San Diego Brewery Guide: Beer Week and Beyond

san diego beer week brewery tour tasting

The days are getting shorter, the air is getting chilly (ok, not that chilly), and San Diegans are in a festive holiday mood, which can only mean one thing. No, it’s not Thanksgiving or Christmas that San Diego is getting ready to celebrate – it’s the annual tradition of San Diego Beer Week!

With 70+ breweries across San Diego County, navigating the brewery scene can be daunting at any time of year, and even more so during the 10-day run of San Diego Beer Week. Fortunately, the new San Diego Brewery Guide offers essential tips and advice for any travelers looking to brave the San Diego beer scene. The comprehensive guidebook features tasting notes on more than 400 San Diego brews, at-a-glance details on just about every San Diego brewery, dozens of maps to fit in your back pocket, and beer-based itineraries by region and by beer style.

san diego brewery guide 2013 georgian bay books bruce glassman

The San Diego Brewery Guide offers everything you need to know about San Diego’s 70+ breweries.

During San Diego Beer Week, you can pick up a copy and meet the author Bruce Glassman at two fun- and beer-filled events:

Friday, November 8, 4 – 7 p.m., at Stone Brewing Co. World Bistro & Gardnes, Liberty Station

Saturday, November 9,  5 – 10 p.m., at Mission Brewery

If you can’t make it to the events, or simply can’t wait to get your copy, the San Diego Brewery Guide will be available for purchase online for just $16.95 beginning Oct. 30, 2013.

Once you’ve got the lay of the craft beer land, it’s time to plan your San Diego Beer Week agenda. Beer Week spans hundreds of events between Nov. 1 – 10, so the options are limitless, but here are some of San Diego Beer Week’s most popular, innovative and talked about events.

san diego beer week brewery tour tasting

San Diego Beer Week offers hundreds of craft beer tasting events

Rare Beer Breakfast, Nov. 1, 9 a.m.: Kick Beer Week off bright and early with Arrogant Bastard donuts, live jazz and more at Stone Brewing Co.’s World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido.

Bikes, Brews and Brats, Nov. 2, 10 a.m.: Join Green Flash Brewing Co. for a scenic mountain bike ride, followed by beers and bratwurst at the Regal Beagle in Mission Hills.

San Diego Brewers Guild Festival, Nov. 2, 2 p.m.: The official kick off festival features samples from 50+ breweries at the beautiful Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego.

“Dive-In” Theatre, Nov. 4, 8 p.m.: Join the Pearl Hotel for a poolside screening of the 1983 cult comedy classic Strange Brew and enjoy burger and beer pairings from Modern Times Beer.

Chef Celebration & Beer Garden, Nov. 10, 12 p.m.: Set in the gorgeous garden of the Lodge at Torrey Pines, this feast of 24 beers paired with creations by 12 local chefs is the perfect way to end Beer Week.

With so many events during San Diego Beer Week, which ones will you be checking out? Let us know in the comments below.

Brent Bernasconi

Trains, Grains and No Automobiles – A Green Beer Tour of San Diego

La Jolla Wine Tour Beer Train Tour Collage - Coaster Ride

I love beer (IPAs to be exact) and it helps that I live in San Diego with over 40 amazing breweries to its name. The hard part is getting a chance to sample all of the different local brews.

There is a new way in town to do just that through La Jolla Wine Tours (LJWT) who are now offering a Beer Train Tour. LJWT’s goal is to showcase great San Diego breweries, wineries and restaurants while making sure everyone has a fun and safe time. They offer beer and wine tours on foot, by car, and now, by train that take visitors all over the county. All I heard was beer, food, train, frivolity and sunshine and I was sold.

On a gorgeous Friday afternoon, my little brother (now 21, which is scary), myself, and a few other beer fans met up with beer and wine sommelier, Stephen, and tour guide/tour creator, Patricia, from LJWT to embark on The Beer Train Tour.

Once aboard The Beer Train Tour, our group made three stops along the coast of San Diego starting in the Downtown area and ending in the seaside village of Carlsbad. Here is a sample of what you might expect to experience on this fun and green tour:

La Jolla Wine Tour Beer Train Tour Collage - The Beer Co.

Station 1: Downtown’s The Beer Co.

