Category Archives: San Diego

TheArtofBeer and Life..2013

My Year in Review

TheArtofBeer

2013 kicked off with a new chapter in my career.  After a 2nd layoff in 4 years in my old industry, I decided to pursue something that I have passion for. ::Insert Legally Blond quote:: “Luckily” Stone Brewing Company took a chance on hiring this geeky beer girl and the rest is history.  It has not been an easy year for me.  Learning the beer industry is far more challenging on the inside than it appears from the outside looking in.  I have battle scars but I have also learned so much.  I have had respect for Stone Brewing Co from my very beginnings in San Diego in 2002.  Stone was the company that flipped me from a wine drinker to “TheArtofBeer” and that was no easy feat.  But wowser this industry is tough!  I cut my teeth on amazing craft beer because of Stone and I came to appreciate the heart and soul of the craft brewing industry.  I learned so much in 10 years and I developed friendships across the country because of this silly little blog and my life on Twitter.  How amazing is it that I ended up working in the industry?

Craft Brewing is not an easy row to hoe and I have respected just how challenging the path is from the very beginning.  Now that I have spent a year selling beer, I can honestly say that it is the hardest thing I have ever done.  Despite a conviction deeply set in the core of my being, I have had to face the reality that craft is still just a small blip on the screen that is the overall beer market.  The masses just haven’t caught on yet.  Since passion is something I have always had plenty of, even when selling mundane plumbing/hvac products , this became a very personal mission for me. Game on!

I am most thankful for the amazing wins I have been able to chalk up and I am thankful for some of the great chains that have been patient with me as I navigated my way through this very foreign industry .  I have made mistakes but hopefully I have learned from them.  I am also thankful for some of my Stone comrades that have helped me make it through some very challenging times.  My favorite motto learned “It’s Just Beer” has helped me through some rough days and every win I have made has meant the world to me.

Aside from World Peace, my wish for 2014 is that we are able to get more people to venture into the amazing world of craft beer.  As main stream retailers take a chance on bringing craft into their stores, I hope my fellow craft beer drinkers will remember to appreciate the fact that this is how we can expand our share from 8% to 20% and beyond in the coming years.  Don’t get caught up in beer snobbery and judging breweries for selling in more places than just our beloved Bottle Shops.  For every new consumer that passes by a corporate beer to pick up a Stone Mixed 12 pack or (insert any craft beer package) on the shelf, it’s a win for craft.  It paves the road for the tiny new craft breweries that open daily and gives them a path to success.  When we expand the base of craft beer drinkers, everyone wins.  The larger craft breweries are making it possible for new breweries to have a chance of succeeding.  Please remember that.

This year has not been without some personal hardship.   As I prepare to walk away from my home, the lesson learned is that home will always be where I make it.  Trust me when I say, this is the hardest thing I have ever gone through short of losing my parents, but… I will survive.  I also had another good health scare that left me minus some flesh but it’s a blessing that I was given the ability to make a difficult choice before it was too late.  My vanity has taken more of a beating but I feel good about the outcome.

Even my closest friends do not know that once again, I exposed my heart and once again I made a bad choice.  I guess I have resolved myself to having the worst taste in men EVER — but I blame myself for being a difficult person.  At the end of the day, I have to own my faults.  As much as I wish I could find love, I am beginning to find peace with being alone.  The holidays are always the hardest for me.  It has been so long since I have had family, I don’t remember what it even feels like.  But I do appreciate the friends that stand by me…no matter how difficult I tend to be.

I am thankful for so many good people in my life.  There are too many to name.  You know who you are and I appreciate each and every one of you.  Thank you for keeping me in your prayers and for putting up with me when I am being a royal pain in the ass.  Please forgive me if you are not in the photo montage  I did my best to capture as many people as possible but it was impossible to get everyone that matters.

My Year in Review

My Year in Review

Thanks for putting up with me…World Peace

xoxo

TheArtofBeer

My Craft Beer “Awakening”…

Reflecting on my new career and the year ahead prompted me to go back to my early blog posts.  I found this one in 2009 and giggled.  If you had asked me in 2009 if I could see myself working in the Craft Beer Industry my response would likely have been “I wish!”  Yet here it is the eve of 2013 and starting next week I will be doing just that and working for Stone Brewing Co. no less.  WOW! If you have time read the post below, please do so and you will see the correlation.  I moved to San Diego in 2003. My beer education began by happenstance and Stone Brewing was a huge part of my education.  Of all the many things I am thankful for in my life, this ranks very high…

Happy New Year – May it be filled with great beer, sustainable food and glorious friends!

TheArtofBeer
xoxo

Grapes To Grain – My transformation from wine snob to craft beer lover…(September 2009)

A friend asked recently when I had converted from a wine snob to a beer geek.  My tweets about my parallel universe as a “beerophile” were posting to my Facebook page and she was not the first person to comment on my transformation.  After pondering the question, I decided to write a little about my journey.

