Sippin’ In San Diego: North Park Finale

Known to many as a prominent craft beer city, San Diego, California, has been atop my list of places to visit since I got into craft beer in 2006. After surviving the pandemic, and the lack of travel for beer opportunities over the last year, I am happy to finally immerse myself in the craft beer culture of this amazing city. I will be exploring San Diego for two weeks. By the time my trip concludes I want to understand why so many cherish this place. I want to discover how a city can support an embarrassment of brewery riches when many contend that craft beer is reaching a “saturation point.” Lastly, I want to recapture the invigoration and soul-satisfying serenity that traveling for beer has brought me over the years.

As my time in North Park has flown by, I have fallen in love with this wonderful neighborhood and its treasures. In parts 1, 2, and 3, I explore and learn about the vibe and culture of this amazing San Diego neighborhood. I meet wonderfully welcoming people, drink fantastic craft beer, and partake in the diverse and exquisite San Diego cuisine. However, like all amazing things, it is time to move on from my lovely Airbnb.

Home Brewing Co.

In Minnesota, our liquor laws are more archaic than the rampant passive aggressiveness that has been around since the first Norwegians and Swedes settled in our Land of 10,000 Lakes. So, you can imagine my surprise when I heard that there is a homebrew supply stores that has their own beer on tap. Located just a hop, skip, and a jump from Belching Beacher’s North Park tasting room, on El Cajon Blvd, Home Brewing Co. is a wonderful place to buy supplies to brew your own, or taste some awesome styles that you probably won’t see on every brewery’s beer list.

Almost every place I visit, a bartender, taproom manager, and local has nothing but good things to say about Home Brewing Co.. So, I stop up there to see what all the buzz is about. Unfortunately, I am not paying attention to the time, and I realize, only after I get my flight, that they close soon. This means that I will not be able to be as leisurely as I usually am when savoring a flight of beers.

I take a seat and snap some pictures. I notice a woman who is sipping on a beer herself at the next table and say hello. She is quite friendly and waiting for Jason, the bartender to finish up with his shift to they can go and grab some dinner. Her name is Stephanie and she lives in Los Angeles, but is originally from New York. She has long curly hair and kind eyes.

The flight I order has a little bit of everything. Something light, something hoppy, something dark, and something British. Jason mentions to me that if there is any malt that I want to taste, I just need to let him know. He says they encourage patrons to taste ingredients to really familiarize their palates with when ingredients are in the beer. Having limited homebrew shop experience, I find Home Brewing Co. to be such a wonderful place.

My Beer Flight At Home Brewing Co.

My beer flight consists of four beers: Saison Has No Name, 9th Inning Rally West Coast IPA, English Mild, and an Irish Dry Stout. What I will say is that each one is deftly brewed to style. The Saison had a wonderful note of black pepper, yet, was still bright and effervescent. The 9th Inning Rally West Coast IPA had piney and resiny goodness with a fruity cantaloupe note in the aroma. The English Mild is a beer after my own heart at 3.5% ABV. Complete with Grape Nuts cereal malt aroma and toasted bread malt flavor, this beer is divine. The Irish Dry Stout is a smooth and velvety sip that has a nice coffee aroma and roasted malt bitterness.

If I lived in San Diego, I would frequent this place. Home Brewing Co. is trying to expand their beer lines to offer more things. I think that their variety is already solid, but more choices will only enhance the customer experience. It is rare when a brewery lives up to the hype of so many locals imploring me to go there. However, I can wholeheartedly say that Home Brewing Co. is a definite must if you are in San Diego.

Eppig Brewing

I don’t know if I purposely saved the best for last, but maybe the San Diego craft beer gods wanted it to be this way. The final brewery visit of my time in North Park is to Eppig Brewing’s pop-up tasting room. Like Home Brewing Co., Eppig is among the most-suggested breweries that I kept hearing about from people. They have several locations, their biggest being in Vista, CA, but I visit the North Park location since it is close.

If you are going to hit up the Eppig Brewing pop-up tasting room, be advised that it closes early and isn’t open every day. That is part of the reason why it wound up getting pushed back until later in the week for me. However, I can happily say that it was well worth the wait. Eppig Brewing has a plethora of sweaters, I mean, classic styles of beer on tap. Once I figured out their hours, I wound up visiting them twice.

