality of its craft beer, and also the creativity and innovation of its brewers. Of all the styles of beer the county produces, it is probably most famous for the creation and development of the “West Coast” or “San Diego Style” IPA, which is – above all other things – a super-fresh, super-hoppy, full-bodied beer that makes most other American IPAs seem like Pilsners or Kolschs. This “no excuses” style of IPA has become one of the hallmarks of San Diego brewing, but it has also presented one downside: The bigger beers tend to also be higher in alcohol and, thus, limiting in the amount that can be responsibly consumed.

When you talk with brewers, you find out that most of the great innovations in craft brewing start with what the brewers most want to drink for themselves. Being consummate hop-freaks, brewers – like any craft beer fans – want to be able to enjoy a big, satisfying flavor without being knocked on the floor after a pint or two. Enter the latest (and greatest) trend coming out of our brewing community: The San Diego Session IPA. The goal with a session IPA (named for its ability to be consumed in a “session,” meaning more than one) is to provide all the bright hoppy aromas, flavors, and body of a West Coast IPA without the attendant higher ABV. Needless to say, for the most die-hard hop-heads out there, this brewing trend is nothing short of manna from heaven.

How Do They Brew Session IPAs?

Each brewer has his or her own unique technique, and each is striving for a specific flavor profile. In most cases, brewers rely on the dramatic effects of heavy dry-hopping or “hop bursting” to pump up the aromas and flavors of their session beers. And many brewers have employed newer varieties of hops – recently released onto the market – to provide higher alpha acids, aromas, and compounds that more efficiently produce the desired effect. Mosaic and Galaxy hops have become quite popular in this regard, as are other newer hops – such as Cashmere, Motueka, El Dorado, and Meridian.

Lots of San Diego brewers have embraced the session IPA concept, so you’re likely to find some sort of session offering at a majority of tasting rooms around the county. For our purposes, I have defined a session IPA or pale ale as anything 5.5% ABV or below. Here is a small (and very incomplete) listing of session brews (in ascending order by ABV) that are especially notable for their great hop aromas, flavor, body, and ultimate drinkability. So go out and start a session today!

8 Great San Diego Session IPAs:

  1. Even Keel Session IPA (3.8% ABV) – Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
  2. Go To IPA (4.5% ABV) – Stone Brewing Co.
  3. Citra Session IPA (4.5% ABV) – Green Flash Brewing Company
  4. Hop Solo Session IPA (4.6%) – Mother Earth Brew Co.
  5. Tush Session IPA (5%) – Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment
  6. Penalty Shot/Evacuation Pale Ale (5.3%) – Nickel Brewing Co.
  7. Monkey Paw Hooked on Chinook American Pale Ale (5.3%) – Monkey Paw Brewery
  8. Publican IPA (5.5%) – Societe Brewing Co.
Edna Gutierrez

Draft at Mission Beach: San Diego Beer and Food with a View

Just in case you haven’t heard, there are two things that define San Diego: the beach and beer. Magic happens when these two come together. Such is the case with Draft, the newest restaurant at historic Belmont Park on Mission Beach. Draft recently opened its doors on the boardwalk overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean. So, in the spirit of research, and a much-needed drink, I stopped by with the mission to draft you a picture.

Beer labels dress the tables and rails of Draft

I visited during lunch time and sat inside near the patio to enjoy the beautiful ocean view. The décor can be labeled as exactly that: labels. Beer labels cover the tables and rails, over by the bar you can see the more than 69 beer taps that make this place so special. Next to the bar adjacent to two pool tables, you can’t miss the wall-sized 31.5-ft television screen displaying scenic images of San Diego and local brewing companies. Draft shows major sporting events and has become quite the hot spot to watch sports. On the other side of the bar, tucked away in a glass room, you can see all the kegs being pumped to keep the beer flowing.

The pistachio crusted salmon sandwich was the perfect choice for a nice lunch near the beach

Looking at the menu, it was hard to make a decision. I went for the pistachio crusted salmon sandwich (with meyer lemon aioli, arugula and fennel) and a side of fries, of course. My burger-looking-sandwich is one of the best I’ve had, so many graceful flavors twirling on my taste buds. I could barely taste the pistachio, which was perfect because I was afraid it would be overwhelming. The fries where perfect too, thick and crispy – a must in my book.