I started drinking wine in my mid-twenties when I moved to California.  I truly enjoyed the seemingly endless options of fabulous wine available and as my taste developed so did my passion for wine.  My palate evolved over the years and I found I was more prone to fine wine than basic grocery store selections.  My investment in my habit grew.  I loved wine and was enthralled with the complexities of appearance, the nose, the feel and the taste associated with the many types, styles and brands.  Wine and of course, the food that compliments it, was a huge part of my social life as the years passed.   I loved sharing my wine finds with good friends over dinner at both my home and restaurants.  I shudder at the thought of the money I have spent over the years…

While I had always enjoyed beer, I honestly never thought much about what I was drinking.  I preferred to drink micro-brewed beer, but was not really conscious of the decisions I made.    I just knew that I didn’t care for Coors, Bud or any other watery beer on the market.  There was no real passion in my beer selections and I rarely took the time to think about the ingredients going into the beer, much less the business and political implications of my choices.  Never had I pondered which beers would best pair with an artisan cheese platter I had assembled for a cocktail party nor had I contemplated a social dinner offering different beer choices with the course I would prepare.

That is until I moved to San Diego in 2003…  I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with a young man who founded a craft brewing business in San Diego.  A neighbor in my building, GK brought his own beer selections to a party at my loft and even brought his own glassware.  I was in no way, shape or form offended by his apparent beer snobbery.  On the contrary, I was intrigued by his passion.  I recognized there was a lot I could learn from this incredible entrepreneur.   Many of my new neighbors in Park Loft were also  craft beer fans.  With Greg as a generous anchor, there was never a social event in the building (and boy did we have a lot of them!) that didn’t include several of the many choices of beer brewed by Stone.   There were many group outings to local craft beer mecca’s like O’Brien’s, The Local, Hamilton’s, and The Whistle Stop.  This was the beginning of my craft beer education.

Much Ado About Beer & Food

It’s easy to forget how lucky I am to live in such a great beer and food town.  Granted…San Diego is not famous [yet] for being a Gastro-Mecca; but honestly, this lovely city deserves honorable mention.

Alpine Nelson

I ventured out this afternoon to meetup with a lovely Twitter beer friend ( @gandalfcat ) at Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park.  On the Second Saturday of every moth, Hamilton’s “puts out a spread” of food and fantastic beers.  This event features a brewery — Alpine Beer Company in this case — and you can expect a tap selection of stellar beers from the featured brewery at this event.  Alpine is a “beer institution” in San Diego.  This impeccable brewery maintains a modest production so distribution of these finally crafted ales is extremely limited.  Known for “hop explosions”, Alpine brews with the #HopHead in mind.  I credit Alpine’s  Pure Hoppiness as my “first-love” in the hoppy beer arena.  I had my first sip at The Local on 4th Avenue and the rest is history.  Suffice it to say, I have never had a disappointing beer from this local gem.   Today was no exception…

It was hot and woefully sweaty in Hamilton’s this afternoon but honestly, it’s worth enduring the sauna!  This beer bar holds a very special place in my heart.  Good memories flood my mind as my eyes adjust to the darkness when I walk in the door.  There are no frills here but the vibe is solid.  The staff is beer savvy and friendly.  The prices are reasonable and the beer selection is world-class.  If you visit San Diego and you love craft beer; Hamilton’s is a must.

http://hamiltonstavern.com/

FACT: Hoppy beers make me hungry! Not sure there is any science to support this theory, but I believe hops stimulate my palate.

Alchemy San Diego

I find that I experience more intense flavor explosions from the food I eat when drinking hoppy beers.  I stopped off at Alchemy for some supper after leaving Hamilton’s this evening.  I am ashamed that I have not eaten there in quite some time and tonight I was reminded of how much I have been missing.  I have chosen to eat a fairly strict “Paleo” diet since my surgery in February.  It’s not always easy but I can say with all certainty that it is saving my life.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Paleo-Friendly selections on the menu at Alchemy.  I selected the Ceviche, white fish marinated in citrus juice with pasilla peppers, mango, red onion, cucumber & cilantro served with plantain chips for my starter.  Absolutely #DELISH!!!

Larb Goong

Next up the Larb Goong – Mexican white shrimp spiced up with Thai chili, lime and cilantro; served in bibb lettuce cups.  Holy #Paleo Heaven Batman!  I absolutely loved this dish!  I had to omit the peanuts but the flavor balance in this dish was excellent.  I can’t remember the last time I had something this flavor-packed.  I will definitely be trying to recreate this dish at home but the lesson learned today was one of remembering restaurants that support my food ethics.  Alchemy is the poster child for ethical eating and I plan to hold myself accountable to eating here on a more regular basis.

I would like to note that this dinner (more than filling) was $19.  I realize that not everyone can afford to eat out on a regular basis but for a splurge, this is good value for the money.

