Along with Stone, though I only had a day and a half to experience San Diego California Beer Dreamin’ – I made sure to stop at two other long favorite hop havens – Green Flash and Ballast Point.
Neither was as fancy and gaudy as Stone’s fabulous “World Bistro and Gardens” but they weren’t trying to be. Green Flash – known for it’s amazing hoppy IPA’s including Imperial and Palate Wrecker – had a nice tap room in the center of the brewery – with a casual air and a plethora of choices to try. DId I count over 30 taps? All types of hoppy and non – including lagers and belgian styles I’d never heard of out east.
There was a nice set of tables outside if you wanted to sit with your friends, your growler or glass, and drink in the California sunshine. Of course, it was set in an office park, but when surrounded by great beer and beer appreciators, it didn’t really matter. It gave you a sense of the casual, social and beer laden lifestyle you can lead out in Southern California.
Local food trucks were parked right in the lot for tasting gourmet hipster ethnic specialties with your Begian IPA (Rayon Vert). How good can it get?
Down the highway a piece was Ballast Point, again a tasting room set next to the production brewery in an office park- with a small outdoor seating area along with indoor tables.
Here along with the great “standard” Ballast Point brands like Sculpin IPA, Black Marlin Porter and other more familiar beers you could find “Sculpin Habenero” and “Black Marlin Chipoltle Porter”… and some fine, crisp lagers I had not heard of.
While I don’t particularly go for pepper beers, the Ballast Point offerings were refreshing and not like the somewhat painful novelty pepper beers I had tried in the past. These were powerful but not overpowering, interesting but not challenging. A tad of a sting mixed with hoppy bitterness to bring me back to the Sculpin Habenero a second time.
I asked Lindsay – managing the tap room and overall customer relations – how so many great craft breweries could survive together and thrive and expand as they all seemed to be. She told me that there are local followings (“though we all drink everything”) and each brewery “has their schtick”.
She told me that Ballast Point tries to keep their beer mostly within their same brands they have had for years – and not try and be as “crazy stong” as Stone for example. They make sure there are familiar favorites, lagers and pilseners a plenty for the locals who just enjoy a basic beer without challenge.
Not too surprisingly Ballast Point is also a distiller now, and are starting out with Vodka. As I was on the way to the airport, I passed on the heavy spirits, but certainly enjoyed the spirt of beer appreciation in San Diego.