We all met at our first stop, The Beer Company, in San Diego’s Downtown. After the meet and greet, Stephen got down to business and led us through the complexities and flavors of a few samples from the Beer Co.’s wide selection and styles of in-house beers. As a bonus, we were lucky enough to meet one of the brewers while he poured us a pitcher straight from the tanks! To keep things fun, Patricia threw out a couple trivia questions that resulted in a few prizes for me (I admit it- I am a beer nerd) and the ability to select a growler fill for the train ride.

La Jolla Wine Tour Beer Train Tour Collage - Coaster Ride

Once good and giddy, our group took a short walk to the Santa Fe Train Station to hop on the train. As it pulled out of the station, we all relaxed in our comfy chairs while enjoying a growler fill of The Beer Co.’s Trippel (a Belgian style Tripel) as the views of the waterfront chugged by. Next stop, the sleepy surfer town of Encinitas.

La Jolla Wine Tour Beer Train Tour Collage - Encinitas and Union Kitchen

Station 2: Encinitas’ Union Kitchen and Tap

Moving away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, we disembarked from the train into the sun-kissed, laid back surfer town of Encinitas. We strolled down the South Coast Highway 101 enjoying the warm ocean breeze and picking up a few fun facts from Stephen as we made the short walk to the Union Kitchen and Tap. Stephen perused the local beers on tap and made sure to order samples based on everyone’s preferences. Magically, both food and beer samples made their way to our table and before we knew it, it was time to ride on to our next destination.

Note to self: Head back to Encinitas and the Union for a quintessential San Diego afternoon of sunshine, surf and great beer.

La Jolla Wine Tour Beer Train Tour Collage - Carlsbad and Coaster

Station 3: Carlsbad’s The Compass

Now even happier and chattier than before, everyone unloaded from the train into the coastal village of Carlsbad. As we walked to our final stop, Stephen gave us a quick history of Carlsbad and its special liquid resource, mineral water. After waving hello to a LJWT wine tour group at the Witch Creek Winery, our lively group of new friends sat down at The Compass for a few more samples, mac and cheese (that my brother loved), and good conversation before heading back south on the train to San Diego and the weekend.

As I reflect back on the fun I had, I especially appreciated how Stephen and Patricia made sure everyone received the chance to both sample a beer style they loved and one they had never tried. As a local, the tour also introduced me to new local restaurants (my brother has decided to return to The Compass for his birthday in May) with a large selection of taps allowing San Diegans and visitors the chance to sample many local beers in one place.

Whether you are in the mood for beer or wine, LJWT has you covered with even more great tours:
– Wine Train Tour
– San Diego County Wine Tours
– Beer and Wine Walking Tours
– Special Holiday Tours

So what are you waiting for? Call LJWT, get on the train and enjoy all that San Diego has to offer.

Tell me in the comments below: Where is your favorite place to grab a drink while in San Diego?

PS. Stop by Bine and Vine in San Diego’s Normal Heights Neighborhood for a great selection of bottled beers and wines. Ask for Stephen and tell him Brent sent you!

Robert Arends

5 To Try on the Wild Side!

Lions and tigers and bears – Oh my!

But I’m not talkin’ about animal encounters at the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park.

Rather, wild and mighty creatures (plus one of the most mysterious kind) can be found in East County – an expansive rural area we refer to as San Diego’s backyard. Here the great outdoors beckons and inspires folks to not only embrace, but also give back to nature by caring for and giving a home to animals great and (very) small.

Following are 5 to try:

  1. Howl!…The California Wolf Center, located just south of Julian, is dedicated to increasing public awareness and understanding of the history, biology and behavior of gray wolves which once roamed North America in countless numbers.  The center offers a thrilling opportunity to view packs of Alaskan gray wolves and highly endangered Mexican gray wolves. Travel tip: Visit in the morning when they’re most active. Click here for a public tour; private tours available too!

    Who let the wolves out - woof!

  2. Roar!…Lions, Tigers & Bears (LTB) animal preserve in Alpine provides a safe haven for abandoned and unwanted exotic animals, including 13 big cats like lions, tigers and a leopard, plus a cute black bear cub named Liberty who was rescued and brought to the habitat on July 4, 2010. LTB gives animals the opportunity to live in a safe and caring environment while educating the public about nature’s most magnificent wildlife. Word of advice: DON’T turn your back on the lions (yikes!). Click here to schedule a visit.

    They're grrreat! Feeding the tigers at Lions, Tigers & Bears.

