Monday, September 30, 2013

Will Run For Beer

That’s right, will run for beer. I’ve never been a runner – oh sure, I tried a couple of times in my adult life to run, and did two 10km races (2008 & 2009), but as soon as that goal was over, I stopped running. The motivation wasn’t there, I didn’t really enjoy running and frankly, I got lazy.

This January, I finally stopped all my excuses of why I didn’t have time to exercise and got my butt out onto the street to train for yet another 10km run on April 21. I diligently went out three times a week, per schedule, and was feeling pretty good. When my friend Monica asked me to do a half marathon with her in September, I said SURE! What the hell was I thinking? I couldn’t even run for more than 5 minutes at the time. But I thought having a goal to shoot for after the Sun Run was important, as well as having a much bigger challenge.
Even though I know how a 10km training program is supposed to build up your endurance, I chose an app for the convenience of having someone yap at me when it was time to walk and run. Sadly, it wasn’t a good training program and on April 13, I could barely run and had done damage to both of my calves. Two months of physio ensued and I started an uncomfortable relationship with a foam roller. Damn, that roller hurt on my over-worked and under stretched/rolled muscles.

Working backwards from the September 29 race day, I knew I had to start the half marathon training by June 5. My awesome physiotherapist, Timberly George from City Sports and Physiotherapy  had me to the point where I was fast walking, walk/running and doing elliptical/bike work however; I hadn’t done a full run since April. Screw it, I felt pretty good, so I went for a 3km run. It was successful – no pain. My first long/slow run on Sunday was 7km and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run the entire distance after being sidelined for two months, but I ran it and I haven’t looked back since.

17 weeks
5x per week
533.5 km
56 hrs; 7 mins

At the start of training - to complete in 2:30 and/or not die
At the end of training – 2:15
On race day – 2:00

Actual race time – 2:02:04
Females 40–44 – placed 18/102
Gender – placed 75/585
Overall – 271/1008

I did it. I actually did it. And for an old chick, I’m pretty happy with my results. My RunKeeper app had my average pace at 5:34 and that I ran almost 22km. Either I ran extra distance or the GPS on my app was wonky.  

My cheerleader during my training was my fabulous husband, Kelly, who always sent me off with “have a good run” and asked how my run was when I got home. I’ve spent a lot of hours running up and down the dyke in Steveston so some of those runners have seen me a lot more on Sunday mornings than Kelly has. I’m pretty lucky to have someone so supportive on my side.

The second support group I had may not be what you think. It wasn’t my family (not sure they really noticed that this was a big deal and goal for me), it was friends from twitter and my boss. My boss is a runner and he regularly asked me how my running was going. It was great to be able to talk to someone about my progress and it’s due to him that I changed my goal to 2 hours. He pointed out to me, a week before the race, that I’d actually been training at that level. We both use the Running Room’s Book on Running schedules and frankly, I didn’t even look at the pace schedule for 2 hours until then. Thinking about running it in 2 hours freaked me out, but I did my three race pace runs the week prior to the race at 5:40 average pace or less so I felt pretty good about trying it on race day.

Then there are twitter friends. The twitterverse is an amazing place sometimes. I had lots of encouragement from people and found out that my training actually inspired others to start training. That was an unintended, but good, consequence.

What’s been the effect of becoming a runner? Weight loss (coupled with eating healthy), muscle gain, less stress, an enormous feeling of accomplishment and the desire to continue running. Next half marathon is November 17.

Running so I can drink beer. It’s all about balance.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Limited Release Beers - Purchase Limits or No Holds Barred?

This post is either going to have you agreeing vehemently with me or cursing me. Breweries release seasonal once-a-year beers and when they’re limited, supply is as well.  

This isn’t a bitter-I-didn’t-get-any-beer post, we got three bottles and that was what we hoped for.

This week’s big release in the Vancouver and Victora area was Driftwood’s Sartori Harvest fresh hop IPA. We all love it and short of putting a GPS tracker on the Driftwood truck (which I’m doing next year), you wait to see when each liquor store tweets that it’s arrived.


