Ahhh San Diego… America’s Finest City. The Whale’s Vagina. The land of endless summers, epic surf spots and the birthplace of the California Burrito. Among the many accolades San Diego has become known for, we can now add one more big one to the list: America’s Craft Beer Capital.
I recently attended an award recognition ceremony for the San Diego Business Journal for Most Admirable CEO. Other than me not having to accept the honor on behalf of my boss – resulting in what would have been a *morbidly embarrassing* attempt at public speaking – the highlight of the night was watching Greg Koch, Co-Founder of Stone Brewing Company, accept the SDBJ honor. I have met Greg once before, when he was featured on a panel of F&B gurus for an exclusive networking group in Balboa Park. Back then, he was wild with ambition and clean cut in appearance. Fast forward to a little over a year later, and the beer businessman has gone wild, both in ideas and appearance. After drinking one of his signature Stone IPA’s on stage while accepting his award, he went on to boast about his company’s immense success and plans to grow Stone to keep up with the industry that has taken over San Diego. This peaked my interest, because even though I had enjoyed my share of craft beers at local joints in North County, I always thought the taste of San Diegan’s was limited to Coors Light and Corona, at best.
But then I started doing some research, and got to know Stone a little better. Like most of today’s craft breweries, Stone started as a two man operation in a small space in San Marcos that would go on to be occupied by Port Brewing Company, my personal gateway to the craft beer world. It wasn’t until 9 years later were they able to move up to their larger operation that now resides in Escondido. Since 2005, Stone Brewery has expanded their Escondido facility to include their infamous Bistro & Gardens, and additional future plans to open multiple stores, a farm, and even a hotel in late 2014.
The beer alone was enough to make me a fan, but Stone’s business model and way of getting shit done was what really got my attention. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for my close friend Beckett to invite me along to celebrate her birthday with a group of close friends at the infamous brewery. The weather was perfect for grub and grog, and with my newfound respect for the craft beer king, I was feeling extra adventurous. I tried three different drafts, and after a long lunch, perused the gardens with friends to get those Stone vibes I have been high off of. The Cali-Belgique IPA was the clear favorite of our table, combining elements of a typical IPA with the light notes of a Belgian ale. The flavor was balanced, and the beer itself quite drinkable (I think I ended up having a few of these…)
Below are some photos from our afternoon visit to the property, and we will definitely be back soon to try even more of the righteous beers Stone makes, and hopefully to tour the inner barrels and facilities to get a behind-the-scenes look at America’s favorite craft brewery.