Sunday Funday’s Real MVP: OB

Once again, OB ups the anti because in OB you don’t just bar crawl-you brewery crawl.

Disclaimer: Cameron is in no way responsible for the contribution, nor shares the opinion of this first introductory paragraph. I-Jill, take full responsibility.

 

Sunday Funday. For many of us, we work our asses off all week (eh, maybe that’s exaggerating things a bit) just to get to Friday. TGIF-am I right? But honestly, Friday is not even in my top 3 favorite days of the week. My third favorite day of the week is Monday (probably the unpopular opinion) because I get to sit and relax, have my wine and watch The Bachelor. (Note: this is a judgment free blog.) Right ahead of Monday is Tuesday. You guys, I really love tacos, and San Diego does Taco Tuesday RIGHT. But neither Monday nor Tuesday can live up to the absolute love and adoration I feel for Sunday. I quite literally live for Sunday Funday. I wanna wake up to the sunshine, brunch hard with bottomless mimosas, soak up those beach rays…and that’s all just before noon. Lets keep this beautiful day forever young, people. So this post is solely dedicated to the real MVP of San Diego Sunday Funday spots: Ocean Beach. (Basic white girl intro ends here.)

In all seriousness though, we could go on forever about not only the reasons we love OB, but why it truly is our go-to spot when considering beaches and booze while being extremely dog friendly. To start, Dog Beach in OB is as close to heaven on earth as you can get. As you reach the crest of the dune leading to the start of the beach, the only sight ahead of you is that of the happiest doggies running around, fetching balls, splashing around in the waves. Leashed or unleashed, these furry friends have got their tails waggin, tongues and ears flappin, just living to chase the next ball in sight. The simplest word to describe the entire vibe of the beach is merely happy. Science has proven that it’s actually impossible to be unhappy when you’re surrounded by sand, sun and puppies. And unless you’re Donald Trump you can’t dispute science, so there’s that.

While one could probably spend all day just at this glorious beach, there comes a time when you will get thirsty. Or at least sunburned. Lucky for all of us, OB is filled with a ridiculous number of really awesome places to grab a bite or a beer. So why just limit yourself to one? Bar crawls are a pretty popular drinking event that can be organized in just about any place consisting of multiple bars within walking distance of one another. OB ups the anti because in OB you don’t just bar crawl-you brewery crawl. Honestly, how many places can you name where you can walk to 7 different breweries/tasting rooms along the same strip? Being a beer blog, I think you can determine for yourself the direction of this remaining post. While each brewery/tasting room has its unique reasons for being awesome, we’d like to highlight 3 that are particularly awesome.

In no particular order, we’ll start with the groovy, 70’s inspired vibe of the Kilowatt tasting room. This place really is all about its lighting, and its beer of course, but that should go without saying. Everywhere you look, from the bar top to the black light lounge to the lava lamps, the place is funky and fun and inspired. They even have a life sized Light Brite board that anyone can play with and make their own designs. The entire tasting room is dog friendly, but we especially love their patio out front, boasting a crowd-favorite, life-sized Jenga game and wild wall mural.

Lets talk about the real reason we’re here though: the beer. Kilowatt’s tap set up is customized like no other. The tap handles are all the same holographic silver metal, however the top of the taps spell out Ocean Beach. Kinda cool. No matter what kind of beer drinker you are, or maybe even if you’re one of those weird people who don’t like that taste of beer (we wouldn’t be friends anyway) there is something at Kilowatt for you. Their selection really runs the gamut. You can start on the lighter side with a Blonde or Hefeweizen, maybe a Pale Ale, but honestly why would you when you have options like their Passionfruit Green Tea Ale or Coconut Chai Porter. Kilowatt’s sour and strong ale selection for us is really where it’s at. How many other places have you heard of doing a Gin Barrel Aged Triple or Red Wine Barrel Aged Wheat Wine…and doing it well. For this visit, we started with a full pint of their Mango Pale Ale and Passion Fruit Green Tea Ale (both faves of ours) and finished off our stay with a flight of their fruit sours; Green Apple, Pomegranate, Raspberry and Tangerine. They truly were all equally tart and refreshing that we couldn’t decide on a clear favorite; a problem we’re okay with having.