Draft offers 69 beers on tap and 50 bottles from local, national and international breweries

Drinks? Obviously by the name, this is beer paradise, offering a true representation of San Diego’s IPAs, Porters, Stouts and beyond. With more than 60 options on tap and 50 bottles that rotate seasonally, it really comes down to picking your poison, or should I say passion? If you are not sure what to order, ask the staff, they will happily guide you to the right choice.

Close the deal with a lemon meringue milkshake or the churro bites

When dessert time came, I couldn’t say no. I’ve heard so much about the lemon meringue milkshake (with toasted meringue and lemon curd) that I had to have it. I also ordered the churro bites (cardamom, lemon and horchata anglaise) since I grew up eating churros and am always curious to try different versions. When the desserts came, the milkshake took the spotlight, even the table next to me asked what it was. The best way I could describe the flavor is: lemony, but not too lemony, sweet, but not too sweet. It was good! I was so full by the time I finished my milkshake that I couldn’t eat much of the churros bites. They were very soft, but not too sweet, with more of a subtle taste.

If you love beer, the beach and great food, give Draft a go. It’s a delicious addition to the Mission Beach scene and to America’s finest and hoppiest city.

Good to know:

  • They have a kids menu.
  • Happy Hour is served Monday – Friday from 4 to 6pm.
  • Brunch is served Saturday – Sunday from 9am to 4pm.
  • Parking is free at Belmont Park, but might be difficult to find during summer and weekends. If you can’t find parking on the three lots adjacent to Belmont Park, you can try the lot across the street from the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster.

 What else to order:

  • Slacker jack popcorn
  • Pork belly corn dogs with truffled mustard
  • Mac n’ cheese with English peas, thyme, mushrooms, chives and smoky cheese

 The details:

  • Draft is located at 3105 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego, CA 92109 
  • Open Monday – Friday from 11am to 2am and Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 2am
Brent Bernasconi

San Diego Brewery Tour – 3 Beer Stops with Brew Hop

Toasting the Groom - Societe Brewing Co.

You know the drill: boy falls in love with girl, boy asks girl to marry him, girl says yes(!), boy asks best friend to plan his bachelor party, best friend decides to book a guys weekend including: a bungalow at The Lafayette, Cards Against Humanity and a brewery tour.

There are plenty of good reasons to book a brewery tour when visiting San Diego: a designated driver, behind the scenes access to the brewery, a knowledgeable tour guide who will select beers based on individual tastes, and of course, plenty of beer samples to be enjoyed with friends. Even Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Co. knows the value of a great brewery tour:

Setting Up The Brewery Tour

I called up Summer at Brew Hop to set up the bachelor party brewery tour. With more than 80 breweries throughout the county, it can be hard to narrow it down to just 3 stops. Thankfully, Summer spent a good amount of time with me working out the perfect schedule. I really wanted to make Societe Brewing a stop along with Ballast Point Scripps Ranch/Old Grove since the groom’s brother lived in that area. We finally decided on a route that optimized our time and included 3 great San Diego breweries: Societe, Ballast Point and Helm’s.

3 Amazing Beer Stops

Want to make the groom (and the groomsmen) feel like a VIP? Just have Summer pull up in the luxurious Brew Hop Escalade with a cold beer waiting for him inside. The six of us loaded ourselves into the SUV, took heed of the safety and decorum speech (you are on the tour to have fun, not be a drunken jerk) and headed off to our first stop.

Societe Brewing Co.

Toasting the Groom - Societe Brewing Co.

Toasting the groom while enjoying amazing beer from Societe Brewing Co.

It did not take long for Societe to become one of San Diego’s most popular breweries. It’s head brewers Travis Smith and Doug Constantiner spend most of their time focusing on perfecting their good ol’ fashioned house beers. You won’t find any crazy concoctions here, just delicious and flavorful classic brews.

We pulled up to one of the tables and Summer brought forth plenty of samples based on individual tastes ranging from IPAs, to ales to stouts. After a few tasters, we had the chance to go behind the scenes to tour the brewery and learn about the brewing process while still enjoying their amazing brews.

Brewery Tour with Summer of Brew Hop

Getting the lowdown on Societe’s brewery with Summer from Brew Hop

The big question when leaving Societe is are you on #TeamApprentice or #TeamPupil?

Where: 8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111
> Find out more about Societe Brewing Co.

Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits – Scripps Ranch/Old Grove

Two Thumbs Up - Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits - Old Grove

We give Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits Two Thumbs Up

Ballast Point is a San Diego beer institution. If you have never had a Sculpin IPA, you need to rush out and find one. You can thank me later!