When You Don’t Chase Trends, You Can Still Thrive in Craft Beer

Eppig Brewing is a place to go for well-made beer styles that lean more toward the classic European styles. It is a spacious and open space that used to be a restaurant. They have so many wonderful options for seating, but I go right for the bar. Be advised, their bar stools are a test in balance and gravitational awareness. I am not sure if they were designed by a ninja, but I almost wound up on the floor when I first tried to sit down.

The bartender laughed and said, “That stool design wasn’t my idea.” I finally found my equilibrium and settled in to my spot. The tap list feels like a reward for waiting so long to get here. Lots of wonderful beer styles that I am almost giddy to see up on the board. With so many choices, I feel like this might be a multiple flight situation. Luckily, the knowledgeable and friendly bartender named Sabrina is patient and has finally stopped mocking me for nearly falling off the barstool when I first walked in.

Best Flights of the Beercation

So, with my fervent lust for all beers crispy, I start off with the German-Style Pilsner, Special Lager (Japanese Dry Lager), Vienna Lager, and Schwarzbier. The minute the order left my mouth, somewhere, some random person drinking a beer slushy spontaneously combusted. It is impossible for me to really rank a favorite because they are all wonderful. The Pilsner and Special Lager are both delightfully crisp. The Vienna Lager has the tell-tale toasted bread notes from the malt that make this style a favorite of mine. The Schwarzbier brings my favorite dark-roasted malt elements to the party: tobacco, coffee, dark chocolate, and a hint of smoke.

Eppig’s Helpful Staff Makes For A Great Experience

As I bask in the blissful simplicity of understated liquid perfection, I marvel bemoan the fact that more breweries don’t offer the breadth of styles that Eppig Brewing does. I realize that breweries have to brew what sells, but there is a reason Eppig has multiple locations in a crowded craft beer city like San Diego. In addition to great beers on tap, the Eppig Brewing staff are comprised of wonderfully chatty and helpful humans. Sabrina has been checking on me frequently. She also is generous with her recommendations for once I rent a car and venture out of the North Park area of San Diego.

As I am writing down more places to go, I also order up a second flight of classics. The second Eppig Brewing flight consists of a Kölsch, Altbier, Dunkel, and a Baltic Porter. Yes, you read that right, they have a Baltic Porter on tap!!! Of course, there is not letup in quality or stylistic integrity with these four beers. The Kölsch is crisp with a little drop of honey in the flavor. The Altbier has bread crust notes from the malt with a nice dry finish. The Dunkel has nice caramel notes to it. The Baltic Porter is quite the treat thanks to the notes of molasses, black licorice, and dark chocolate.

As the time moves on, so must I. I thoroughly enjoy my time at Eppig Brewing. I do wind up making it back here later in my stay, and I indulge in several full pours of their lagers. Eppig Brewing is a must-visit if you are in San Diego. Even if you aren’t a classic style zealot like myself, there is something to be said for beers that drink flawlessly that you can see through.

An Airbnb Night To Remember. . .

If you read my first North Park article, you know that I lucked out, big-time, with my Airbnb for my first week in San Diego. Knowing nothing about the marvelous food, drink, and walkability wiles of North Park, I struck Airbnb gold with my first week. Now, It is time to move on, and I am cautiously optimistic about my second week’s stay. However, I soon come to find out that I should have booked my North Park Airbnb for two weeks.

For some idiotic reason, when planning my trip, I felt the need to book a different Airbnb for my second week in a different location from North Park. I know, I must have had the vapors. The place had a pool and an eclectic look that seemed cool to me at the time. However, I quickly discover that it is not only far from everything, but more of a hostel for travelers who come and go.

Is Restless Bed Syndrome A Thing?

I realize that my disappointment from the experience is entirely a first-world problem. However, I also think that Airbnb needs a much stricter regulation of what does and does not pass for a bed. As someone who has for years enjoyed non-complex carbs, my huskiness does not necessarily jive with a metal bed frame that is rickety at-best. I am not a religious person, but I found myself praying to the lords of gravity and structural integrity every time I sat down, rolled over, or farted, that the metal frame would not collapse.