The next stop on our crawl was directly across the street at Helm’s Brewing. This nautically-themed tasting room does a great job of having a wide variety of beers on tap. If you’re feeling something malty, we highly recommend the Beeruccino or the Batten Down Brown. They always have a great selection and variety of IPAs as well, whether you’re looking for an east or west coast style, or a red or rye, Helm’s has got you covered. On this particular visit we both opted for IPAs; Jill a northeast style and Cam a more traditional west coast style. Neither disappointed. Another thing you can always be sure to find at Helm’s is some good, local art. It’s always fun to go in and check out the new show they have up bringing their walls to life. Above all, we really love Helm’s for their staff. We’ve been a handful of times, and every time the beertender running the bar on any given day has been awesome, full of good conversation and lots of love for little Scoey.

The final stop of the day on our brewery crawl was right down the street at Culture Brewing. The vibe of Culture is very modern-industrial, with concrete walls and exposed wood ceiling beams. The concrete walls are covered with a beer glass pattern in the style of tagging/graffiti. This appropriately matches the skater style videos and surfer vibe of OB in general. The real eye catcher though is the floor to ceiling glass keg/tank room in the back of the space. To the right of the keg room, you will see a wall of local wine barrels, again adding to the modern-industrial look. On Sunday mornings, you can even relax with some yoga (Hoppy Yoga) before enjoying a pint or two and Tuesdays are Taster Tuesday where you can sip on 3 tasters for $3. We’ve visited a few times around the holidays when they were hosting pop up shops with local vendors and their featured local artists are forever changing. What we’re trying to say is there’s always something going on and it’s always a good time.

On this particular day, we met up with a few friends and enjoyed a round (or four) seated at the dry-bar immediately facing the street. Needless to say, the end of the day was as hazy as our IPAs, but isn’t that exactly how a brewery crawl should end? With each brewery being so different, they truly all fit perfectly into the culture and scene that is Ocean Beach. With the being the end of our crawl on that particular day, the OB breweries don’t end there! Which is both exciting and dangerous. See what we mean when we say there’s no better place to Sunday Funday?

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Stone On Kettner: We Know And Love Them. You Should Too.

There’s a theme tying together many of their locations which can be best described as a Rustic-Garden-Oasis.

Stone Brewing is one of those breweries you can find pretty much anywhere you go. Their easily recognizable gargoyle can be found heading taps from coast to coast, and even overseas. They even have a tap room in the freaking San Diego Airport. From their most recognized flagship brew Stone IPA, to some of their seasonals like the Mocha IPA (one of Jill’s favorite) and their ever-changing Enjoy By series, there’s no denying the people at Stone know how to brew a great IPA. And don’t forget about their stellar lineup of barrel aged Saisons and Sours, as well as their desert-like Stouts and Porters (they literally made an ice cream with their Xocoveza Stout this year. WHAT!?).

So why take the time to do a write up on a brewery that pretty much anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows about? A few reasons-hear us out. First of all, the experience of drinking one of their beers from a tap at your favorite sports bar or from a bottle picked up at your nearest grocery store may be a pretty decent one, however going to an actual Stone Brewing facility is a whole other story. There’s a theme tying together many of their locations which can be best described as a Rustic-Garden-Oasis. Seriously. You could be in the middle of desert-like Escondido, the re-purposed military barracks of Liberty Station, amongst the high rises of Downtown San Diego, or in Petco Park; but sitting alongside a roaring fire pit in an adirondack chair (made from used wine barrels) surrounded by succulents, leafy shrubs and other greenery-you would never know. Below your feet is beautifully crafted stonework or maybe some turf-like grass; look up to the sky and notice strings of twinkling lights crisscrossed above you. Some of their locations are full service restaurants, while others are simply tasting rooms. Most locations are dog friendly, (double check before you go, we’ve made that mistake) and each location has a killer merch area including cozy sweatshirts, to-go beers and even dog treats. So yay for Stone.

We want to take the time to shout about one location in particular though, and it’s one we consistently find a lot of people aren’t familiar. And in our opinion, if you’re just looking to sip on one of their beers and relax while in the city, it’s the best. When talking to others, we often get asked for recommendations of breweries to check out. We definitely have a go-to list of favorites, but whenever we mention Stone on Kettner, no one seems to know what we’re talking about. Which is on one side a shame, and on another side a bonus for us because that means more beer to ourselves.

