This year I decided to try to do something a little different; I am going to attempt to visit as many Great American Beer Festival (GABF) gold medal winners as possible in the area. In the event that I end up at a gastropub, I will attempt to purchase a gold medal winner. Should be easy, right?
Because I am somewhat limited by the hours in a day, I will be forced to limit my radius to about 60 miles. Most of the eligible breweries are inland of me, and it was close to 90 at home so I did not want to venture inland and opted for heading to Pizza Port in San Clemente, CA since it is a beach community. Pizza Port is a chain of pizza places that also brew beer. Unlike some chains, each location has their own head brewer and they are given leeway on at least some of the beers they brew. If you glance at the list of GABF winners you will notice that Pizza Port San Clemente, Solano Beach and Carlsbad have all been winners. I have never been to Pizza Port and I don’t recall ever trying anything from any of their locations prior to today; however, I have heard lots of praise about them so I was looking forward to the experience.My hopes of a cool ride by the beach turned into a blast furnace ride with temperatures close to 100. Even in San Clemente it was 90 a couple blocks from the beach. I was really looking forward to the beers.
When we arrived, my girlfriend went up to the counter to order food. We got some “beer buddies” and a small pizza. While the attitude of the employees in that portion of the brewpub was helpful and upbeat, neither of us was particularly enthusiastic about the food. The beer buddies would have been better if there was some kind of garlic dipping sauce, but it wasn’t offered and I was there for the beer anyway.
I went over to the brewery portion and could not help but notice the sign that seemed to hint that if you did not know what you wanted, to step aside and let someone else order. That attitude seemed to be held by the beertender that did not seem to be into craft beer; he was there because it was a job. I told him, “Happy American Craft Beer Week.” His response was something along the lines of, “oh, is that happening now?”
I explained that it was, and that I was seeking gold medal winning beer and Pizza Port had won a few. He agreed that they had. I asked if they served flights. He said they did flights of four, so I asked for four gold medal winners. He told me there were only two available; so I asked for those and any other award winners they had. He then directed me to a very busy board and told me the award winners had emblems by their names. It took me a few minutes to figure out where the emblems were. Eventually I figured out what the third beer was and since I was not going to wait for any assistance from him, I just picked a fourth beer to complete the flight. My flight consisted of their Lightweight Lager (it was), Nerf Herder (San Diego World Beer Cup Bronze Winner), “Pseudo” IPA (2010 GABF Gold Winner) and Pier Rat Porter (San Diego World Beer Cup Gold Winner). The beers were okay, the experience was lacking.
On the way home I figured that we could stop by Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach as they are gold medal winners and always have a great selection of beers available. To my dismay, they are not open on Mondays; luckily, Congregation Ale House, Long Beach is right next door. While they do not brew beer, they do have a very nice selection of beers on tap. I opted to go for a Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Wookey Jack (2102 GABF Gold Winner). Firestone makes a good product, so I was happy. The beer drinking ended at home with a Black Sand Imperial IPA from Strand Brewing Company in Torrance. All my photos from day one of the 8th Annual American Craft Beer Week can be found on GotBaddog.com.