Good Memories at Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Bar / Brewery, Craft Beer | Posted on 09-07-2012


Lost Abbey Brewery

It’s funny how some places take you back. Whether that’s back to home or just good memories, there’s something about the familiar that makes me enjoy a place more. The Lost Abbey is one of those places and it reminds me of when I first turned 21 – a great time in life for someone who enjoys beer. I was like many other 21 year olds and I only knew mixed drinks but I had made a trip to Four Peaks, my favorite brewery in Arizona and it changed the game for me completely. When I saw those big tanks and hoses on the ground right next to my table, I felt a part of the process that went into the beer I was drinking.

$1 Tasters at Lost Abbey

The Lost Abbey brings me back to that day with their barrels, tanks and whole operation right next to the bar. In fact, it’s a part of the bar since the whole area is basically the brewery with no chairs or tables. It’s part of the charm to this place because you get what you see – no frills, good beer and honest people. Every person behind that bar or in the back knows their stuff and is happy to answer questions. Sure some places like Stone Brewery are nice with tons of established beer and a huge (expensive) food menu, but this place doesn’t serve food and doesn’t even have seating. Plus, the beers on draft are all $5 or less!

Menu at Lost Abbey

Take a trip up to San Marcos and sample some of their brews like we did: with $1 tasters. This way you can work down the menu (just make sure you have a driver!). Operating in the same space, Port Brewing and Lost Abbey share a facility and are both owned by Port Brewing Company. What does this mean for you? Double the craft beer selection! And for us, this meant a lot of dollar tasters and a great afternoon with friends. If you like barrel aged beer or just a good atmosphere, give these guys a visit. Cheers!

 Shawn Massie and Ro EspinosaRo and I enjoying some quality beer.

Barrel Aged Beer at Lost AbbeyBarrel aging in process at Lost Abbey. Some of these were marked 2008.

Carnevale at Lost AbbeyCarnevale – Best of Show at San Diego International Beer Festival 2012.

$1 Tasters on Barrels$1 Tasters are the way to go.

Open Seating at Lost AbbeyOpen seating!


North Park’s Newest Gem – Tiger!Tiger! Tavern

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Bar / Brewery | Posted on 17-01-2012


Go for the beer, stay for the food.  Tiger!Tiger! tavern in North Park, owned by Jeff Motch and Lee Chase of Blind Lady Ale House, brings the best of both worlds to this cozy feeling spot right on El Cajon Blvd. With one of the first patios allowing customers to drink on the sidewalk, both guys have a great selection of brews from their own Automatic Brewing Co. and local breweries in an interesting area of town. But that’s part of what makes the charm to this place, along with the long benches and wood-themed interior.

Some of the regular brews you can find here include Cuvee de Jacobins, Mongo IPA, Pliny the Elder and Chimay Tripel; all favorites of mine that I have no problem drinking after a day of work but could find closer to my office. Where Tiger!Tiger! differs from the Toronado’s and Ritual Tavern’s of this neighborhood is the food. With their wood-fired oven at the forefront of the menu, I think they knock it out of the park with specials like their Bruschetta with Tahitian squash, prosciutto, chives, manchego cheese and drizzled olive oil or their Wood-fired Bánh Mi with Chinese BBQ pork belly, house made paté, cilantro, cucumber and chili aioli on a toasted white bun.

Come to Tiger!Tiger! with a big appetite and wash everything down with great beer. What else could you ask for in San Diego?

Bruschetta at Tiger TigerWood-fired bruschetta with Tahitian Squash, Prosciutto, Sage, Manchego Cheese and Olive Oil.

Pliny the Elder at Tiger TigerPliny the Elder on the patio of Tiger!Tiger! tavern in North Park on El Cajon Blvd.

Banh Mi SandwichChinese BBQ Pork Belly Banh Mi at Tiger!Tiger! with pickled vegetables, cilantro, cucumber and chili aioli.

Interior Bar at Tiger TigerJeff Motch changing the specials at Tiger!Tiger! on Thursday night.

