48 Hours in Carlsbad, California
Day 1 – 48 Hours in Carlsbad
Who schedules a 45 minute layover in LAX? This guy. My flight arrived 15 minutes early but ground control held us for a half hour. I now have 24 minutes to change terminals. I hit the ground running, praying that I make my flight given the wait for the shuttle bus. There goes any notion of grabbing lunch to bring on the plane.
Famished, I decide to figure out how many tacos I can slam to my face at Senor Grubby’s. A spicy pastor (just, wow), crispy duck chicharrones (crispy, spicy, creative, delicious), and smoky pork belly (I wanted a second). When I finally come up for air after licking the delicious taco mess off my fingers, I order a second beer for dessert – Barking Beaver’s Peanut Butter Porter – and breath in the fact that I made it to California. The sun us out, only a few fluffy clouds dance by in the sky, and the décor is perfectly Bohemian.
I’m a kid in a candy shop – in this case, beer shop. I mean, I’ve heard of pour your own beer bars, but until now, they have remained a mythical Utopia. Here I am though at Barrel Republic with a pint glass, someone else’s charge card, and 52 drafts to pour from. Oh, and a good portion of the drafts are pouring West Coast beers not available to me in North Carolina like Lost Abbey, Pariah, and Karl Straus. So yeah, I’m a kid in a candy shop.
So. Much. Food. One of the perks of being a food / travel / beer writer is chefs go out of their way to try and impress us. Before me sits a four course beer pairing dinner at TWENTY/20 – raw oysters paired with a mango gose to complement and soften the brine, a medley of seasonal root vegetables paired with an earthy IPA, surf and turf with braised short rib and lobster tail paired with an amber ale to marry the two proteins, and a dessert which I don’t even remember touching as I was so stuffed.
As if our dinner at TWENTY/20 wasn’t enough, we decided to continue the revelry at Bagby Beer Company where a flight of beer is in order to close out the night. The atmosphere is warm and industrial with wood paneling to balance out the concrete and steel, the crowds is jovial for a weeknight, and the beer doesn’t disappoint. In particular, I’m digging the Greif Counselor American Strong Pale Ale. The aggressive combination of pine and citrus with a biscuity malt structure is the perfect end to the evening.
Day 2 – 48 Hours in Carlsbad
I’m awake. My body hasn’t adjusted to West Coast time even though I stayed out way too late last night. I toss and turn until I give up. I shower, dress, and spend a few hours writing before breakfast at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, where I officially wake with a cup of strong coffee and a seasonal breakfast. The house made vanilla bean yogurt is divine.
I’m cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway on an electric, self-propelling bike from Pedago Electric Bikes. Part of me feels lazy for not pedaling a real bike, but this is way too fun. Wind blowing through my hair, I wonder if this is what Hunter S. Thompson felt like when he wrote Hell’s Angels.
We’ve been challenged to see just how many beers we can sample throughout an afternoon that promises to be a roving beer festival – starting with Pizza Port Brewing where the pizza just may be better than their legendary beer. That’s not a slight on the beer, but a compliment to just how good their pizza is. The crust is thick and chewy and the sauce has just the right tang. I order mine with pepperoni and anchovies because my wife isn’t here to tell me no.
My beer count, as I leave Pizza Port, is nine. While the MG-42 Pilsner was a clean complement to the briny pizza, the more creative beers like Cascara Brown, made with coffee cheers, and Koa Warrior Imperial Stout, brewed with toasted coconuts and macadamia nuts stood out the most.
Our beer chariot – a vintage Swiss army vehicle repurposed by Scavengers Beer Tours for brewery tours – awaits. And what do you know, there’s beer on board! The knobby tires and rough, open air ride make it the perfect way to explore Southern California’s beer scene. Music blaring and cans raised, we toast drivers as they whiz by us on their way to cubicles and shared work spaces while we’re on our way to fun.
Our first stop is the Bressi Ranch Pizza Port, the brewery’s main production facility. Before our tour, we are treated to a flight of what makes Bressi Ranch different from the Carlsbad location. Pizza Port allows brewers relative autonomy throughout their locations to allow each brewer’s personality to shine. I’m digging the hop forward wares falling more towards the citrus side.
My count is fourteen as we leave Bressi Ranch – one from the ride plus four from the flight. I’m feeling good.
It’s not even close of business on a Wednesday and already the taproom at Burgeon Beer Company is hopping. I’m impressed with not only the crowd at this two month old brewery, but also the quality of beers. The owners have been home brewing together for eight years and it shows. The Common Cream Ale stands out as an easy drinking beach beer and the Dutchman’s Pipe Imperial Stout with vanilla stands out as an example that the brewers know their stuff.
My count is now twenty (those full cans in the jeep are killing me). Things are getting sloppy. There’s loud and bad karaoke in the Swiss army jeep. We still have two more breweries to go.
Things are starting to get hazy at Arcana Brewing, a small, neighborhood nano-brewing. Lots of additives and barrels. My notes consist of circles around the beer names so I remembered what I drank.
I’m now up to twenty-five beers and desperately need food. Where are all the food trucks that we were promised?
I flat out don’t remember Culver Beer. Any notes I took were left at the bar and all photos resemble a wild night out in college. There were a few Snaps that I was forced to delete the next morning for fear of embarrassing the other journalists on the trip.
My count has reached thirty beers. I’m famished and drunk.
I’m told we had dinner at Campfire and my college buddy Dustin met up with us. I’m told I ordered a pork chop and an Old Fashion. I’m told I polished them both off licitly split.
Day 3 – 48 Hours in Carlsbad
My head is wedged in a circular pillow on a masseuses table that oddly resembles a toilet seat. I do my best to hold down what lingers from last night as she goes to work on my back – working out the toxins from too much beer and the kinks from a cross country flight less than 48 hours ago. I emerge a new person and enjoy a glass of water on the pool deck at Cape Rey Resort Spa while I wait on my car service to the airport. I plan to sleep the entire flight home.
Want to go on a similar trip?
What I liked most about Carlsbad is it combined the idyllic climate and craft beer that Southern California is known for in a much more digestible format than San Diego. I stayed at the Sheraton Carlsbad. While it wasn’t on the ocean, it had great views, a heated infinity pool (great for late night dips), and close proximity to LEGOLAND. Other Carlsbad resorts worth considering are the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort for the views and the golf course and Cape Rey Carlsbad for its oceanfront location.
Visit Carlsbad sponsored my trip. As always, my opinions remain my own.
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