The first time I was on San Diego was back in December 1995. I was on a combined visiting friends, beer and some nice weather trip. I stopped in Boston and Denver for beer and decided to go to San Diego for some good weather. I remember spending Christmas here and it was cold, very cold. It was El Nino year.
When I’m out traveling I always try getting to know the local beer scene. I visited a few brewpubs in San Diego but the only one I remember is Coronado Brewing Company. The brewpub reminded me of a bar at a Pacific island. Except for the weather that year of course. I had the opportunity to go to San Diego for the day today. Now when I’m back 15 years later the weather isn’t much better. It’s warmer, 72F (+22C) but it’s cloudy and a chilly wind from the ocean. Coronado Brewing Company is like I remembered it though. It still has that Pacific island bar feeling except for the weather, again. I remember not being impressed by the beers when I was here in 1995. I have to say that it looks much better now 15 years later. Their Little Brown Lager has a malty, burnt coffee flavor with a hint of bacon. It’s good to see that the west coast brewers are doing something that isn’t just overwhelmingly hoppy. Of course, this is the west cost so they have that too. The Idiot IPA is a 8.5% beer with a little to much hoppy flavors for my tast. I need something that is a little more balanced than this. One thing that is interesting about Coronado Brewing Company is that they also have guest beers. I haven’t seen that before at a brew pub in America. Coronado have beers from Green Flash, Ale Smith, Stone and Sierra Nevada.
I also stopped at downtown Karl Strauss Brewing Company. This is a brewery that never disappoints me so I had to stop by there for a beer. They have several brew pubs and restaurants in the area but their downtown location is the original that started in 1989. The brewpub have a great atmosphere with brick walls and wooden beams. A few months ago I had their 21 Anniversary Ale brewed with Zinfandel grape juice. This is a fantastic beer. The grape juice ads a refreshing flavor to the beer. At the downtown location today I had their Endless Summer Light. It’s a 3.4% golden lager with a distinct refreshing malty flavor. It’s surprisingly tasty despite the low alcohol. I think that many of Americas breweries can’t master the art of brewing flavorsome low alcohol beers. The best beer I have had in that category in America is Triangle Brewery’s Mild Ale. It was a one time brew and a delicious one. Karl Strauss also have Whistler Imperial Pils on tap that I didn’t sample but that I heard is really good. All About Beer Magazine have reviewed it recently.
San Diego seems like a great beer town. My time here is to short to be able to determine if it fit my Good Beer Town template. At both Karl Strauss and Coronado Brewing the bar was packed with people. They were asking about the beers and talking beer with the bar staff. That is usually a sign of a mature beer town with a mature beer community. Looking at on-line beer communities also verifies that San Diego is a good beer town with some really good breweries like Ale Smith Brewing Company, Ballast Point Brewing Company, Lost Abbey, Stone Brewing Company and many more. It’s only two hours drive from Santa Monica so I hope I have the opportunity to spend more time here exploring the San Diego beer scene. I would love to be here during the San Diego Beer Week.