Stone Brewing Tap Room: Kettner, Downtown
[Stone re-branded its “Company Store” locations to “Tap Rooms” in late 2018. I’ve updates this post to reflect that change.]
The Stone Brewing Tap Room on Kettner is a little hard to spot from the street. You'll see the gate to the outdoor seating area first. Go through there to get inside.
Parking downtown is never easy, but at least after 6 pm metered street parking is free.
This is one of six Stone locations in San Diego county. It differs from the others in being smaller and more focused on selling merchandise and to-go beers.
The bar is decorated in dark woods, there's a beer fridge and a merch rack, and a big leather sofa. The indoor seating is nice but limited (maybe 15 seats?); the outdoor seating is more extensive (thirty seats? I didn't count, sorry). It's design makes a nod to Stone's other (much larger) outdoor spots at other locations, with rock formations, fire pits, and plants. It looks a bit half-done compared to the Liberty Station Bistro and World Gardens (my review of that location here) but it is still nicer than your average tasting room patio.
The tap list at the Kettner location is extensive: They were pouring twenty beers on my visit, including a collaboration with Modern Times, three Arrogant Bastard brews (a brand owned by Stone), five beers brewed at the Liberty Station Stone Bistro location, and three special "retro" anniversary brews. They had two curated flights pre-selected, and of course you can make your own. They do pints, naturally, plus growler fills and bottles from the fridge.
I choose one of the curated flights and sat on the leather sofa, in front of a stack of beer cases arranged and strung with lights to resemble a Christmas tree. Two other random guys sat nearby and we struck up a conversation. It was a fairly quiet Tuesday evening—the bartender says it is fairly brisk 4:30-6pm with the after work crowd, and gets busy on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Stone Ripper (Pale Ale, 5.7% ABV). Like a good Stone ale, it's as hoppy as an IPA. Amber, pine, crisp lingering finish. 3.5/5
Stone Coffee Milk Stout (5% ABV). This has a roasty malt backbone with subtle sweetness and hints of coffee. "Medium-minus" mouthfeel. There's an interesting grape soda note on the finish. 3.25/5
Lukcy Basartd (Strong Ale, 8.5%). There is a sweet, cherry opening note; it is nicely malty with a medium-to-thick mouthfeel. It finishes with some sharpness/bitterness. Deep amber/cherry color. 3.5/5
20th Anniversary Encore Series: Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA (10.8% ABV). Advertised as "100 IBUs", which means more bitter than humans can detect. I came out today specifically looking for this beer. It is deep, thick, malty, and hoppy. It is good but not as good as I was anticipating. 3.5/5
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Irish Stout (10.8% ABV). Dark brown, boozy, and the bourbon flavor comes through. Also present: sweetness, caramel, raisin. I've had several better BBA stouts but it is good. 3.25/5
Stone beer is famous for good reason. I enjoyed my flight, and would gladly go back to this location for more.
http://www.stonebrewing.com/ 1202 Kettner Boulevard #101, San Diego, CA 92101
Don't Just Take My Word For It (Links to Related Beer Writing)
From San Diego Brew Review.
San Diego Eater's 2013 piece about the Stone on Kettner's opening.