Last month I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego for the Beer Bloggers Conference and I couldn’t pass up on the chance to make a mini-beercation out of it. I fell in love with the city last time I was there, which you can read about back here, and was stoked to visit it again.
A-plus limo tour
The Beer Bloggers Conference always do a pre-conference excursion the day before. Sadly, I wasn’t able to make that this year; happily, the folks from A-Plus Limo gave a few of us a special tour. A-Plus is a limo company that’s been around a bit but is new to the brewery tour game. There are two things that set it apart from every other brewery tour company out there. First is having a bad ass vehicle, that vehicle being a pimped out stretch SUV (see below), while most brewery tour companies have a van or at best a micro-bus.
The second thing is that, unfortunately, they’re really just a bad ass limo to drive you around without the personal connection to the breweries. Though maybe that’s just because they’re new to the brewery tour game… It takes time to develop those connections and work out agreements with breweries. Still though this was a fantastic way to get around to a bunch of great breweries that the folks from A-Plus Limo handpicked for us. I’m not going to go into details on all of those breweries, and 1 yeast farm, but new friend of the blog Kendall from Beer Makes Three breaks them all down on his post here so please check them out. As for us I’m going to take a closer look at the two that really stood out most to me.
One of the two big changes to the San Diego beer scene since I last visited is Société Brewing. These guys have become extremely hyped in the uber-beer nerd corners of the internet so I was psyched when A-Plus Limo announced this as a stop. There is a great rustic feel in the brewery with natural wood everywhere. Unfortunately, the beers did not live up to the hype that I’d heard about. It’s doubtful any brewery could successfully live up to that level of hype that preceded Société. Yes they were all very good but none were mind-blowing.
The other big change is the presence of Modern Times which I didn’t get too this trip but brought some of their beers back and am quite impressed. Their Blazing World and Phalanx beers were both delicious. One of my favorite things about all Modern Times packaged products is the clear labeling of which hops and malts were used. It’s a little thing but I wish more breweries would do this.
If you’ve been homebrewing for a few months to a few decades you’ve likely heard of White Labs. They are one of the premier yeast companies in America along with Wyeast. Regardless of if you’re a White Labs zealot or a Wyeast fanatic (like myself) you need to add White Labs to any future San Diego itinerary. It’s just a yeast lab, yes you can see into the lab… a very tiny bit of it. You can watch a video about the lab, read all about yeast, buy some swag, but no touring of the real lab. Why am I so excited and saying that you must go here?
Because you get an awesome exploration of yeast. You pick 1 style of beer then get a flight of 4 beers of that style, all the same malt, hops, and water but 4 different yeasts. This is a great way to explore the massive importance of yeast. The hot word in beer these days is hops, hops, hops… and a few more hops. But after visiting White Labs I can tell you that hops hardly matter, OK they matter a lot but not nearly as much as yeast which hardly any craft consumers care about. If you’re curious about the differences in yeast but don’t feel like flying across the country I’d encourage you to brew a 5 gallons batch and split it into 4 growlers with 4 different yeasts. Your LHBS, like Osborn Brewing, should have bungs for growlers.
San Diego Takeaways
The conference officially began Friday and I snuck away from the conference a few times because San Diego is just such an amazing beer city there were many things I couldn’t miss. First off, just like my last trip there, props to Keg Guys for keeping Pliny on the shelf in the fridge. My friends and I all scored a bottle a piece there last year and it was my first stop this year. I was able to sweet talk the manager into selling me two Plinys… I also ended up buying about $90 worth of other beer so that may’ve been a contributing factor.
Last year I went to Hamilton’s Tavern to find Pliny on tap. Having been there before I tried somewhere new, Toronado. This is not the super famous Toronado, which is in San Francisco. I’ve never been to San Fran but the Toronado in San Diego was no slouch. Pliny the Elder on tap, hundreds of amazing bottles, and Stone Old Guardian… from 2007, also on tap!
FULL DISCLOSURE: A-Plus Limo reached out to myself and a number of other Beer Bloggers and offered to take us on this tour for free. The ride was comped but the food and beer was not. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I WILL review it and that and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.