Ceviche at Alchemy San Diego

The brilliant thing about places like Alchemy is that they inspire people to be more creative in the kitchen.  You can bet that I will be trying to recreate the Larb Goong at home but that does not mean I won’t be going back to Alchemy again soon to experience more of Chef Ricardo Heredia’s brilliant creations.

http://alchemysandiego.com/

Our Purpose: “to serve food with meaning prepared by people who care”

If you are visiting San Diego, be sure to check out @Hamilons and @AlchemySD

Peace & Love

TheArtofBeer

Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales

Session Beers are the new Double IPA’s.  If craft beer is to become a bigger part of the overall brewing market; lower alcohol beers are a necessity.  Not every palate is suited for big, hoppy IPA’s or boozey bourbon barrel aged stouts.  Me personally…I love big beers and I appreciate the complexity of these beers but I am also learning to love more and more session beers.

I popped in to Bottlecraft in San Diego last night  for a visit with friend Renee.  The place was packed.  My ability to drink beer has been a bit challenged lately so I was perusing the cooler looking for something mellow.  I spied a bottle of Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales “Kili Wit” and my choice was made.

Kili Wit is a 5.5% Witbier brewed with “organic barley malt, wheat and oats along with whole cone Oregon hops and African spice“.   This beer is bready (is this actually a word?) on the nose with hints of orange blossoms, banana and coriander.  The beer pours with a thick, off-white head that holds for a significant period.  Medium carbonation and dry mouthfeel.  The orange zest is prominent on the palate.   I detect a little funk but not sure where it comes from.   No hop bitterness.  The spice is light which appeals to my taste.  I don’t care for really spicy witbiers but that is just my taste.  I thought it finished quite dry with a little lingering spice.  I enjoyed this beer very much as did several others that I shared it with.   It’s so nice to find beers under 6% ABV that have complex flavors.  Consider me a fan!

I love the labels on the Logsdon beers, the Kili Wit being no exception.  What’s not to love about adorable giraffes gazing at the snowy slopes of Kilimanjaro?  In 2015 I hope to cross climbing this peak off my bucket list so the images on Logsdon bottles inspire me.  On a social note, a percentage of proceeds from this beer goes to the  K2 Adventures Foundation.  The brewery operates as a cooperative and the members participate in all aspects of the brewery work.  How cool is that?  They even have a small herd of organic raised Scottish Highlander cattle that dine on spent barely, oats & wheat!!!

You can check out the Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ale’s website here:

http://farmhousebeer.com/farmhouseales.php

This is the 3rd beer I have tried from Logsdon and I am a fan of all three.  I can’t wait to try the Peche ‘n’ Brett and the Cerasus.  I will be keeping my eyes peeled for their new releases in the upcoming months.  I’ll also be checking out availability when I visit Portland next week.  If you can find Logsdon beers in your area, please give them a try.

Cheers!

xoxo
TheArtofBeer

PrepKitchen – The Latest Hot Spot in Little Italy

My lucky star was shining above me tonight when I parked my car on India Street directly in front of the new PREPKITCHEN location in Little Italy. I left work early to make the trek home from my office in Irvine and my agenda was picking up dinner to bring home. When I got out of the car I noticed all signs of construction were gone at the highly anticipated location and I stopped to look at the menu posted in the window. A really nice guy appeared at the door and asked if I wanted to come in and have a drink while they tested out their service. Why yes thank you…that sounds perfect!

I walked up the stairs and was gobsmacked when I saw the space! The transformation from the bizarro water boutique to this absolutely stunning restaurant and lounge is incredible. Prepkitchen is the latest addition to the very popular Whisknladle Hospitality creation’s of Ryan Johnston and Arturo Kassel. These guys clearly have a formula for success. Reclaimed wood, eclectic details and fantastic lighting make for a warm and inviting space. I had no clue this place was so big based on appearance from the street but the architect really did a good job creating division so that it feels cozy in each of the defined areas.

The bar is stocked with great craft spirits. My heart fluttered when I spotted the Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve and the Family Reserve Rye! Holy Impressive Bourbon Selection Batman! The craft beer selection is also notable. They actually represent a diverse style range which encourages experimenting with food pairings. I love that they have Rodenbach on tap and I am hopeful that Prepkitchen Little Italy will consider some innovative “Craft Beer Cocktails” as an addition to the very interesting list of Craft Cocktails and Wine. The prices are, in my opinion, par for the high quality of the ingredients. Their concept is definitely Farm-to-Table and this definitely appeals to the ethical foodie in me. The staff was attentive, friendly and best of all — void of hipster attitude! Please don’t get me wrong — there are times when I enjoy a hipster vibe, but really…I like people who are nice and that take a few moments to engage in conversation. My server behind the bar, John, was awesome. His knowledge of the product was exceptional. It’s hard to believe they had just opened. He made mention of the fact that several people there came from PF Chang’s. This is impressive. Paul Fleming wrote the book on consistent, superior service and I have always had respect for the PF Chang’s culture.