What follows next is mayhem, panic, and a mix of over-joyed and pissed-off beer geeks. Most liquor stores don’t put limits on the number of beers you can buy of a special release and this is where the mayhem and panic starts. Those who are unemployed or self-employed are usually the ones who can drop everything and RUN to the liquor store. For me, my boss wouldn’t take too kindly to a 10am email saying I have a beer emergency. See you in an hour. Sure Lynn, and here’s a box for you to pack up your office. Enjoy the beer.
With this release, some stores received as few as 12 cases. So no limits meant that some people bought a case and others less, but many bought six bottles. Do the math, 12 – 24 of your regular customers got to purchase this beer. As a business owner, aren’t you more concerned about pleasing a larger percentage of your customers rather than a quick sell out? We all know the beer will still sell out, likely in mere hours, but you’re able to please more customers if you actually give them an opportunity to purchase said beer.

Personally, I don’t need a case of any beer. We just don’t have the room for it even with a full-sized fridge and a wine fridge solely devoted to beer. Yes, that's a good problem to have, I know. As well, as good as a beer may be, I don’t want to drink it nightly and with a fresh hop beer, the younger the beer the better. You don’t want to save this one to drink over the next few months.

If stores put a limit of 2 – 4 beers, many more of their customers would have an opportunity to get to their store and likely buy other product. Isn’t that a win-win for everyone? If only a few stores put limits, they’re pooh-pooh’d and those that want a lot shop elsewhere.  Before the next beer gong show, I hope the stores consider banding together and placing similar limits. It's good beer karma to share with your beer-loving friends. Group hug.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Great Canadian Beer Fest 2013

Lighthouse Switchback Randalled with hops!
Last year we went to Saturday’s session of the Great Canadian Beer Festival (GCBF) in Victoria. What we quickly determined was that one day wasn’t enough time to sample everything we were itching to try so this year, we went both Friday and Saturday (September 6 & 7). The other benefit of going over on Friday is the ability to visit breweries since most are closed on the weekends. We hit up two of my favouites, Driftwood Brewing and Lighthouse Brewery for growlers (with a fill, of course). A fresh Fat Tug IPA from Driftwood had to be our choice and at Lighthouse, we took home the Robust Porter that was a one-off brew. This is why you visit breweries as you’d miss out on unique beers that might not make it over to us in Vancouver.

GCBF has been held in beautiful Victoria, BC since 1993 and continues to grow in popularity every year and this year’s Saturday tickets sold out in minutes. Something unique to this festival is the costume component. This stems from the first year GCBF was held on Halloween weekend and even though the festival moved to September, the tradition of costumes continued. Many groups dress up in similar outfits and it’s pretty amazing to see the creativity some people have.

Costumes and creepy Ernie & Bert playing music

spent grain from Driftwood
Lighthouse Robust Porter & Driftwood Fat Tug IPA

The festival has over 550 volunteers, puts more than $250,000 of direct spending into the local economy and $16,000 of proceeds from last year’s festival were donated to local charities.

The festival costs $30 for Friday’s 3pm – 8pm session and $35 on Saturday 12pm – 6pm. The cost does not include any beer tokens, thus you purchase tokens on entry. It’s held at Royal Athletic Park and there is ample space on the grassy field for the booths, line-ups and the 8,000 people that converge over the two days. This year’s weather wasn’t hot and sunny thus, there were some marshy areas on the field. You’d think an athletic field would have good drainage, no? Nice work, athletic field planners. Six food vendors are on site ranging from pretzels to Caribbean food and what we tried was quite tasty.

Fifty-eight breweries were in attendance  and even though it’s the great Canadian beer fest, there was one craft cidery and seven US breweries in attendance with their local BC import agencies (Beerthirst, Copper & Theory) hosting the booths along with brewery reps (New Belgium, Ninkaisi). Here’s the breakdown of breweries by location:

British Columbia               38
Alberta                                 1
Saskatchewan                     2
Ontario                                 7
Quebec                                 2
Yukon                                    1
USA                                       7


Some of the standout beers for me were:

Driftwood – Old Barrel Dweller cask
Driftwood – Old Cellar Dweller cask
Four Winds – Saison
Lighthouse – Switchback randalled with Citra/Amarillo
Moon Under Water – Anniversary Ale cask
Paddock Wood – Black Friars Porter
Phillips – Kaleidoscope Mosaic IPA cask
Sound – Monks Indiscretion Tripel

And the cider from Merridale Ciderworks – Scrumpy

GCBF has become a tradition for many beer geeks. Coming over from Vancouver, as lots of us do, isn’t a cheap excursion once you add in a flight or ferry trip (BC Ferries has to pay for their executives’ bonuses, ya know), hotels, meals etc. However, the fun factor is always high. We run into many of our friends every year and the after parties add even more to the experience.

