With the New Year upon me and tax return anxiety approaching, my mind is wondering and I can’t help thinking about taking a vacation. As I gather ideas for this next adventure, epic memories of my last “beercation” to Californ-I-A and the great beer sites of So-Cal and San Diego are rushing over me. Since I never gave the full trip proper coverage, let me recount the highlights. First stop – Escondido, CA to check out one of my personal favorites, the edgy, experimental and driven Stone Brewing Company!

Starting in Palm Desert, my girlfriend and I set out through the mountains and arrived at in Escondido thirsty. Ken Wright, Minister of Evangelism and Indoctrination, greeted us and toured us through the facility which happened to be gearing up to brew their 14th Anniversary Empirical IPA.  Exuberant hoppiness defines this fantastic English style Double IPA.

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Ken Wright, Stone Brewing Company

After the tour, Ken brought me to the Stone Bistro where I sat down with Chris Couchron, Community Liaison Representative, and “Dr.” Bill Sysak, FOH Supervisor and Certified Cicerone. Beers in hand, Dr. Bill talked about his role in creating the Stone Russian Imperial Stout 10th Anniversary Blend that we were all enjoying. Taking a “mad scientist”  approach, he teamed up with the head brewers and they blended eight different vintages of the Imperial Russian Stout to make a sensationally full bodied and intensely flavored ale.  Tasting it and hearing him describe the process, you could start to taste the contributions from each vintage: creaminess, spice, chocolate, roasted flavors. Well played Doctor! If you ever get out to Stone Brewery let the Doc guide you.

Beer aside, I wanted to know about their intense and “arrogant” marketing messages that are featured prominently on each bottle. Chris gave me a very genuine and passionate answer to this question.  He explained that when you are creating something, you have to believe in it and feel strongly about it.  That is the way Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, the owners of Stone, feel about their product.  They believe in their ideas so they stick to their guns when faced with ridicule.  Whether they get bad reviews or terrible ratings they are going to brew the beers that they love to make.  I respect this outlook.  Basically, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. And if you’re gonna complain, get the hell out of the way.  I’ll drink to that!

Once we wrapped up the shop talk, Dr. Bill brought us through the bar and revealed the backyard of the bistro: a beautiful outdoor oasis.  He set my girlfriend and I up at one of the outside tables where a tranquil landscape creates a calm and relaxing mood.  The sound of the waterfall, the blooming gardens, and the hanging trees all pitched in to create an atmosphere like no other. All we needed to fully relax was some beer.

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"Dr." Bill Sysak & Chris Couchron, Stone Brewing Company

Tending to our needs, the Dr. brought us a sampling of including Stone’s 10th, 12th, and 13th Anniversary all on draft, amazing!  Not only do they have Stone brews on tap at the Bistro,  they pride themselves on carrying fellow Californian brewers such as Lightning, Lost Abbey, Russian River, Ale Smith, and also quite a few from Green Flash.  A stellar selection of beers that I would definitely not be able to find on the East Coast!  The Bistro alone is a reason to get out there!

Rivaling the sensational beers was the bistro’s extraordinary grub. We had the Mac N Beer Cheese, made with Steve’s Smoked Porter and sausage!  We also enjoyed the Tilapia Ceviche which complimented the laid back San Diego beach vibe wonderfully.  For our main course, my girlfriend paired her Duck Tacos with the Saison Du Buff while I devoured the delightful Double Bacon Brushetta BLT with Shaft blue cheese alongside the 10th Anniversary Bourbon Aged Blend Stout.  Fantastic beer and cuisine!  The entire menu is also locally grown, certified organic so it doesn’t just taste good, it’s healthy too! Check out the menu!

Raise a glass to Stone Brewing Company!  Not only did their beer blow me away, but the entire experience was unforgettable. So, if any of you readers are heading out to Cali I suggest you take your friends and family to the Stone Brewery. If you go soon, you may be privy to some of their new releases like the Lucky Bastard, and the collaboration San Diego County Session Ale.  Special thanks to Ken, Dr. Bill, and Chris.

Keep an eye out for next week’s post where I write about my adventures at Ballast Point.


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