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
It's almost Valentine's Day! It's the most wonderful day in the world if you're happily in love, but not so much if you aren't. But it could be! If you're looking for something to do this February 14th, or any day in February, we have an idea for you.
Here's our idea: Love yourselves! Life is wonderful, especially with fine wine or beer paired with wonderful food and like-minded people. One of the best ways we know of to pamper yourself and make yourself happy is by indulging in the tastiest of food and drink. And we have the perfect time to do it – on one of our Valentine's tours.
Whether you're coupled up or a singleton, we don't mind. We love bringing people along for our Romantic Tours to show you the best of what San Diego has to offer.
Everybody loves a lover, so love yourself! We love you.
Brooke B., Valentine Clementine
It's almost springtime already!
You know how we know? It's not the blue skies or the buds popping out on the trees. No, the real sign that spring is almost here is the annual Farmer's Insurance Open Golf Tournament at the Torrey Pines Golf Course.
Even if you don't play, the PGA Tour tournament is sure to be a great time. Golf is only the tip of the iceberg during that week – the crowds will also be treated to delightful food and drink, the opportunity to celebrity-watch, and be surrounded by gleaming, vintage cars. It's also for a good cause, as the tournament works closely with local charities that provide help for schools and childrens' centers!
They're also looking for volunteers, which is a great way to take in all the sights while giving back to the community. That's what we'll be doing!
Plus, it's going to be a blazing hot month, so come cool off at Torrey Pines while rubbing elbows with San Diego's top golfers… and givers.
We'll see you there!
Brooke B., Beer Birdie
We can't believe it, but 2013 is nearly over and another year is about to begin!
This was a great year. They all are, but 2013 was particularly fun. We met great people, we tasted wonderful food and local wines, and the beer – well, let's just say that the craft beer in San Diego gets better and more plentiful by the year. New Year's traditions around the world involve spiked punch and champagne, but we really think that the only real way to celebrate the arrival of 2014 is with a California wine or a San Diego brew. After all, what you do on New Year's will set the tone for the next twelve months!
Do you have guests in from out of town? Are you a group looking for a wine or beer pairing luncheon or dinner party. We have the perfect event for your celebration. Call us and we’ll give you a Happy New Year gift of $5 off this wonderful party. Go here for more details.
It’s a busy holiday week for us, here’s some of our popular tours with spots open this week:
TOP SELLER! Winery Train Tour (Mon. – Fri. Start times: 1:40pm and 12pm) Easy-to-get-to start location via walk/trolley/train-usually no need to drive. Available Mon. 12/30; Thurs 1/2 and Friday 1/3
“FUN TIME ON THE WINE TOUR! We had a great time on the winery train tour, the time went by quickly, the lunch was AMAZING and it was great that you could drink on the train so we bought a bottle and enjoyed it with the other guests on the tour.” One of over 180 Trip Advisor 5-Star Reviews.
Drink on the train! Optional brewery stop for our beer lovers at no additional cost!
These GREEN tours are about 5 hrs in duration. You'll enjoy ample tastes of fabulous, local wines – about 18 tastes! We start the tour with wine and food pairings (light lunch) at our partner restaurant (delicious fine dining Italian). We enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery as we travel by rail (wine tasting on the train is highly recommended!). We have delightful guided historic walks (about 2 miles total, about 15 minute walks at a time) into the villages for tastings at the boutique wineries (fully operational urban wineries, this is not our vineyard tour) for wine and cheese and wine and chocolate pairings. Optional stop at our brewery for our beer lovers! You can join us on this Coaster train tour easily from most locations by using public transportation (bus, trolley, train, coaster etc.). These popular tours are only $88 per person which includes all your food, wine/beer and fun guided tours. (Does not include Regional Plus Day Pass train ticket which is an additional $12 per person.) Click here to book now!
