There are roughly 150 breweries in San Diego County, according to the San Diego Tourism Authority (click here for the list), making it one of the hoppingest beer meccas in America. I have not visited them all … yet.
The most famous of these is almost certainly Ballast Point, founded by former UCLA student Jack White in the back of a San Diego homebrew supply store in 1992. Now with multiple tasting rooms in San Diego County, Ballast Point – whose best-known beer is the Sculpin IPA – was sold to Constellation Brands for $1 billion in 2015 and now has national distribution.
Not every microbrewer dreams of striking it rich by starting a business and then selling it to a liquor conglomerate. Some, like Charles Koll and Moe Katomski, the respective owner and head brewer of Viewpoint Brewing Company in Del Mar, are content to create unique beers and serve it with outstanding comfort food in a friendly, open-air environment.
Located on the banks of the San Dieguito River a furlong south of the Del Mar racetrack just off Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Viewpoint opened in 2017 in a former warehouse where local resident John Laver's Eucalyptus Stoneware operated for 40 years, making bread-baskets for Williams-Sonoma and other major retailers. (Note: the parking lot is quite small, though valet is usually available.) Viewpoint was and is Del Mar's only brewery.
Like many microbreweries, Viewpoint has an industrial look to it – at least at its largely unmarked front entrance. Once inside, however, there are inviting views of the racetrack's grandstand and fairgrounds, the San Dieguito River and the walking trails to the north and east.
Viewpoint offers 20 taps of its own beer and usually has a few guest beers from small regional breweries. Two of its current best sellers are the Moe-Saic Pale Ale (named for brewer Moe Tatomski) and the Köll-ish Kölsch (named for owner Charles Koll). There is also an ode to Del Mar racetrack and longtime race caller Trevor Denman (And Away They Go, a West Coast inspired session IPA with a blend of hops), along with a couple of seasonal beers (Chino Farms Strawberry Belgian Blonde, made with fresh strawberries; and Dole-icious Pineapple Kölsch).
Other staples on the Viewpoint beverage menu are the Penitent Man IPA (my personal favorite), Big Hat Blonde Ale (a very drinkable light summertime beer) and the Delmartian Amber.
The food menu favorites include starters Truffle Fries, Pork Belly Bites, French Onion Bone Marrow Bites and Crispy Spanish Octopus. The Watermelon & Feta Salad is a summertime favorite and the creative sandwiches and entrees range from traditional servings like a Backyard Burger and Smoked Brisket Sandwich (cooked over 12 hours) to more unusual dishes like the Naan Mi Sandwich (with curry fried chicken or cauliflower), Smoked Gouda Macaroni and vegan Kohlrabi Noodles.
Viewpoint sprawls over 7,000 square feet and includes an outdoor games area that is popular with kids.
If you can't find a beer to your liking at Viewpoint, head over to Bottlecraft Beer Shop & Tasting Room in Solana Beach (437 S. Highway 101, in the cluster of businesses behind California Pizza Kitchen).
Bottlecraft may not offer the views and ambiance of Viewpoint (it looks out onto a parking lot), but it makes up for that in its voluminous selection of beer.
The dog-but-not-kid-friendly tasting room has 20 rotating taps (and many of their most popular draws are gone in a matter of days) and a huge selection of cans and bottles that can be purchased to take home or consumed on the premises (for a small fee). Bottlecraft, which does not produce its own beer, has five locations in San Diego County, including its original location in Little Italy near the San Diego Airport (plus one location in Long Beach and another in Virginia Beach, Va.). It's been named “best bottleshop” in San Diego in the West Coaster's Readers' Poll and gets two thumbs up from the Paulick Report.
The rotating taps mostly support California craft brewers, the current menu having offerings from as far away as Monterey. It also imports popular out-of-state kegs from brewers like Boulevard in Kansas City, Mo., and Bell's from Comstock, Mich.
Its food menu is not as extensive as Viewpoint, but I heartily recommend the Cheese Board as the perfect side for a beer. Among sandwiches offered, go with the Cali Cubano, Smokey the Meatloaf or B3 (blackened chicken, brie, brussel sprouts, aioli, et al).
There are too many breweries and craft beer bars to mention throughout San Diego County, but for those who do not want to stray far from the racetrack, I heartily recommend either Viewpoint or Bottlecraft.
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