Stone Brewing Co

(San Diego, CA) — SheFed had to travel to San Diego, California for business and the timing was right for HeFed to join for a long weekend. Taking into account possible jet lag, we initially decided to take it easy on our first full day together...maybe hitting a food truck for lunch or sticking to the hotel. The lag never materialized, so we decided to go for the gusto and head north about 30 minutes to Stone Brewing Co in Escondido for some grub and brew...

He Fed:

It is a beautiful day in mid-November, upper 60’s and it feels even warmer in the sun. I’m wearing shorts. And we’re making a pilgrimage to Stone Brewing Co, one of my favorite breweries!

We enter the gift shop, where you can purchase hats, shirts, and other memorabilia. There’s a tap counter that pours samples and refills growlers. Beyond the archway is a large foyer to the Stone World Bistro & Gardens. Thanks to, I’ve already made lunch reservations (gotta get them points!) and we’re led through the main bar and dining room—a gigantic and lofty chamber with island bar, rustic table settings, and a gargoyle etched into one wall—to a table outdoors. It’s in the shade but our waitress gladly relocates us to a sunnier table. Heaven!

I order a goblet filled with Stone’s flagship IPA, a golden amber-colored highly-hopped concoction weighing in at 6.9% ABV. It’s creamy, bitter, and slightly floral, especially delicious paired with our sea-salty soft pretzels dipped in either the cheddar cheese sauce and Stone Pale Ale whole grain mustard. We munch and sip happily, soaking up the late morning sun. I decide to try the Stone Levitation Ale, a really low 4.4% ABV amber ale but much like Lagunitas’ Full Day IPA, I’m put off by the lack of body and kind of astringent use of hops.

But hark! What’s this I hear about a brewery tour starting at noon? We sign up for the tour immediately, finishing our snack and drinks, then promising our server we’ll be back for a proper lunch. Heading inside, we’re given a 45 minute narrated tour of the facility, from brew kettles to bottling to shipping. After, we’re ushered back into the gift shop and lined up for free samples of four different brews: IPA, Arrogant Bastard Ale, Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale, and Double Bastard Ale. Despite the high 10.5% ABV, I’m really digging the deep malt character and slightly citrus hop to the Double. Thankfully they’re only 3 ounce pours. What we need now is more food!

We specifically request a table in our previous server’s section, and she’s very glad to see us again (most people probably promise to be back after the tour and never show up). She even slips me a sample of their freshly-tapped Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA and I dig the Double IPA heft so much, I order a full glass to go with our Really Stinky Cheese Plate. Fresh apple slices and IPA chutney accompanies four cheeses from local farms. Two are “stinky” blue and taleggio-like, but the other two are perfectly fine cow and sheep’s milk varieties with slightly nutty qualities.

We move on to sides of the Mac ‘n Beer Cheese with sausage and Zucchini Fritters with Greek yogurt. The fritters are like crack, crunchy outside and a bit doughy inside but oh so much better when dipped in the yogurt! Likewise, the mac-n-cheese satisfies like no other comfort food, with spicy sausage giving it a kick. Yowza! My tulip of Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, with its faintly sour notes, pairs so damn perfectly with the pasta, I could be in Belgium.

Perhaps pressing my luck, I order a Buffalo Meatball Banh Mi. It’s a house-made French roll stuffed with handmade buffalo meatballs, sambal aioli, cilantro, Sriracha cucumbers, radishes from Stone Farms, carrots & jalapenos and served with a side of kimchi. The kimchi is perhaps the worst I’ve had, cold and slimy with an acidic, chemical aftertaste. I leave most of that on the plate. The sandwich is pretty good, though a tad dry. I could have used more of the aioli. A nice tulip of The Perfect Crime, a collaboration brew between Evil Twin, Stone, and Stillwater breweries, finishes the meal perfectly. It’s a dark saison farmhouse ale, somewhat bitter, with winey notes and some smoke (though I’m sure it’s not smoked). It’s a sipping dessert.

