Flights and Fun in San Diego

Westbound to America's Finest City for a hoppy weekend

When my girlfriend, Amy, and I were invited to spend time with her parents just outside of San Diego in Del Mar, it afforded an opportunity to stop in San Diego and experience one of the things this area has become known for… excellent beer. There are somewhere around 200 breweries in San Diego and Del Mar, and I was eager to start sipping.

On the flight there, Amy and I discussed our stance on a polarizing topic: India Pale Ale (IPA). IPAs, along with its derivative IIPA and Triple IPA, are some of the hoppiest beers you can drink. For many years, it felt as though companies were trying to out-hop their competitors to get people to drink it, and as a result, there are a growing number of beer lovers who are over the hop craze.

Amy and I are loyal fans, though. Our topic of debate is always pitting the West Coast IPA against the New England IPA. I enjoy the piney, citrusy goodness of the West Coast IPA, and she enjoys the maltier NE IPA. We were looking forward to trying out the beers in San Diego and each secretly hoping to lure the other to our sides. That meant we could look forward to a lot of beer, great conversations, and Lyft rides.

When we arrived, I opened the heavy wooden door—the gateway to beer heaven.

Beaches and beers

After waking to a cool breeze wandering through Amy’s parents’ beach house, I knew it was going to be a great day. The four of us decided to take a walk on the beach. We slipped on sandals and headed out the door. The scene was California majestic. Surfers dove under incoming waves, dogs ran alongside their families, and people reclined atop beach towels while reading books and taking selfies.

It already was the perfect vacation.

Amy’s mother isn’t a beer drinker, so we decided to start at Stone Brewing, a San Diego establishment that started brewing beer 22 years ago. We had heard they have a beautiful beer garden and delicious food, so it was a good setting for someone who wasn’t interested in drinking.

When we arrived, I opened the heavy wooden door—the gateway to beer heaven. To the left, I saw a shop with t-shirts, drinking glasses, and bottles to take home, and to the right, the large restaurant. After being seated, we knew this trip was about to take flight. Three of us buckled up, each ordering a flight of beers, while Amy’s mom ordered us a variety of food. Our beers varied from the Classic Stone IPA and the 22nd Anniversary Anni-Matter Double IPA to the Stone White Geist Berliner Weisse and Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout with espresso and peach. We sampled 15 beers in all, and the food was phenomenal—Impossible Burgers, beer soup with aged cheddar and garlic, and duck tacos.

Our taste buds singing and our stomachs full, we piled into a Lyft and headed back to Del Mar—but we weren’t ready for the beer sampling to be over yet. With a quick Google search, we found a brewery within walking distance: Viewpoint Brewing.

The establishment was off the beaten path of busy streets filled with tourists. Viewpoint’s ambience was a total joy; It had both indoor and outdoor seating, a lagoon, and we could see the Del Mar Racetrack off in the distance. We ordered a snack of Parmesan fries and another flight of beers—this time with an experimental brew, strawberry Belgian blonde, and the Midnight Moe-cha. Right before our flight arrived, the server pointed out something fun with the typography on the menu cover. When read right side up, the cover said “Viewpoint Brewing Company,” and upside down, it stated “Good Beer For Everyone.”

Fish tacos and more beer

Sunday morning we started the day at the local farmers market with the family, and Amy and I planned to head to Mikkeller Brewing shortly after.

We took a trip to Leucadia Farmers Market at Paul Ecke Central School in Encinitas, a 15-minute ride from the house. The fresh produce and prepared culinary delights made our stomachs growl as we wandered down the rows of vendors. I tried a fish taco from The Fish Addiction and nearly cried with happiness. The perfectly warmed corn tortilla was a delicious vessel for the lightly fried fresh fish topped with crisp cabbage, chipotle sour cream, and spicy salsa. The taco was lovingly packed with filling.

When we returned to the house, Amy and I washed up and ordered a Lyft to Mikkeller, a brewery that started in Copenhagen, Denmark, and just over two-and-a-half years ago opened a location in San Diego. This brewery was hidden in an industrial part of the city. We ordered flights—Windy Hill Snuggle Bus, Resting Brew Face, and Raspberry Blush were a few of the beers on our must-try flight (They had a lot of NE IPAs on tap). There was something special about Mikkeller’s draughts, no matter my preconceived notions toward the New England style; each beer was delicious. I grudgingly admitted to Amy that I enjoyed the beers just as much as my West Coast IPAs, and she took my concession with grace, shooting me a satisfied smile over the lip of her glass.

The quirky, darkly lit brewery was the perfect setting for conversation and a great end to a wonderful weekend. We had only gotten the chance to go to three of nearly 200 breweries in San Diego, but it conjured a thirst to visit again for more beer, fun, and relaxation.

If you’re into beer, find out about Brew City.