I finish the last of the barbecue before checking out. Jellied joy.
My taxi driver is thick, squat Russian, probably about my age. Which makes me feel much better about my own paunch. He talks on the phone the whole journey.
We pass several construction sites. New apartment blocks seemingly built from plywood. The word flimsy comes to mind. Not sure I’d want my book collection housed in something made of cardboard.
The area around the airport hasn’t got any prettier since my arrival. I’m flying United and get dropped at their economy checkin. Only when approaching the checkin machine do I remember that I’ve got a first class ticket.
I’ve been given TSA pre again. Great. Shorter queue, less of a striptease required. I’d contemplated a fry up airside. But I’m not really that hungry. No rush to get to the gate, as I’ve a first class ticket. How on earth can I pass the time? Bourbon.
Bourbon is my greatest airport chum. Though nowadays there’s often an IPA trailing behind him. Decent beer is getting pretty common in airport bars.
Did I mention that I’ve a first class ticket? It wasn’t hugely more expensive than economy. Taking into account that I’ve two checked in bags which would have cost $25 a pop. And the dozen whiskies I plan necking during the flight. "Not really more expensive at all, Dolores."
The flight is packed. As pretty much every United flight I’ve taken recently has been. But the squalor is safely out of sight behind the first class curtain.
Surprisingly, I can remember San Diego airport from last year. Why surprisingly? Because I’ve been through so many airports, they’ve all blurred into one. The baggage reclaim is right by the exit. Just a few steps from the taxi rank.
Finding a hotel in San Diego was a nightmare. Most were either too expensive or too scummy. Finally I settled on the Britt Scripps Inn. It continues the historic theme on my San Francisco hotel, being a Victorian banker’s villa. The staircase is gorgeous, carved wood illuminated by a leaded glass window.
The house was built in 1887 and is furnished in period. Which makes the downstairs look like the set for an Edwardian costume drama. And that my room has a rolltop bath and no telephone. What would I do if I needed a wake-up call?
I have to hurry. I’ve arranged to meet Kris Ketcham, brewer at Stone Liberty Station, at 4 PM. There are a couple of reasons why. He’s a nice bloke. And he’s recently brewed a recipe of mine and I’d like to try the beer.
I’d almost forgotten the humungousness of Liberty Station. And the oddly positioned the main entrance. The waitress seems to be expecting me and seats me at the bar. Soon a glass of Murder She Rotte is in my sweaty hand. It’s a lovely shade of brown, as you’d expect from a Beiersch. It’s a tasty drop. I’m pretty pleased. Pretty, pretty pleased.
Kris turns up. His beard longer than ever. Longer even than those of Lexie’s classmates. What is it with brewers and beards? I give him a bottle of Jopen Dark Gerste No. 1. It’s the little brother of Kris’s beer, Heineken’s cheap and cheerful Dark Lager from before WW I. He puts it in an ice bucket so we can drink the two side by side.
I have to admit a certain perverse glee in getting Stone to brew an old Heineken recipe. Kris doesn’t seem to mind and is happy with the finished beer. We chat a little, but I can’t linger long. At 18:30 I’m being picked up from my hotel.
When I’m in the taxi I realise that we forgot to open the Dark Gerste. Damn. I’d have like to have compared the two.
Sheldon Kaplan turns up on the dot. I met him last year on the sweltering afternoon a wild fire swept to within a couple of hundred metres of Stone’s Escondido brewery. We’ve kept in touch since.
I’ve never been much far north of the city centre before. I’m surprised to discover that the original Spanish town was here, on the river, quite a distance from the current downtown. There’s the odd adobe building, sometimes original. How did I manage to be totally unaware of this part of town?
I’m not quite sure what to expect or what’s expected of me tonight. The original plan was for me to talk about Lager. I realise immediately that isn’t doing to happen the taproom is inside the brewery and activity in the brewhouse is pretty loud. Looks like it will just be meeting people.
I spread a few books on a table and I await punters, beer in hand. Not just any beer. It’s the final one in the set. Which set? Heineken Rotterdam’s Dark Lagers from 1911. This one is the Bok and, if I’m honest, it’s my favourite of the three.
People appear and chat with me. Amongst them Grant Fraley of ChuckAlek. Someone else I met on my last visit. He’s driving me down to Mexico on Friday, something I’m dead excited about. It’s not a huge crowd. A few books dribble away from the table. When that dribble runs dry, me and Sheldon take our leave.
He’s promised to take me to Pacific beach. To, er, walk on the beach. Then take in a couple of beer destinations nearby. A long gets even longer as we linger at length. In Amplifies Aleworks a young woman sitting next to asks where we’re from. She must have heard our accents. Mine, obviously, is English, Sheldon’s a confusing mix of Aussie and South African.
Sleep jumps on my back as soon as I undress. Without the help of Mr. Laphroaig.
Britt Scripps Inn
406 Maple Street
San Diego, 92103 CA
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Liberty Station
2816 Historic Decatur Rd #116
San Diego, CA 92106
Coronado Brewing Company Tasting Room
1205 Knoxville St
San Diego, CA 92110
ChuckAlek Independent Brewers
2330 Main St, Suite C
Ramona, CA 92065
Amplified Ale Works
Promenade at Pacific Beach Shopping Center
4150 Mission Blvd #208
San Diego, CA 92109
1269 Garnet Ave
San Diego, CA 92109
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