Above photo courtesy of my dear friend and neighbor, please respect the ownership of this photo and do not distribute, thank you-Shira Bliss
Top o' the Irish to ya!
There aren't many things we love more than beer, food, and wine, but if there was anything that went with them it would be dogs. "Hardly a bar in Ireland didn't have a dog," says our own Shira Bliss, " and I'd love to see more of that in the US."
Shira's our resident Ireland expert – after all, she was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Saint Patrick's Day! You can't get much more Irish than that.
San Diego is one of the most dog-friendly cities in the world, so in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day we've compiled a list of places you and the pooch can go tip back one or three.
Hamilton's Tavern in South Park is not only one of the prime places to go have a brew and a great meal, it's completely dog friendly , right down to bowls of water at the bar. They love all breeds as long as they're friendly. Until he passed away, the bar's namesake always had a friendly word and a pat for everybody's dog.
O'Brien's Pub in Clairemont is one of the largest soccer-friendly craft-beer bars in the county. It's also dog friendly. Did we mention they have great food, too? If you're a footie fan, come see what all the fuss is about. Bring Fido. He'll love it just as much as you do!
Last but not least, we love The Wine Pub in Shelter Island! We adore the name and the ambience of this little place – and if you come in on Woofer Wednesdays, you can donate 10 percent of your bill to Loving Arms Pet Adoption! Great view, too.
Drink up, pup, and Happy St. Patty's, and happy birthday, Shira! May your year be full of Bliss.
It's almost that wild and wonderful day, Fat Tuesday, where you're expected – no, commanded – to wear feathery hats, colorful clothes, and beads. It's also the last hurrah before the start of Lent, which is a time of fasting and repentance for those who observe the Catholic faith.
The origins of Mardi Gras as it's known today are traced back to medieval Europe, where farmers would slaughter and eat a fatted calf and drink enormous quantities of red wine. In fact, Carnival or Carnaval, as the week leading up to Mardi Gras is called in some regions, comes from "carna vale": farewell to the flesh.
However, the story of these traditions go back even further than that, to ancient Roman or possibly pre-Roman pastoral times, to Lupercalia, the festival of Lupercus, the god of shepherds, and Lupa, the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus. According to Plutarch, during this festival young people would guzzle red wine and run up and down the streets naked and smacking people they met with "shaggy thongs." It was supposed to ensure fertility in the new year. They also wore fine clothes and feathered masks as they do today, presumably when they weren't running around in their altogethers.
If any of this sounds familiar, it's because this festival also serves as a basis for what is now known as Valentine's Day. (Our Valentine's Day was a little more subdued than that this year, but at least we had red wine!)
If you're looking for something to drink to get into the true spirit of Fat Tuesday and don't feel like slaughtering a fatted calf, here are a few suggestions:
If you're doing it up New Orleans style and eating spicy gumbo, consider a low-tannin pinot noir like Point Concepcion's Salsipuedes Pinot Noir. Its fruitiness plays well off the spicy richness of a gumbo. If you've decided on an oyster po-boy or a shrimp etouffe, pair it with a light, sweet white like ZD Chardonnay. And if you're having King Cake (and why wouldn't you?) any sweet sparkling wine is a must!
There are plenty of beers to pair with your Mardi Gras celebration, but our favorite one comes from San Diego's Modern Times Brewery. It's called Neverwhere. Why do we love it for this celebration? Because its pineappley, mangoey flavor is perfect for the subtropical party atmospheres of Carnaval and Fat Tuesday. It's a perfect pairing with your purple and green beads.
We're off to start baking our King Cake. After all, Fat Tuesday only comes round once a year.
Laissez les bon temps continuer a rouler toujours!
Brooke B., Bead-Tosser
Just say no.
Saint Patrick was an Irish hero for, according to folklore, driving all the snakes out of Ireland. For the purposes of this piece, we're going to skim over the fact that this was probably an allegory for his actual work helping extinguish Druidism throughout the island, and instead focus on what he really should have been doing – fighting back against the tyranny of bad beer, and worse: green beer.
In his absence, though, we'll do our part by giving you our annual list of our favorite San Diego breweries that provide Irish-style beers. It's a tough job, but we're just the people to do it!
First is the venerable and justly famous Red Trolley Ale from Karl Strauss. It's been a winner for ages, because it's delicious, and also because it's named after our famous trolley system. We love this beer!
Next is a beer from a brewery we just discovered: Mother Earth Brewery in Vista. Their Irish Red Ale, like all the rest of their beers, is creamy and delightful. We may have to sample it a little bit more to make sure it's appropriate, though. Mmmmmmmmmm.
We also love Hillcrest Brewing Company's version, which has a risque name like all the rest of its beers. Their Irish Red Ale is called Crotch Rocket. Saucy! But also very, very tasty! Check it out and while you're at it, if you're anything like us, you can sip at their delicious beers while you're giggling over their spicy, salty names.
There are always many more beers out there, but we think that these three will keep you good and busy for St. Patrick's Day. Remember, stay away from bad beer and beer that's been dyed green. It's what Saint Patrick himself would have wanted.
