The trip all began as a chance to see my beloved Tennessee Titans Football team play in sunny San Diego against the Chargers. I have been a big fan of NFL Football since the mid 90’s and became a Titans fan in 1999, the year they went to the Superbowl (and lost). One of the huge side benefits to seeing a game in San Diego is that the craft beer scene there is insanely good. The planets all seemed to align when I learned that the weekend of the game was also the kickoff to San Diego Beer Week!! It was truly meant to be. I started looking at what events were going on and ended up buying some tickets to the San Diego Brewers Guild Festival. The event wasn’t until the Saturday afternoon so there would be lots of time to check out the local hikes and scenery as we were planning to arrive Wednesday night. This would give us all day Thursday and Friday to do some real exploring.
I was very fortunate to have a friend that owns a sweet Airbnb in Pacific beach just 2 blocks from the beach and the lively craft beer driven nightlife along Garnet Ave. The first day was a travel day, with our flight leaving out of Seattle in the afternoon. We often drive south to fly out of Seattle for travelling as the prices are usually much better than flying out of Vancouver, BC where we live. We had a good flight and arrived into San Diego around 9:00PM. We grabbed our rental car (a very cool, bright red Mustang convertible that I rented on points!) and headed to the rental house. Along the way, we stopped and picked up a couple grocery items and of course some tasty local craft beer. The “Build your own 6-pack” idea is pretty nice. This isn’t something I find very often in the Vancouver area. I picked up a mix from Ballast Point, Coronado, Karl Strauss and Stone. We found our destination and I settled in with a beer to unwind and plan our next day’s hikes!
We were excited to get going and start our adventure, so we were out of the house early and on the road to Cowles Mountain. We figured why not hike to the highest point in San Diego and get a good view of the entire area. When we arrived around 9:30am the trail was already packed. This was clearly a local favourite as the parking lot was full and there were many cars lining the street. We parked the car and gathered our gear. GoPro – check, water – check, camera – check and finally a chilled Ballast Point Big Eye IPA in my Ice2Bottle carrier to enjoy once we got to the top. (Ever wanted to conceal your beer in an insulated stainless steel water bottle? Check the link!)
The hike itself was a pretty good challenge. It maintains a fairly steady incline as you navigate switchback after switchback. This hike is wide open with no relief from the sun so plan accordingly. The temperature was already about 80F and with little wind, the heat became a factor early on. I knew, however, that it would only make that beer at the top that much sweeter! The views on this blue sky day were fantastic. We could see all the way to the Pacific coast and as far south as Tijuana, Mexico! The trail was dry and dusty with lots of traffic. The signs said it was about 3 hours round trip but we got to the top in about 1hr and 15 mins having only stopping to take a couple pictures. When we arrived at the 1591 ft peak we were treated to unreal 360-degree views of the surrounding area. I cracked my chilled beer….. and sat to take in the moment. We spent about ten minutes there and then began our descent. The hike back down was a breeze. We made it down in about 40 minutes. The breeze had picked up a bit, so it was much more enjoyable too. Returning to the car we were greeted by a lovely ticket on the windshield bearing a $59.95 fine for not turning our tires toward the curb! Unbelievable. The road barely had an incline at the point where we parked but there was a sign stating to do so that I failed to see when I parked, so shame on me. Oh well, life goes on.
We put the top down on the Mustang, cued up some good tunes and set our Maps destination to the La Jolla area for lunch. After a bit of Yelp research, we decided on The Public House. The place is kinda cool. It looks to have been someone’s house and garage that are now converted to a restaurant and patio. Cozy and cool. We sat on the patio under great big umbrellas and had a nice light lunch and enjoyed a flight. We then headed for a nice walk down to the La Jolla Caves where we saw an abundance of sea lions and pelicans. The area seemed very popular with lots of families and some people out snorkelling and scuba diving. After a nice long walk, we headed back to the car and continued north to the Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve.
The day pass for the park was $10 and worth every penny. There are plenty of trails here to choose from and each offer slightly different scenery. We opted to hike down to the beach. The hike felt like the reverse of our morning hike. Instead of hiking up then down we were making our way from the highest point down to the beach this time, so we were very aware of the work that would be ahead of us. We saw a sign warning us of rattlesnakes on the way but thankfully never saw any. All we did see, were a number of little birds and lots of cacti. The colouration of the eroded cliffs was a beautiful palette of browns and reds. Posed against the deep blue of the ocean below ,the juxtaposition was breathtaking. We arrived at the beach after the final descent along a sandy stairway. It was amazing. The walk along the beach with the ocean to the right and 200-foot towering cliffs to the left made me feel so small. We took in the sights and sounds and explored the cliff walls for a way down the beach before heading back up to the parking lot. The climb back up was definitely more work than going down but I guess we were conditioned from the morning so we powered our way through it.
