San Diego has earned a reputation as one of the country’s top destinations for craft beer, and rightfully so. Whether clinking pints Downtown (see: Little Italy’s lively Ballast Point and Mikeller’s cozy outpost) or joining the crush of revelers in funky North Park, San Diego is saturated with suds. Head north along the coast and you can find craft beer from Del Mar to Encinitas. Venture inland around the military base and bop from Societe Brewing to Saint Archer.
And yet, one of the region’s riches beer destinations might just be tucked away 40-odd miles north of San Diego. Vista, California, a city known for its historic Main Street and impressive public art program, has quietly sprouted a glut of craft breweries and restaurants. These establishments are reinvigorating the area one pint at a time. Which is why now is the perfect time for craft beer fan to carve out a day trip to the area, before word spreads.
Cream ales and charcuterie
On Main Street, limber up at spacious Mother Earth Tap House with a Cali Creamin’ vanilla cream ale, which is also available on Nitro. “Despite the variety here, Cali Creamin’ is still our most popular beer,” says Kamron Khannakhjavani, director of marketing at Mother Earth. It’s one of six year-round beers on draft, accompanied by seasonal and rotating pours that include Hop Diggity Double IPA and Mom’s Guava Squeeze.
Post up beneath the skylight at a long communal high-top table that––depending on your height––might oddly feel too high. Maybe because the chairs are slung too low, one could amusingly lean forward and meet mouth with pint without lifting your glass. Feeling peckish? Recently opened Mother’s Provisions next door serves paninis, greens top with pork belly croutons, and charcuterie. There’s also wines by the glass and, of course, beer from Mother Earth. The Provisions menu is available at the Tap House too.
Cheers, Elon Musk
At Wavelength Brewing’s science-themed tasting room, you can choose from 16 draft beers, from their flagship Redshift Red Ale with Hibiscus notes to White Walker wit and Hop Squanch, a Hazy IPA with a “fantastic bouquet of hops,” according to Wavelength founder Hans Haas. Besides plastering its walls with NASA and Star Wars paraphernalia, Wavelength leans into its enthusiasm for science with free talks every Friday led by astrophysicists, biologists, astronomers, electrical engineers. Past topics included the chemistry of water, dark matter, and black holes. On your way out, tip your hat to a cardboard cutout of SpaceX founder Elon Musk, a permanent fixture at Wavelength these days. “One of our regulars bought the cutout on the internet and brought it in thinking it would be a good addition to our tasting room,” Haas says.
Next, stroll over to Bear Roots Brewing and Home Brew Shop on East Broadway. The wedge of a tasting room may be the smallest on the itinerary, but its wooden-accented interior make it a cozy place to raise a glass. According to General Manager Vince Riedel, regulars enjoy combining Bear Roots’ Bear Heart, a chocolate and peanut butter stout, with Bear Heart Scotch Ale to create a mellow, roasty, malty combination. The tasting room keeps seven flagship and rotating beers on tap, including an American pale ale, a recipe that was tweaked 21 times before it made it to the menu. Even for passers through, it’s the kind of place where staff and locals alike fold you into conversation, as if you’ve been a regular for years.
Backyard beers all year
As the sun sets, bask in the waning warmth at Belching Beaver Tavern & Grill. Commandeer a pod of Adirondacks clustered around a fire in the expansive back patio, where picnic tables and covered bar seating provide ample seating configurations. To drink, head brewer and two-time Alpha King Challenge winner Thomas Peters suggests Hef Off, with its “bready, banana and clove flavors,” for newbies or Business Hippie, a double IPA loaded with pine and citrus, for a heavier pour. Be sure to peep the Liliko’i (passion fruit) crawling up the back fence, which you can taste as part of a specialty cocktail or in a vinaigrette served on the pear salad.
For heartier fare in a farmhouse setting, walk over to Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen. On a beautiful evening, as it probably will be, take advantage of their outdoor patio, complete with mismatched chairs and fire pit. There’s also Dog Haus Biergarten, a Los Angeles-based chain known for its photogenic all-beef hot dogs tucked into King’s Hawaiian sweet roll buns, such as the Sooo Cali dog topped with arugula, and, yes, avocado. An ever-changing assortment of locals beers also graces the menu, because, as Khannakhjavani reminds us, between Vista’s “idyllic weather and a vibrant culture full of other crafts, such as art and food, craft beer fits in perfectly here.”