This was a tap room we started coming to even before we moved to San Diego. It’s located right next to the Santa Fe Depot on Kettner Blvd right between Little Italy and Downtown. When we made the move here and decided to live downtown, Cam would often joke that a big factor in our location was our proximity to the tap room-or maybe he wasn’t exactly joking. (We conveniently also live across from the only Dunkin Donuts in San Diego. Coincidence?) But really, it’s a 5-minute walk so you could wonder if we’re just biased (or lazy) but we don’t think so. Something we really appreciate about this tasting room is their tap list. For one, it is constantly changing. We could go in there on Monday, and on Friday of that same week they could have turned over half of their beers. For people like us who constantly seek something new to expand our knowledge and palette of beer, this earns major bonus points. What augments this constant variety is their featuring of brews from all of the Stone Brewing locations, including Arrogant Brewing (a Stone Brewing spin-off). Many of the other large tasting rooms also carry from the other locations (i.e. Escondido carries Liberty Station, and vise versa) but they also carry a number of other guest beers, taking up a number of their taps. While we can’t argue many of these guest beers aren’t phenomenal, we personally aren’t trying to go to Stone to drink something from Modern Times or Mikkeller. Stone on Kettner devotes all of their handles to Stone and Arrogant beer, including a great number of small batch beers that are extremely hard to find anywhere else. And we love that experimental shit; that’s part of the fun in loving and exploring beer, especially in a beer scene like San Diego’s.

The Stone on Kettner crew are also champs when it comes to the flight game. In working in this industry, we know how much bartenders hate pouring flights. When you’re busy it’s a time suck, and even when you’re not busy it always seems like it takes people forever to figure out which beers they want to try. Who knows, the beertenders at Stone probably hate them too; but at least they make it a little easier on themselves and on guests alike by advertising three pre-set flights. The flights of 5 come in 4oz tasters and are packaged in a little country-chic wooden carrier making life easier to explore the patio gardens until you find a cozy spot. They often have a flight of pilot beers, a crew flight of the crew’s faves, a big feature of Escondido or Liberty Station offerings, some kind of hop-forward or seasonal-related flight…you get the picture. We just want to say thank you to the crew for being troopers because we are those people who come in and always get a flight (or 2), and also thanks for just choosing the flights for us, because god knows we can’t make complicated decisions like that ourselves.

And on that note, make sure you thank the crew too by tipping them. One critical tidbit of info: you can’t add a tip on a credit card after the tab is closed. So either make it rain with cash, or let them know ahead of time you want to add a (generous) tip to your tab before you close out. They’ll resent you a little less for ordering all of those flights.

On more rare occasions you can find food trucks parked right outside if you get the drunk munchies (or if you’re trying to prevent them), however there’s an awesome Thai restaurant right next door where you can order take out and enjoy in the garden. Pro-tip: pair something light and citrusy like their Stone Delicious IPA, Tangerine Express IPA or one of their Belgian Ales to tone down that Thai spice. You’re welcome.

If all of those reasons aren’t enough, Stone on Kettner finds itself in great company, located within walking distance to a number of other breweries. So if you’re trying to have yourself a little self-guided beer tour of Downtown, make sure you add it to the list. And of course, this location has been Roscoe approved.

For our first brewery post, we’ll be talking about…cider?

Bless this genius who combined an IPA with a cider…

Now before this blog tanks before its second post, hear us out; we get that you probably (understandably) don’t care about cider…at all. The population in San Diego is divided into two different categories; craft beer fans and craft beer superfans. That is it. So by bringing hard cider into the conversation, we know we’re already walking a thin rope. The carbonation is weird. Am I drinking apple juice or an adult beverage? Fruit doesn’t belong in my beer, so why would I want to drink something solely comprised of it? And finally, beer always tastes better.

That’s what we always figured ourselves. Our first several dates involved going to a number of Boston breweries and brewpubs such as Harpoon and Lord Hobo (if you ever find yourself in Cambridge and want a solid slice of Boston Hipsterdom, GO TO LORD HOBO), and we liked to consider ourselves as lay-persons well-versed in beer and its tasting.

One of our favorite places to go, and in fact one of our first dates, was Downeast Cider House in Charlestown, MA. Their original location itself is a little comical especially upon driving/walking up to it. It’s reminiscent of a movie scene where someone is led to a vacant warehouse lot to later be brutally killed. Okay, that’s not painting a great picture or doing this place any justice, but trust me, its worth it. Underneath the Tobin Bridge, you’ll find a small warehouse with a garage door opening, home to the Downeast Cider House. It’s small space with very limited seating. You can either post up on a bar stool surrounding a wooden barrel or you can sit outside on the loading dock and hang your feet off the edge. You can find a number of board games, and even a cornhole game out in the parking lot on the nicer days. It’s a fun little place to have a day. They have since expanded to a beautiful new facility in East Boston, and we half-seriously think we pumped enough money into that expansion through pure cider consumption that we are due a stake in the company. We could not be prouder of local New Englanders taking a risk and trying to break into the Angry Orchard-dominated cider world;taking something that is so central to any New Englander’s childhood (picking apples in the fall), harvesting local ingredients, and pitting their mark on local cider production.