Back at the car now we opted to take the scenic route back and were rewarded with fantastic views of the Pacific Beach and Mission beach areas. With the car parked for the night, we got ready and headed out for a well-deserved dinner. We chose a place called Crushed on Garnet Avenue that we really enjoyed. More flights, but not just beer this time. This place is known for their Mimosa flights. Theresa isn’t much of a champagne gal but was feeling adventurous. She had a rosemary grapefruit one, a passion fruit one and a pina colada one. The last of which she enjoyed the most. The flatbreads here were really good too. After that, we called it a night and decided that the next day we would stay close to home and explore “PB” (Pacific Beach). A solid first day experiencing what San Diego has to offer.
After a light breakfast at home, we headed out to find a coffee and make our way south along the Oceanfront Boardwalk that connects PB to Mission Beach and Belmont Park. The weather was once again perfect for a day out and about. The boardwalk was packed with cyclists, runners, walkers, rollerbladers and skateboarders. The walk from Reed Avenue, where we started, to the end of the oceanside boardwalk, before it loops back around to the bay side, was about 3 Miles. Once we turned the corner at the south end things calmed down dramatically. The wind died off, the water was calmer and there were way fewer people. We came about halfway back on the bayside and then decided to cut back over to the Oceanside to find a place to have some lunch and do some people watching.
We came out right at Draft. A huge craft beer focused restaurant right on the boardwalk. No option for flights here but they did offer 9oz pours so I ordered a couple and tried my first ‘Cioppino’. A shellfish dish with a flavourful tomato based broth and killer garlic baguette. The food and beer were excellent. From there we made our way a little further along and got thirsty again so we stopped in at Lahaina Beach House for a pint. (you may think this sounds like a lot of craft beer drinking but I was just getting started!) The atmosphere here was young and vibrant, the music was heavy and the patio was in the baking sun but that was totally fine with us! From there we decided that a visit to a brewpub would be a great idea and it was! We made our way to Amplified Ale Works Kitchen + Bar who just so happened to be celebrating their 4th anniversary. The 2nd-floor location and the outdoor patio with a view of the setting sun were exactly how we envisioned spending our next few hours! We met some new friends, enjoyed the great service, rocked out to the music, sampled the food and of course enjoyed a copious amount of delicious beers samples, ciders and sangria ! The walk back to our place was a real adventure as we navigated the boardwalk once again heavily under the influence. Tonnes of laughter and dancing like no one was watching. We made it back safe and sound, raided the fridge and called it a night!
With the big plans of the day centred around an afternoon downtown at the San Diego Beer Week kickoff event ‘Brewers Guild Fest 2016’, we opted for a chill morning. We hopped in the car, put the top down and set the GPS for Coronado. The trip over the bridge to get there was a real experience. At mid-span, it stands 200 feet above the water and is just over 2 miles long with sweeping views of downtown San Diego and beyond. We parked by the training base for the US Navy Seals and walked the length of the beach to the world renowned Coronado Hotel. We had a coffee and strolled around taking in the sites before making our way back down the beach to the car and then headed back to park it for the day.
(Disclaimer:I did not take this picture!)
The event I had been waiting for was finally upon us! We called our Lyft and headed downtown. As we arrived and stepped out, we could already hear the live music being played inside the fences. Brewer’s Guild Fest was held at the Port Pavillion on Boardwalk Pier. According to their website, there were 81 breweries participating over the two-day event along with a slew of food trucks. I got through the gates quickly and the beer was flowing shortly afterwards. I documented each beer I sampled and by the end of the day, there was 33 on the list of 2-3oz samples. I was buzzed, to say the least, but I did manage to shoot a vlog documenting the entire experience that can be seen here! I picked up some great beer swag from Hoppy Beer Hoppy Life and Craft Beerd. Both guys were there running their own booths and have awesome stuff! Check them out!
The event ended with a typical drunken moment. I lost my phone that I had used sparingly throughout the day so it did have a good charge on it. After a quick look, I was coming to grips with the fact it was likely gone. We got back to our place and there was a message on my laptop from my son saying that someone had found it. Putting my home phone number on my lock screen just paid off big time! I used my “Find my iPhone” app and there they were. I gave them a call and asked them to stay put. Back downtown we went and met up with this awesome young couple that said they found it on the sidewalk just outside the entrance. We sat and chatted with them for a bit over a few more beer. We took care of their bill as a show of appreciation and returned once again to our place. It was a real roller coaster but I was thrilled the story had a happy ending. That was it for me. Lights out!