This year there was an after party at the Irish Times hosted by Beerthirst. They chose GCBF to launch the arrival of New Belgium Brewing to BC and threw on quite the party upstairs. On tap was Fat Tire, Pumpkick, Ranger IPA and four beers from their Lips of Faith series – Pluot, Heavenly Feijoa, Cascara and Paardebloem. Beer was flowing, appies were served and the place was packed. Thanks for the party, Beerthirst!

Other places we hit up while in Victoria were Spinnakers Pub, Garricks Head Pub and Floyd’s Diner. Spinnakers, the first brew pub in Canada, make great beers and the pub food is super. Downstairs is the restaurant (kid friendly) whereas upstairs is the pub (big kids over 19 only) with pool tables.

Garricks Head Pub is one of the best craft beer pubs in Victoria. We stopped in for dinner and a beer Saturday night before returning to Irish Times, which is directly across the street. Garricks looks like a fun place to hang out on the weekend as we’ll have to do that next time we’re back.

Floyd’s Diner is a legend in Victoria for their breakfast (read: hipster central). I agree that the food is good but the line-up to get in was ridiculous. I assume it was extra busy due to the festival but it took 55 minutes to get seated and over 30 minutes to get our food after ordering. Sorry Floyd’s, I won’t be back unless I eat before I come and have a couple hours to kill waiting for some eggs.

You know what make a good collaboration? GCBF and the Canadian Brewing Awards being held at the same time. Or perhaps, the BC Brewing Awards since most of the breweries in attendance are from BC and GCBF doesn’t move around Canada. It would create a lot of hype to have the awards handed out on Friday morning and if the brewers in attendance win, their awards could be displayed on their booth. Even cooler if they were pouring that particular beer at the festival. Free idea, beer people. 

Thanks to the organizers of GCBF as they do a great job of organizing the festival year after year. See you next year (September 5 & 6, 20104)!  


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grab Your Passport, BC Beers are Flying South

From the latest issue of BC Craft Beer News

One of the joys of being a craft beer enthusiast is drinking beers from different countries. When new imports arrive, the beer geeks all rush to the private liquor stores to snatch up a bottle (or three) and scurry home to add them to CellarHQ ( So if we enjoy imported beers, it’s only reasonable to believe that other countries would love to import and drink our glorious BC beers.

Currently, BC craft beers can be found in Washington State as Beverage Traders imports select Driftwood Brewing and Howe Sound Brewing beers. Much farther across the pond, Phillips Brewing started exporting to Japan in November 2012. Other than these three breweries, the world will have to come to BC to experience our beers. But that is all about to change.

2x4 Brewing and Imports from San Jose contacted Parallel 49 Brewing and Howe Sound Brewing to discuss their desire to import their beers to up to thirty US States. Thirty. That number is both impressive and daunting given the capacity of these craft breweries.

Parallel 49 Brewing; Twitter: @Parallel49Beer

Parallel 49, located in East Vancouver, is one of the newer kids on the block as they just celebrated their first birthday in May. In just one short year, they’ve accomplished more than what most new breweries would do in five years. They produced four main beers, twenty unique seasonal beers, multiple one-off casks for events, won four Canadian Brewing Awards and exported their beer to Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario. In fact, when they opened, they immediately applied to export to Ontario as they always had plans to expand within Canada. In April, Parallel 49 released a Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Maple Stout, which is a collaboration between P49 and Gigantic Brewing (Portland, OR). More recently in July, they released their second collaboration – this time with Ninkasi Brewing (Eugene, OR), called Red Eye Lager. Not only is a collaboration a unique way to create a new beer, it gave Parallel 49 some exposure in the USA. [note: someone at P49 needs to lay off the caffeine and take a nap] Impressive first year, guys.
Parallel 49 Tasting Room

