No bacon this morning. Something that looks like gammon. Alexei and I quietly sob. There are at least breakfast potatoes again. To soak up our tears.
While Alexei and I tuck into our pork and spuds, Andrew glumly stirs his black coffee.
“You’re a bit of a Mr. Grumpytrousers this morning, Andrew.”
“Shut up, dad.”
“You’ve just proved my point.”
We stare out over the bay as we eat (or don’t, in Andrew’s case). It’s a lovely view of the bay and its warships.
A Chinese family shares the lift back to our room. Their four-year old child stares up in awe at the lads. They must look like giants if you’re just a metre tall.
Sheldon Kaplan, a fellow beer writer who lives in San Diego, has agreed to show us around. We’ve arranged to meet him at 11:00. He arrives just as we step outside. “That was good timing.” I say.
His car isn’t huge and it’s a bit cramped in the back for the kids. I’m sitting in the front so there’s plenty of space for me. Look, I’m old and creaky. I deserve a little comfort.
Our first stop is Cabrillo National Monument, a park inside a military area.
“It’s a good place to get an idea of the geography of the city.” Sheldon tells us.
On a peninsular sticking out past Coronado Island it does, indeed, have a wonderful view of the city and the bay. Plus all the warships flitting about, as well as those parked up in the port.
The Cabrillo Monument commemorates the first Europeans to arrive at what is now San Diego, three ships commanded by Joao-Rodrigues Cabrillo, a Portuguese captain working for the Spanish. That was all the way back in 1542. Though, obviously, native peoples lived here for centuries before that.
“Have you heard of Pizza Port? We could go there. The one in OB – Ocean Beach”
“Yes, I’ve heard of them. Never visited, though.”
As we pile into the car, Sheldon tells us the story of Pizza Port. How the founders added a brewery to a pizza place, creating an unusually successful symbiosis. And one of the early motors of the San Diego beer scene.
It’s very informal, with beer garden style long tables and benches. And pizza, obviously. I get a Summer Pale Ale, which is beautiful sparkling gold. Andrew plumps for an IPA. He seems to be getting a taste for IPA. Despite what he’s said in the past about grapefruit beer. “I like my beer to taste like beer, dad” Though he is still mostly drinking Lager. Alexei is on cola.
As Sheldon wants to drink, we head to his place to drop off his car. “I live in PB – Pacific Beach.”
“Do you abbreviate all place names to two letters?” Andrew asks.
We have a quick beer after parking Sheldon’s car. Some canned IPA-type things.
“What would you like to eat?” Sheldon asks, as we sip. (Or chug, in Andrew’s case. He seems to be treating beer drinking as a competition. One he’s easily won, so far. I literally don’t have the stomach for speed drinking anymore. It’s a young man’s game.)
“Something American.” Andrew replies.
“What about southern fried chicken?”
Fried chicken it is, then.
“They have cans of craft beer in cans, too.”
It’s weird how canned beer has gone from cheapo to acceptable to desirable in the last five years.
StreetCar Merchants, the oddly-named chicken place, occupies a corner of Lincoln Avenue and 30th Street. Quite small, with its big windows wide open on account of the heat. We sit outside.
Me and the kids get a whole spicy chicken. Thankfully, it’s been chopped into bits. It’s served on sliced white bread. “That’s the traditional Southern way.” Sheldon tells us. He’s ordered a collection of sides: coleslaw, collared greens, fried green tomatoes, potato salad and, of course, chips.
I have a Charlie Hustle IPA from Mason Ale Works. Not sure why I’m telling you this. Do you really need to know every beer I drink? I could just as easily say: IPA-ey thing from a can.
The plan is to walk around places around 30th street. Starting at Toronado. I remember now. Before my last visit to San Diego, I put together a couple of maps for areas with lots of breweries and bars. One was for around 30th street. Me being a lazy arse ruled it out eventually.
Toronado is literally around the corner, just a couple of doors away. It’s quite dark inside. We sit on the patio at the back. Alexei is less than enthusiastic about another cola.
“These electric scooter things seem really popular, more than the bikes. Why is that?” I ask Sheldon.
“They’re easier to ride when you’re drunk.”
Fair enough. No wonder I’ve seen clumps of them outside every brewery.
Quite a few home brew shops in the US have added commercial breweries. Our next stop, The Homebrewer, is one of them. While we’re getting stuck into our beers, the owner comes up and starts talking to me. He owns one of my books, evidently. He then starts giving us samples of his beers. I’m never going to turn down beer.
Alexei is getting bored. He’s wary about getting in a taxi on his own, but we manage to persuade him that he won’t be abducted and sold into slavery in Mexico. We plonk him in a taxi and he heads off back to the hotel. With the leftover chicken to eat. Plus the beer to drink he has back in his room.
Another brewery, Pariah, is next. It’s very much of the taproom inside a brewery rather than a brewpub. The kettles are close at hand. We exit via the dock. Bit of a challenge for an old bastard like me. My legs don’t seem to work like they used to. And, no, that’s nothing to do with the beer I’ve drunk.
We walk to Fall River Brewing, which is also on 30th Street. It’s another brewery with taproom place. We’re literally drinking next to the tanks. I have a Green Hat, which is billed as a San Diego-style IPA, whatever that means. Maybe it’s the multiple C hops it contains. Whatever, it’s good value at $7 a US pint.
We get chatting with a fire chief, who has some interesting stories. Andrew seems to be really enjoying himself. I never imagine back in the mid-1980s when I lived in the US that one day I’d be drinking here with my son. Where did those 30 years go?
We finish at Hamilton's Tavern, a beer pub. The tap handles that cover the ceiling are like an inverted bonsai forest. Andrew seems to be enjoying the US bar style atmosphere.
We finish off at 20:30. Don’t want to leave Alexei alone for too long. You never know what he might do.
Me and Andrew get a cab back to our hotel. Andrew sits up front next to the driver. What is that accent? It takes a while for me to tune in on it. Andrew asks where he’s from and he replies “The Islands.” Then I realise he’s actually said “The Highlands”. He’s a Scots Gallic speaker. Which means his accent in English sounds as much Irish as Scottish.
Alexei is asleep in my room when we get back. He doesn’t seem to have gone too mad.
We eat the leftovers and drink some beer. At least the kids do. I go for some alcohol and coke. That’s literally what it says on the bottle. It certainly needs a lot of mixer. What does “no debe beberse” mean?
Sleep stuns me with a sledgehammer.
Cabrillo National Monument
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr,
Tel: +1 619-557-5450
Pizza Port Ocean Beach
1956 Bacon St,
Tel: +1 619-224-4700
4002 30th St,
Tel: +1 619-546-9010
Toronado San Diego
4026 30th St,
Tel: +1 619-282-0456
2911 El Cajon Blvd #2,
Tel: +1 619-450-6165
Pariah Brewing Company
3052 El Cajon Boulevard B,
Tel: +1 619-642-0545
Fall Brewing Company
4542 30th St,
Tel: +1 619-501-0903
1521 30th St,
Tel: +1 619-238-5460
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