While a student at UCSD I never drank beer, it was strictly liquor while going out on the town. This was mainly because all we ever drank was Miller light, Bud light, and occasionally we'll go high end and get some Newcastle Ale. It wasn't until law school that I was introduced to the world of Micro-brews and REAL import beers (Guinness and Heineken don't count). I can't believe that I spent so many years here (within legal drinking age) drinking the crap that is Miller/Bud, especially when San Diego is one of the Micro-brew capitals of America. It's like going from drinking boxed wine to Napa Cult Cabs, it just blows my mind.
In the forefront of San Diego Micro-brews is Stone Brewery. Located far north of San Diego in Escondido, not only has Stone put their brewery/packing area there but also their World Bistro and Garden. Running with the Stone motiff, their brewery/restaurant is a massive building covered in different rocks with a large garden.
So last Friday as San Diego basked in its sunny spring weather I received a phone call to go and get a drink at the aforementioned garden. Since I've never been to Stone and have been meaning to go there since the beginning of law school, I jumped at the chance.
After a very confusing drive there (the location is too remote/new for google maps) we arrived at one of the most gorgeous restaurants I've seen. A wide open multi leveled restaurant bordered by large metal tanks for brewing and a retractable glass wall that leads to the outdoor bar/garden.
look to your left and you see.... (the brewery/packing area)
Look to your right and you see.. (the beer garden (literally a garden)).
A gorgeous garden filled with streams, small bridges, benches, and rock pillars. After our tour (which we'll get to after) we just sat on a bench and had a beer. A very relaxing atmosphere to just hang out and chat.
But before our tour we decided to get some lunch on their outdoor eating area.
We were given a massive beer list (both sides) that rival the size of a wine list at a fancy restaurant. Reasonably priced at $5 a pint , you can also get samplers that allow you to try 4 oz tastes of the beers they offer. If you aren't eating, you can sit around the fire pit and have a beer at night.
After settling with a pint of Oaked Arrogant Bastard ($5) we ordered a few of their better known dishes.
The Mac Beer and Cheese.
I'm not exactly sure how they put in the Stone Smoked Porter into this (instead of water they use beer?) but they mix it with Garlic Beer Cheese and Stone Smoked Sausages. A bit of breadcrumb is sprinkled on top of the Mac & Cheese to add a crunch to the dish. The Mac & Cheese is just as the beer indicated, Smokey. The cheese itself tended to be too thick, usually when I eat Mac and Cheese I like it a bit smoother. My favorite M&C is probably at Sbicca , wonderful lobster M&C. The sausages were simple, nothing to complain about or rave about.
Three shredded duck tacos with a BBQ sauce, Micro Greens, and corn tortillas. On the side are black beans, mexican rice, and spicy pineapple salsa.
I love micro greens, you can put them on anything and I'd eat them, so in this case the bitterness of the micro greens really helped balance the sweetness from the BBQ sauce on the duck tacos. The duck itself was average, a bit stringy and dry, but I'm not excited marinated duck breast. I did like the combination of the bitter micro greens with the spicy pineapple salsa. I was surprised by the spiciness of the salsa. When you see pineapple salsa, you think sweet and savory not sweet and spicy. When you take your first bite you're looking all over the place for what's making your mouth burn (nothing a nice pale ale couldn't solve), the last place i thought of was the pineapple salsa. I wish I could get the recipe for that and make it at home. It was the real star of the dish. If it wasn't for the salsa and the micro greens I would have been disappointed by this dish. Especially at $17 for 3. If I had to pay the $21 dinner price, wooooooo wee.
Finally we had their "World Famous Beer Battered Onion Rings".
Labeled to be purposely undercooked and over cooked, they were mostly over fried and super oily. I'd never thought I'd say it, but this is one fried dish I don't want to ever eat again.
These were really thin onions that were so oily I felt the pimples growing on my face as I cut into it. I don't think the four of us had more than 1 each. When you cut it apart its just all dough, which is kind of disgusting. A great onion ring is a balance of crisp outer dough and flavorful onions, Nothing like this.
Luckily the average food was redeemed by the gorgeous garden and great beer. This is a wonderful place to just spend some time and hang out, but don't plan your meals around it.
Now the very best part of this brewery is the free tour they give a couple of times a day.
They give you an intro on the Hops and Barley process and take you through the brewing station.
So today they were brewing the Oaked Arrogant Bastard so they had a bunch of Bourbon Barrels with beer inside.
They also get their water from the Escondido Water reservoir (aka tap) , which apparently doesn't matter where you get your water from cause your beer will taste the same (a nice knock on Coors)
This is Stone's edition of their cold mountain water.
After a tour of their brewing area, they take you on a tour of their packing area. Thousands and thousands of bottles are being packed every hour.
The best part is that after the tour they take you to the bar in the store and give you free samples! FREE BEEEEEERRRRRR WOOOOOOOO. Yeah.. that's worth the journey in itself.
So if you want to take the scenic route and check out a well maintained property and some of the best beers in America, treat yourself to a visit of Stone Brewery.
1999 Citracado Parkway