I also have never been one to believe in ghosts, but my limited grasp of physics left me wondering if the room where I laid my head might be haunted. Inexplicably, and at random times, the bed would slide at least 3 inches towards the windows of my room. I would slide the bed over six to 12 inches to try to compensate for this paranormal bed luge. Yet, like clockwork, just when I thought I was anchored to the floor, the bed frame would randomly decide to try to make a fun for it. A greater power gifted me with a sense of humor and a lot of empathy, and for that, I am grateful. Of course, to balance out those positives, I am also gifted with a hypersensitivity to small annoyances. Exhibit A-the sliding bed. Once I noticed it, I became obsessed and irrationally angry about this minor inconvenience. If it were just that one thing, I think everything would have been fine. However, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Don’t Drink Beer That Isn’t Yours!

When one stays in an Airbnb, it is important to read the rules of the house. This particular stay was the 23rd Airbnb stay of my traveling career, and I have never once had someone drink beers I put in the fridge without asking. Why is this a big deal, you ask? Well, I usually bring local MN beers along with me on a trip to give to friends I meet along the way. The house rules of this particular Airbnb specifically state to be respectful of shared spaces-bathroom, kitchen, and patio-because there can be multiple people staying here at once.

So, when I put several crowlers and cans of sacred MN craft beer into the refrigerator, the thought of someone consuming them without asking semed as unlikely as a sudden torrential rain followed by humidity in this perfect San Diego weather forecast. Yet, when I go to grab a beer that I was gifted from Travis at Belching Beaver to enjoy in the pool, I realize that it, along with two other 16 ounce cans I brought from Minnesota are gone. If the haunted/restless bed syndrome situation put me at a 7, this offense of Airbnb thievery puts me firmly at an 11 on a 10-point scale.

Karen Let the Cats Out

But wait, there is more. The Airbnb mentions that there is a possibility that I might be sharing the space with other travelers. This is fine, I am a great sharer. I understand that with Airbnb, the trade-off for saving money is sometimes that you have to share spaces. However, my commune-mindset goes out the window when another guest lets one of the identical black cats out and attempts to recruit me to the rescue team. Not letting the cats out is literally the only hard and fast rule here.

If Karen Comes A-Knocking, Pretend You Aren’t There!

A little context for this one. I arrive back at the Airbnb after dark. There are no lights on in the house-not exactly a hallmark of hospitality if you ask me. Tom Bodett would flip a cork if he knew this type of thing was happening in hospitality. Anyhow, there I am, fumbling with the flashlight app on my cellphone to key into the house. As I am doing this, my mind starts to explore the morbid ideas that one’s mind explores when they are in the dark in an unfamiliar place. For some god-forsaken reason, I start thinking about every television show I have ever seen about serial killers in California. I know that they prey on unsuspecting folks who are not paying attention to their surroundings. Suddenly, every noise is a red flag to me and I am certain that the reason for the complete darkness in the house is that everyone else has been murdered. I attempt to assuage myself and pretend that these thoughts are ridiculous.

I make my way to my chamber of the sliding bed and shut and lock the door. As I am getting settled in for the night, I start to think about taking a shower when I hear something in the hallway. Surely, this is probably just another one of the 1 to 4 guests who may or may not have drank my sacred beers earlier going to the bathroom. Well, I get a Netflix show going on my laptop and just try to relax and calm down. I am no more than three minutes into an episode of The Taco Chronicles when there is an abrupt and urgent knock at my bedroom door. I freeze. Who the hell is knocking at my bedroom door? Maybe someone has a guilty conscience about the beer and wants to confess? No, that would be too good to be true. I don’t say anything and continue watching my show. I figure, if I am going to ripped to shreds by a serial killer, I might as well go thinking about tacos.

Meet Karen and Chad

Well, time passes. I see the patio lights turn on and I hear conversation. As I listen intently, I don’t hear any buzzwords that would indicate attempted murder or disposal of a body. Yet, the voices are unfamiliar. Then, I see a blond woman walk by the window, and it dawns on me that they must be the new guests at the “Revolving Door Inn”. My heart rate gets back to under 100 beats per minute, and I feel like I can safely go to the bathroom now. I open the door and a woman is literally standing six inches from my doorway.

“Hi, I’m Karen and this is Chad.”

