Saturday, March 31, 2012

Beer Tripping, Volume 1: San Diego, Part II

Stone Brewery was only one part of the beer adventure, and with as many options as there are in the area (there are literally dozens, as I previously mentioned; they call themselves the San Diego Brewers Guild, and they make San Diego a beer lover's heaven) it was difficult to call it a day at just one. So we didn't.

While Stone was certainly the crown jewel of the brewery collection, the scattered "little guys," while maybe being sans an outdoor bistro and beer garden,  were still every bit as appealing.

Lost Abbey Brewery 
Escondido, CA
Beers Encountered: Avant Garde, Devotion, Judgment Day, Red Barn

Running a brewery of any scale is not a condensed operation. One fermentation tank can range from 10 to 100 hl (that's hectoliters, as in, 100 liters). A site will obviously vary in the size and quantity of their tanks depending on the size of the brewery but as a general theme it's not exactly something you can run out of your bedroom.

Still, if there is such a thing as a "hole-in-the-wall" brewery, Lost Abbey is most certainly it. The space is more or less a warehouse and it makes no efforts to hide it. While we didn't tour the actual brewery (I believe they offered a tour but we arrived well past the time in which that was an option), it was easily visible in the open air environment of the brewery, and appeared to be fairly standard. In fact, it used to be Stone's house before they moved shop up the road, and they still utilize some of their old equipment while adding some new of their own.

I would happily accept some brewery's hand-me-downs. 

 The more appealing part, though, was the ragtag bar they had set up in the front. Utilitarian to an extreme, Lost Abbey's bar relishes in its bare-bones feel, but that's really part of its charm: concrete floors, an open loading bay door for natural light, barrels as tables, and seats that are, no exaggeration - bags of barley. It's not exactly comfortable but it's still pretty cool - I kind of imagine it's what a shipyard bar feels like. And over a couple of beers, you really don't mind. It's just fun.

Shabby chic is awesome when you have a buzz 
The bar itself offered samples of pints of Lost Abbey's impressively extensive beer list. Ranging from their hallmark Red Barn Ale (a very tasty ale with a flavor profile of summer, including citrus and ginger notes) to their version of the strong 10.5% beer wallop called, what else, Judgment Day (See? Remember what I said about over the top names?), there's plenty to try. Originally a local Californian brew, Lost Abbey has been spreading across the US at a pretty impressive rate - it should actually be easily available in the Northeast according to their handy website map - So, in short, yes, if you stumble upon a Lost Abbey six pack it's very much worth a try.

The only disappointing aspect of Lost Abbey was an apparent lack of...well, passion, from the girls running the bar. There was no denying that someone was putting love into their delicious beers - a banner hung overhead exclaiming, "In Illa Brettanomyces Nos Fides" - In the Wild Yeast We Believe, after all, but this passion was decidedly absent in the ladies running the front of the house. There was no interest in conversation at all, let alone any discussion about the beers they were serving me. I was certainly fine with entertaining myself with my parents, but it would have been nice to hear what they liked, which beers were their favorites, just anything. But instead I sort of felt like an inconvenience to them. Whatever, at least I had beer.

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