When you live in the capital of urban sprawl, it's hard to feel sympathetic when San Diego residents bemoan their half dozen traffic-free miles between weekend hangouts. But if beer is involved, they're more than forgiven -- it can seem like ten times that far if you're the designated driver. Such was the reason 30-year-old Jon McDermott and his girlfriend, Mindy Eastman, co-founded Brewery Tours of San Diego. "Customers were complaining about getting lost and weren't sure where to go next," says Eastman, who previously worked at Ballast Point Brewing.
The couple offers all-day tours to three breweries (currently Ballast Point, San Marcos Brewery, and Stone Brewing), with a stop for lunch. Mindy, who was driving the van when Squid Ink hit the tour, is impossibly patient. After our first 11 a.m. tour and tasting at Stone, the van was already swaying with tipsy tourists re-living their middle school field trip days (as evident by the eager imbiber in the photo above). Think Eighties sing-a-longs between unsuccessful attempts to barter for a Slurpee stop.
If you plan to stay the night in San Diego, McDermott and Eastman will pick you up/drop you off at your hotel or wherever you crashed for the night -- for no extra charge. Or take the train from L.A. to San Diego for the day, and they'll pick you up at the station. You can also arrange private tours, say rent out the entire van for a brewery or pub crawl bachelor party. It's a pretty great deal, even at $85 per person for the public tours (which includes the van ride, beer tastings, brewery tours and lunch).
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The only disappointment was lunch, your basic sandwich and burger affair, but really anything that comes with a mass produced pickle wouldn't have satisfied after starting the day within fork distance of Stone's bistro (adjacent to the brewery and tasting room). All the more reason to schedule your van pick-up and drop off at Stone so you can finish off the day on their outdoor patio with a plate of wild boar baby back ribs and BBQ duck tacos.
Brewery Tours of San Diego. Pick-up times are 9:30 to 11 a.m. (at San Diego homes, hotels, the train station, etc.); drop-off times are 3:30 to 5 p.m. $85 for public tours, private tour prices vary, (619) 961-7999, www.brewerytoursofsandiego.com.