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.