  3. Stomp!.. The tiny high-desert town of Ranchita is home to the Rancheti Bigfoot statue, a monstrous 11 foot, 300-pound white yeti sculpture built by local resident Joe Rauh which keeps watch over the Ranchita Country Store. For years, the beast has supposedly been spotted in the region. Make tracks to the souvenir shop for a memento or two to remember your abominably-cool encounter.

    Ranchita + Yeti = Rancheti!

  4. Fish fry…As in native fish that call our scorching desert home. At Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center, keep your eyes peeled for a palm-lined pond full of tiny desert pupfish. The little guys are hard to spot at first. They look like mini minnows camouflaged to match the murky waters. These “extreme” fish are tough for their size, as they thrive in fresh or salty water and can survive temps from near freezing to 108 degrees! {whew!}
  5. Oink!…Bate’s Nut Farm in Valley Center is not only chock full of nuts, candies and dried fruits, but also a menagerie of animals you can feed: pigs, goats, geese, sheep – OH, and even ostriches! During big events, they also offer pony rides for the kids. It’s charming and quaint in a Norman Rockwell kind of way, but that’s why we love it. They put the fun in farm!
Robert Arends

3 Tried and True Backcountry Adventures

Joy is in the journey! Ne’er so true in San Diego’s scenic East County where wild and wonderful adventure tours await. From gold mine trains to desert off-roading to flights into the wild blue yonder, following are three sure bets to put some “spring” in your sightseeing:

Mine a good time at Smith Ranch in Julian.

  1. Make tracks… For the Smith Ranch Train Rides in Julian! Just in time for the town’s big annual Daffodil Show (March 26-27), pioneers of all ages can enjoy a one-mile train ride up the mountain and through the blooming backcountry. Afterward, explore an authentic 1870 gold rush mine (climb into one of the mine cars for an unforgettable ride!), and then try your hand panning for gold!  
  2. Wheel good time… California Overland is roughing it at its finest, especially venturing deep into the vast (600,000 acres!) untamed landscape of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – “one of the most pristine desert parks in the world” (National Geographic). Hop board their open-air military vehicle for an unforgettable wildflower tour, as you discover hidden palm oases, slot canyons, wind caves, Native-American pictographs, historic ruins, stark Badlands, ancient fossil reefs, dry lake beds and breathtaking vistas {whew!}. Travel + Leisure Magazine-approved! 

    Go wild with California Overland!

  3. Fly like an eagle…  Just west of Borrego in Warner Springs, grab some serious air with Sky Sailing where your heart will soar high as the birds as you hitch a ride on a sail plane (also called a glider)! It’s the ultimate adrenaline rush and the views of pine peaked mountains and the desert floor in the distance are out of this world!

    Hip to the height with Sky Sailing.

Robert Arends

5 To Try: Centennial of Naval Aviation in Coronado

History that literally flies off the pages is my kind of history! The spectacular Centennial of Naval Aviation (CONA) is coming to Coronado this Saturday. The ‘Crown City” is gearing up for thousands of expected spectators to view an historic “Parade of Flight,” featuring over 200 aircraft – from vintage planes to the famous Blue Angels. It’ll be the largest naval aircraft flyover since WWII… yep, you’ll be telling your grandkids about this one!

The Blue Angels to soar over Coronado!

Coronado is where naval aviation began, in 1911, when aviator/inventor Glenn Curtiss trained a Navy officer to fly a seaplane from the sandy, formerly scrub-covered isle.

Following are five fun – mostly free – things to do in (and just off) Coronado to celebrate this momentous occasion:  

  1. Flight of fancy… The US Navy is packing 100 years of naval aviation history into one day – February 12 – showcasing its rich and exciting aviation heritage. Most anticipated event: the colossal CONA Parade of Flight, starting at 1 p.m. and lasting approx. two hours. Prime viewing spots: Coronado Beach and the bayside Coronado Ferry Landing.

    Vintage planes to fly in historic Parade of Flight.

  2. Make waves… If you want to see the Parade of Flight nautical-style, reserve your seat for Hornblower Cruises & Eventsexclusive three-hour CONA Parade of Flight Spectator & Lunch Cruise on San Diego Bay. They promise the best views from the water, as planes fly high overhead. It includes a gourmet lunch and free-flowing champagne. Now that’s the way to toast the Centennial! Tickets: $54.95. ($30 sans lunch); discounts for children, seniors, and military.
  3. On the house… Before/during/after the parade, check out NAS North Island’s CONA Open House (event gate opens 9 a.m.). Festivities include aircraft carrier/ship tours, 75 static aircraft (my father, CAPT Ret., flew the classic H-3 Sea King helicopters), Leap Frogs parachute jump team demo, classic car show, stunt motorcycles, Centennial Historic Village, live entertainment and more. Best part: it’s all FREE! – Free admission, free parking and free blanket seating to watch the once-in-a-lifetime air show.