Beer Selection in North Park's Tiger TigerGreat beer selection including Russian River Pliny the Elder, New Belgium Ranger IPA and Ballast Point Victory At Sea.

Albacore Tuna Sandwich at Tiger TigerFennel and Coriander Crusted Albacore with Avocado, Bibb Lettuce and Gribiche Sauce on Focaccia Bread.

Menu at Tiger Tiger tavernMenu at Tiger!Tiger! on the patio with their awesome logo.

Four Peaks Brewery – Tempe, AZ (with new location coming soon!)

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Arizona, Bar / Brewery | Posted on 16-10-2011


Southwest Burger at Four Peaks

Four Peaks Brewery has got to be one of the biggest craft breweries in Arizona (in terms of production and following). There’s a good reason for that and it centers mostly on how damn good their beers taste. If you have had the chance to visit the brewery and restaurant in Tempe, you have probably gone back. Everything from their food to the service matches up in quality to their selection of brews and I’m proud to say they make one of my favorite beers – HopKnot IPA. What’s even better is that it comes in a can! Ha, take that beer snobs!

Inside Four Peaks in Tempe AZ


Now of course I need to talk about the food here, but I wanted to quickly say that they are announcing a new production facility tomorrow which is great news for them and customers. Not only will they be able to expand their business but I’m guessing this new location won’t be so crowded with ASU students. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Tempe location but come here on a weekend and it gets tiring waiting for a table if you bring a group.

On to the food. I would come here even if they didn’t brew a drop. The menu here is complete with options for everyone and I have tried pretty much everything. That said, I only dislike one item on the menu which happens to be their pasta salad. The rest of it though, you have to try this stuff! Burgers here are big, pizzas even bigger and everything tastes great. Their fries come battered in their own beer, their sandwiches are made with fresh ingredients and their appetizers like the nachos are fun to share. I regularly take visitors to Four Peaks but I don’t need an occasion to come here.

HopKnot IPA and Nachos at Four Peaks Brewery

This time I went with Jeff and between us we had 3 dishes. I went with my staple, the Southwest Burger that comes with an Anaheim chile, tomato, onion, lettuce, pepper jack cheese and a spicy sauce. Always a winner and I’ve never had an off night when ordering this. It’s a big portion but always tasty, the fries are a perfect accompaniment and pair it with a HopKnot or 8th St Ale and you got a meal. Jeff decided to go with the Tap Room Tenderloin, a Filet Mignon on a hoagie roll with bleu cheese, onion straws and the usual toppings. Also a great sandwich, this one isn’t quite as filling but maybe a bit more tasty though you’ll pay for the difference.

Tap room Tenderloin at Four Peaks

However before we ordered either of these, we had to get the 5 Layer Nacho Dip. Be warned: get this for at least 3 people because it is huge and if you add chicken it is a complete meal. Served with the jalapenos, black beans and sour cream on the side, you can decide how loaded you want these nachos to be but then again why would you not load them with everything? The nachos are a must for me but like I said just be sure to have some backers on this one.

5 Layer Nacho Dip in Tempe, AZ 85281

If you decide to come here but not for the food, you won’t be disappointed either. Four Peaks has 8 regular brews always on tap. They are as follows.

  • Kilt Lifter Scottish-Style Ale – Their flagship beer with little bitterness or hop taste but plenty of flavor. Goes great in the colder months or even as a keg.
  • 8th Street Pale Ale – A personal favorite of mine, this beer is easy to drink and has a great hop taste.
  • Hefeweizen – A decent wheat hefe with a banana aroma, probably my least favorite of theirs.
  • Sunbru Ale – Tastes similar to a traditional domestic beer you would drink at any bar but has a slight bite to it that distinguishes it from the rest.
  • Oatmeal Stout – Exactly like it sounds, rich and creamy with bold flavors and an almost chocolaty taste.
  • HopKnot IPA – My favorite of all of them, a good American style IPA with citrus aromas and a somewhat piney taste from the hops.
  • Raj IPA – A strong traditional English IPA that is dry and high in alcohol.
  • Arizona Peach Ale – A favorite of the ladies but not embarrassing if ordered by a man (at least in our group), it has great flavor and is light.