Summer knew that since our party comprised of all local boys and the we had had our fair share of Ballast Point beers, she selected some of the more interesting brews included a few spicy/chili-infused beers. One of the aspects that makes San Diego beers so interesting is the experimentation that brewers are willing to try with spices and even peanut butter (check out Karl Strauss’ Beer Week special release).

Since the place was packed we were unable to take a tour of the brewery but that was just fine since we still had plenty of samples to try before moving onto the last stop.

If you are also into craft spirits, Ballast Point offers daily tastings at the Old Grove location.

Where: 10051 Old Grove Rd, San Diego, CA 92131
> Find out more about Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits

Helm’s Brewing Co.

In Helm's Brewing Freezer with Brew Hop

Our last stop was Helm’s Brewing and we took a few minutes to check out the freezer…since it was so hot outside!

Our final stop on the brewery tour took us to one of San Diego’s newer breweries, Helm’s Brewing Co. There I discovered the amazing Hop the RIPA, a red India Pale Ale, and the seasonal Samuin Harvest, a spiced beer that tasted like autumn (trust me on this one).

Since we were with Brew Hop, one of the owners stopped by to say hello and spent some time chatting with us about the brewery and the business behind running one. It was fascinating to learn what it took to go from home brewing in a garage to a fully armed and operational brewery.

Where: 5640 Kearny Mesa Rd. Suite C/N, San Diego, CA, 92111
> Find out more about Helm’s Brewing Co.

As we headed back to the bungalow in North Park, we enjoyed our slight giddiness by trying to decide the best beer of the day. Of course, we could not choose a winner since we each have different tastes. For one friend it was “The Butcher” at Societe, for another it was Ballast Point Black Marlin with Chipotle, for me it was Hop the RIPA.

However, that’s the beauty of a brewery tour, everyone will find a beer they enjoy all while having a great time. So what are you waiting for? Book your brewery tour today and explore San Diego’s Craft Beer!

> Check out all my photos from the brewery tour with Brew Hop

Brew Hop Information

Phone: 858.361.8457
Cost: $75-$169 per person as of April 2014
> Find out more about Brew Hop

Other brewery tour companies include Brewery Tours of San Diego and San Diego Beer and Wine Tours.

> Read about my Beer Train Tour with SD Beer and Wine Tours.

To top things off, a contest winner took the brewery tour right before ours! Make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to never miss another chance to win a San Diego prize package.


Meet Greg Koch: San Diego’s Guide to the Good Stuff for Beer Lovers


To craft beer fans, Greg Koch may be a household name. The co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing Co., one of San Diego’s largest craft breweries, definitely knows his beer. But rest assured, even if you’re a beer novice, Greg has some tips to get event the first-time craft beer drinker started. As Greg would say, “I’m a beer nerd so that you don’t have to be!”

“San Diego is considered a Mecca,” says Greg. “We’re looked at as being a leading destination in the world for beer.” So where would this craft beer expert spend his time in San Diego? Check out Greg’s tips for getting to know San Diego’s craft beer and much more.

Great Breweries are Everywhere

Stone Brewing Co Greg Koch

Greg Koch enjoys a beer at Stone Brewing Co.’s World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station

Stone Brewing Co. is, naturally, Greg’s favorite brewery, but he has plenty of other favorites, too. “Many of them are doing incredibly specialized, unique creative things that nobody else does,” says Greg. Here are some of Greg’s favorite San Diego craft breweries:

Beyond the Beer Suggestions from Greg Koch

It’s true – there’s more to San Diego than craft beer! Break up your beer tasting with a few of Greg’s other favorite activities:

Get more insight from Greg Koch on exploring San Diego’s craft beer scene, including tasting tips, at

Sarah Weinberg

San Diego Crew Classic Rows Its Way on Mission Bay

Rowers - San Diego Crew Classic

With the excitement of rowing races complemented by sunny skies and warm temperatures, the San Diego Crew Classic provides a perfect backdrop for a spring getaway to San Diego.

San Diego Crew Classic

Rowers - San Diego Crew Classic

Don’t miss the excitement as it rows on by at the San Diego Crew Classic

More than 4,000 collegiate, junior and master-level rowers converge each spring in San Diego for the San Diego Crew Classic. Held on the waters of picturesque Mission Bay, this thrilling competition draws rowers and spectators from throughout the United States.

