While down in San Diego/Escondido I ditched my reservation at Stone World Bistro for a trip to Alpine Beer Co and pub. Before you hit the back button, Alpine Beers rival Stone on almost every level. Okay, really, please don’t click the red X button! I’m not an arrogant bastard!
Having been to Stone on several occasions, I know it’s practically Heaven. Craft Beer newbies and enthusiasts from all over the world worship at the gargoyle alter. Coors Light drinkers are routinely sacrificed on the large monolithic stone in the lobby. Greg Koch (CEO and half owner) routinely signs bottles for beer fans as if some sort of celebrity. If you haven’t been to Stone, go. Make sure to not make eye-contact with Mr. Koch or he might break out in a mirror-practiced speech several times about sustainability and profitability. I kid of course, Stone beers are a benchmark to how others are measured. I love what Stone has done for Craft Beer. Greg Koch is a business master and exhibits passion that I truly admire. I’ll get off my knees now…
I wanted to hit Alpine Beer Co ever since trying a bottle of “Pure Hoppyness” my brewer friend Scott “StarRaptor) Bennet from SNB Brewing brought to an IPA tasting. The beer really stood out with a huge hop aroma, dank oily piney hops similar to Pliney, but Socal. I found out they have a pub with really great pub food as far as yelpers were concerned. Not knowing what to expect, we hit it up. Google Maps points you to a place called Alpine Inn which is wrong. Keep going down the main drag another half mile and you can’t miss the rustic carved wooden sign. If Google maps doesn’t know where you are, you are truly off the beaten path in the beer world!
The pub is about the same size as a typical 7-11. It has a ten person bar, four booths, a side bar looking out the window, and 4 four person tables. We walked in and sat at the only available table 2pm on a Sunday. We ordered up some flights and wings. Not knowing what their beers names were I asked our waiter what some of them were. Two of their beers, “Willy” and “Nelson” brews aren’t related to the singer, unfortunately. I’m sure they get that a lot.
While there I banged out almost their entire beer menu. My wife (lets call her “the HopHater”) enjoyed their Mandarin Nectar, and I started off with “Hoppy Birthday”; a big Pale Ale that is two hop cones shy of an IPA. Sister in law had a “Nelson”, being her wife’s maiden name. Nelson is a big smooth Rye IPA with huge hops and the rye makes for an incredibly smooth beer. Drinking these beers I’m picturing brew master Pat McIlhenney shoveling piles of hops into the kettles like a firebox crew in a steam locomotive.
I ordered up a tasting flight. They give you a slip to fill out and they serve it in a numbered muffin tin in order of how you wrote it on the slip. I love having tasters served all at the same time to really get down to business with comparing. I had Duet, Pure Hoppyness, Willy Vanilly and Cap’n Stout. Duet is a 50/50 mix of my two favorite hops – Amarillo and Simcoe. Willy Vanilly is their Wheat beer with huge Vanilla notes. The HopHater really enjoyed it. The Stout was pretty dry ala Irish Stout.
The Pub has no take away beers. The brewery and pub are in the same strip mall, but not connected. They have their own hours. If the brewery is closed you have to go down the street to a liquor store to buy their brews which was the case for us. At the local liquor store I was able to grab their Red Ale which wasn’t tapped at the pub. The Red, like the Stout was done in Irish Tradition. Its aromas and flavors brought me back to my trip a year ago to Ireland; drinking copious amounts of Smithwick’s and Murphy’s Irish Red…so good!
The Food was BBQ style pub grub served fresh with huge spicy and sweet flavors. I loved the menu says to tell the server if you don’t like spicy food. We grabbed some smoked wings with dry rub to start then settled into some serious grilled cheese, black-n-tan onion rings, buffalo chicken sandwich with jalapeno jack cheese and their green beans…yes, their green beans were diabolical. There wasn’t a speck of food left when we ordered another round. They didn’t have dessert which is fine by me; more room for beer!
The only negative was one of the servers was a little testy (or is it “teste”?) and didn’t want to explain the beers. I asked a couple times for a flight sheet, refills, and had to go to the bar to ask the other server. He asked us how long we were going to stay as there was a wait outside. When your bill is over a hundred bucks, one shouldn’t feel rushed. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was having a shitty day which is fine. It didn’t rub off on me! Craft beer waiters shouldn’t have attitudes like 1990 Tower Records employees. The other server on tap was awesome and joked with us. I dug his “Holiday Inn Cambodia” shirt he actually got in Vietnam at a Holiday Inn.
Sure this isn’t a place in Orange County, but it is reachable by a daytrip. There’s many quality options for great craft beer in San Diego, but consider going a bit off the path to Alpine Beer Co!