Don Julian Travels! SAN DIEGO

Every now and then, I pretend to start a new “column” by adding a random prefix to my article title, and “Don Julian Travels!” is no different. However, if I have enough beer-focused travels to sustain it, you won’t see me complaining. (Puking? Maybe. But never complaining.)

San Diego. Most people outside of San Diego know it as one thing: a whale’s vagina. As a Maryland native who is indifferent to both crabcakes and football, I know how tiring it can be to have your place of birth’s global perception formed by a Frat Pack movie, so I’d like to do America’s Finest City a favor and dispel this poor translation.

San Diego is no one’s vagina, but rather a city. And a beer city at that. I recently had the displeasure of running a marathon in this brewhub. While the race was grueling, the drinks afterwards HAD ME DROOLING! (Sorry… sorry… I know. It won’t happen again.)

With only a day to really explore and virtually no fight left in my legs, my tour of San Diego was quite abbreviated and far from comprehensive, but here are 4 places I thoroughly enjoyed and, should you ever visit, I think you might too:

Just a ten minute drive from San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is the quaint resort city, Coronado Island. This isn’t technically San Diego, but it’s a stone’s throw from the thick of it all and it’s here that we began our adventure at The Coronado Brewing Company.

The beer was good; they brew quite a few of their own, but also keep some quality guest beers on tap in case you’re feeling less adventurous. The Blue Bridge Coffee Stout I had was tasty, but I’m honestly on a bit of a coffee stout kick right now and this beer may have gotten my approval only because it was just what I needed, not because it was life-changing.

My Bratwurst Burger, on the other hand, was phenomenal. According to my friend from Madison, this is a big thing in Wisconsin, but the “8oz grilled bratwurst sausage patty with caramelized onions and melted swiss cheese on a soft pretzel bun” was completely new to me, and completely amazing.

The other thing I found refreshing was our server’s “Partier’s Intuition” (TM BOOZIN’ GEAR) and no-bullshit attitude. This meal took place directly after the marathon and we were looking to have a sufficiently “celebratory” afternoon once we finished, so we inquired about the growlers that CBC has to offer. She dutifully told us our options, but then- whether it was because of our tone or just the looks in our eyes- she hinted that we might be better off popping into the liquor store directly next door as the few beers in a growler might not be enough for our implied intentions.

And as if her unselfish honesty didn’t give them enough karma points, the flyer on their urinal (because any urinal worth its cake has a flyer) did. Rather than advertise happy hour deals or a karaoke night, it announced their support for the 50th anniversary of SEAL Team One. The Navy SEALS are home ported in Coronado Island, so CBC was a helpful neighbor and donated kegs to, and raised awareness for the celebration of the contributions of these soldiers.

After a quick stop at the liquor store and a long stop at our hotel pool, we were ready to hit San Diego proper and go out in the Gaslamp Quarter, or as I like to call it, a whale’s fun-gina. This place was BUMPIN’. On a Sunday night, mind you, on no sort of holiday weekend. The sidewalks were packed with revelers, and the bars appeared to be following suit. I’d like to say we found a nice bar to continue taking a near-academic appraisal of San Diego’s beer scene, and that might have happened had we not stumbled upon Whiskey Girl. But we did.

At 5th and G, through floor-to-ceiling windows, we spied a long bar, a massive dance floor, and a comically large neon sign that said simply “WHISKEY GIRL” in hyper-American red and blue. We didn’t stand a chance.

The inside of Whiskey Girl was a standard good time. Decent drinks, good music. Nothing to write home about, but everything to text drunk about. Topmost in that respect was their Karaoke Photobooth, a sarcophagus of fun that allowed you to sing one of about ten songs- most of them from the sixties- and then pose for photo booth style pictures. It’s a random, unnecessary combination, but that of two things I love, so I had no complaints. You can scroll through the public photo album here, so if you have plans of running for public office, maybe sit this one out (loser).

Our next stop- after a pizza detour- was the nearby Tipsy Crow, at 770 5th Avenue. Frankly, there is nothing that happened here that I wish to have floating around the internet, but it was a cool spot and had an even cooler happy hour that we were unfortunately much too late to take advantage of.

The Tipsy Crow’s Drink Exchange mimics the stock exchange (according to them; I’m just a beer writer) and allows drink prices to fluctuate based on what people are drinking. They’re also working on a futures program that will allow patrons to buy tickets for a certain drink at a low price, and redeem them at a future date even if the price has since increased. It’s like forever stamps, but for vodka. (See a video explaining this much better than I just did here).

I’ve mentioned Stone Brewery a couple times on this blog, as I’ve recently enjoyed a phase- as I’m sure many California transplants have- of loving the hell out of everything they touch. Considering this obsession, it was an easy decision to make a pitstop when we realized that their brewery was only 30 minutes out of the way on the road back to LA.

We only had time for a beer, but the entire experience was beautiful. Placed on an otherwise empty road, the brewery is sleek, but nondescript on the outside. You would not know it was there if you didn’t have the address.

The inside was downright idyllic: fancy wood that I don’t know the name of, an enormous stone inset carving of their devil mascot, an outdoor seating area with lush fauna. And even though we missed the tour, one wall of their bar area was compiled of floor-to-ceiling windows that looked in on the brewing area.

As we sipped our beers, one bearded brewer (I think it’s a requirement) took his shift beer at an empty table near us, chatted with us, and talked some good-natured shit about the chef. It was a peaceful, friendly punctuation to a fun weekend.


Will Ferrell is a comedy icon, and if you aren’t excited for Anchorman 2, then you can go ahead and get a punch in the ovary. But if your knowledge of San Diego is limited to how classy its citizens like to stay, consider this your wake-up call, and a suggestion that maybe it’s time to explore the pants party that is one of America’s greatest beer cities.

~Don Julian

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