My very first attempt at blogging. I hope you like it.
San Diego. Americas Finest City. The Craft Beer Capital of the World. My home town. My beer loving journey may not have begun in San Diego, but, it definitely blossomed there. My early beer drinking days were typical: cheap, fizzy yellow beer, usually in a 40 ounce bottle. Taste was not important. Just something to sip on at parties(hard liquor was an even worse idea for me). I did dabble in some micro brews from time to time, but paying more than $5 for a six-pack did not go very far. I guess it wasn't that important to me at the time. I also had some friends that were drinking something called Pete's Wicked Ale or Pyramid Apricot Ale or that terribly bitter Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I checked those out, but my wallet and lack of a decent palate always brought me back to the slums of malt liquor. In the late '90's, craft beer was still in its infancy - even in San Diego. There were a couple breweries I'd hit up with friends, like Karl Strauss and Coronado. But, again, it just didn't stick.
In 1998 I went on a nine week backpacking trip through Europe and came back with a taste for English Ales and German hefeweizens. I couldn't get enough Guinness whilst in Dublin and couldn't wait to impress my friends back home. But, sadly, no matter where I went, not a single bar could recreate that perfect pint. I did manage to get a couple friends to hang out with me at The Princess Pub or The Blarney Stone, teaching them how to pronounce Smithwicks properly or to wait for the Guinness to settle. And still, the local beer had not yet seduced me. I wish I could say: "oh yeah, Alesmith? Yeah I was drinking that stuff back in '99". Or "oh yeah, O'Brien's? Yeah I used to drink pints of Alpine there in the late '90's when there was only old dudes with big beards and big mugs, hanging out". Now there's just a lot of young dudes with big beards, hanging out. Even though I feel I got into craft beer when it was so new, I feel like a chump for not getting into it sooner.
It wasn't until I got married, got a kegerator and started attending beer festivals that my deep love and affection for craft beer began to take hold. The kegerator led me to a Beer Advocate forum with answers to my issues of too much foam from my tap. The Stone 8th Anniversary beer fest introduced me to breweries I'd never heard of, and beer styles I'd never heard of(the Left Hand Milk Stout blew me away). A friend at work knew I liked beer, so he gave me a bottle of Alesmith's Winter Yulesmith as a Christmas present. That beer made something click in me. When I drank it and said "wow, this is beer?" that was the moment. It's moments like that that keeps me searching. Searching for another beer that will surprise me. It happens to me from time to time. And that's why I love beer. Beer is a passion for me. A lot like music or movies. I've never had a beer that made me cry, but I definitely get goose bumps. Sometimes just in anticipation.
I moved to Las Vegas in late 2005 and was a little disappointed in the beer selection. Vegas is a liquor town, so what would you expect?Although, today it is much different. There were a few breweries then, but none were anything to write home about(especially since home was San Diego). I remember sitting at the bar at Big Dogs Brewing(who ended up being my favorite Vegas brewery by the time I moved), enjoying one of their beers, when I noticed a woman playing video poker and drinking a Corona. I thought: "hey lady, they make their own beer right there, you know"(gesturing towards the tanks in the next room). That kind of thing always baffles me. The liquor stores had a decent selection, but I still felt Vegas was missing a lot of great stuff. Slowly over the years the breweries started brewing better beer, a Total Wine opened and brought in a huge selection of new stuff. And a really good beer bar, Aces And Ales opened, focusing on craft beer and limited release beers. Things were looking up. A couple friends from San Diego that had both moved across the country had an idea to start a podcast. A podcast about craft beer. Since we were all big into the drink, but couldn't drink together, the Beer Coasters Podcast was born. It was a little frustrating for me because when the podcast started(mid 2009), the beer selection was still a little crummy. But, like I said, today it is much better. In September of 2014, my wife and I decided to move back home to San Diego. For many reasons and the beer was definitely one of them. I remember there was a blog post I read a while back, posing the question "would you ever move to a city for the beer scene?" I thought the question was a little silly, relocating just for beer? But then I did it, at least in part for beer. Thought, I do have family and friends here, so the beer's just an added bonus.
The San Diego beer scene is one to be admired. It seems that everywhere you go(not just North Park), local breweries are supported. The culture has been embraced - even by the Mayor - and there's a certain pride among the locals. It's definitely something I love about this town. I love the fact that I can walk into any mom and pop burger joint, sandwich place or even an authentic Italian restaurant and get a pint of a local beer. That's amazing to me! There's not too many cities in this country where you can do that. Right now, San Diego County has reached a staggering 100 breweries and 3,600 jobs! When I started my craft beer journey, there was maybe 20. And there were only two craft beer bars, that I can think of(O'Brien's and The Liar's Club. San Diego has so much to offer it's tourists - and there's amazing beer! That's another thing: not only is the craft beer culture huge and the number of breweries is mind boggling, San Diego is host to seven of the worlds top 100 breweries, according to RateBeer.com. Keep 'em coming. The more the merrier!
Thanks for reading and let me know what you think in the comments below. Cheers!
- Beer Coaster Toby
Follow me on Twitter: @BeerCoasterToby