A grey Friday for the sunny city of San Diego, I awoke before my alarm and roamed toward my high-rise hotel window. A nervous anticipation began to rise within as I watched Petco Park attendants scurry about outside, readying themselves for their rivals, the LA Dodgers.
The air in the city hung expectantly, awaiting thousands of eager fans and relieved weekday workers, ready to begin their glorious weekends. I felt completely spoiled, given the gift of a no work Friday and a weekend full of nothing but damn good beer and damner good breweries.
The clock by the bed read 9:45am. The first pubs would be opening in 15 minutes and I intended to be one of their first patrons, shamelessly. Gathering my things, I headed down to the Marriott lobby. The double doors of my hotel swooshed closed behind me as the energy from downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter greeted me with a brisk breeze across my face.
“Where you off to miss?” A young male valet questioned..
“Coronado Brewing Company,” I answered with the enthusiasm only a tourist on her first day of exploration could possess.
“Oh yeah, lots of good ones here,” he nodded as the next taxi pulled up beside us. He opened the door for me. “Haven’t been to that one yet but have a good time. Let me know what you think.”
I thanked him and jumped in, closing the door behind me. The taxi driver greeted me and I informed him of my destination. As we drove across the Coronado Bridge and into the heart of the Island, I let the thrill of arriving at my first brewery safely and on time feed into my karma for the day. Before shutting my door, I slipped the kind man his fare with a hefty tip. No reason he shouldn’t benefit from my day of beer.
As I entered the cozy family style Brew Pub on Orange Street, a few blocks from the waterfront, I settled into a bar stool in the center of the warmly wooded space and thought over my brief research on this joint. Coronado Brewing Company was established in 1996 and has gone from a small, family owned establishment to an award winning, internationally known pioneer in mid-sized brewing. Their Islander IPA won the gold medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup and their success can be measured by the three tasting locations they now have in San Diego and Imperial Beach California. After 20 years of brewing bottled and draft, outdoorsmen & women can rejoice as they have also joined the canned beer craze as of March 2016.
A friendly female bartender greeted me and I order my usual, a flight of everything that sounded delicious and a chicken caesar salad because, well, balance my friends. Finally, let’s get into the beer from lightest to heaviest (the best way to drink ‘em). The first pour that tickled my fancy off description alone was their Friar Starter, Belgian Blonde. With a 4.8% ABV, 20 IBUs and a sweet lemon nose, this was easiest to drink. I also adore the brilliantly complex, yet softly floral mouthfeel of a lot of Belgian styled American beers. Second in line was an experimental Wit called Limelight. It’s ABV is 5.1%, with 16 IBUs and sticky notes of chamomile, dehydrated lime & lemongrass, this brew finished with too much lemon for me. Third up was Coronado’s 435 Pale Ale with 5.2% ABV and 40 IBUs. It’s fresh, pine forest nose gave away the massive amount of hops used while brewing (4 lbs of Brewer, 3 lbs of Chinook and 5 lbs of Cascade to be exact). Named after the Brewery’s original landline, I found this medium bodied brew crisp and refreshing, balancing well with the anchovies in my Caesar salad. Lastly, I dived into their Jurata Baltic Porter at 8% ABV and 30 IBUs. Collaboration brews are usually my favorite due to the stories behind their creation and this one didn’t disappoint. Coronado teamed up with Florida craft giant Cigar City Brewing to brew this dark, roasted and smoky malt Porter, named after a mythological mermaid that roams the depths of the Baltic Sea. With a slightly alcoholic palate, heavy body and abrupt finish, this Porter isn’t for everyone, but it was just the dessert I needed as I finished my meal. I thanked the beertender, grabbed myself a 10 dollar shirt on sale at the door and roamed toward the sea. There I caught a much cheaper ferry ride back to the mainland and my next brewery, Mission.
There are a lot of breweries to choose from in San Diego. Coronado with it’s charming location, laid back atmosphere and most importantly, well-crafted brews, definitely deserves to be on your list. And make sure you save yourself the price of an extra beer and take the ferry over when you go.
Cheers to Island brewing! This mainlander will definitely be back one day.