Brooke B., Cocktail Colleen
Little-known fact: He's actually reaching for a beer in this painting.
Happy Presidents' Day!
This is the day we have set aside to reflect on the many accomplishments of the presidents of the United States of America. What too often gets left out of the story, though, is our favorite part of it – the relationships between the leaders of the free world… and the breweries and wineries they kept.
Most recently, President Barack Obama gave new life to the phrase “amber waves of grain” by not only being photographed sipping beers, but also releasing the recipe to White House Honey Ale in response to a Freedom of Information Act request (which was released in 2012 to rave reviews.)
But he was far from the only one! George Washington loved his beer, and probably brewed it on his own estate. Fellow founding father Thomas Jefferson was not only a brewing nut, so was his wife Martha, who produced about 15 gallons of low-alcohol beer every couple of weeks. And John Adams came from a family of brewers – in face, Sam Adams (sound familiar?) was his second cousin.
The Founding Fathers loved their beer. But they also loved their wine! After all, Benjamin Franklin (yes, we know he wasn't ever president, but he was there) was the one who praised wine to the skies in his often-misquoted letter:
Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.
He also loved his "strong, harvest-time ale." He's said to have praised beer in his customarily pithy way, saying, “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is courage, in water there is bacteria.” We're actually not totally sure about this one, since the term “bacteria” didn't exist until the mid-19th century, but we're sure he would have signed off on it.
So tilt a brew or a bottle back today, because you're following in the footsteps of a fine American tradition.
To your health!
Brooke B., Historian Doyenne
As we've said before, we don't really believe in New Year's resolutions. However, we do believe in constantly working toward lifelong goals and making ourselves and everyone around us happier.
This is nothing new. The New Year's celebration is as old as humanity itself, although many cultures wait until spring to throw their parties. The Romans were the ones who fused Christmas with the New Year, which was in and of itself an offshoot of Saturnalia.
We're particular fans of that holiday, because Saturn, as the god of agricultural bounty, and his consort Ops, the goddess of resources and wealth, were both celebrated with toasts and consumption of a lot of beer and of wine (which in those times was occasionally mixed with seawater; we don't recommend it!) Both were also associated with the notorious Bacchus, also known as Dionysus, the god of the grape.
Ever since those times, people have been making resolutions – probably never to drink again – and breaking them just as quickly. That's why we're simply continuing our work to make the world around us just a tiny bit better. We think, like the ancient Romans, that beer and wine and great food is a wonderful way to start. So, we resolve to bring more of that to you in 2014. Now, that's an easy one to keep!
Evviva, skaal, and to your health in the next year!
Brooke B., Epicure
Thanksgiving is either a day of relaxing and epic feasting, or a nightmare of cooking and making hasty last-minute decisions for a group of ravenous friends and family members. It all depends what side of the cutting board you're on.
While we can't help you with the cooking, we can suggest a few wines and beers to pair with your meal to make everything go a little easier for you. We consulted with Stephen Ansley, our resident wine specialist, and did some "independent research" during San Diego Beer Week to find the best brews to sip with your deep-fried turducken!
The traditional Thanksgiving meal is especially wonderful, because turkey can be paired with just about everything. If you want a pinot noir, try Cycles Gladiator or an Au Bon Climat from Santa Barbara. The tartness of the pinot cuts through the richness of gravy and brings out the flavor of turkey. The fruitiness of merlots also works well, especially with dark meats or hearty stuffings. Try one of Flora Springs' or a merlot from McManis Family Vineyards.
White wine lovers, take heart! There's plenty of room for you at the table. The butteriness and oaky notes of a good chardonnay is an ideal complement to the sweet and savory combinations you get with turkey, stuffing, and cranberries. Try something from Columbia Crest Grant Estates or White Oak.
If you're in the mood for a brew but still want something to pair with the richness of the meal, try a hoppy (but not too hoppy!) brew or one that's complex enough to balance the stuffing and gravy. Our pick is either an Alpine Captain Stout for chocolaty malty goodness, or a Monkey Paw Patas Pale Ale, which has hops that shine through just enough to offset the richness of the food. We have also encountered some excellent saisons that we think would enrich your eating and drinking experience. Green Flash Brewery's Saison Diego has a clever name and a nice complex palate that won't overpower your meal. And last, but certainly not least, porters and their chocolate and coffee notes are a wonderfully rich way to end a meal. Our hands-down and bottoms-up favorite is, and has been, Alesmith Robust Porter. Try it with a tasty tender piece of turkey, dripping with gravy and juices, and you'll know we're right!
We hope these will make your Thanksgiving Day just a little tastier. We want the best for you, because, as always… we couldn't do this without you!
Brooke B., Thanks Giver
This is the time of year that the weather turns cool and the indoors start to look mighty cozy. By the way, did you know that turkey pairs with all wines, from delicate whites to rich reds to all types of roses? It's true! It's just one of the great things about Thanksgiving.
It's also a great time to try some new beers. Because there's so much caramelization in Thanksgiving meals, dark and chocolatey stouts are sublime, but the light hoppy brews are great as well. It's a veritable feast of beer and wine, and you can't go wrong with Thanksgiving! We're thankful for that, too.
