No matter how good the reviews were, we were not expecting a memorable experience. Call us jaded, but a beer pub in an industrial park? In Escondido, California miles from the beach, the Safari Park and Legoland? Who would make the trip?
Well, consider us converted. My family and I were intrigued enough to drive across Escondido – almost as long as it would have taken to get back to Mission Bay! – and we were amply rewarded.
Food: We found a good variety of both meat and vegetarian dishes. Soup and salad (veggie) were up to organic California standards. Succulent quail quarters cooked Korean BBQ style were both unusual and delicious. The main course, duck tacos with rice and beans, was delicious, perfectly prepared and offered just the right amount of food. The veggie soup and a gingery noodle dish made the kids happy.
Beer: This beer drinker was in heaven. The Avery white Belgian ale was even better on draft than it had been in a bottle a couple of days earlier. It was crisp, cold and refreshing even on a chilly night. I tried to switch to an Amber Ale (Rough Draft – great name!) but the server apologized that it was out that night. Not to worry, though – she brought along a taste of Stone’s own amber ale to see if I wanted to substitute it. Nice touch. It was a tad too bitter so I switched to the porter. That was bitter too, appropriately so, and really nice.
Atmosphere: even though we did not take the tour, the view from the beer garden of the fermenters in the brewery was out-of-the-ordinary. The crowd murmured and buzzed pleasantly. The heat lamp made the table comfortable.
Store: What an odd combination: biker vibe, shirts proudly advertising Arrogant B*****d Ale, kegs and sixes for sale and families shopping quietly. It felt like a Harley convention – in heaven.
Weirdness: the owner of the brewery, who has successfully built this cavernlike beer bistro into one of the premier breweries of southern California not to mention a popular restaurant in an industrial park, has a few quirks. A pleasant chat with our server Cory revealed that this owner does not like signs. Ergo we were really not sure we had found the place until we stopped in the parking lot and rolled down the window to ask people. Then, in the store, the clerk apologized that we could not get a shopping bag – of any sort – for my Arrogant B*****d shirts and my Stone Brewing cap because the CEO (same guy) is opposed to bags. Meantime, according to the server, the owner has bought some land nearby to put up a boutique hotel. What will be the attraction there? No doors on the rooms? Ice but no buckets? We’ll have to come back and see. For this quantity and quality of beer alone, not to mention the food and the rest, it will be worth it.
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