Lost Abbey Brewing, San Marcos, CA

After Zion, we headed back to Southern California. Lost Abbey specializes in abbey-style ales. Their “Angels Share” bourbon barrel trappist ale is smoky and rich. There’s a food truck just outside most days of the week. It’s a relaxing place to spend an afternoon.

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Eugene, Oregon

Beer tasting flight at Ninkasi

Track Town USA and the Emerald City. This is a geek-friendly and active town.

Some highlights:

A scale model of the solar system in the river parks

Well-equipped, bright, and contemporary library with nearby walkable neighborhoods.

Whiskey tasting at McMenamin’s High Street cafe.

Friendly folks at the Eugene Maker Space demonstrating a laser cutter build in progress, a 3D laser printer, and welding space.

A well-presented flight at Ninkasi brewery, followed by vintage pinball at Blairally arcade next door.

Expansive view of town from Spencer Butte. The Butte has a small natural climbing area of rock pinnacles with a surprising density of sport and trad routes.

A relaxing soak at Onsen hot tubs spa.

The recreation department leads family classes in white water rafting and snowboarding.

Wildlife Brewing, Victor, Idaho

We highly recommend the brown ale and Thai pizza. Check out the keg light fixtures, a creative method for sneaking a dog into a restaurant, and the marital advice from a local newspaper.

Blind Lady Ale House

Blind Lady Ale House is in the Normal Heights neighborhood of San Diego.

Local beers poured precisely from steel taps, a spicy soyrizo pizza with avocado, and a piquantly flavorful margarita pizza are some of the highlights here. The Poppyfields pale ale was rich and satisfying.

The decor is eclectic — check out the “wall of beer” in the back.

Green Flash Brewery and The Gooch

Tasting Garden at Green Flash

Had a taster fest at Green Flash Brewery in central San Diego. Thanks to $1 tasters, we tried everything on the menu for $13. Favorites included the “Le Freak” ale, Hop Head Red, pale ale, and Double Stout. There were also some beers that were made for tasting — odd flavors that stretch the tastebuds but aren’t exactly drinkable in abundance. These included the syrupy Barleywine, a Trippel that reminded Katherine of dirty socks, a spiced winter brew reminiscent of vintage herbal cordials, and an ale that tasted of cilantro and lemon.

Tasting Room at Green Flash

Green Flash is in a large office park near the corner of Top Gun Drive, Genetic Center Drive, and Sequence Drive. So, it’s at an interesting nexus of military and genetic engineering firms. The crowd was packed with folks in khakis and polos, many still wearing their corporate badges.  The large tap room extends into a fenced patio with picnic tables and lighted trees. The patio wraps around the food truck parking pad, and the brewery website keeps an updated food schedule. It looks like there’s a different food truck almost every night of the week.

The Gooch Food Truck

Gourmet food trucks are a West Coast innovation, arising out of Portland and expanding to San Francisco and San Diego. Sure, every town has loncheras selling soggy sandwiches and pop. But these West Coast trucks are a whole other concept. “The Gooch” (slang for bully) bears the slogan “Give Us Your Lunch Money”. In return, they served the Baby Momma, a Vietnamese-inspired slider topped with pickled vegetables and siracha aoli. Peter eyed a cheeseburger topped with bacon jam. Yep, bacon jam.  Not a good place to be a vegan, though the menu did please locavores with a farmer’s market-sourced menu and grass-fed meat.

A nice family-friendly environment. We saw many picnicking families and strollers, as well as people of all ages. There’s plenty of parking up front, and even a parking attendant to guide you to a spot.

If you’re in the neighborhood, this is a great place to stop by for happy hour or dinner.

Brewery Tour, part 2

Over the last week we visited the Lost Abbey, Aztec Brewing, Stone Brewing, and Relm wine bar in North County San Diego.

The Lost Abbey specializes in abbey and saison style beers that are fermented with Brettanomyces yeast. A Latin sign over the door translates to “In Brettanomyces we trust.” Most of the beers are fermented in oak casks to transmit the yeast cultures.