I ordered the Bone Marrow appetizer and a Warm White Bean & Arugula Salad. My cocktail choice was a Manhattan made with Basil Hayden’s Small Batch Bourbon and Antica Formula Vermouth. Wow, wow and WOW! The Bone Marrow was cooked to buttery perfection; topped with red onion, parsley, lemon and served with what I would describe as a ranch-style toast. The Pesto-Tossed White Beans and Arugula were topped with shaved-Parmigiano-Reggiano and the combination was scrumptious. I was totally checking out what other people ordered and everything looked delicious. I have a feeling it will take many future visits to make it through the menu which incidentally, will change daily based on available, seasonal, local ingredients. Prepkitchen sources produce from Suzie’s Farm (My CSA Provider) and several other local farms. This is another great notch in San Diego’s already stellar belt Slow Food restaurants.

Warm White Bean Arugula Salad

Bone Marrow

The official opening is Monday, January 30th. I highly recommend you hustle over to PREPKITCHEN and be one of the early fans! This is a much welcomed addition to my beloved and vibrant Little Italy neighborhood.

Cheers…TheArtofBeer
xoxo

You can check out their website for other locations and get an idea of their concept here ➙➙➙➙➙➙

http://whisknladle.com/about

Fresh Mussels!

I have eyed the Carlsbad Aqua Farm Fresh Mussels at my local Farmers Market, Little Italy Mercato, for months now.  I love mussels but I have never been brave enough to try making them at home.  I must have had a shot of courage in my coffee this morning because I decided to try it.  A bag full was only $8

http://carlsbadaquafarm.com/

The girls working at the farmer’s market were super friendly and helpful.  They showed me how to remove the little hairy bit that protrudes from the flat part of the shell; harder than it looked in their demo once home.  This was the most difficult part of the meal.  I solicited advice from the Twitter foodies for how to cook and this is what I came up with…

I sauteed garlic and shallots in 2 tablespoons of butter and olive oil.  I added 2.5 cups of Viognier, the only white wine I had in the wine fridge, and then added the well rinsed mussels, covered the pan and gently shook the pan a few times to distribute the liquid well.  I removed the open mussels one by one and put them aside in a bowl and discarded the few that did not open properly.  Next I popped them all back in the liquid and reduced it until about half .  I added 4 tablespoons of cream, salt, Pepper and about a 1/4 cup of finely chopped parsley; immediately removed pan from heat and transferred (carefully) the mussels into a bowl with liquid poured over them.

The result was delicious!  The only problem was that there was far more than I could finish.  My neighbors down the hall were happy about that 🙂

Cheers and don’t forget…Support Local Food and Products!

TheArtofBeer
xoxo

Fresh Sea Urchin – Yes Please!

I make it a point to buy as much of my food as possible at my Local Farmer’s Market, the Little Italy Mercato.  Every Saturday from 9-1:30 on Date Street, from Kettner to Union, you’ll find some incredible local offerings.

http://www.littleitalysd.com/mercato/

Today I stopped off to sample fresh Sea Urchin at Poppa’s Fresh Fish, a regular at the Little Italy Mercato.  I appreciate their motto:

“If it we any fresher. you would be under water!”

True that!!!  Poppa’s has a killer selection of fresh fish that they source and prepare for sale at local farmer’s markets.  For the first hour at each market they have “Oyster Happy Hour” and that translates to yummy oysters, shucked on the spot for only $1.25 each.  I call them “Breakfast of Champions” and I am not the only one.  There is a cue on Saturday mornings to get them!

You can check out their website here>>> http://www.poppasfreshfish.com/
They have a listing of the local farmer’s markets you can find them at!

Now back to the Sea Urchin…

“we crack’em, we clean’em and you eat’em, right out of the shell!!!”

That’s what they say on the website and Holy Fresh Goodness they aren’t kidding!  For $9 you get the freshest Sea Urchin you will ever taste. I kid not people.  For those who are already fans at the sushi bar,  the taste and texture are familiar but the flavor is different because they are so fresh.  For the Sea Urchin Virgin, I recommend trying them this way.  The taste is salty on the palate at the beginning and then transitions to a beautiful buttery finish.  The texture of this fresh Sea Urchin is custard-like and it just melts in your mouth.

I think one of the best things about stopping at Poppa’s Fresh Fish is watching people stop to look at the Sea Urchin.  Many don’t know what it actually looks like when it is in the sea.  Some have never even heard of it. The looks on their faces are priceless!  Even better is seeing their surprise when they take their first taste and realize that it is absolutely delicious!

Some Sea Urchin Virgins!

If you live in San Diego and have a chance to visit the Little Italy Mercato, please stop by Poppa’s Fresh Fish. I encourage you to sample the Sea Urchin! It does not get any fresher than this…

Don’t forget to shop local when possible!

TheArtofBeer
xoxo

San Diego Craft Beer – Part Two – Walk, Trolley & Drink Beer in Downtown!