I spoke with Graham With, Head Brewer at Parallel 49, and he indicated that there are no immediate plans to export into additional provinces and thus, when the call came in from 2x4 to discuss exporting to the USA, Parallel 49 was happy to entertain the possibility. As 2x4 appears to be quite flexible on the volume of beer being shipped, this works well within Parallel 49’s strategy. The plan is to start with two states – California and Arizona – and export seasonal 6-pack’s and 650ml bottles. The beers that will be heading south are Lost Souls (chocolate pumpkin porter), Ugly Sweater (milk stout), Salty Scot (Scotch ale/wee heavy), Old Boy (English brown ale), Hay Fever (saison) and Vow of Silence (Belgian strong dark ale). Will other seasonal bombers eventually cross the border? Maybe – they plan on monitoring the US demand and balancing that with what they produce for Canada. Get ready, US of A, you’re about to see what great beers BC can produce.

You may wonder how they will be able to keep up with production. Well, even though by May they were producing12,000 HL (1.2 million litres) per year, they could probably increase production to 15,000 to meet demand. Still not enough? How about the massive expansion they’re planning in November? Their capacity should increase by 30 – 40% by making this addition.

A year ago, the founders and childhood pals Nick, Mike and Anthony were likely hoping their little brewery would make it through their first year. Somehow I doubt they dreamed they would have had multiple expansions and contracts signed to export to the USA. It says a lot about their planning, management and, of course, their beer. If Parallel 49 is as popular in the USA as they are in Canada, I suspect they’ll be expanding even further in the ensuing year to keep up with demand.


Howe Sound Brewing; Twitter: @howesoundbeer

On the other side of the spectrum, Howe Sound Brewing has been operating in beautiful Squamish, BC since 1996 and is firmly entrenched in the craft beer scene. They operate the brewery, a brew pub and 20-room hotel, with catering and meeting facilities, all at this location. They source local foods, use their spent grains to make soaps and where possible, use their beers in their food. Howe Sound produces nine year-round beers and a total of thirty beers, including their seasonal releases.

Howe Sound Brew Pub - picture courtesy of Howe Sound Brewing
Howe Sound has a solid distribution within Canada and has serviced Alberta since 2008 – a market that has been very receptive and growing – and more recently in the past few years, they’ve exported to Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Newfoundland. They plan to expand their presence in their current markets, as well as picking specialty brews for specific provinces.

For the past five years, they have been exporting small orders to five US states (mainly Washington) though Beverage Traders. So why expand their exports to the USA now, especially on a much larger scale? Co-owner Leslie Fenn says it’s all due to capacity. Last summer, they doubled the size of their brewery when they installed a new brewery system and likely, they’re going to expand again in the not so distant future. In 2007 they were brewing 20,000 litres per month whereas currently, they brew 130,000 litres a month. That’s a whole lot of tasty craft beer. The capacity with the new system is 160,000 litres/mo. thus, they still have 30,000 litres a month that can be allocated to new distribution.

Bottling Line - picture courtesy of Howe Sound Brewing

"Although a few Canadian breweries, usually large ones, have exported to the USA previously, the 2x4 approach is to gather and market some of the best beers that BC and Canada has to offer. In a sense creating a brand around quality Canadian beer. I think it's a good strategy for Canadian craft, so we don't get lost in the thousands of offerings available on US retail shelves."  Dave Fenn, Co-owner
As with Parallel 49, 2x4 approached Howe Sound and by the time this goes to print, they should be importing their beers to the USA. Beverage Traders will continue to service their current markets whereas 2x4 will start importing their beers in August to California, Arizona, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. Up to twenty-three states may one day see the award winning Howe Sound beers. In the past five years, they’ve won seventeen North American Brewers Awards and fifteen Canadian Brewers Awards.

Some of their specialty beers including Total Eclipse of the Hop (IPA), Megadestroyer (imperial licorice stout), King Heffy (imperial hefeweizen) and Diamond Head (oatmeal stout) are packing their bags to make the trek to the states. They’re all higher gravity beers, will travel well and have a longer shelf life. The lucky people in the USA are about to experience these fantastic beers and their unique one litre (33.814 ounces for you US folk) re-closable “pot-stopper” bottles. Also in the works in the next six months is to send smaller batches of unique beers in 650ml bottles. For August, they’re planning on shipping 12,000 litres (1,000 cases) and then adjust future shipments based on sales in these five states. If you’re playing along and still doing the math, we still have 18,000 litres per month of capacity for future growth.

