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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cheap Eats & Cheap Beer in San Diego

Beer tasting?  In San Diego?  Whatcha talking about?

Well, San Diego has a vibrant local microbrew scene, and I'm not just talking about the massive Stone Brewery in Escondido/San Marcos.  All around the county are small breweries, tucked away in industrial parks and serving up their eclectic suds.  The other day I happened to be at Iron Fist in Vista.  This is one of many little breweries in the same area, which is cool as you can visit a few in the same afternoon.

Look at this crowd!  Fun, lively, but well behaved.  Unlike Temecula "wine" country where some of the quality is questionable and the crowds often unruly with drunk bachelorettes, San Diego's beer scene is a "don't tell anyone how much fun we are having" local secret.  At most places you can get taster glasses, 4 or so typically for $5.  And if you don't know what to order, just tell them you want to taste from their lightest to their darkest beer.  You can go beer tasting with a ten spot and have a great time.

But didn't I say cheap food?

A lot of the beer places have food set up outside on Saturdays, which is the busiest day.  Sundays are calmer, but harder to find food, so go on Saturdays if you want the best of both.  Today there was a tent set up by Red Oven.  You'll want to check out their Facebook page to see where they are at on any given Saturday and are definitely worth seeking out.  Pizzas are cooked in a wood fired oven (real fire, not like the fake "wood" fire at Pizza Nova) and are $8 to $10.  I ordered the Alsatian, which has fresh ricotta, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, and topped with parsley and thyme.  Want to see it?

Oh man, was this ever good!  It was so good that I dropped a piece on the dusty brewery floor and I picked it up and ate it anyway.  I haven't done that since the 3rd grade so you know it was good!  Super thin and crispy crust, tangy with complex layers of flavors, and perfect with the beer tasters.  I was nearly swearing off thin crust pizzas after having so many that had no flavor and no substance, but Red Oven made me a believer all over again.

So think about this - $10 for a pizza for two, $5 for a super good beer (a pint or 4 tasters), and a lively group of people having a good time in an industrial park.  Even if you are not a huge beer fan, you have to check out the beer scene to see why San Diego is quickly becoming known as a destination for beer lovers from all over the US.  And get that pizza!

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Justin said...

Well Put. The local breweries are easily as eclectic as any winery tour and so much more fun! The Brewey mentioned here, Iron Fist has some of the best Belgian Saisons I've ever had! Keep writing Gary, I love your blog.

The Pizza in the photo was a pizza Asatian, ricotta, caramelized onions, bacon lardons, gruyere, and fresh thyme.

Local Wally said...

Damn good pizza!

Anonymous said...

All of the local breweries I have visited have a different personality. All of their brews have a difference. We are fortunate to have this. Great article, Wally.

Local Wally said...

I'm slowly (very slowly) working on a new site to feature the San Diego beer scene - to be called I'm trying to take it from a fun perspective, aimed at someone who likes beer versus studies beer (ie: I won't do beer reviews but rather brewery reviews). But I also want to have a place where those who love to discuss beer can add their comments, etc. Anyhow, wish me luck. The hardest part right now is not going back to my favorites every weekend!