San Diego is a beautiful city with great, down-to-earth people and a Craft Beer Community that ranks in the Top 10 in the United States.  How many cities can you name where it is actually possible to walk from the airport to the action-packed, beer-centric, downtown area?  Not many and possibly none other is my guess.  There are over 500 tap handles with a 3 mile radius of my condo and that list probably expands to 1000 if you go to 10 miles.

I live in Little Italy, one of many fabulous little neighborhoods in the greater downtown area.  In Part One of this series, you learned about South Park, North Park & Normal Heights and the famous 30th Street Beer Corridor; all accessible via an inexpensive ride on MTS – San Diego’s Public Transit!  In Part Two I’ll suggest some great picks for a downtown San Diego Pub Crawl!  You can walk or you can hop on the San Diego Trolley.

The San Diego Trolley

You are looking at about a 3 mile walk to hit all of these locations but you can also ride the San Diego Trolley.  It runs smack dab through the middle of town.  Just like the Hot Deuce, you can buy a $5 ticket and ride all day.  It’s great fun and great people watching.  San Diego is a laid back town so no need to get all dressed up here!

I will touch on some of the places I know and love that are all within walking distance of my home in Little Italy.  You should definitely walk or ride the trolley to these places — parking can be a bear and if you are drinking more than one or two beers, you should not be driving anyway!  There are many other fantastic Craft Beer spots that I won’t have time to mention.  There are just too many to include them all and frankly, I have not had the time to check out all the new venues that have popped up in the past year.  You can check out the Tap Hunter App to see most of the locations right from your smart phone. It provides a map, the address, phone number and an amazingly accurate list of what each place has on tap.  You can also visit their website for locations at the link below.

http://sandiego.taphunter.com/location/

Little Italy welcomed two very positive Craft Beer additions in 2011; Bottlecraft and Under Belly.

Bottlecraft!

Bottlecraft, owned by Brain Jensen, opened in the summer and prompted a serious happy dance when I visited just after the opening.  The variety is stellar.  Staple beers as well as those that are hard to find like Cantillion and Nebraska BrewingHop God” fill the shelves.  Bottlecraft doesn’t just highlight great San Diego brews, they offer up the best available in California within the constraints of the good old, 3-Tier distribution system.  What makes Bottlecraft unique is a liquor license that allows opening and drinking the beer purchased. There are places to sit and be comfortable.  They also have a great choice of glassware, books, t-shirts and even Dog Biscuits because Bottlecraft is pup friendly!  This is always a category that I give bonus points for.  They have a great, rotating variety in the cooler section and they offer two innovative taster flights daily.  The people who work at Bottlecraft are not only beer-centric, they are friendly and fun.  They help beer-newbies find a beer that will ease them into our beloved Craft Beer world.   If you find a beer that you want to try and it’s not in the cooler — not-to-worry — you can get it chilled in about 15-20 minutes.  There is no food offered but there are tons of nearby options that you can pick-up and bring to share with friends.  I also like the people who come here to drink beer.  They are not beer snobs and they are not “all “hipsters. There are a few “fixies” outside but I have yet to see anyone display the “I’m way too cool for you” attitude.  The age range is diverse and the common thread involves the comfort of hanging out with friends enjoying good beer.  What’s not to like?  I guess the New York Times agrees with me because Bottlecraft was listed as a top pick for pick #14 San Diego in  the New York Times “45 Places to Go in 2012”

http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/travel/45-places-to-go-in-2012.html?pagewanted=2

Under Belly opened in October and Holy Hot Ramen Batman; they add a new dimension to the already superb food culture that defines urban life in San Diego.  Don’t eat here if you are not an experimental foodie that appreciates adventure.  The secret to good Ramen is in the broth and in my opinion, they have captured the essence and added a twist of creativity to the ingredients.  There are 24 local and beyond tap handles and a California wine selection.  Vegan choices are available along with a good range of appetizers like gyoza and pork buns.  There are some rules involving traffic here.  Order your food first and then find a spot to sit.  The space is a bit narrow to navigate through but it just makes it part of the adventure, right?   Under Belly is part of the same ownership as Neighborhood SD, Craft & Commerce, Noble Experiment and El Dorado; Consortium Holdings, owned by Arsalun Tafazoli and Nathan Stanton.

Craft & Commerce is less than 2 blocks from my house and I can get my Craft Cocktail  (Manhattan for this girl) and my Craft Beer Cocktail fix here.  “Up in Smoke” – Allagash Curieux, Islay Scotch, Fuji Apple and Lime – is an example of a Beer Cocktail and in 2010, this was the very 1st place I ever tried this now exploding, cocktail trend.   They have the most creative drinks and it is completely by design.  They opened in August of 2010 and were a success from the start.  The decor is Hipster Prohibition but the vibe is welcoming so don’t be put off by the hipster crowd.  They won’t bite!  Craft & Commerce has 12 rotating tap handles.  The food is decadent and fabulous.  The menu changes based on availability of produce in season.   The Salmon BLT is a favorite and there are days when I would sell my soul for the Bacon-Wrapped Dates!  They have some limited patio seating where dogs are welcome.

