Most kids share the sentiment when I say the town you grew up in is anything but cool. In fact, I moved as far away as I could afford to when I was 19. Fast forward 20 years and I find myself pretty pleased sitting on the patio of Escondido Brewing Company located next to the feed store where I used to buy food for a pig I once raised in high school. Pepe le Pig is a whole other story though.
I honestly thought Escondido Brewing Company was going to suck. The apprehensive teenager in my head was sure it couldn’t be cool. I was wrong. Disclaimer, my brother had brought cans of their Hopcondido IPA for my birthday a few months back and I was surprised that it was actually pretty decent. I’ve been meaning to visit their location for a couple years now and when a friend suggested a stop there one night, I was all for it.
Tasting room seating is entirely outside at this one-barrel brewery, but it was surprisingly cozy for being less than 300 square feet. Warm lighting, AstroTurf, lots of wood and even a Street Fighter arcade, which had a group of four friends huddled around in competition.
They had 10 beers on tap, and I sampled them all. My favorite was the Ups N Downs IPA. With a bit more malt than your average San Diego IPA, it drank like a Pale Ale and that’s not a diss. I took a growler home, which is pretty rare for me. The name holds nostalgia as well as Ups N Downs (1952-2014) was a beloved roller rink in Escondido and arguably the only cool thing to do as a kid.
The Jose con Cafe, a tasty brown ale with coffee, had a rich character that I swear had the taste of warm chiles, though I was assured was just my imagination. It’s a wonderful beer to sip on a chilly Escondido evening.
As previously mentioned, I’ve had their Hopcondido IPA before from a can and it was consistently delicious and just as fresh and bright on tap. Hazy bois should line up for their Highland Haze, which did not disappoint in that category either.
If you are an Oktoberfest or Marzen fan, don’t pass up EBC’s Elfin Forest. With a traditional Bavarian, biscuit-like aroma, this 5% brew is on the lighter side in body, but the flavor is full-on caramel malt—the way it should be. One may even need to drink a couple of these to consider entering its namesake, the Elfin Forest where legend of the White Witch lingers. A place one may even say an Escondidan teenager or five has smoked a little pot in, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost (sorry, Mom, I’m pretty sure Ups N Downs was closed that day).
So, I guess Escondido is, in fact, cool after all. Especially with a great brewery like Escondido Brewing Company producing these fantastic small batch beers. Plan your visit ahead of time though, as their tasting room is open Fridays and Saturdays only.
Escondido Brewing Company, 649 Rock Springs Road, Escondido, 858-531-4444, escobrewco.com. Hours: 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays; 2 to 8 p.m. Saturdays.