Nov. 4 2013 05:19 PM

An epic tale of epicness

Acoustic Ales plays "Taps."
Photo by Ian Cheesman

By the time you read this, I may be dead. Or wishing I was, courtesy of a massive hangover. Either way, it's good reading.

Waking on the Friday morning that kicks off San Diego Beer Week is like standing in the shadow of Goliath. I am faced with a behemoth that, as a professional beer journalist, I'm expected to conquer. In lieu of a sling, I am armed only with a notepad, the camera on my phone and a liver quaking like a Chihuahua during a cold snap. I'm not liking my odds.

My first stop is Karl Strauss to enjoy a Brewmaster's Brunch, combining my loves of haute breakfast cuisine and socially acceptable imbibing before noon. As I cross the threshold, my wife gently reminds me, "Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint."

At least I think that's what she said. I was already bounding over to the "Hefimosa" station (a refreshing combination of Karl Strauss Windansea Wheat and OJ), and didn't really hear her.

The brunch is less a meal and more a series of revelations. I learn that a slightly sour and tart, aged Mouette à Trois is curiously adept at pairing with smoked salmon. A pillowy chocolate beignet further reveals that dessert could well be the most important part of breakfast, next to beer, of course. Most importantly, I learn that Karl Strauss frowns upon attempts to suckle its Hefimosa dispenser.

Given the broad expanse of time between the conclusion of brunch and that evening's San Diego Brewers Guild Fest, I decide to drink some beer before I drink some beer. The Green Line trolley makes Acoustic Ales the perfect option for this. I'm not exactly sure where the tasting room is in relation to the trolley stop, so I put my ear to the ground and orient myself toward the nearest source of Van Halen playing on overhead speakers. I honestly wish I could track more things this way.

Acoustic Ales greets me with a casked Wet Hop Citra XPA and the aroma of fried chicken in waffle tacos (courtesy of Friday food vendor Buffalo Souldiers). The combination makes for an unusual potpourri, but it's an undeniably welcoming one. I shift my remaining sober faculties to the task of calculating what "samples per hour" rate will be needed to complete a circuit of the taps and still make a timely, if stumbling, arrival to the Port Pavilion on the Broadway Pier for the brewfest.

One more quick trolley hop (and one retrospectively unwise stroll across the tracks) later, I arrive at the Brewers Guild Fest. Judging by the volume of bourbon-tinged offerings, I'm beginning to think that the guild must dispense barrels to members in return for paying guild dues in a timely fashion. Not that I'm complaining. The only thing better than a bourbon barrel full of beer is one that's full of bourbon.

Two hours later (somewhere between the Peppermint Milk Stout by Culture Brewing Company and Port's Barrel-Aged Night Rider), I realize I am delirious with equal parts bliss and fatigue. The time has come to admit defeat.

Beer Week, you've won this round, but I'll be back. Hopefully.

Write to and, or follow @iancheesman on Twitter or read his blog,


See all events on Monday, Dec 5