When you want a vacation and he wants beer,
Carlsbad has your back.
by Betsy Sanz
I enjoy a good beer, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for one. My husband, on the other hand, would not only go out of his way, he would form every vacation around beer if no one else were to be considered. So when we were planning a short getaway, we decided to do something that would excite both of us: a “beer-cation,” where he would ensure we got plenty of great beer, and I would ensure we got plenty of “cation.” The obvious destination was Carlsbad, where the beer lover can come away sated and the vacation seeker can come away satisfied. Here’s how to do it.
Every beer lover’s dream, Barrel Republic is a great place to start, and perhaps end, a Carlsbad beer-cation. Located in the heart of uber-walkable Carlsbad Village, Barrel Republic is an excellent execution of the emerging pour-your-own drink model. An RF bracelet issued to you upon arrival unlocks over 70 taps, nearly 60 of which are beers (there are wines and nonalcoholic options, too) from all over the country and world. It’s a fun and interactive way to try all sorts of beer, pouring a little here or a lot there, being charged by the ounce. The food is inventive and flavorful, too. Be sure to try the Cheese Crisp Tacos and the Spicy Four Mac & Cheese. Find out more at barrelrepublic.com.
Scavengers Beer Tours
If you want to canvass Carlsbad and North County breweries sans responsibility there may be no better way than with Scavengers Beer Tours. You roam from tasting room to tasting room in one of their WWII-era Swiss-made safari vehicles, enjoying the open coastal air and sipping cold local brews as you go (somehow it’s legal!). With seating for up to 12 people, mouth-watering barbecue between breweries, and an authentic beer geek as driver, guide, and DJ, Scavengers makes for an ultimate beer exploration. Find out more at brewerytoursandiego.com.
Of the breweries brewing in Carlsbad proper, Pizza Port is not only the most renowned, it is the brewery most emblematic of the Carlsbad culture. It is basically the also-Carlsbad-native Shaun White of beer: casual, colorful, and excellent. The pizzas are at once classically satisfying and highly adventurous (try the Bressi Ranch for a kick), but the brand is stretching far and wide on the coattails of its beer. The Pizza Port fan favorites, including the original Swami’s IPA, are served at each of the five Pizza Port locations, while each is home to its own brewmaster who is also free to brew his own creations. Carlsbad offers two Pizza Port locations to chase the perfect taster: the flagship store in the heart of Carlsbad Village or the new Bressi Ranch site that features grog, grub and an industrial brewery and bottling plant from which they are launching their regional takeover. Find out more at pizzaport.com.
Running the Carlsbad Gamut
You don’t have to travel outside of Carlsbad to experience a variety of brew and breweries. All will offer their take on the West Coast’s favorite style, the India Pale Ale, and from there the beers and personalities vary widely, from the literally burgeoning Burgeon Beer Company with its woodsy aesthetic and its near immediate popularity (try the Dutchman’s Pipe imperial stout for a chocolate-coffee roundhouse to the face – it’s 13% ABV), to the steam-punked Arcana Brewing (consider their chardonnay barrel-aged Newton’s Graft Apple ale/cider hybrid, if they have it) and the especially friendly Culver Beer (their Strange Ways saison will hearken you back to the Belgian farmhouse in your head). By the end of our two-day beer-cation we had tasted over 40 beers, and many of them would have us coming back for more. Find out more: burgeonbeer.com, arcanabrewing.com, culverbeer.com.
Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa
Situated on a spacious hill with the ocean in sight, the Sheraton Carlsbad spells vacation, with modern Mediterranean design and lush, rolling grounds that feel removed from the hubbub while keeping you close to the brewery action. It is an especially attractive option if in addition to beer you have kids, play golf, enjoy exercise or spa opportunities, or want great dining options no matter how you spent your day. Be sure to visit their on-site restaurant TWENTY/20, which promises and delivers – with great hospitality – farm-fresh ingredients with a coastal California flare. Here terrace seating makes the most of the property’s expansive view and the staff relishes recommending delicious beers, from San Diego and beyond, to pair with your meal or munchies. (Don’t pass up the braised lamb rigatoni, the scallop and pork belly, or the potato gnocchi!) Also of note is the resort’s upcoming trolley beer tours for guests only. Find out more by visiting sheratoncarlsbad.com.
Breakfast @ Park Hyatt Aviara
If you too think breakfast is the quintessential vacation meal, the Park Hyatt Aviara has a legendary buffet that will be a culinary highlight of your getaway to Carlsbad. For the rest of the day you’ll be dreaming of the eggs benedict, blintzes, juicy meats, housemade yogurt and jams, and the impressive spread of freshly made pastries prepared by a team of French chefs. The Park Hyatt Aviara is a premier property with some of the best views in Carlsbad; an after-breakfast stroll to walk off the Belgian waffles and rev up for beer is well advised. Find out more at aviara.park.hyatt.com.
Pedego Electric Bikes
No visit to Carlsbad would be complete without getting close to the ocean and seeing Carlsbad Village, and we discovered that electric biking is a riotous way to do it. We got ours from Pedego Electric Bikes, located in the Village, and were able to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, thanks to the fact that when we didn’t want to peddle we could just juice up the electric motor and coast at 20mph. Electric biking along PCH in sunny, friendly Carlsbad is vacationing at its best. Find out more at pedego.com.
Ocean Crest Spa at Cape Rey
A great spa experience can almost single-handedly put the vacation in beer-cation. Cape Rey Carlsbad is a California-Craftsman-style hotel just 150 steps to the surf and home to the environmentally mindful Ocean Crest Spa. Take time in the sauna, then the outdoor relaxation area where the ocean air greets you but the sun doesn’t overwhelm you, before an hour or more with outstanding massage and facial treatments that utilize exceptionally pure, naturally sourced products available in few other spas. Avail yourself of all that Ocean Crest has to offer and you’ll go home rejuvenated no matter how much beer you put in your ‘cation.Find out more at oceancrestspa.com.
Need more info and ideas?
Go to visitcarlsbad.com for all things Carlsbad, and all things beer-cation.