Game day! I am a huge Titans fan and this was a great opportunity to fly somewhere hot and see my team! Sunday morning was daylight savings so we got an extra hours sleep but for some reason, we were both wide awake at 6:00am. We decided to get up and get some fresh air. We walked out into the super thick fog that blanketed all of Pacific Beach. For the first time, it was actually chilly. We took a brisk walk around the bay to warm up and found a little coffee shop to have a nice healthy breakfast. The fog was burning off and the kickoff for all of the morning NFL games was getting close, so we headed back. I got on my Titans gear and off we went. We ended up at Oggi’s Pizza and Brewhouse. It was packed with football jerseys from all over the country and had a very lively atmosphere. It had TVs everywhere, great food and a nice selection of craft beer. A perfect place to get this day rolling. After eating, we made our way to the game and had a great time there, even though my team lost.
After the game, we went back to our place and decided that we should have one last San Diego dining experience. Following another quick Yelp search, the decision was made to head to one more craft beer focus joint. Tap Room on Garnet Avenue was a hit! I had a flight and one of the tastiest bacon cheeseburgers I have had in a long time. I saved my imperial porter until last and decided to finish the night off right and pair it with their fresh baked chocolate cookie with ice cream! It was amazing. We took a leisurely stroll back through town and then returned to prepare our place for departure as we were flying back to Seattle at 8:00 am.
Our San Diego adventure full of hiking, cruising, drinking craft beer and exploring the local foodie scene had come to an end as quickly as it began. We fell in love with San Diego and are already discussing plans to return. So much more to experience! The area is beautiful and has all of my favourite things in one warm and scenic region. Can’t wait to go back and have another adventure.
BEER DIARY …
Sam Adams – Nitro White Ale,
Sam Adams – Rebel IPA
Alpine Beer Company – Rye’der on the Storm
Omer Vander Ghinste Brewing – Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge
Alesmith Brewing – Hibiscus Tart L’il Devil
Bagby Beer Company – Upside Down Frown Brown
Bitter Brothers Brewing – Golden Child Hefeweizen
Green Flash – Comet Hopper
North Park Beer – Stay Classy
The Lost Abbey – Red Poppy Ale
Resident Brewing – Vacation Coconut IPA
White Labs – Super Yeast
Bitter Brothers – Sibling Rivalry IPA
Bitter Brothers – Bitter Bill’s Pils
Bolt Brewery – Deez Hops IPA
Coronado Brewing – Islander IPA
Intergalactic Brewing – Space Gose Coast to Coast
Half Door Brewing – Hoban House IPA
Green Flash Brewing – Cosmic Ristretto Porter
Bridgeport Brewing – Candy Peel IPA
New Belgium – Accumulation White IPA
2Kids Brewing – Poppycock English Bitter
Reckless Brewing – Honey Badger Don’t Care California Common
New English Brewing – Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout
Prodigy Brewing – Cock Strut Saison
Benchmark Brewing – Oatmeal Stout
Societe Brewing – The Pupil IPA
Second Chance Brewing – Tabula Rasa Porter
The Lost Abbey – Avant Garde Biere de Garde
Stone Brewing – Xocoveza Mexican Mocha Imperial Stout
Mikkeller – Overall Imperial IPA
Monkey Paw Brewing – Fear the Underdog IPA
Modern Times – Orderville IPA
Belching Beaver – Phantom Bride IPA
Green Flash – Soul Style IPA
Mission Brewery – Taste of the Glory ISA
Oggi’s Pizza & Brew – Torrey Pines IPA
Little Miss Brewing – Rosie Ginger Wit
Karl Strauss – Aurora Hoppyalis IPA
Legacy Brewing – That Guava Beer
Karl Strauss – Mosaic ISA
Lagunitas Brewing – TuberFest Marzen
Amplified Ale Works – Maibock Rock
Amplified Ale Works – Rare Form Belgian Strong Ale
Amplified Ale Works – Nyctophobia Imperial Stout
Amplified Ale Works -Whammy Bar Wheat
Amplified Ale Works – Dry School Hop Out Imperial IPA
Amplified Ale Works – Electrocution IPA
Victory Brewing – DirtWolf IPA
Modern Times – Blazing World Red Ale
Rough Draft Brewing – Grapefruit Weekday IPA
Deschutes Brewery – Black Butte XXVIII Imperial Porter
Knee Deep Brewing – Red Stapler IPA
Sudwerk Brewing – Marzen Amber Lager
Fall Brewing – Nervous Breakdown Imperial IPA
Ommegang Brewery – Hennepin Farmhouse Saison
Modern Times – Fruitlands Gose
Stone Brewing – Coffee Milk Stout
Coronado Brewing – Orange Avenue Wit
Acoustic Ales – The Verve Stout
Acoustic Ales – Red Red Amber Ale
Allagash Brewing – James Bean 2016 Belgian Triple
Acoustic Ales- Tush IPA
Ballast Point – Sculpin IPA
Ballast Point – Big Eye IPA
Ballast Point – Commodore