As an antidote, when I finally completed my 1,800-mile tour del SoCal last week, I treated myself to a chilled bottle of Anchor Small Beer (it's 95 degrees in my pad) and for dessert, the first bottle of my and Half Pint's Latte Stout! (Though undercarbonated, I think it's ferly successful.)
What was supposed to be a 6-day trip turned into 11. I drove from SF down to the OC, up to LA, then back up to San Luis Obispo, then Santa Barbara (for book-signing events at Creekside Brewing and Hollister Brewing, respectively. Both must-sees/must-drinks if you're cruising through the Central Coast of Cali). In the worst example of poor scheduling ever, instead of attend the LA premier of Beer Wars, I dutifully attended my own book signing Thursday night. Drinking at Verdugo Bar in Glassell Park, what with their stellar bottle selection and some prized taps, helped assuage the hurt. Big thanks to Kyle, and Wes, glad you enjoyed the Old Rasputin XI.
After celebrating my grandma's 90th b-day on Saturday night (respect the gramma!), I woke up early (for me) and headed to the San Diego area. First stop on tap, Stone Brewery, where they kindly let me discuss my beer odyssey in just about the best setting I've done an event. Originally called for the biergarten, we moved our intimate crowd to a shaded area still in the warm outdoor patio. Just like a previous Stone Book & a Beer Club event had actor/blogger Wil Wheaton speaking in front of fellow sci-fi geeks, this one allowed me to congregate with my fellow beer geeks (I doubt I'd play well at a Trekkie convention). Here are some pictures. (Thanks, Matt.)
Purchased: Cali-Belgique, 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, and 2008 Imperial Russian Stout.
The next day, after waking up on Jessica Jellybean's air mattress, she took the day off so we could hit a bunch of local breweries. It was one of those great days that, like the Stone IRS, will only get better with age. Brief run-down:
Port/Lost Abbey: To Jessica's surprise, she lives within stumbling distance of this beauty. Most of all the brewers in town were gone in Boston for the Craft Brewers Conference, so we didn't get to meet Tomme Arthur, but we did sample several Lost Abbey beers while one of the brewers, Mike, and the house cat who I believe was named Centennial or some hop variety.
Purchased: Devotion (and later in the day I found Carnivale)
Ballast Point: They definitely made big fans out of us. We started with a full flight of their regular and limited release beers. While my favorite was the bourbon-barrel aged Sea Monster Stout, we were only to happy to purchase other favorites available in bottles (see below). We then were offered a tour of the small brewery, including some top-secret stuff. If you're interested in finding out what, email me, but realize I'll have to kill you. Cheers to Yusseff.
Purchased: Sculpin IPA, Tongue Buckler Imperial Red. (Oh, and a Black Marlin Porter, which is great, but I quite enjoyed the bourbon aged variety I had at Verdugo in LA and Churchill's in San Marcos)
AleSmith: There's a reason Peter Zien won Small Brewery/Brewer of the Year at last year's GABF. Not only did he show us around and pull samples to our hearts' content, but he allowed for a decadent privilege.
Purchased: privileged information.
At this point, we opted for a late lunch (Japanese. Replete with a bottle of Kirin). The last brewery we hit was Green Flash. We basically hit up the lone brewer on hand for a sampler flight, I got a bottle of Le Freak (which, when Jessica asked how it compared to her cherished Stone Cali-Belgique, said lone brewer responded "It's like Cali-Belgique. But Awesome.").
From there, we popped into a great liquor store, Holiday Wine, staffed with the kind of knowledgeable beer geeks I've learned run rampant in San Diego metro. They really do put their SoCal brethren to the north to shame.
Purchased: Mission, Coronado, Lightning, Boulevard (all the way from Missouri) and possibly more.
Seriously, great beer sipping, touring, elbow-rubbing, and hunting. I get it.