But the facility, nor even it’s story,  is why you go to Downeast; it’s for the cider itself. We’ve tried a number of ciders before, but nothing like this. Downeast is a completely unfiltered, straight from the apple orchard, juicy, golden hard cider that brings to mind cozy fall days. It truly feels like you’re drinking apple cider from the orchard, and it looks like it, too. They use ale yeast as opposed to the champagne yeast central to so many hard cidersBest part is this ciders a little more fun than the stuff at the orchard. ANYWAY, we knew upon leaving Boston that we were going to go through Downeast withdrawals due to the impossibility of finding this local New England cider on the west coast. We figured the best we could do was beg our friends back east to ship some out to us periodically (yes, technically illegal, but ya’ll-this liquid gold is worth it).

For months we searched, trying any cider we could find around San Diego to see if it would even come close to the perfection that is Downeast. Until one day midst conversation with another beer connoisseur, we were informed of Newtopia Cyder. It was a very new cider house that had just opened up a few weeks prior. The review seemed promising, so we thought what the hell, lets give it a try.

Another thing we loved about Downeast  was the variations they did on their cider. Whether it was their seasonals such as their maple, pumpkin,winter, summer or cranberry blends (they even make a hard lemonade), or the occasional randals they produced at the cider house only (creating things like jalapeno infused cider, or a cider infused with different fruits or berries) Downeast rarely produced a miss. Pretty unique. So you can only imagine our excitement when we walked into Newtopia for the first time and peeped their lineup. Belgian Pineapple, Strawberry Fields, Indonesian Sumatra, Chai Me a River, India Pale Cyder…just to name a few. And when we saw the hazy, unfiltered beauty that came pouring out of the taps…few things in this life have made me more excited than this moment. Now, all of this buildup and it’s finally time to put this product through a taste test. We of course tried every cider they had on tap, which was somewhere around 10 (just tasters guys, relax). We left there with two crowlers to get us through until the next time (literally a week later) that we could make it back. The crowlers were drank the next day. To say that we were dying to go back would be an understatement.

So since we are currently over half way through our brewery tour at the start of this blog, deciding where to go for our first feature blog went something like this:

Jill: Wanna take Roscoe out for his first blog debut tonight?

Cam: Where? Newtopia?

Jill: Yup. 100%.

And just like every other time before that we’ve gone, Newtopia did not disappoint. They have food trucks Thursday-Sunday, extremely dog and kid friendly. Located right off of the highway in Scripps Ranch, making them super accessible. Outdoor seating area with tables, heaters, string lights and hanging succulent displays. Adorable. The inside features a bar that seats somewhere around 20ish would be my guess, with a number of high bar tables, and a cozy set of couches below a large wall projecting whatever sporting event is on that night. And the artwork for this place…even their coasters and cans are a work of art. Staff is super friendly, will take the time even when they’re busy to talk to you about the cyders, give you samples, pet your adorable dog. And honestly, fruit like infusions are relatively common when it comes to craft cider. They work well, they make sense. But an IPC!? Bless this genius who combined an IPA with a cider, creating a mosaic dry hopped cyder producing a strong apple taste with a hint of hop at the end and a dry finish. Might sound weird at first, but trust-it’s delicious. As previously mentioned, the Sumatra (i.e. coffee) cyder was probably our favorite and had an amazing sweetness that, upon tasting this second tasting last night, brings us straight back to an incredible golden caramel stout we had at Border X Brewing the first time we visited SD together. The Strawberry Fields does put you in a kind of wonderous, whimsical place as depicted in the famous Beatles song The Belgian Pineapple has a special sweetness and unique aubergine color, alongside a little bitterness, reminding us of a fruity Belgian saison.

Newtopia still uses champagne yeast (mostly; some batches employ Belgian ale yeast), yet the pour, haziness, mouth feel, taste, and carbonation are completely different from your typical hard cider in the best of ways. The only aspect in which Newtopia barely falls short of our annoying awesome Downeast is in the thickness; it’s still quite thin, rather lending to its drinkability-a potentially dangerous characteristic. Lucky for us, it’s an easy aspect to overlook given the amount of things this place does right.

So if you’re in the area, or even if you’re not, a million times worth the stop in. With all of the breweries in San Diego, it’s a nice little way to switch up what you’re drinking and try something craft, local, and delicious.

Now please enjoy these pictures of Roscoe loving his trip to Newtopia, where he got to play with babies, improve his modeling skills and was handsomely rewarded in treats.