Waking up in San Diego on my birthday was pretty awesome. Having all day to further explore the beer scene before our evening flight home was extra icing on the cake.
With a few hours to kill before our first brewery stop, we decided a walk on the beach would be a nice way to start my birthday. South Carlsbad State Beach, only a few miles from our hotel, was a hub of activity when we arrived mid-morning. Joggers crowded the trail on the bluff above the beach and surfers filled the water waiting to ride that next wave. With the temperatures already approaching 80° F, we enjoyed a romantic birthday stroll up and down the beach.
With its reputation, I expected Societe Brewing to be busy when we arrived just after opening time. But the spacious, modern tasting room was surprisingly empty. Then, we remembered the NFC Championship game began at noon. Except for a quartet that arrived while we were sampling, we had the TV-free Societe pretty much all to ourselves.
There was so much detail in the large, open tasting room. The impressive wood, stainless and tiled bar was what we noticed first. Picnic-style tables filled the space and barrel-inspired art adorned the walls. The glass-encased barrel room with impressive stacks overlooked it all.
Before getting down to trying their beers, we settled the most pressing issue. Was the name pronounced “society” or the Cartman-esque “socie-TAY”? Somewhat to our disappointment, our bartender told us it was was the former, not the later.
Having Russian River Brewing in its pedigree, my expectations were higher than at any other stop that weekend. And Societe did not disappoint from the first beer, 10/19 O’Brien’s Anniversary. A light-bodied. 5.6% ABV, all Chinook brew, Merideth and I, in a rare occurrence, agreed it was the beer of the trip. The next three samples, the Apprentice, the Pupil and the Harlot, two IPAs and a Belgian-style Extra Pale Ale, were also excellent. The two IPAs were boldly hopped with the malt playing second fiddle very well. By the time we reached the two heavy hitters, The Widow, a 9.2% ABV Belgian Dark and The Butcher, a 9.8% ABV Imperial Stout, we were in love. But with a plane to eventually catch, we needed to move along.
Our next stop, Rough Draft Brewing, was also sparsely populated despite a couple of TVs showing the 49ers-Falcons game. The narrow industrial space was dominated by the bar on one side and the brewery on the other. The couch area looked particularly comfy but Merideth was quite enamored by the succulent rock gardens at each of the large tables. We set up camp at one of those.
From almost a dozen beers on tap, we chose a five flight sampler ranging from a Belgian-style Blond to a Belgian-style Vanilla Stout. Since it was my birthday, I chose three IPAs to go between those bookends. Merideth identified the light-bodied Blond, with spicy yeast notes, as her favorite. Frontal Labottleme IPA and Hop Therapy Double IPA, at 90 and 94 IBUs respectively, had the hop presence that I expected from a San Diego brew. But my star was the aptly named Session IPA. At 4.9% ABV and 43 IBUs, the Citra and Simcoe hops gave the brew a wonderful nose and flavor. Since it was my birthday, I treated myself to a pint.
On a trip that at times felt like a grand tour of San Diego County industrial parks, it was nice to finish up our trip in San Diego proper. Located in the hip neighborhood of the same name, Hillcrest Brewing was a fabulous way to bring my birthday trip to a conclusion.
The “world’s first out and proud LGBT brewery,” the bright and open brewpub occupied a prime corner location along University Avenue. Sitting in its sunny and warm patio, we watched the people come and go, up and down the bustling thoroughfare.
With suggestive names like Banana Hammock and Crotch Rocket, it was fun to go through the menu and have a good laugh. But there was more to the beers than sexually suggestive names. Though I have to say, Banana Hammock should have been a Hefeweizen not a Scotch Ale. From the flight, Merideth chose the perfect beer for the day, U-Hawl Hefeweizen. I continued my hop centric mood, enjoying Hoppy Endings, a 7.2% ABV IPA hopped with Summit and Columbus.
Enjoying pizza and beer in their beer garden on a warm January afternoon, Hillcrest was one of the highlight stops of the two day trip.
What a great weekend in San Diego. Happy Birthday to me!