The trip to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido, CA was a highlight of the trip for me because Stone was one of my first encounters with craft beer and still one of my favorites. After visiting the tap room beside Petco Park and the smaller brewery at Liberty Station we headed North to visit the main brewery. Yes – this was my first time in San Diego and I wanted to try and see them all.

Our trip started with lunch at the bistro and the food is as good as the beer. We shared small plates of castlevetrano olives soaked in buttermilk tossed in seasoned flour then fried until crispy, natural sausage served with house-made quick kraut, and hop rubbed all-natural baby back ribs with housemade Stone beer glaze. I sampled a few of their experimental/small batch beers in a flight over lunch. My favorite was an interesting brown ale brewed with almond milk and apricots called Four More Hours. It was similar to a milk stout in smoothness but lighter with a slight vanilla/fruit flavor.

After lunch we went on the brewery tour and while significantly larger than the craft breweries we’ve been to around Raleigh and Asheville the general look and feel was the same. The tour includes four beer samples – the White Ghost Berliner Weisse (from Stone Berlin), Arrogant Bastard Ale, Fear.Movie.Lions Double IPA (from Stone Richmond) and Woot Stout. The tour is worth taking even if you are familiar with the brewing process and Stone’s brewing selections just to check it off the list. All of the beers served are available at the bistro if you either don’t have time or really don’t want to hear for the 100th time that beer is made of water, grain, hops and yeast.

Overall I’d say the trip is well worth taking if you are in the San Diego area. The food and beer are outstanding and the brewery itself is a pretty fascinating place. I would definitely get reservations for both the bistro and the tour and know that tour reservations need to be made at least a day in advance. And most importantly don’t forget your lab goat.