If I haven’t convinced you to go here yet, then shame on me I guess but I’ve only started to spread the praise for Four Peaks when I should have been doing it earlier. I guess I just didn’t want this place to get more crowded, but with a new location opening up (no food though) the lines might get a little better.

Tip: Get a growler to go and when you return fill it up to get 5 beers worth cheaper than the regular price.

1340 East 8th Street #104
Tempe, AZ 85281

The Main Ingredient Ale House & Cafe

Posted by Shawn | Posted in American, Arizona, Bar / Brewery | Posted on 22-08-2011


Mac and Cheese at The Main Ingredient Phoenix

Located in the Coronado neighborhood of Phoenix in a small house turned restaurant, The Main Ingredient is a little hidden gem with great food and an impressive beer selection. With a menu comprising of mostly sandwiches, salads and appetizers, owners Matt and Courtney Diamond have created a comfortable spot that is perfect for lunch or swinging by after work.

Walking in The Main Ingredient, you will probably get the sense that this place is unique. There is a hint of a wine cafe but one look at the menu and you feel like you should be at a brewery. Turns out, the owners have a wine background having previously worked at Kazimierz Wine Bar in Old Town Scottsdale and Postino in Arcadia, and that’s exactly what they were going for. Matt tells me, “My wife and I have always been big fans of craft beer as well as wine. We basically decided that we would open a place with the class & atmosphere of a wine bar, but instead put craft beer at the forefront”.

The Main Ingredient Phoenix

Well craft beer is definitely one of my passions so visiting here was a no-brainer. Matt and Courtney offer more than 30 beers, with most of those in bottles but there are some choice local brews and a couple others on tap. Their wine list is impressive too, with nothing besides bottles over $10 on the menu (including food). This makes The Main Ingredient very affordable and worth the trip if you’re coming from far away.

Artichoke Heaven at The Main Ingredient Phoenix

As for the food, our group was keen on appetizers so we started off with Mindy’s Mac & Cheese, Artichoke Heaven (dip) and their Chips & Salsa. Let me just first say that all 3 were pretty good. The Mac & Cheese had jalapenos in it so there was a little kick but it was filling and good (plenty of cheese too). The Artichoke Heaven was probably my least favorite of the 3, but tasty nonetheless and served with chips. The Chips & Salsa were super fresh with a nice, chunky salsa that you could tell had lots of veggies and fresh tomatoes. It also came with warm chips from nearby La Tolteca that went well with the salsa.

The BLT at The Main Ingredient Phoenix

After we nearly filled ourselves on these plus a couple of beers, we checked out their sandwiches and ordered different ones around the table so we could all try each others. I went with the Calvano, a warm sandwich consisting of sopressata, provolone, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers on focaccia. The Calvano was decent but a little messy when picked up.

The Sheridan at The Main Ingredient Phoenix

One of our group ordered the Sheridan upon our waitress’ suggestion and it came out looking amazing. Named after the restaurant’s Sheridan Square location, this turkey sandwich included tomatoes, salami, cheddar, field greens and a spicy mustard all on a baguette. Easily the best sandwich at the table in my opinion. The Main Ingredient also offers some interesting desserts that our stomachs couldn’t handle after the feast, but next time I’m going to save room.

The Tuna Salad at The Main Ingredient Phoenix

I’d also like to quickly mention the inside of the house that I found charming and perfect for a dinner for two. Matt and Courtney made what was once a living room into a dark yet comfortable place to have a date. They also turned the dining room into a full bar that has seating inside and outside. Combine all of this with their fun choice of music and The Main Ingredient is a fun place to change up the same rotation of restaurants you might go to.

Tip: Enjoy half-off beers and mixed drinks as well as $4 glasses of wine all day every Sunday and Monday.