TOP SELLER! San Diego Wine Country Chauffeured Tour (Wed.- Sun. Start time: approx. 11am) Available Friday 1/3 and Sunday 1/5
"SUPER SPECIAL AND RELAXED DAY FILLED WITH TERRIFIC WINE AND FOOD! What a perfect way to celebrate! The wine was spectacular. The wineries were beautiful and very welcoming. What took this tour over the top is the food! Cheeses, chocolates, breadsticks and brick oven pizza with breathtaking views. Completely worth every moment and dollar. Don’t miss! Cheers!” One of over 180 Trip Advisor 5-Star Reviews.
On these popular tours we pick you up from your residence/hotel (from most San Diego locations) and take you to the vineyards of San Diego Wine Country. These fabulous tours are about 6 hrs. and include ample tastings at three wineries (about 18 tastes!). Your guide will entertain you with local history and a wine appreciation presentation. At our first winery we'll savor delicious fruits and cheeses with superb fine wine tastings. During this adventure you’ll get to stroll the vineyards and see how our local wines are made. We'll conclude this amazing day with decadent, local wines paired with a gourmet wood-fired brick-oven pizza dinner overlooking spectacular wineries grounds. Beer options available for purchase. Wine Country tour is all inclusive with door-to-door transportation, cheese platter, dinner, tasting fees, guided tour, bottled water, wine tote gift bag at only $149 per person. Click here to book now!
Wine & Food Walking Tour (Daily. Start time: 2pm) Available Tues 12/31
"YOU EARN YOUR MONEY BACK IN THE FIRST STOP! We had a great time. Excellent food; excellent wine and excellent company. Will do this trip again soon!” One of over 180 Trip Advisor 5-Star Reviews.
This fabulous 3 to 3.5 hr guided walking tour has tantalizingly tasty tour stops in the beautiful village of La Jolla. You'll be delighted as you taste fine wines and savor delicious, gourmet food. Your expert local guide will educate you in the fine art of wine tasting and food pairing. You'll even be treated with scrumptious wine paired with chocolate! Enjoy a leisurely walk of about 1.5 miles near the ocean, while being entertained with the history and culture of quaint La Jolla by-the-sea. Join us as we partake in the very best of La Jolla’s restaurants and wine bars. These tours are priced all inclusive at only $72 per person which includes all your food and wine, and guided walking tours. Click here to book now!
Salud, cheers, prosit, and here's to a wonderful 2014!
Brooke B., Auld Acquaintance
Was it a banner year for you? We hope so. It sure was for us, as we continue to have the pleasure of serving you up our fantastic beer, wine and food tours.
Happy Holidays from San Diego Beer and Wine Tours! This is it – the final countdown to the end of 2013. This is the time of year when the best thing in the world is being around the people you love the most. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Saturnalia, or the Solstice, it's always made better by sipping at a hot buttered rum, warm spiced wine or cider, or perhaps an old-fashioned eggnog.
Speaking of eggnog, did you know that eggnog was once the cause of a riot around this time of year? It happened in 1826, when some enterprising West Point cadets smuggled a large quantity of whiskey into the United States Military Academy, where alcohol was expressly forbidden, to make eggnog for a Christmas party. Several gallons, fistfights, and loud songs complete with drumming later, several intoxicated cadets tried to lead a mutiny, smashing glass and furniture in the process.
When reveille sounded early in the morning, it was met with groans, profanity, and gunfire. Some hapless cadets stumbled out to attempt a disheveled and probably very smelly parade formation. Administration was understandably furious, and the cleanup bill was astronomical.
Dozens of cadets resigned in the aftermath, and several more were court-martialed and dismissed. Incidentally, one of the cadets who wasn't caught, mostly because he sat in his room all day drinking rather than go out and face a parade formation, was Jefferson Davis, who went on to become President of the Confederate States of America. That incident is now known as "The Egg Nog Riot."
Our idea of fun is a little more restrained, and involves considerably less whiskey and gunfire. However, we thought it was an excellent example of what happens when the holiday spirit takes over and is left unchecked! Speaking of the holiday spirit(s), give us a call because it got to us, too: we're offering holiday discounts on all our tours! We promise that no riots will start on our watch.
Hope your stockings are stuffed full of all the things you love most,
Brooke B., History Buffoon
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