En Illa Brettanomyces Nos Fides

The tap room is a mellow, amber-lit, and features and impressive draft beer selection from both Lost Abbey and Port Brewing. $1 mini-tasters are available for all beers, so it’s easy to try a lot while still drinking moderately.

Mini Taster Glasses

A rotating group of food carts keep drinkers well fueled. We enjoyed a pierogi and a polish sausage from Pierogi Truck of San Diego. There’s abundant seating on beer casks that are topped with 40# bags of dextrose.

Pierogis from Pierogi Truck of San Diego

Aztec Brewing is the new fermenter on the block, having just opened in August. The founders were at the bar pouring drinks and checking in with a multigenerational crowd of happy drinkers. We ordered a 2 flights of 4 beer tasters for $5 per flight. The beers included a jalapeno wheat, ESB bitter, IPA, British ale, chocolate porter, red ale, and imperial stout. It’s really fun to try small sips of such a wide variety of beers. The ESB was Katherine’s favorite. Peter liked the IPA, though Katherine thought it tasted musty. The jalapeno wheat tasted like nachos. We both enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the taster portions.

We returned to Stone Brewing to explore their hiking trail. A roughly 5 mile trail winds through the Coronado Hills, conveniently starting and ending at Stone Brewery. The trail has some great views of the hills surrounding Escondido and Fallbrook, and a built in fitness course helps us earn our lunch. We finished off the day with a smoky porter and a game of Settlers of Catan in the Stone garden.

Relm in Carlsbad is one of our favorite places to unwind. It’s got cushy sofas, mellow music, and delicious wines by the glass. The business name is an acronym for Relax Enjoy Laugh More, which seems quite appropriate. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution!

San Diego Breweries

We’re waiting near San Diego, CA for our van construction to finish, so we have the opportunity to discover the area’s breweries.  There is a thriving microbrewery and home brew scene in San Diego. We used to home brew back when we owned a “real” kitchen, so we appreciate a good pint. In honor of San Diego Beer Week, here are a few favorites:

  • Pizza Port in Carlsbad, CA – This brewpub is a short walk from the beach, has decent pizza, and, best of all, a huge selection of bottled and draft beer.  Some of the beers are brewed onsite.  Others come from local breweries.  The restaurant gets a bit noisy and busy, but the brews are unbeatable. Family friendly.
  • Mother Earth Brew Company – A well-stocked home brew shop with a tap room in the back. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. It’s easy to get into a home brewing conversation with other guests at the bar. The tap room serves a variety of beers made on site, along with a few from other local breweries. Mother Earth brews are consistently straightforward, drinkable, and delicious. Family friendly, and possibly dog friendly.
  • Iron Fist Brewing Company — Tap room and brewery that focuses on Belgian style ales. The Dubbel Fisted was a bit too smoky for our tastes, though we are not big fans of Saison ales anyhow. A sausage cart out front serves delicious Polish style grilled sausage and sauerkraut.
  • Back Street Brewery — Brewery and restaurant associated with Lamppost Pizza. Good for relaxing after a movie at the neighboring theater, but not a destination for beer connoisseurs. The staff was friendly, but seemed to know little about the beer.
  • Stone Brewing Company — An enchanted beer garden and a destination beer resort. If you’re in the area, this is a must-see.  A great place to play Settlers of Catan with friends on a sunny day.
  • Breakwater Brewing Company — Walking distance from a great kite-flying beach. The brown ale and the sage-infused Kulch are both delicious. Food is mediocre. The Soprano’s pinball machine is fun, and a software glitch awards periodic free bonus games.
There’s also delicious local microbrew are area cafes and restaurants. A few of our favorites are:
  • Hill Street Cafe in Oceanside: An 1880’s Victorian house converted into a cafe and restaurant. Sweet potato fries and a Stone Pale Ale were delicious together.
  • The Linkery in North Park: Craftsman sausages made on site, paired with local beer. A great place to visit after a hike in Balboa Park.