The names have been changed to protect the identities of the guests. Karen is quite distraught and apologizes for knocking on my door earlier. “I’m sorry to bother you, but we let one of the cats out when we arrived and we can’t seem to get her back inside. Would you mind helping us find her?” It takes every ounce of strength not to burst out laughing. The absurdity of all of the eclectic quirks and disappointments of my lodging hit me at once.

I don’t want to help this lady find a fucking cat. Really, I just want to go back to my other Airbnb where there were lights on at night, breakfast was served in the morning, and at no time during the day did I have to worry about whether or not someone was going to drink my beer in the fridge.

I curtly respond, “No, I’m good.” and proceed to walk by Karen, her face festooned with crestfallen disappointment and into the bathroom.

Well, to say that the aftermath of my refusal to join the feline search party is delightful is a colossal understatement. Thanks to an acute sense of hearing and the open window, I have a front-row seat to the moment when Karen and Chad have to tell the host about the missing cat. I stop counting at the 37th “We are so sorry.” and the host seemed flabbergasted and perturbed at their inability to follow the rules. In fact, they even say, “I mean, that is literally the only rule that I have.” I almost stick my head out to see if they want to get something down in writing about not drinking beer that isn’t yours, but I think better of it.

The Prodigal Cat Returns No Thanks To You, Karen!

Readers, you will be happy to know that the cat eventually does find its way back. Also, the passive aggressive vibe kicks up to 11 when I find a newly-placed dry erase board on the couch in the living room stating in a bold, “I can’t believe Karen and Chad are so useless”-font, PLEASE DO NOT LET THE CATS OUT!!

For a second, I think about adding on something about leaving the beer from Minnesota in the fridge alone, but the house has already been through a lot in the last 12 hours.

It turns out that Karen and Chad are venturing up to Bakersfield in the morning for a family reunion. They were driving all day today and are really excited about the pool. A little noteworthy fact that I need to add here, I did not talk to them directly to glean all this information. However, they apparently left their inside voices at their previous destination. I don’t know if they just rarely get the chance to interact with others in a conversational setting or simply spent way too much time in the car, but they are talking up a storm. I think that even the moon wants them to go to bed. As a result of this, it isn’t until 3:30 am when my body finally falls asleep due to asshat overload. In the span of the sleepless hours until my body finally began to doze, I learn all about their travels, their love of wellness podcasts, and their inexplicable need to laugh at everything.

I Guess I Can Sleep When I’m Dead

I am awakened the next morning not by my Fitbit alarm, but rather a tension-filled and trite discussion across the hall. Karen and Chad are not on the same page regarding the estimated time of departure. Checkout time at Casa De Crazy is 10 am, by the way. Chad decides to lallygag, and is just now (9:47am) getting into the shower. Karen is in rare form. The “I Need” statements are firing as if being shot out of a gatling gun. Chad is clearly on a different wavelength. “It’ll be fine.”, “Relax”, and “Where is my sculpting pomade?” are how he is verbalizing his perspective on things. Now, I am no relationship expert, but I can tell you that locating one’s sculpting pomade is not a chore to leave until 13 minutes before you are supposed to be checking out of an Airbnb. This battle verbal sparring goes on for another good 10 minutes through the bathroom door as Chad showers and Karen reluctantly and dramatically schlepps the multitude of suitcases and bags out to their car.

A San Diego Goodbye

Miraculously, Karen and Chad find their way out the door by 10:03. By 10:05, the host is stripping the bed and probably mentally lighting sage to rid the home of the tension left behind by this unique couple. I figure that I am up and need coffee, so I shower and get ready to head out. As I am leaving the house, I notice a AAA tow truck parked next to a white Mercedes SUV. The hood is popped up and I see a blond woman arguing with a gentleman whose hair looks like it could withstand gale-force winds. It looks like Chad did locate his sculpting pomade, after all.

As I am walking to my car, which is parked in front of theirs, I hear the tell-tale and familiar sounds of another spirited discussion as Karen frantically wipes sweat off her brow while Chad stands in the drivers-side door trying to comfort his delicate flower as she melts in the heat of an early San Diego morn. As I walk by, I wave with a bigger smile on my face than probably is necessary. I drive away and get my day started. Suddenly, I am not as sleepy or annoyed as I was even five minutes before. I guess maybe karma is a thing. Prost!

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .