San Diego’s best craft breweries – Part 1 – Stone, Port brewing, & The Lost Abbey

by Daniel on May 28, 2012

I spent the last few days in beautiful San Diego for a dental conference.  However, my secret reason for making the trip was to be able to check out the incredible craft beer scene.  San Diego not only has an abundance of craft breweries, but an abundance of great ones.  Since I was only in town for a few days I sampled as much as I could from the best breweries in the area.  If you’re ever planning to visit San Diego, or are looking for a city with a great craft beer scene that you haven’t checked out before, I’m going to tell you the best breweries to hit and give you some insider tips on what to keep your eyes open for on the tap list.

Stone Brewing Co. Truck

trust me, it’s worth it

My first stop was Stone Brewing Co., now the 11th largest craft brewery in the US.  It’s a great place to start because they hold free daily tours of their incredible facility.  You’ll want to look up the schedule ahead online and stop by early to pick up tickets – tours often fill up over an hour (or 2+ on weekends) before.  In the meantime once you’ve got your tickets, you can either hang out in their World Bistro & Gardens, or drive 10 mins over to Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey and sample their stuff until it’s time for your tour.  The tour at Stone lasts about 30-40mins and then you get to sample 4 of their beers (preselected) free.  As Stone distributes to 36 states, you probably have access to some beers where you are.  If you visit, look for their limited releases.  I picked up a bottle of Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine Ale.  I’d like to say Stone’s got something for everyone, I certainly enjoyed myself.  What I think is cool about Stone and their branding that sets them apart is that, similar to the stereotypical phrase of the American South: “If you don’t like it you can get out.”

selection from the lost abbey

Port Brewing & The Lost Abbey was an obvious next stop being just 10 minutes away.  They’ve built quite a rep for themselves putting out a consistently amazing selection of beers, and I had the pleasure of sampling a good portion of it (and brought some bottles home).  There’s more than any sane person could try in one visit, so I selected the following (and not one was a miss):

  • Port – Bourbon Barrel Aged Santa’s Little Helper Imperial Stout (10%)
  • Port – Hop-15 Imperial IPA (11%)
  • Port – Old Viscosity American Strong (10%)
  • Port – Anniversary Ale – Strong American Pale Ale (10%)
  • Port – Shark Attack Double Red Ale (9.5%)
  • Lost Abbey – Serpent Stout (10.5%)
  • Lost Abbey – Carnevale Ale Saison (6.5%)
  • Lost Abbey – 10 Commandments Belgian Strong (9%)
  • Lost Abbey – Judgement Day Abbey Quad (10.5)
  • Lost Abbey – Red Barn Ale 2011 (6.7%)

Every one of the beers was unique and incredible, I could write a blog post about each one.  Where some breweries you visit you have a couple memorable beers and others that just blend in, Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey keep coming out with hit after hit.  Here’s a tip: When you visit a place as special as Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey, it’s good to talk to the employees and see what special or limited releases they have at the moment.  The Red Barn Ale, among other bottles they had, could only be purchased AND consumed on site.  That prevents people from buying bottles and re-selling on places like eBay.  So go, enjoy as much as you can, and take some home – at least what they’ll let you take with you!

Also see my San Diego’s Best Craft Breweries Parts 2 & 3 where I review Alesmith and Missing Brewery & Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits.

Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey Tasting Room

tasting room – port brewing/the lost abbey

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