2337 N. 7th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85006

Stone Brewing Co. – Escondido, CA

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Bar / Brewery | Posted on 26-07-2011


Duck Tacos at Stone

I try to keep this blog to Phoenix only but when I come across a place this good I have to write about it. On my recent trip to California for a little vacation, I convinced my family to make a pit stop at Stone Brewery on the way to San Diego from LA.  “We’re stopping for beer!?” my mother said. Yes we are, not only because Stone makes one of my favorite beers, but because I’ve read their food was something else to behold.

Now I’m a big brewery fan and you can often find me at Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe or San Tan Brewing in Chandler, mainly because both of these places serve up some seriously tasty grub alongside their brews. The Southwest Burger at Four Peaks in particular keeps me from venturing too far away, but that’s for another post. I want to talk about how I walked in to Stone with high expectations and wasn’t disappointed.

Bar at Stone Brewery

To start with, their brewery /bistro is hidden in an office-like complex on a side road off the I-15 in Escondido. I literally drove by twice not having seen one sign for Stone anywhere but trusting my phone’s GPS saying it was right there. Parking in a lot that resembled employee only parking for the surrounding buildings, when I got out I wound up smelling Stone Brewery before seeing it. The wort from the brewing process was wafting directly towards us, beckoning me like the smell of freshly roasted coffee in the morning. My parents got out of their car next to me looking a little confused but my Dad had the same expression on his face as mine as soon as he took in a deep breath- “this is the right place alright”.

Stone's Core 4 Sampler

Finding a small passage that led to a large door, we walked inside and were greeted with a large warehouse looking place that was strangely inviting. After being led to our seats, we immediately picked up their enormous beer menu which included not only their wide range of beers produced in-house but about 40 others on tap and even more in bottles. Facing a large decision, my Dad and I decided to go with their ‘Core 4’ sampler – four 4oz pours of their popular IPA, Smoked Porter, Pale Ale and Arrogant Bastard Ale. By far my favorite is their IPA which I always have in stock at home, but the Arrogant Bastard and Pale Ale hit the spot on a somewhat hot day. The Smoked Porter on the other hand was a little too much for my taste with its overpowering smokiness. My Dad described it as “Smoked fish”.

Dad at Stone

With our beer ordered we turned our attention to the regular menu which had a big proclamation across the top saying ‘Meatless Mondays’. My first reaction was absolute terror thinking I had picked the one day I wouldn’t be able to get a burger at Stone. When the waiter came back I asked him if there was any meat in the house still and he said “Oh, we have a regular menu too. Would you like to see that?”. YES! Turns out they have plenty of meat packed options, so I decided to go with a BBQ Pork sandwich with onion straws and coleslaw. My Dad went with their BBQ Duck Tacos served with black beans, rice and a pineapple-habanero salsa and my Mom and sister shared a bowl of Yakisoba with fresh ginger and vegetables.

BBQ Pork Sandwich at Stone

Let’s start with the Pork sandwich which was absolutely delicious. It had a great barbecue sauce on top which was made with their Levitation Ale and it went perfectly with their pork. Not too dry but not smothered either where you couldn’t taste the meat; just the right amount. The onion straws gave a nice crunch to the sandwich next to the toasted bun and the coleslaw brought it together with a little tang. A complete winner in my book. The Duck tacos were also great and had a lot of spice to them once the pineapple-habanero salsa was added. Good thing we had a cold IPA to wash it down! And last but not least, the yakisoba which I had scoffed at when ordered since that’s the last thing I think to order at a brewery, was surprisingly good too. Everything in it was fresh and you could tell they had carefully picked the right ingredients to add. My Mom and sister said that was the best yakisoba they had ever had, and it came from a brewery!

After finishing our wonderful meal, we swung by the gift shop where my Mom was now a believer in Stone and purchased a couple shirts. All in all a great pit stop I’d say. If you ever find yourself on the I-15, you know where to take a break now.

Tip: Stone gives tours of their brewery multiple times a day which is a fun way to see more of the beer you’ll come to love.

1999 Citracado Parkway
Escondido, CA 92029