    Flying into the history books over Hotel del Coronado.

  4. Wing it… In conjunction with CONA, the Coronado Museum of History & Art opened a “Wings of Gold: Coronado and Naval Aviation” exhibit (continuing through Sept.), featuring “fly” artifacts from yesteryear, including a pilot license signed by Orville Wright(!), helmet of one of the first female naval aviators and scale model of the original seaplane designed/built by Curtiss and flown off Coronado’s shores.  Admission: free.

    Glenn Curtis trains first naval aviator in Coronado.

    The Coronado Historical Association also proudly presents “Home Front” Project – free self-guided driving tours of over 150 former naval aviators’ homes with a brochure/map and brief bios on each pilot.

  5. By the book… The Coronado Public Library has six high-flying CONA programs scheduled throughout 2011, including exhibits, talks and films, starting with the Emmy Award-winning documentary, “Glenn Curtiss: The Forgotten Eagle” on Feb. 18. John Wayne even makes an appearance – in “Flying Leathernecks” – on May 20. Cost: free. ‘nuff said.

See you Saturday in Coronado for the big Centennial of Naval Aviation launch!

Robert Arends

5 to Try: Coronado’s Hidden Historic Gems

I thought I knew the “Crown City” of Coronado. I pretty much do – its postcard-perfect beach, charming main street, The Del and iconic bridge.  But during a walkabout with Coronado Touring I found a few historic jewels in the island crown that I had never heard of before. Only two of these I haven’t seen (yet). But if you’re lucky, you just might find them all!

The Glorietta Bay Inn keeps a secret (or two).

  1. Tubular… The stately Glorietta Bay Inn – former mansion home of sugar baron John D. Spreckels located across the street from the Hotel del Coronado – has a few cool secrets up its historic sleeve. One is the supposed tunnel leading from the hotel basement, going underneath Orange Avenue and connecting at the Shops at the Del. They say this was how Spreckels, an early owner of the Del, could get (secretly) to and from his beachfront investment.
  2. Mrs. Spreckels’ safe at Glorietta Bay Inn.

    Play it safe… Also at GBI is a small (nonworking) personal safe built into the wall of Room 102 – the Sugar Baron Room. Back in the day this was Mrs. Spreckels’ private bedroom. If these walls could talk…one can only imagine what the well-to-do matriarch stashed away. Overnight guests still try their darndest to crack the safe, but to no avail.

  3. Rock bottom… Located in the lower level of the Hotel del Coronado among its labyrinth of shops is a rocky cavernous storefront (now home to a real estate company) that was once a massive water cistern for the hotel in the early days. Though tempting, no spelunking or rock climbing allowed!

    C-O-R-O-N-A-D-O sand dunes

  4. Under a spell… I’ve seen them, flip-flopped over them a million times, but I had NO idea the sand dunes on Coronado Beach are actually made of heaps of kelp scooped up from the beach and buried under tons of sand. The big reveal: from the air (those lucky North Island naval pilots!), the ice plant covered dunes spell the word “Coronado.” Now that’s civic pride!

    Remains of S.S. Monte Carlo at Coronado Shores.

  5. Mast from the past… Buried beneath the sands of Coronado Shores (just south of The Del) is a ship! The S.S. Monte Carlo – a gambling ship that touted “drinks, dice and dolls” back in 1936. That is until tragedy struck that New Year’s Eve. A mighty gale caused the ship to break from its anchors, pushing it to its shoreline demise. Occasionally, at low tide, you can see the ghostly outline of the ship exposed. What watery secrets wait to be revealed? I’m keeping my eyes on the tide charts.
Robert Arends

5 to Try: Coronado Holiday Delights

Just a bridge away, Coronado is full of sparkling surprises to put visitors in the holiday spirit and bring some smiles amidst the hustle and bustle of the season. Following are my five fav fun and festive finds from this fantasy island (say that five times fast!):

Gondolier at Loews Coronado Bay Resort

1. That’s amore! I love the Gondola Company at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, with their blissfully relaxing Venetian gondola rides through the Coronado Cays to view homes and boats festooned with holiday lights. It was pure magic as we glided over the calm bay waters, sipped cocktails and listened to the gondolier singing Christmas carols.