We end the day by traversing their “garden” and finishing our drinks in the afternoon sunshine. Behind the brewery is an expanse of trails and trickling waterfalls, weaving through adirondack chairs, firepits, and alcoves where the evening must entertain many a guest. One day we’ll return for night revelries, but for now we’re content to finish our beers slowly, forestalling our inevitable return to the hotel in San Diego.
She Fed:

I have to admit, a tour of a brewery isn’t at the top of my list of Southern Cali things to do, but Jeremy’s so very keen on Stone Brewing Company that I agree. (He’s put up with many a trek to museums and the Container Store after all.) Stone’s facility is not what I expect—for one thing it’s HUGE. Deserving of an all-caps HUGE. There’s an adorable herb and veggie garden by the entrance, a cool gift shop, and a massive indoor/outdoor bistro area, which is where our adventure begins.

We decide to start with a beer and a nosh of the freshly baked pretzels. When they arrive we discover these aren’t typical dark pretzels, but rather a lighter golden variety. They’re supremely tasty and perfectly salted. The two dipping sauces that accompany are cheddar cheese and Dijon mustard, both fairly thin and not overly heavy. I have a Stone Cali-Belgique IPA upon recommendation from our delightful server, Paula—a former Michigander! It’s not too hoppy for me (why do we ladies dislike hops?) and slightly citrusy.

We take leave of our table for a tour of the brewery. Our tour guide is Phillip, whose genuine enthusiasm for Stone and their product is both palpable and contagious. We’ve had the good fortune to tour many breweries and wineries in the past, so we know the drill. Neither Phillip nor the tour disappoints. The staff here clearly love what they do and it shows. It’s enough to make you think about peeking at the corporate HR page, if only for a second. The tour ends in the gift shop, but more importantly at the bar where we partake in four samples, which for some reason hit me hard. Jeremy agrees it’s probably time for a more substantial lunch. We get a table, requesting Paula again.

Luckily, a big ice water and the Really Stinky Cheese Plate seem to do the trick for me. Four cheeses (blue, soft goat, firm cow and very firm sheep) is paired with apple slices and a chutney of rhubarb, apples, and ale. It’s served with a large tumbler generously stuffed with house made cracker bread. What ensues looks like pretty much every eating scene in the film The Fabulous Mr. Fox, noises optional.

I can’t decide what to order as a main, but I know I’ve got to try a side of the Mac’n Beer Cheese with Sausage. Jeremy orders a side of zucchini fritters as well, knowing I’ve been eyeballing those all day. Both sides are spectacular. The mac ‘n cheese is creamy with a hoppy tang of beer and some lovely spicy sausage discs. Honestly, I just want to push Jeremy away from the table or order an entree-sized portion of this one, it’s that good. The fritters are crisp on the outside with a soft doughy center. There’s a kick from finely minced jalapeno in the dough and the dipping sauce is a tangy yogurt tzatziki. The sauce is “eat directly from the spoon” worthy. this point, we probably should stop. But the food has been so amazing and the service so convivial that we just can’t say goodbye yet. Someone at the table next to us ordered the chicken schnitzel. It’s gorgeously homey and I know I’ve got to try it. Two flash-fried boneless chicken breasts are perched atop a lavish pile of garlic mashed potatoes, all of which is surrounded by a puddle of caper lemon gravy. And to prevent any guilt over this indulgent dish, there’s a big mess of sauteed summer squash and bell peppers, too.

The chicken is tender while the savory coating stays crisp. The garlic mash are heavenly and the only thing that could make both of those components better is that fabulous lemony gravy. The veg is fresh and sweet. California veggies never disappoint when we visit and I’m a little jealous that they enjoy these peppers year-round while in Michigan we’re relegated to root veggies half the year. I fix Jeremy the “perfect bite” to try and he’s back for seconds. Then thirds. I stop counting because there’s way too much for just one person.

As the designated driver, I’ve been sipping ice water throughout the meal. I splurge on a house-made root beer for dessert and we stroll the beer gardens, resting in roomy Adirondack chairs while the sun sets. I can’t imagine what could top this day!

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