Neighborhood Tap Handles

Neighborhood opened in 2007 and is hands-down, still my favorite place in the San Diego downtown area for Craft Beer and Casual Dining.  They offer 27 craft beer taps and a notable rare bottle collection.  The food is local, sustainable and ethical; just the way I like it.  The Deviled-Eggs (only available at night) are superb.  I am also a huge fan of the “Street-Tacos” and the burger.  DO NOT come here if you put ketchup on your food.  It is not available and if that freaks you out, there are plenty burger joints nearby that serve high-fructose corn syrup.  If you appreciate the flavor of of quality, seasonal ingredients; you have found a great place.  I find the service here to be friendly and the staff is well versed on the beers that they serve.  Neighborhood also makes Craft Cocktails but only those of the whisky and bourbon variety.  For the key to an even greater Cocktail Experience – visit The Noble Experiment if you dare unlock the secret to entry…

http://nobleexperimentsd.com/

Best Damn Beer Shop is located in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego and the name is completely appropriate.  Located inside “Super Junior” market on 7th Avenue, you would NEVER guess how terrific the beer offering is by looking at the storefront.  Parking here is next to impossible so walk there and cab it home with you beer spoils if too big to carry home on foot.  Best Damn Beer has access to some pretty limited allocations and you can subscribe to their newsletter for updates on new releases.   There have been several events hosted by Best Damn Beer that feature hard-to-find Craft Beer tastings; some to help charities.  They recently added a home-brew supply section to the store so downtown home-brewers have a convenient place to pick up what they need to brew.  The owners plan evolve into more of a gourmet market over time but for now, be advised that the appearance outside does not reflect how terrific the beer offering is on the inside!  This family owned business is related to South Bay Drugs in Imperial Beach which is temporarily closed due to zoning issues but expected to resurface someplace fresh in 2012.

Monkey Paw Pub, the latest venture from Scot Blair, owner of Hamilton’s & Small Bar. They opened in August of 2011 offering 30 Tap Handles, 2 Cask Engines and a bottle list.  Sample one of the creative Craft Beer Cocktails and jump on the latest craze.  They feature 4-5 of the beers from Monkey Paw brewer, Derek Freese and it is clear there is a lot of great beers to come.  He is brewing some pretty amazing session beers like “Pineapple X-press” and “Thatcher in the Rye” at 5.2% and 4.5% ABV. Give a shout out to bartender Ashlee if she’s working.  This girl knows her beer and she does a great job making folks feel welcome.

Monkey Paw is in the part of downtown that I guess I would refer to as our “Skid Row”.  It may look a bit daunting as you walk around the area but please don’t be afraid.  Because of San Diego’s ideal climate, we do have a large number of homeless folks in the downtown area, even in Little Italy.  It’s just part of life in any city and it keeps my reality in check.   There are several homeless shelters and outreach programs in this area so the people tend to congregate near the places that offer some help.  A huge percentage of the people on the street have drug addictions.  Rest assure the people are, for the most part harmless.  I have walked safely through these neighborhoods for 9 years now.

Downtown Johnny Brown’s could be the biggest Craft Beer Sleeper in San Diego.  If you can find the place without someone directing you there; you excel in navigation!  DTJB’s is 3 blocks from my house and it’s tucked inside a courtyard at the Civic Center Plaza.  They have ample, pet-friendly patio seating and a great collection of beer pouring from 18 taps.  they also have some great bottle selections.  Check their website for special events and releases.  They have some pretty special kegs tucked away and you just never know when owner Todd will put one on tap.  The crowd here is eclectic because many are not all “here for the beer”.  They are located next to the theater/opera venue and many people go there to grab a bite to eat before a show.  But the local beer people know about this haven and it   Many a great bottle sharing event has taken place here and the staff is kicked backed and friendly.

There are scads of other good Craft Beer spots downtown but for brevity puposes, I picked the ones I know the best for now.  There are many you might pass along the way to those featured so keep your eyes open.  I have posted some more names below of places I must visit and highlight as I expand this series.

I hope you have the opportunity to visit these great Craft Beer establishments and be sure to give me a shout out with details of your adventure!

