Hoppy Together: Birdies and Brews in Escondido
A visit to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido is always a treat, whether for lunch or dinner, an after-work pint or for a tour of the brewery. But it’s a proven fact (at least by this writer) that after 18 holes at nearby Twin Oaks GC (6.0 miles) or The Vineyard at Escondido GC (8.3 miles), a Stone cold IPA tastes just that much better.
Founded in 1996 by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner — both of whom are still actively involved in every aspect of the operation — Stone Brewing has grown from producing 400 barrels in its first year to more than 388,000 in 2017.
The company both sparked and then benefited from the soaring popularity of Southern California style brews — including hop-heavy IPAs — that has seen San Diego be favorably compared to craft brew-proud cities such as Portland, Oregon. And while some other local breweries have been acquired by large companies such as Anheuser-Busch, Stone Brewing remains steadfast in its independence, dedication to traditional processes and use of high-quality ingredients.
The company moved into its current headquarters facility in 2005, a sprawling complex that includes a sit-down bar with 36 craft and specialty beers on tap and 100 more bottle selections, indoor and outdoor dining options, a one-acre organic garden, a massive glass wall behind which the main brewing production takes place, and a large store carrying everything from year-round and specialty bottled beer to T-shirts and hats with Stone’s iconic gargoyle artwork emblazoned.
The first barrels produced in 1996 were of Stone Pale Ale, but these days the lineup is headed by more than 10 IPAs, including Stone Delicious IPA, Stone Scorpion Bowl IPA and Stone Tangerine Express IPA … how hoppy’ll you have it ma’am? The popular Arrogant Bastard Ale was first released in 1997, and new releases are popping up all the time.
Stone Brewing has been named “All-time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” by BeerAdvocate magazine twice (take that Guinness!), and they are the eighth-largest craft brewer in the U.S. But let all that settle into the backseat of your mind, because after the last putt of the day sinks and your cold brews arrive at your table as the afternoon drifts toward a pleasurable dusk, it’s then you’ll understand the true appeal of Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens: kick back, appreciate the day and savor the flavor; you’ll be hoppy you did.