Leslie and her partners, who are also her siblings, have planned for the future growth in Canada as well as the US market and seem to be well positioned to keep both of these markets well lubricated with their beer.
Beatuiful Squamish, BC - home of Howe Sound Brewing

These two craft breweries have an amazing opportunity and, perhaps, a heavy onus on their shoulders. If they succeed in supplying the US market with beers they enjoy and can meet the US production demands, they will put BC breweries on the US craft beer map. If they don’t meet expectations, importers may be less inclined to bring on new BC clients. Yup, that’s a wee bit of pressure on these two breweries but as I’ve tried all of these beers, I have no qualms that the US market will embrace them. It may all come down to supply vs. demand and as my Econ professor would say – oh who cares what he would say (he’s a bit of a jerk), let’s all toast Parallel 49 and Howe Sound and root for them to have much success in the USA.




Sunday, September 15, 2013

San Diego – Move over Shamu, it’s all about craft beer

Anniversaries come but once a year and when Stone Brewing has one, they don’t pull out the candles and flowers, they light it up with 50 guest breweries joining them at their annual festival in San Diego. My husband and I bought tickets and planned to build a holiday in San Diego around it. There are so many amazing breweries in the area, all begging to be visited. Unfortunately for my husband, he couldn’t get the time off from work thus, my plans changed and my craft-beer-loving friend, Nicole, joined me.

We arrived on Wednesday and as the festival was on Friday night and Saturday, we had plenty of time to explore the brewery and craft bar scene.

First stop – Pizza Port Ocean Beach. Our hotel was mere blocks away and as Pizza Port is synonymous with Lost Abbey, you know you’re guaranteed to find some delicious beer. It’s a super casual place where you order your food and beer at the bar and they call you up to collect your food. Forty taps, pizza, salads and appies are on the menu. Awesome beer and delicious food – need I say more?

Pizza Port Ocean Beach

Next, Tiger! Tiger! - a casual bar with some outdoor picnic tables, they host twenty-three beer taps and a few wine taps. They’ve recently been named in Draft Magazine’s America’s top 100 best beer bars - pretty awesome for a bar that just turned two. Great atmosphere and a fun place for afternoon drinks. I suspect it’s hopping there at night.

Tiger! Tiger!

From there, we were moving onto Toronado when I spotted the Belching Beaver tasting room on my left. Who wouldn’t go into a place called Belching Beaver? They were on the Stone anniversary list and I quickly deducted they’d be worth trying. Their Beaver’s Milk Stout on nitro was amazing! I also had the Dam! Double IPA which was delightful. Their bartender was super friendly and we sat next to two locals, Sam and Jen. After chatting with Sam and Jen (also very friendly!), we invited them along to Toronado with us.

Belching Beaver
However, a slight detour was had… we’ll get to you, Toronado, be patient my pretty little beers. Jen suggested we hit up the new Mike Hess tasting room before Toronado. I believe it had just opened that week and they did a great job. It’s a cool place with tanks at the front and tasting room upstairs. And with the purchase of a taster paddle, you get a free glass! My paddle consisted of Grazias, Pallidus, Intrepidus, Ex-Umbris and Torulus – we have some serious people in the naming department… The beers were great, they have fun merchandise and it looks like this will be a busy local hangout.

Mike Hess
The night was still fairly young so we moved onto Toronado (yes, finally) to complete our evening. The four places are within short walking distance of each other so I’ve just made you a walking beer tour. You’re welcome. Toronado is a busy place with fifty-six rotating taps and a cask or two on the beer engines. Suffice to say, picking a beer to drink wasn’t an easy choice but it was a satisfying one as I ended up ordering a Pliny. If you’re looking for bottles, they have a bajillion from all over the world. As I look at the list now, I’m booting myself for not seeking the bottle list as they have some gems!

Day two. Time to go to Best Damn Good Beer Shop to get some bottles to take home. With a name like that, it must be damn good, right? They have a good selection and if I wasn’t limited by those pesky customs rules, I would have picked up more. I had tweeted them before coming and subsequently emailed them to see what they might have hiding in their cellar. Wasn’t sure what to request so I went with Old Rasputin XIII (which they didn’t have) and anything hard to find from Lost Abbey – and scored a Red Poppy. Sweet! While shopping, another patron told me to hit up Holiday Wine Cellar, Pizza Port Carlsbad and Fathom Shelter Island. The Pizza Port has a bottle shop and a less-known cellar for the rare ones. Sadly, we didn’t make it out there to peruse.

