Weekend Round-up of Beer travels

We’re pretty lucky here in San Diego. Not only do we have perfect weather, the best beaches, mountains, and lots and lots to do, but we’ve also got more great craft breweries and brew pubs than you can shake a stick at.

Quite literally, in a 12 mile stretch of highway here in North County San Diego you can visit more breweries and drink more award winning beers than you’ll find in some states. (Yes, I am bragging.) As evidence, here’s how we spent last weekend — never traveling more than 15 miles.

The taps in the tasting room at Green Flash Brewing in Vista, Calif.Last Friday afternoon we set off for our first visit to Green Flash Brewing. Even though we’re only a few miles away, and Beer Buddy (BB) really enjoyed their West Coast IPA and Extra Pale Ale, we’d never actually wandered in to sample the full line of their wares. (So much beer, so little time.)

Green Flash’s facility is modest. Tucked into the corner of an industrial park, you’d really never know it was there were it not for the signs directing you to the tasting area in the back. We walked past the brew tanks and heaped sacks of barley malt to a small table and series of taps along the wall where a dozen people or so stood sipping beer and chatting.

The young lady pouring the tasters, Kelly, turned out to have been a guest at Port Brewing when BB and I were running the tasting room, so we hit it off right away.

Never having been to Green Flash, we decided to taste the entire course of beers on tap, beginning with the lightest, the Extra Pale Ale, and ending with a special brew, Le Freak Belgian IPA, which is an IPA brewed with Belgian yeast, so you get both the floraly-hoppiness of an IPA and the sweet-fruity-bananay flavor of a Belgian.

A look inside the Green Flash Brewery

I’m not much of one for the hoppy beers, but Beer Buddy assured me that the West Coast IPA and Imperial IPA were both outstanding, and the Le Freak a very interesting twist. I personally enjoyed the sweet maltiness of the Nut Brown Ale, and the caramel-like flavors in the Barleywine style ale. Both were quite tasty, and I’d gladly drink a pint or two with friends again.

Speaking of friends, Adam and Mary Jo turned up at Green Flash while we were there and we all decided to head on over to Churchill’s Pub & Grill for a bite to eat and to sample a few brews from their enormous tap and bottle list.

A really bad shot of Churchill’s bar taken from my cameraphone

Like Green Flash, even though I pass Churchill’s on a regular basis, I’d never actually been in the place. It’s an English-style pub with a small dining area, a gaming room with pool table and dart boards, and a nice big bar with at least two dozen taps.

The four of us settled in to a table in the bar and reviewed an impressive bottle list that was as much an encyclopedia of world beers as anything. (Where do they store all this?)

BB and Adam started from the tap with Avery Brewing’s Maharaja IPA – a seriously hoppy Imperial IPA that I knew they’d love because I hated it. (That’s how I know if BB will like beer – if I can’t stand it, he’s going to love it.)

St Peters Cream Stout - a very tasty beer in a very pretty bottleBeing the porter and stout loving girl that I am, I picked a bottle of St Peter’s Cream Stout. A sweet English stout, it was truly creamy with definitely chocolate and vanilla flavors (almost like drinking ice cream!). The description said there was a note of smokiness as well, but I didn’t pick up that flavor. Of course, I’m into Rauchbiers, so unless they dumped a burning log or a side of bacon into the beer, I’m likely to discount smoky notes.

One other thing I really like about the St Peters was the bottle. A green glass, oval bottle, with a corkable top, it was a real standout that’ll look great with a candle in it or in some other decorative setting. (I know, but I’m a chick. I judge football teams by how cute their uniforms are, so I’m allowed to include decorating tips with my beer reviews.)

We all ordered fish and chips for dinner (it is an English pub), the boys stuck with the Maharaja and I moved on to Young’s Double Chocolate Stout – an excellent pub beer if I do say so myself.

The evening wound down and we all decided to adjourn at Port Brewing tomorrow (where Beer Buddy and I were helping Tomme run the tasting room).

We rolled up to Port Brewing around noon on Saturday with BB’s 44 gallon drum BBQ and plenty of charcoal secured in the bed of the truck and plans on throwing some meat on the grill after hours. It was a pretty busy Saturday in the tasting room with lots of regulars and plenty of new faces. (It helps that Stone Brewing’s place is basically a five minute trip away, so a lot of the visitors are either on their way to or from there.)

One of the couples to drop by was Mike, a brewer from Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City, MO, and his wife Michelle, who were out here on a sort of mini-vacation/1st anniversary trip tacked on to a conference Michelle was attending in Palm Springs (which is only 70 miles or so from here).

Barrels aging Lost Abbey beers at Port Brewing

Tomme gave Mike a tour of the brewery and barreling operation and they talked shop for quite some time. Michelle was a real delight. We chatted at the bar for a while and had a great time. Mike and Tomme returned from the tour and Tomme dug into his secret stash of beers and came up with a bottle of his absolutely delicious Cuvée de Tommé. (Good luck on finding it – to the best of my knowledge it’s never made it into distribution.) We sipped and talked and Tomme eventually returned to his work while Mike and Michelle hung at the bar, sampling the various Lost Abbey beers and chatting with fellow visitors.

Amusing sidenote: Seems that Mike & Michelle have a hard time remembering each other’s names after extended periods of “sampling”, so they just call each other “Monkey”. If I’m ever in Kansas City, I plan on dropping into Boulevard and asking to see the “Monkey Brewer”.

A little later in the afternoon, David Myers, owner of Red Stone Meadery in Boulder, CO came in with a few bottles of his Black Raspberry Nectar and Tomme and he engaged in a little black magij called “blending”. Eventually they came up witha 3-way blend of Dave’s Mead and Tomme’s beers that was both a tasty and extremely complex mélange of flavors. I believe they’re planning on doing a special release of it sometime in the future. More info when I have it.

Adam and Mary Jo (our friends from last night) eventually showed up and struck up a conversation with Mike and Michelle that resulted in Adam and “the monkeys” slipping out to visit Green Flash, which is about 10 minutes away. (I told you there are a lot of good breweries very close together here.)
The three of them returned as things were winding down in the tasting room. BB fired up the barbeque in the back of the truck (too much hassle to unload it) and we all dined on BB’s grilled garlic-lime chicken, black beans and tortillas, washed down with liberal amounts of Port brews.

The evening ended with a sampling of Elijah Craig 18 year old single barrel bourbon. (Not as good as the Evan Willams we’d tasted a couple weeks before, but a fine whiskey nonetheless.)

Sunday I slept in while BB did some work in his greenhouse and around the North Gate to the citrus groves on our property.

Beer Molly on the deckLater in the afternoon BB pulled out a growler of the Green Flash West Coast IPA that Adam had secured for him Saturday, while I popped open a bottle of Stone Smoked Porter (one of my all-time favorites). Then we relaxed on the deck taking in the warm San Diego sunshine and recounting the great time we’d had the past two days.

How lucky we are to be where we are. Can’t wait for next weekend! (Wait – It’s already here… w00t!)


Author: Terri

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