Stone’s World Bistro and Gardens in San Diego (Escondido) California has got to be on every beer appreciator’s bucket list – and I got to tick that one off this month. It’s like a craft beer “Disneyland” with a huge production brewery of some of the finest craft beers in the world – attached to a fine restaurant and beautiful garden settings.
I did the decidedly mellow family friendly brewery tour (shout out to old friend and NE Stone rep Lee Marren) while longingly eyeing the rows of bourbon and wine barrels holding precious ales. Next I settled in at the massive stone (naturally) bar for some local beer and slow food.
The beer menu was as expected mind blowing – I felt like Russian immigrant Robin Williams in “Moscow on the Hudson” trying to pick out a coffee in a US grocery store. Along with dozens of Stone brews – standards and specials, came tons of other California beers – from Northern California and even the in town competitors Green Flash and Ballast Point. This made sense after hearing co-owner Greg Koch at the Craft Brewers Conference talking about how “all boats float higher” when craft beer is featured.
I was advised to look for the special “Quingenti Milliliter” (500ml) bottle aged Stone brews – only available at the Stone Bistro’s (they just opened their second in nearbye Liberty Station), decidedly not available on the east coast. After sampling a “Ruination 10th anniversary” (think Ruination IPA – then double that!) I had a choice of two – and went with the advice of my bar server – who suggested the Old Guardian Barely Wine aged 23 months in “Kentucky Bourbon Barrels” clocking in at 11% abv.
Paired that with locally made sausages and mustard, I was really enjoying the sensory thrills of Stone’s craft beer enthusiast themed amusement park! Now, I do undertand that this beer is what you would call a “novelty” and clearly in no way a balanced beer “that tastes like a beer”. But it is what it is, and that’s something to experience when you can. The flavors of plum, caramel and vanilla swirled around the heat of the alcohol to make my tastebuds (and soon my head) swim.
At one point an unusually well dressed fellow dropped by the bar to get an “Arrogant Bastard” with a Stone bottle cap and hop constructed boutineer on his lapel. I quickly discovered the Bistro frequently host weddings and receptions outside in secluded garden. “They love each other, but it’s also about the beer” he said as the best man cruised back to the nuptials.
I had to admit, I couldn’t top that, or have any more and drive – even with the food and plenty of water along the way – so it was time to drop some serious cash at the massive “swag shop” and be on my way.
If you want to see how a very successful craft beer brand can result in the creation of a truly amazing venue in it’s own celebration – you really have to go there. Rock on Stone!