After I got lost trying to find the car (whoops, sorry for the delay, Nicole), we headed to Blind Lady Ale House for lunch. Another casual place with an excellent tap list and tasty food, most of which is organic and locally grown. They’re pretty particular about the food and beer they serve, and how the serve it. Love this. AND, they too were named in Draft Magazine’s 100 best beer bars, fourth year in a row!

Blind Lady
Lunch done, now onto brewery visits! Our first stop wasn’t a brewery, it was White Labs. They supply breweries, wineries and distilleries with fresh yeast and provide analytical services. Sounds boring? Ah, not when you sit at their bar and you taste a style of beer with varying yeast strains – forty-six taps to choose from. My god is that ever interesting to compare a style and see how unique they taste with different yeast in each one. Guess what their address is… it’s on Candida Street  - hehe. Someone at the post office had a sense of humour. I would have spent hours here if we’d had the time.

White Labs

Brewery time - Ballast Point was a few minutes away from White Labs and our first stop. Nice patio section, decent sized tasting room with eighteen taps and one cask to choose from. I had a taster of the Sculpin IPA on draught and cask, Brother Levonian and Smoke Screen. Fantastic beers.

Ballast Point
Next up, Green Flash. Huge, and full, parking lot which also meant a huge and full tasting room. The tanks and casks are all visible from the tasting room and they have twenty beers on tap. I went with the Saison Tart, Citra Session IPA and the Hop Odyssey Symposium IPA. I’m sounding like a broken record, but I loved them all.

Green Flash
Also within close proximity was Societe Brewing so off we went. Another large tasting room full of people. By the way, San Diego, don’t you people work? This day drinking at breweries is amazing and makes me want to move here. Can someone give me a job that allows me to do this? Thanks. Samples here were of The Harlot, The Pupil and The Scrapper. Sigh. Lovely.

Societe Brewing
Empty kegs, or are they?
For the evening, we ventured out to Neighborhood by cab and had dinner in their smallish restaurant. Good food and decent tap and bottle list – worth the visit. Nicole heard that there was a Speak Easy bar area in the back so we went to check that out after eating. Little did we know that you have to make reservations weeks in advance to get in. It’s a tiny area, hidden behind what looks to be stacked kegs (that’s the door), that seats 20 or 30. Apparently, once people get in, they don’t leave as we were second on the waiting list for over an hour and a half with no movement. The hostess couldn’t give us even a guestimate of when we’d possibly get in, if at all, so we left.

We headed over to Hamiltons Tavern, which we heard was more of a neighbourhood bar, but with good beers. Yup, just an older neighbourhood bar with the local Thursday night crowd playing pool and getting sauced. The place was packed and we squeezed in at the end of the bar, where I had a prime view of a girl trying to sit on a stool, tumbling off and landing outside. Those are some moves, girl. Drunk, stupid ones, but moves nonetheless. Oh, guess who texted as soon as we ordered a beer. Yup, the Speak Easy hostess. Figures. Now we’re a cab ride away and they don’t hold your seat. Boo.

Pacific Beach
Torrey Pines
We hit up Pacific Beach for a stroll and breakfast at World Famous. They’re not modest, but they do have fantastic food and are right on the ocean. After breakfast, we headed over to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. We’d heard this was a good area for a hike although neither of us brought the appropriate footwear to properly hike. It didn’t stop us from going up the paved hills to High Point to get a view of the valley. The park has multiple trails and other, higher, lookout points. We encountered numerous people running (crazy buggers) up the hill. In the heat. We were sweaty enough given that we didn’t bring water or proper clothing/footwear, I can’t imagine running up that incline.

One of my favourite breweries, Lost Abbey, is close to Stone and the festival and was a must to visit. I could have spent hours here sampling all of their delicious beers. What I did sample was the Red Barn Ale, Lost and Found Abbey Ale, Judgment Day and 10 Commandments (2012). I picked up a number of bottles to take home as well as stemmed glassware and t-shirts. Next time, I’m going to go hide in the barrel room. Shhhhhh… they’ll never find me.