Don't forget the champagne, either. Bubbly is great with everything, whether it's the meal, the post-meal game, or the post-game coma.
As you can see, we love to count our blessings while we're stuffing ourselves with cranberries and turkey. There are many things we're thankful for, but most of all, we're thankful for you.
Thanks for everything!
Brooke B., Stuffed Turkey
Halloween is almost here, and another special day is just around the corner: Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. In Mexico (and in other countries around the world!) it's a time that families remember their loved ones who have gone with altars and music. But it's not a sad holiday, at all – it's festive and happy, although it's perhaps just a little spooky.
Anthropologists have traced the origin of the holiday to a festival for the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead. It included marigolds and whatever things, including food and drink, the deceased person loved the best. If you see flower altars this October 31st and November 1st and 2nd, you'll see photographs, flowers, and sugar skulls and bread to help feed those loved ones in the afterlife.
Luckily, like us, the Aztecs also believed that you didn't have to die to get everything you love, and that included food and drink. In fact, they had 400 godlings all dedicated to wine – their mother, the goddess Mayahuel, was the goddess of the maguey and of pulque (a milky alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant) and fed those young gods, represented by rabbits, every night.
Like the ancient Aztecs, we appreciate the value of good wine. This November 1st, we'll tip a glass back to you – unless you want to come on one of our famous train tours or chauffered wine tours, and learn even more about the history of wine!
Feliz Día de los Muertos,
Brooke B., Mueca de la Catrina
Halloween is coming, so don your masks and grab your bags and get ready for some old-fashioned trick-or-treating! If you want a real treat, though, join us on one of our many craft beer or winery events, such as one of our guided walking tours through San Diego.
There are many good reasons to learn about craft beer and local wine, not just because San Diego offers such an exciting array of both, but also because the more we learn about beer and wine, the more we appreciate them!
This month is particularly interesting, especially in light of the great pumpkin beer debates, because the history of Halloween in the United States is also wrapped up in its long tradition of pumpkin beer.
You see, when the first pilgrims settled in the vast sweeps of what was now called New England, there were pumpkins everywhere. Green pumpkins, blue pumpkins, yellow and pink, and mottled ones littered the ground along with the traditional orange. They were so common and easy to grow in the fertile ground that they were seen as an everyday and delicious staple.
Their proliferation guaranteed that the thirsty settlers would use the sweet squash, first called pompions, to make the first pumpkin beers. A seventeeth-century poem went, in part:
If Barley be wanting to make into Malt,
We must be contented and think it no Fault,
For we can make liquor to sweeten our Lips
Of Pumpkins and Parsnips and Walnut-Tree Chips.
It wasn't until the 1800s, when Irish immigrants began swelling the ranks of the American population and bringing Celtic All Hallows' Eve traditions of carving gourds with them, that pumpkins were eyed as something other than food and the makings of beer. In fact, the fat orange pumpkins you see today were specifically bred for carving, which is why they don't make for very tasty eating. If you want to taste pumpkin pie like the Native Americans used to eat, try finding the multicolored squash at farmer's markets or growing them from heirloom seeds yourself.
But no matter what, despite how much fun it might be, don't knock pumpkin brews for being trendy. They're part of an ancient and proud American tradition! It was also considered a especially healthy drink.
So that's the not-so-scary story of pumpkin beer. You know what's really terrifying, though? Drinking bad beer in San Diego. That's why we're here, to help you get to know the craft brew scene around here. Call us at (858) 551-5115 to book a tour with us and we'll show you what we mean. Costumes, by the way, are always welcome.
Brooke B., Hallo-wino
Holy cow, it's nearly the end of September again. How did this happen? (We know, we know, the same way as always.) While San Diego's summer is filled with interesting and fun things to do, truth be told, our biggest open secret is that autumn is hands down our favorite season around here.
“But San Diego Beer and Wine Tours,” we hear you say, “there are no seasons in San Diego!” Ah, that's where you're wrong. There are four distinct seasons here, made all the more beautiful by their subtlety, and this is the best one of them all. It's not just because of the warm winds that sweep up from Mexico, or the way the angled sunlight makes ocean waves extra glittery, but also the wealth of opportunities to go out and have fun!
One such event is San Diego Beer Week. This amazing event, which is going on from November 1st through November 10th 2013, is now in its fifth year. You may have noticed that Beer Week lasts ten solid days. That's because it's too big to contain in a mere seven!
San Diego Beer Week was dreamed up as a way to showcase and promote our vibrant craft beer community. It's a wonderland of tastings and pairings at a variety of price points. From piney to sour, to barrel-aged beers, all brewed locally, there's sure to be something to make everybody happy. It certainly keeps us thrilled and eager to go explore the little-known nooks and crannies of San Diego's craft brewing scene.
That's just one reason we love the fall in San Diego, and it's a big one. If you don't believe us, check out some of the events going on. We promise you'll love it.
See you there at one of the great events of San Diego Beer Week. Remember: Drink, don’t drive. Call us at (858) 551-5115 for a ride to the awesome events! Mention “San Diego Beer Week” and we’ll give you $5 any of our tours throughout November!
Brooke B., Cerevisaphiliac