More than 126 universities, clubs and high school programs participate in this premier rowing event, with rowers ranging in age from 14 to 84 years old. For many rowers, the San Diego Crew Classic is the highlight of their competitive rowing careers and also tests the competitive skills of potential future Olympians.

In addition to the exciting races on the water, the San Diego Crew Classic features a trade show, alumni and corporate tents, food vendors, the waterfront Sierra Nevada Beer Garden, and a massive Jumbotron offering a perfect view for the start of the races.

Where: Crown Point Shores Park, Corona Oriente Road, San Diego, CA 92109
When: April 4-6, 2014
Cost: $12-$15. Active military with ID and children under 12 years old – Free
> Find out more about the San Diego Crew Classic

San Diego Brew Classic

San Diego Brew Classic

Enjoy local craft beers and water front views at the San Diego Brew Classic

Enjoy the beautiful views of Mission Bay and the City skyline while sipping your favorite local brews at the beach. On tap will be beers from 10-15 breweries including Karl Strauss, Stone, Coronado Brewing Company, Hillcrest Brewing, Twisted Manzanita and more. Food will also be available for purchase.

Regular admission includes ten 4 ounce tasters and a souvenir cup. VIP admission adds an additional hour of beer tasting.

Where: Crown Point Shores Park, Corona Oriente Road, San Diego, CA 92109
When: April 6, 2014
Time: 2:00 to 5:00 PM
Cost: $35-$40
> Find out more about the San Diego Brew Classic

Robert Arends

Valentine’s Day, LGBT-style, in San Diego

Walking under Hillcrest Sign
Walking under Hillcrest Sign

Feel the love in Hillcrest this Valentine’s Day

Love is in the air and for LGBT couples looking for something romantic to do this Valentine’s Day, San Diego is THE place to cuddle close and feel the warmth – especially in Hillcrest, our fabulous uptown “gayborhood” located just a couple of miles from downtown.

Following are a few unforgettable places to wine and dine your significant other or special V-day date.

Start the Night with Dinner in Hillcrest

Temperatures rising at Kitchen Bar & Kitchen this Valentine's Day

Temperatures rising at Kitchen Bar & Kitchen this Valentine’s Day

In Hillcrest, begin your heart-filled evening at the comfortably modern Heat Bar & Kitchen on Park Blvd. Amber lighting radiates to create a cozy ambiance to enjoy a menu of California fusion cuisine. The steamed local Carlsbad mussels are delish, as is the duck breast and braised lamb shank!

Another tried and true Hillcrest dining option is the chic retro-modern D Bar on 5th Ave. where comfort food based on childhood favorites will have you both smiling from ear to ear – and reaching over to sample each other’s entrees! Highly recommended is the Southern Fried Belgian butter milk fried chicken with sweet potato fries. OMG 😉

After Dinner Drinks in Hillcrest


After dinner, head to The Wine Lover with its intimate little patio to toast your love as you gaze into each other’s eyes. For something extra special, ask for a dessert wine flight (which isn’t on the menu) to sweeten the mood.

Mix it up at Martinis Above Fourth

Mix it up at Martinis Above Fourth

If decadent martinis or craft beer are more your style, grab a nightcap at Martinis Above Fourth or the Hillcrest Brewing Company, the “World’s First Out and Proud LGBT Brewery.”

Fall in Love on Coronado…or is it Italy?

Enchanting Coronado, a bridge away from downtown and Hillcrest, is gay friendly and welcoming with a renowned romantic French bistro called Chez Loma. Couples are drawn to its private candle-lit rooms and delectable French classics like Boeuf Bourguignon.

The Gondola Company's romantic cruises through the Coronado Cays

The Gondola Company’s romantic cruises through the Coronado Cays

Before dinner, take a relaxing sunset gondola cruise – complete with a gondolier serenading you in Italian! – through the Coronado Cays. The Gondola Company provides chocolate-covered strawberries, and you’re welcome to bring your own wine or champagne!

Make a French Connection in Downtown San Diego

In downtown San Diego, Café Chloe holds a special place in my heart as the closest thing to a night out in Paris. The café is small and charming, and they usually do something extraordinarily quaint for Valentine’s Day couples, like little poetry verses you can recite to each other. Ahhh… 🙂

> Find more Valentine’s Day ideas and offers on

Book your dinner reservations now, as Valentine’s Day tables fill up quickly.