The barrel room I'm hiding in...
Lost Abbey!

Finally, it’s time for the Stone 17th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival! Something you might not know about the festival is what a major fund raiser it is for Stone’s charities: Surfrider Foundation, The Boys & Girls Club of San Marcos, The Palomar Family YMCA and Fight ALD. Over the seventeen years, they have raised more than $1,5 million for local charities. Damn impressive.

I bought the VIP Brewers Reception tickets for Friday night that gave you all-inclusive beer and food sampling. Thirty-one of the beers that were served Friday night weren’t being poured on Saturday so those are the ones I mostly focused on. Generous pours were put into our tasting glasses – so much so that I started asking for half pours as my intention wasn’t to get sloshed, I wanted to experience and enjoy the beers. The festival was held outdoors at the University and was a great setup. Lots of covered seating, decently spaced aisles to allow for line-ups and walking through, a massive Stone ice sculpture and a great two-person band. The food from Stone Gardens and other food vendors was fantastic – restaurant quality, not the usual greasy snack food you usually see at a festival.

Stone Greg greeting people at the entrance
Saturday we drove out to the festival again, this time with an all-access pass for the entire day that also gave us access to the rare beers section. Fifteen tokens, with no additional tokens being sold so choose wisely, my friends. We ventured out of the rare beers area once, foolishly, then quickly retreated back to this heaven on earth. Thirty-nine bottles and thirty-nine kegs including delightful treasures from The Bruery, Cascade, Russian River, Dogfish Head, Cigar City, Avery and on and one as well as many rare beers from Stone. As our hotel was a $100 cab ride away, each way, I was the designated driver on Saturday so sadly, I only tried sips of some beautiful beer and either gave the rest to Nicole or did the sacrilegious thing and poured. I know, you want to hit me now. So would I.

What a fantastic beer festival Stone puts on – I’d love to return and plan another holiday around it. This time, with my husband and staying closer to the festival area so one of us didn’t have to be the designated driver.

Rare beers being poured

Drone flying over the festival taking pictures
Rare beer lists!

To complete the Stone experience, we went to the original Stone Brewing World Bistro Gardens for dinner. The outdoor seating is spacious and it leads into a little oasis garden. You wouldn’t have a clue that you were smack dab in the middle of an industrial area. Fantastic food and a gorgeous setting, not to mention the view of the brewery, makes this worth the visit.

On Sunday, we checked out the newest Stone Gardens Bistro at Liberty Station. Another huge patio area with a bar at the back. Stone doesn’t just know how to make beers, they’re masters at the restaurant ambience and quality food. Some of the Stone beers being served are exclusive to the Liberty Station location, which is pretty cool. The beer list at both locations is a large draught list, including non-Stone beers, as well as an extensive bottle list.

Hodads - yes, we're eating in the bus

Well, our trip is almost over and we stopped into Pizza Port one more time for a couple of afternoon beers. Dinner was at Hodadas [definition: noun – a non-surfer who spends time at beaches masquerading as a surfer. See also poser]. This is a tiny little hole in the wall that has a line up down the block from the moment they open at 11am. We got in after about a 25 minute wait and we ordered their famous burgers. I went with the mini burger (super cheap at $4.25) with blue cheese. Glad I went for the mini as this was no mini burger, it was a normal sized burger (at least for this Canadian), and not possible to finish. Damn tasty though!

Vacation over, Nicole has a really early flight Monday morning and I have some important bottle packing to do. Did I mention that between all this beer sampling and brewery visiting, I managed to get in three runs including a 16km one on Sunday – AFTER the all-day beer festival at Stone. I’m hard core, baby.

Observations about San Diego – lots of bike lanes; it’s dog friendly at hotels, on patios and even in restaurants; friendly servers and ocean, ocean, ocean. Traffic on the freeway is congested and sucks at most hours of the day but it’s easy to get around. Next time I’d stay downtown or closer to the brewery areas so there isn’t so much designated driver necessity, but the ocean is obviously a beautiful place to reside by as well.

Sorry Shamu, but you’re just not that interesting to me anymore – San Diego is synonymous with fantastic craft breweries for me. Deal with it you fish-loving, over-grown orca.

Beers ready to be packed!
Made it home safely!