Sometime in 1995 I came out to San Diego on vacation with one of my bros from Baltimore and we spent most of the trip hanging out between Carlsbad and Del Mar. We stayed at this shrimp toast colored hole on the 101, now known as the Portfino Beach Inn. I believe it was the Encinitas Lodge way back in the day and am pretty sure it’s changed hands at least three or four times since then. Regardless of ownership, for me it remains a sort of landmark that started it all between me and North County.
The following year, on the 4th of July in 1996, I packed up everything I could fit into the back of my brand-new Mercury Cougar (a bit of an odd choice for a single young man seeking his fortune out west but that’s a whole ‘nother story), and mashed the pedal from Baltimore County all the way back to Encinitas. Despite having no job, no place to stay and basically no clue, I’m ecstatic to be able to report that I’ve lived here ever since.
Encinitas has changed A LOT since the 90’s , a time when there were basically three places to go for any kind of “night life”. There was 1st Street Bar (which I’m pretty sure it always has been), The Daley Double Saloon (the quintessential dive bar that was traditionally our “starting point” thanks to the cheap, fizzy yellow beer), and D Street Grill, then known as Sharky’s. Sharky’s has a special place in my heart both for the ping pong and the dubious distinction of being the first place I ever unwittingly hit on a lesbian. That may not seem like a big deal by modern standards but as a young buck fresh out of rural Baltimore County…
Fast forward to present and the topic at hand, Encinitas now has a thriving night life with more places to become socially lubricated than I can even think of without consulting The Google. And with craft beer being such a huge provider of said lubricants, Encinitas has responded accordingly. Of course, I may have that backwards. I don’t know that we’ve actively courted the industry as much as it could very well be that “they” came for “us” but who really cares? The point is, we’ve found each other and I for one, couldn’t be happier.
It seems like Union Kitchen and Tap kinda started the ball rolling but it’s hard to say for sure because I just wasn’t really paying attention yet. That changed when The Bier Garden moved in. 25 craft beers on tap, primarily with a collection of San Diego’s finest, but not exclusively. Currently there’s one tap afforded to a brewery outside The Golden State taken by Bell’s Best Brown Ale out of Kalamazoo, MI. All the rest are California’s own (as of this post). I don’t know the exact chronology of who got here when but I can’t have this conversation without mention of The Encinitas Ale House. I think they’ve got the Bier Garden beat by two taps and those bad boys are usually rotating faster than the surface of the planet.
With all these great watering holes popping up (most with great food to match), it wasn’t until The Lost Abbey opened The Confessional in Cardiff Seaside Market that we gained access to the actual tasting room experience. And just to be accurate, that’s not even Encinitas proper. As the name of the market suggests, it’s Cardiff by the Sea.
Well, that”s all over with as 2017 marks the year that while we’re losing The Chargers, we’ll be gaining two new satellite tasting rooms in our very own Encinitas. Culture Brewing out of Solana Beach announced first, adding what will be their third location (second satellite tasting room, the first in OB). Soon to follow was Modern Times‘ announcement of the planned opening of The Far West Lounge, where “32 taps will pour a ceaseless supply of exceedingly tasty beers brewed at the Lomaland Fermentorium and our planned locations in L.A. and Anaheim.”
I had no idea what was in store for Encinitas when I first moved here some 20 years ago but what can I say? Sometimes a guy just gets lucky 😀