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Beer is on 30th Street, Where the Bus Takes You

Geoff Young, January 21, 2014 -   

According to the Brookings Institution, San Diego's public transportation system ranks 25th out of 100 U.S. metropolitan areas. The study emphasizes work commutes but is silent on the more important matter of getting to 30th Street, home to three of America's 100 best beer bars of 2014.

Fortunately, you and I know better.

For $5, a day pass will take you anywhere by bus or trolley. You'll need to make an initial $2 investment for a Compass Card that can then be reloaded at any time for $5, which is cheaper than a pint of the delicious brews you'll soon be enjoying.

My wife and I approached from Mission Valley, catching the Green Line trolley from the park and ride on Friars Road to Fashion Valley, then taking the number 6 from there to our destination. We left around 10:30 on a Saturday morning and were mostly alone on the bus before arriving a half hour later.

The number 6 literally takes you to the door of several tasting rooms and brewpubs. We arranged our trip based on when places opened, starting with brunch at Ritual Tavern, then a pint at Toronado, tasters at Belching Beaver, and a pint at Tiger!Tiger!

Ritual Tavern

After hopping off the bus at 30th and Polk, we crossed over to the east side of 30th to Ritual Tavern, which was just opening. The tap list here is small but varied. My wife had Bayreuther Bierbrauerei Aktien Landbier Fränkisch Dunkel. I enjoyed a personal favorite, New English Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout, which uses beans from an excellent local roaster.

We sat in a dog-friendly beer garden out back that is an actual garden containing basil and other edible greenery used in their dishes. The scallop and squash appetizer was good, but the pulled pork Eggs Benedict stole the show: tender and juicy pork, perfectly poached eggs, light and creamy Hollandaise.

Pardon me, I'm having a moment.

Ritual uses local organic produce and seafood, so it isn't super cheap. There are fast-food joints in the area if you just want something to help absorb the beer, but if you're looking to satisfy your taste buds (they even make their own hot sauces) and don't mind dropping $20 a person for an entree, beer, tax, and tip, this is the place to be.

Toronado

A football field and a half to the south, on the other side of 30th is Toronado, which boasts more than 40 taps. Our first encounter with one of Draft Magazine's top 100 has the local stuff you'd expect, plus many beers that I'd never seen in San Diego.

My wife had Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Quad with Plums, which tasted like a port wine. I had Alpine Beer Company Elsie, a milk stout that probably would have impressed me more had I not just finished a pint of Zumbar.

It was a little before noon when we arrived, and there were plenty of spots at the bar. We chatted with our amiable bartender about local brews, bonding over memories (or lack thereof) of being wrecked by Lost Abbey Older Viscosity. The place had a hipster feel, minus everything you hate about hipsters.

Belching Beaver

A couple blocks to the north, and back on the east side of 30th, is Belching Beaver. This is a tap room for a brewery located in Vista, north of San Diego. They serve only their own beers and no food, although you are welcome to bring your own. There's even a burger joint next door.

We ordered a flight of six four-ounce tasters: Me So Honey, a sessionable Hefeweizen; Gingercorn, a spicy Bière de Garde; Citra Session IPA (only 4.6% ABV); P-Nut Butter Stout, the reason for our visit; Beaver Milk Stout on nitro; and Tommy Callahan ESB on nitro.

The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. The room is small and clean, not too loud–at least not early on a Saturday. And you can't go wrong with the stouts.

Tiger!Tiger!

Walk north one block, turn right on El Cajon Blvd., and there's Tiger!Tiger! This made Draft Magazine's 2013 list as well as 2014's.

My wife had a pear cider (what?!), while I opted for a Craftsman Brewing Company Poppyfields English Pale Ale. Acknowledging that my palate may have been shot by this point, it tasted like a giant loaf of bread. I like bread, so that's a good thing.

We also enjoyed a plate of French fries accompanied by a bowl of curry for dipping. Between the food, drink, and service, this place was quite satisfactory. However, further investigation with a clearer head is needed.

* * *

By this time it was 3 p.m., so we walked to the northwest corner of 30th and El Cajon to catch our bus. Had we wished to continue, we could have taken the number 2 south along 30th to Hamilton's Tavern, another top 100 beer bar. Or we could have walked 20 minutes to Blind Lady Ale House, yet another.

You can guess what I'll be doing in the future. Because research is important.

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