World Peace & Craft Beer!
TheArtofBear
XOXO

Bottlecraft
2161 India Street
(619) 487-9493
http://bottlecraftbeer.com/

Underbelly
750 W Fir St (at Kettner)
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 269-4626
http://www.godblessunderbelly.com/

Neighborhood
777 G Street
(619) 446-0002
http://neighborhoodsd.com/

Best Damn Beer
1036 7th Ave
(619) 232-6367
http://bestdamnbeers.com/beerlist/about/

South Bay Drugs
Announcing New Location & Name Soon
(619) 424-5164
http://sites.google.com/site/southbaydrugs/

Monkey Paw Pub
805 16th St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 358-9901
www.monkeypawbrewing.com

Downtown Johnny Brown’s
1220 Third Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 232-8414
www.downtownjohnnybrowns.com

Honorable Mentions:

The Tipsy Crow
770 5th Avenue
San Diego, Ca 92101
(619) 338-9300
www.thetipsycrow.com

The Hopping Pig
748 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 546-6424
www.thehoppingpig.com

Local Habit
3827 5th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
619-795-4770
www.mylocalhabit.com

The Best of San Diego Craft Beer – Part One

Tap List at BLAH

If San Diego is in your travel plans for 2012, this post will offer up a few good suggestions.  If you live under a rock <kidding> in San Diego and have never checked out the places that make us known as one of the greatest Craft Beer Cities in the U.S. then you’ve come to the right place.

Part One of the series starts with an adventure in public transportation that will take you safely to South Park, North Park & Normal Heights.  That’s right – you heard me.  San Diego Metro Transit Bus Route #2,  aka The “Hot Deuce” < Hot Deuce Schedule – Saturday >  travels from downtown San Diego to the top of 30th Street (The Craft Beer Corridor of San Diego) at Adams Avenue.  Catch the Deuce at the Americas Plaza stop near the Trolley Station or on Broadway at 3rd Ave. For $5 you can hop on and off the bus all day, not to mention the fact that you can enjoy your beer responsibly.

During San Diego Beer Week, this is the route I chose for visiting Twitter Craft Beer Friends @TheBeerWench (Ashley), @JessHunter (Jess), @MllBess (Bess), @BisonBrew (Dan) and Amie.  There was side-splitting laughter and beer experiences that we will remember for years to come.  I hope you will enjoy it as much as we all did.

Here are the great Craft Beer spots you can hit and pace yourself please:

Hamilton’s – Hop of the Hot Deuce at the 30thstreet, about 15 minutes from the stop on Broadway.  Open the screen door and allow your eyes a few seconds to adjust to the darkness that lies within.  Don’t be surprised if there are several adorable pups hanging out at the bar; Hamilton’s is pet friendly!   They have 28 tap handles and 2 cask engines pouring a kick-ass variety of local craft beer as well as some world selections .  They have a cooler stocked with bottles that include rare finds like Firestone Walker Abacus and library selections from breweries like Stone and Lost Abbey.  You can order food from the take-out place next door through a tiny window located near the pool table.  Don’t expect anything fancy but rest assured that it is good pub-type fare.  On the second Saturday of the month, a local brewery is featured on all tap handles and there is a feast of “free” food to boot.  Plan on getting there early.  It gets crowded fast…
(619) 238-5460
1521 30th St, San Diego, CA
http://hamiltonstavern.com/

Next stop The Linkery on 30th just south of University Avenue.  The Linkery boasts artisan sausages, made on premise, and a terrific menu of farm to table selections that showcase the strength of the Slow Food movement in San Diego.  Fresh **Local** produce and pasture-raised meats are featured along with 10 tap handles and a cask engine. The Linkery has a highly innovative menu and the staff here tends to know their stuff when it comes to beer.
(619) 255-8778
3794 30th St
http://thelinkery.com/blog

Walk about 5 blocks north on 30th  (past University Ave) and you will find the infamous Toronado San Diego (left or west side of street) , the sister location to the original in San Francisco.  There are more than 50 taps and several cask engines showcasing the Best of San Diego, the US and the world!.  You can find them all listed on the gynormous chalkboard hanging above.  If you can’t find a beer here that you like then you are in need of therapy <enough said>.  Don’t faint when you look at the epic bottle collection in the cooler.  Last time I was there we enjoyed a 2 year vertical of “Cable Car”; a very special American Wild Ale brewed by Lost Abbey for Toronado.
(619) 282-0456
4026 30th Street
http://www.toronadosd.com/iWeb/Site/Welcome.html

Cable Car

Cable Car Vertical

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across the street and up a block or so up from Toronado,  you will find Ritual Tavern , one of San Diego’s BEST farm-to-table restaurants, featuring old world, traditional cuisine with great beer pairings to compliment the food served.  Innovative and ethical; Ritual serves up great food. Ritual has 8 tap handles and a cask engine; plus bottle selections.  Prepare to have your socks knocked off at Ritual.  The food is as interesting as it is outstanding.  “Hop” back on the Deuce at the next stop north or back toward Toronado.
(619) 283-1618
4095 30th (& Polk)
http://ritualtavern.com/

Next stop Tiger! Tiger! Tavern – the latest brilliant venture by San Diego local favorites Lee and Jenniffer Chase along with Jeff Motch and Clea Hantman.  Located just off the now famous 30th Street Hot Deuce route at El Cajon Blvd, Tiger! Tiger! offers up a mighty selection of sustainable, seasonal small plates and sandwiches.   My fav is the Bánh mì (photo right) but I love the oysters as well!  There are about 30 tap handles on this custom built Direct Draw Draught System.  The selections include Belgian-styled beers.  Don’t be fooled by the pizza oven.  No pizza served here but they bake some terrific bread.  Save the pizza for the next and final stop on the Deuce; sister property Blind Lady Ale House.
(619) 255-2491
El Cajon Blvd (just east of 30th)
http://tigertigertavern.blogspot.com/

