I woke in the morning, on time (actually a little earlier) with my three AM phone alarm and quickly made myself a cup of free decaf in my room and went downstairs, planting the plastic card key on the reception desk with a hearty “checking out” and went outside to wait for my first Lyft driver of the day. It was not his first ride as there were five of us heading to Logan International that morning in the after storm humidity. Actually, on our way there and through the deciphering whether I was awake or still in dream state, we (us in the car with the driver) came upon a crest in the road that was flooded ahead, making it look like we were about to drive off a cliff. I actually gave the driver a look as if to say “we’re about to drive off a cliff, right? But, you seem to be pretty cool and wouldn’t actually drive us off a cliff.” We didn’t drive off a cliff; it was flooded. But, we certainly drove through the flood and we all (passengers) made it to the Airport with time to spare.
I was meeting Zak (the real purpose of this trip was to get him to finish a 100 Mile Race; I’m working on that story soon), who was making his way there by ways of Portland in the Maine that same morning and we settled on making separate paths past TSA and then convening at our gate.
The plane ride came and the plane ride went and we landed in the company of palm trees, where the weather changes about as often as modern country resists the urge to use similes.
We were in California. San Diego, California to be exact.
I was assured that there’s a brewery on every corner, as if German immigrants bestowed their traditions upon that area of the United States and made it so. Well, our first order of business was to locate our rental car and get coffee that doesn’t taste like it came off an airplane and Zak hadn’t had a beer in about four months so it was either me drinking beer in front of him or we were going to spend the first couple of days here, leading up to the race, not drinking beer. Truth is, it was a little of both.
Wandering around the Little Italy section of San Diego, and after the coffee thing was sorted out, we were looking for one thing: tacos. We figured that they would be really good. They were. If you ever find yourself in the Little Italy section of San Diego and see this thing, do yourself a favor and eat things from there, it was magical:
After copious amounts of tacos (we went back for thirdsies) and on our way to Pine Valley (where we were to stay for the next two nights) we made a little detour to that I could stop and say hi (and get beer to go for me for later on that day – it was still rather early no matter how long we tried to waste time in Little Italy that day – I even got a haircut).
I had noticed that, on our way to our accommodations, we had to make our way through a town called Alpine. Turns out, we’ve had a bunch of beers in the past from a brewery from that town, it’s called Alpine Brewery and it’s from Alpine, California.
This is us making our way into the brewery:
We went in and I introduced myself, handed a card, had a couple of laughs and decided that I wasn’t quite ready for a beer (or to drink in front of Zak quite yet) so taking beer to go was the right idea. I left with three growlitos (the little growlers – 32 oz – or two pints worth) of fresh Tuatatra, Auctung and the Alpine Ale that I would make my way through over the next couple of days. Here’s what I thought:
The Tuatatra is a pale ale made with New Zealand hops, which I determined while buying it that I really couldn’t go wrong with this one. And I didn’t. It was brimming with the tropical and citrus qualities that brewers go ape for and well balanced by the malt, as most of the beers that I figured would be from the West Coast.
[tangent] That’s the thing about this trip: Even though the difference between East Coast and West Coast beers isn’t really as stark as it used to be, there’s still a difference. East Coast beers (especially hoppy beers – that’s kind of what I’m referring to right now) tend to let the hops come through more with the malt simply balancing out the bitterness. West Coast beers (alcohol content aside, since West Coast beers tend to be higher in alcohol than the East Coasters – which is kind of proving my point as more malt equals more alcohol) tend to give a rounded edge to the beer, allowing the hops to come through but also have the end result balanced out by a good amount of the malt sweetness.
The Auctung was their “German Lager” and provided a pretty good litmus to what I was to expect while I was there; good, crisp lagers with an immense amount of hops and a nice drinkable nature that was well balanced by the malt/hop ratio with a little bit of the yeast taking over. All of the beers that I’ve ever had from Alpine are super clean if nothing else and this was no exception.
Finally, the Alpine Ale: If there was ever a beer that defined the area (in my brain) it was this. Their “original” Ale, a take on an American Pale Ale, is malty and hoppy to a point where it’s actually a little chewy. With a good amount of body, this is kind of like drinking a really small Barley Wine. As in, it’s a Barley Wine that’s only 5%. But, all of the mid mouth hops are present, the malt backed up the hops and the nose announced the floral bouquet.
Mostly, and since we arrived on a Wednesday, we spent the remainder of the day actually getting to sleep early while watching basketball.
The next day was going to be spent scoping out the area, getting some more intel on the course and getting our plan together for his race. We didn’t know what to expect and having travelled across the country to be there, we didn’t know what we were forgetting.
I won’t bore you with the details of the race itself (unless you really want me to – I’m getting that together as you read this) so, when next we meet, I’ll have already been past that and we will have moved on to after the race, to when we get back to San Diego.