2.  Chocoholics unite… for not just any ol’ chocolate dessert. But a chocolate bread pudding with coconut (!) at Tartine, a charming French bistro & bakery near the Coronado Ferry Landing (1106 First St.). Decadent doesn’t even begin to describe how delicious this is. Dozens of other delectable desserts and pastries are made fresh daily (pick up some ginger snaps for Santa!).

3. Talk of the town. This yuletide, take a trip back in time with Coronado Touring. Hear riveting tales of dreamers and daredevils who turned a Christmas tree-less isle of jackrabbits into the shining crown city of today.  And discover insider secrets like a supposed tunnel connecting the Del and Glorietta Bay Inn (Santa’s shortcut?) and kelp ‘n sand dunes on the beach that spell “Coronado.”

The Del's 2010 collectible Christmas ornament.

4. Trim the tree. Each year the Hotel del Coronado debuts a collectible Christmas ornament. My coworker has a nifty Limoges-style one from 2008 that I can’t find on eBay (oh well). But you can still trim your tree with this year’s treasured glass creation. (Sidebar – Last-minute holiday shoppers: enjoy two hours of free metered parking on the island!)

5. Ice princess. The Del’s Skating by the Sea is simply surreal and incredibly cool with its postcard backdrop of palm trees, sun, sand and surf. Christmas doesn’t get any more SoCal than this. And it’s for a great cause too: portion of proceeds benefit Make-a-Wish Foundation. Ice is nice!


High Speeds and Boatloads of Fun

speeding past a sailboat... eat our dust!

Last week, I had the time of my life on a San Diego Speedboat Adventures harbor tour. The new, two-hour tour allows YOU to jump in the Captain’s seat and drive a mini speedboat around San Diego Bay for a 13-mile guided tour.  

My friend and I decided to share driving duties, so we each had the opportunity to put the pedal to the metal and sit back and take in the sights. Following our tour guide’s lead boat, we zigged and zagged and bounced over waves, we sped past sailboats and harbor cruises and screamed and laughed the entire time.  My favorite part of the tour was making a U-turn underneath the Coronado Bridge. (Well, my turn was more of a “C” because I cut the corner a little sharp, but you get the gist.) 

Tour highlights include up-close views of sea lions, Naval ships, the USS Midway Museum and Maritime Museum of San Diego.  We also got one-of-a-kind views of Coronado, the Coronado Bridge and the downtown skyline.

This sightseeing tour is like nothing I’ve ever done before and it definitely a MUST DO!!! Tours are offered daily at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.; prices are $100 for a single person boat, $59 per person for a two person boat and $39 for kids.  

Gerrard, our tour guide

the route around San Diego Bay

check out that skyline! ignore the windblown faces


My Hoppy Birthday with Brew Hop

Birthday Brew Hop!

A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated my birthday with help from family and friends and so, in true Stephenie fashion, of course we had to do something awesome…Enter Brew Hop San Diego, the company that takes you behind-the-scenes for tours and tastings at some of San Diego’s best breweries (think wine tasting, but with beer… and a whole lot cooler).

San Diego is currently home to more than 30 breweries located throughout the county and quite proudly, our breweries have been dominating the craft beer scene in recent years – winning awards and gaining national and international recognition – even beating out famous beer towns and breweries in Colorado and Germany.  During our tour with Brew Hop, we visited two of San Diego’s award-winning breweries, Stone Brewery and Ballast Point Brewery, where we got to go behind-the-scenes to see where the magic is made….

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Whale Watching Update

This just in….

Whale watching season is in full swing as California gray whales migrate down to Baja California to birth their young in warmer waters.  But to our surprise, it seems that a pod of Orcas (aka Shamus) are in town for the holidays.

On a recent Hornblower whale watching tour, San Diego Natural History Museum Whaler, Karen Marshall, shares what she saw:

Orca sd 12 12 09IMG_0008

Photo taken by Karen Marshall

“Captain Bill went out to the 9 mile bank and just after we got across from the Coronado Islands we saw several Orca whales swimming out in front of helm. As we saw two off in the bow of the boat, Captain Bill spotted several others off the starboard side, a bit farther off from the boat. At the same time several passengers spotted several more whales off on the port side of the boat.  Captain Bill stayed with the several whales that were off the front of the boat allowing them to get used to the sounds of the boat.  These whales just hung out for a while snorkeling around.”