Beer Vacation / Research
A short-ish post today just to reassure you all that I'm still alive and well. We're distributing now! Couple that with the general increase in traffic during summer and I've been bizz-ay brewing. But I did get an opportunity to do something I haven't done in over 2 years: travel for fun.
Fun in this case is a long overdue trip to the Southwest US. I used to have a few family down there so I've been many times, but the wife and kids - not so much. San Diego is a favorite between my wife so that was an obvious stop on our trip, and you haven't lived until you've been to the Grand Canyon (it's the damnedest thing) so we made sure it was a stop. Sedona and Phoenix were new to all of us, so we had to visit there as well.
The landscape down there is breathtakingly beautiful. All that sun and dessert pulls on this pale ginger's soul in powerful and dangerous ways. I could write pages on what we saw, natural, historical, and just plain strange, but I imagine you came here to read about beer, so I'll leave that out.
Now, I learned long ago not to add too many beer destinations into a family vacation itinerary. My wife and kids are amazingly supportive of that half of my life, but I'm not about to drag them through the hippest and trendiest tap rooms. But if a given brewery/pub has a kids menu and isn't too far out of the way, we're good. And dang it, San Diego and Phoenix delivered that in spades.
We hit at least one brewpub per day on our two week trip, sometimes two. I'm not going to review each individually, but a few really stuck out. We visited Stone's Liberty Station location first. We visited Escondido last time and neither location disappointed. We can get Stone beers surprisingly fresh in Iowa so other than a few pub exclusives, there wasn't much new for us. They might not get hype like they used to, but I maintain that you must visit them if you're in the San Diego area.
The same goes for Ballast Point (pictured at the start of the article). High quality food and beer that makes for a real destination. We can't get Pizza Port beers here in the midwest, but I was happy to mark this legendary location off my bucket list - pictured to the left (along with a candid of my wife). Chill, old school craft beer vibes and quite possibly the best West Coast IPA of all time in their Swami (in my humble opinion). Half Door Brewing is worth calling out too. It's a Victorian / Plantation style house plopped down in front of the PetCo stadium. Incredible food and solid beer with a very unique vibe.
Moving onto Phoenix, I was sure to stop by Wren House for their GABF winning Hazy IPA and American Lager (those are REALLY big accomplishments). I was blown away by the quality of the lager at Fate Brewing - in particular their hatch chili lager. I don't normally like chilies in beer, but that beer may have converted me. (Someone wrote "hatch chili lager" on our suggestion board a while back so it might have to happen now...) Last but not least in Phoenix, Four Peaks' English Pale Ale is so good it's transcendent. Seriously, it's the best English Pale Ale brewed outside of England - fight me.
I've left some honorable mentions out, of course, and there was only one brewery that I did not think was of very high quality (which I'll leave nameless). I returned home feeling like we're on the right track for beer and food. It also inspired me on some future recipes (that Hatch Chili Lager is going to be a challenge, but 80 West is definitely finally going to happen soon). It inspired me to scrap some recipes and gnawing brewing related insecurities as well.
How can you not be inspired when looking at something like this? Cheers