Jul 22, 2018

Around San Diego

October, 1999

By Bobby Bush

The town of Coronado is situated on an almost island-like peninsula across San Diego Bay. Just a short ferry or toll bridge ride from downtown San Diego, this land mass hosts an active naval air base, and, since 1996, an active brewpub. Just a block from the ferry landing, Coronado Brewing Company is well equipped to handle the tourist trade. It’s a classy place with outdoor dining and lengthy menu.

But quite obviously, it was beer that brought me here, so I settled in at the stained and highly varnished bar for a sampler tray. Coronado Golden was pils-like, complete with Saaz hops. Silver Strand Steam Ale, unconcerned by the possibility of litigation from a similarly trademarked ale from San Francisco, was a lighter rendition of Anchor Steam. Medium bodied, Red Rock Amber was verily malty with a quick bitter end. The last of the short list, Outlet Stout was well blessed with roasted, caramel and chocolate taste profile. There was little evidence of its 15% oatmeal content and almost no noticeable hops effect. Regular portions are served in cold pint glasses.

Brewer John Atwater’s philosophy is “To provide you with consistently high quality and a wide variety of hand crafted beers.” With only four okay brews on hand, Coronado Brewing needs to work on both aspects of that motto.

My next stop of the evening was north of San Diego off I-15. Like the Stuft Pizza I visited in Del Mar the night before, Dino & Luigi’s Stuft Pizza is part of a franchise pizza parlor organization which gives individual store owners the option to brew. Dino & Luigi took that option in 1995 and had quite a few good brews and some really delicious pizza. A free-standing shopping center locale, the place was big and noisy, the sounds of a local crowd reverberating off soiled carpet and worn tile flooring. As busy as they were, the staff was friendly and accommodating. Though D&L didn’t offer sampler trays, my bartender allowed me tastes of almost everything.

From the light side of brews, California Gold was just that, followed by Blueberry-Raspberry Wheat and German-style Hefeweizen. Black Mountain Pale was a pleasant West Coast pale ale, bold in hop content, while Rancho Red was sweet from imported malted grain. Best of the batch were Dry Stout Far Out Stout and Auld Stewart Scottish Ale. The former was smooth from nitrogen infusion, giving its dark, dark brown body a creamy texture with slightly harsh chocolate taste. And the latter, though thin in mouthfeel, proffered complex maltiness and a thunderous alcohol depth-charge at swallow’s end. Ah, great beer and wonderful pizza. These Stuft Pizza guys are on to something.

I wasted a little time on the north side of San Diego looking for Brewer’s Union, only to decide that the company no longer existed. I found Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant instead. Open since November 1998, this swanky brewpub is part of the West Coast chain that was recently purchased by the Big River group from Chattanooga, TN. Though a local wolf, seated beside me at the elongated bar, advised me that we were patronizing a “meat market,” I, of course, was there only for the beer.

Having visited eight other Gordon Biersch facilities, in places such as Pasadena, Las Vegas and the original Palo Alto brewpub, I was well familiar with their tradition-faithful German beers. On this night, they were out of my favorite Dunkles, so I chose Fest Beer instead, savoring its burnt caramel flavor. Also on tap were Blonde Bock, Marzen and Golden Export. Though I’d never accuse Gordon Biersch of being a particularly creative brewing company, their beers are consistently good and very drinkable. Quality does not come by luck, it takes hard work and dedication. Watch for Gordon Biersch’s imperialistic expansion at

Running short on time, this trip did not allow a stop at San Diego Brewing Company. Located east of Jack Murphy Stadium, home to the Chargers and Padres, this large brewpub is also a tap room, offering a wide variety of micros and imports. Definitely worth a visit.

Hang in San Diego for while at Terrific Pacific,
up next in this cycle.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush


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