Last stop on the Hot Deuce loop is Blind Lady Alehouse (BLAH as the locals call it).  Exit the bus at the Adams Avenue stop on the corner of 30th.  DO NOT go inside the really scary bar on the corner unless you are missing most of your teeth and have a meth problem.  You’re going to stroll east on Adams Avenue for about 7 blocks where you will find BLAH on the left (north) side of the street.  By this time the walk will do you good if you have indulged in a beer at each stop thus far!  Blind Lady Alehouse is the original venture by Lee and Jenniffer Chase, Jeff Motch and Clea Hantman.  This group of friends turned their passion into a successful business that has made Draft magazine’s “America’s 100 Best Beer Bars” list.  Lee brought an impressive brewers resume to the table for the restaurant and Nano brewery (Automatic Brewing) as well as expansive knowledge of the craft beer industry in general.  All four owners are passionate about food ethics and chef Aaron La Monica serves up the finest in locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.  The thin crust pizza** selections are as tasty as they are creative and pair perfectly with the selection of 26 craft beers handles, a cask engine and a few bottled beer choices.  There are always vegan menu items at BLAH but fear not #Bacon lovers.  BLAH has pork products available! Order at the bar, grab your plates and utensils and find a seat.  This is the way it works so deal — the food is awesome and the beer superb!
Closed on Monday for Lunch
(619) 255-2491
3416 Adams Ave
http://www.blindladyalehouse.com
Do not order pizza here if your idea of great pizza is Papa John’s – You will not like it #justsayin

If you make it through all 6 of these locations you are A) Worthy of your SD Beer Card and B) A Craft Beer Consumption Rock Star.  Walk off a little more of your beer on the way back to 30th Street to catch the Hot Deuce back to the downtown area.  I sincerely hope you enjoy this adventure.  This beer geek is woefully proud of the San Diego Craft Beer Culture.
Stay tuned for Part Two of the series which focuses on the best places to sip good beers in Little Italy and the downtown area.  Part Three will highlight the other great Craft Beer spots San Diego County and last but not least, Part Four will offer up some top brewery picks.   These lists are based on my experience and opinions.  There are scads of other spots in SD that are also highly regarded so please do your own homework.  Please also check Hours of Operation.

Cheers —- TheArtofBeer

xoxo

Special thanks to @Goats_Udder for the crash html lesson!

Please Drink Responsibly

Map locations are not exact so pay attention to addresses listed above

The Hot Deuce Route Map

Grapes To Grain – My transformation from wine snob to craft beer lover…

A friend asked recently when I had converted from a wine snob to a beer geek.  My tweets about my parallel universe as a “beerophile” were posting to my Facebook page and she was not the first person to comment on my transformation.  After pondering the question, I decided to write a little about my journey.

I started drinking wine in my mid-twenties when I moved to California.  I truly enjoyed the seemingly endless options of fabulous wine available and as my taste developed so did my passion for wine.  My palate evolved over the years and I found I was more prone to fine wine than basic grocery store selections.  My investment in my habit grew.  I loved wine and was enthralled with the complexities of appearance, the nose, the feel and the taste associated with the many types, styles and brands.  Wine and of course, the food that compliments it, was a huge part of my social life as the years passed.   I loved sharing my wine finds with good friends over dinner at both my home and restaurants.  I shudder at the thought of the money I have spent over the years…

While I had always enjoyed beer, I honestly never thought much about what I was drinking.  I preferred to drink micro-brewed beer, but was not really conscious of the decisions I made.    I just knew that I didn’t care for Coors, Bud or any other watery beer on the market.  There was no real passion in my beer selections and I rarely took the time to think about the ingredients going into the beer, much less the business and political implications of my choices.  Never had I pondered which beers would best pair with an artisan cheese platter I had assembled for a cocktail party nor had I contemplated a social dinner offering different beer choices with the course I would prepare.

That is until I moved to San Diego in 2003…  I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with a young man who founded a craft brewing business in San Diego.  A neighbor in my building, GK brought his own beer selections to a party at my loft and even brought his own glassware.  I was in no way, shape or form offended by his apparent beer snobbery.  On the contrary, I was intrigued by his passion.  I recognized there was a lot I could learn from this incredible entrepreneur.   Many of my new neighbors in Park Loft were also  craft beer fans.  With Greg as a generous anchor, there was never a social event in the building (and boy did we have a lot of them!) that didn’t include several of the many choices of beer brewed by Stone.   There were many group outings to local craft beer mecca’s like O’Brien’s, The Local, Hamilton’s, and The Whistle Stop.  This was the beginning of my craft beer education.