Solano Beach, California:
Pizza Port Brewing Company
Wednesday 23rd May 2012
Another Pizza / Brew Pub combination, but as far as Southern California is concerned this is the Granddaddy of them all. This Pizza Restaurant opened in 1987 and the brewery was added in 1992. It is now part of a chain of four. The other Pizza Ports are in Carlsbad, San Clemente and San Diego. They have won many awards for their beer. In 2003 the various branches won nine medals at the Great American Beer Festival, and in 2004 this pub won "Small Brew Pub of the Year". In 2009 the Carlsbad branch won "Large Brew Pub of the Year" award. When you consider the number of Brew Pubs in the USA, this is a remarkable record.
As far as public transport is concerned this pub could not be better located. Solana Beach railroad station is opposite. This is a wonderful modern station built in a 1930s style; take a look at the photograph. It is situated in a cutting so if you used the lift or the steps you would arrive on to a highway. This is the Coast Highway, although it doesn't run along the coast through Solano Beach. It is the old Route 101 which has many places of interest on its route and there is a movement to develop it in the same way that has been done to Route 66. All the inter City road traffic now runs along Interstate 5, so that vision is possible. You can see the pub from the station exit but you must exercise caution when crossing the road, although there is a central reservation.
The pub does have a terrace which is convenient for watching the traffic on the Coast Highway. I suspect it is used mainly by smokers who probably wouldn't notice the extra fumes.
Going inside you'll see on the left, the Pizza Ordering department with the open plan kitchen behind. The Beer Ordering department is a little further on. Commendably this pub is self service. You order food, pay, order drinks, pay. Take seat and when order number is announced, collect food.
The system works and it needs to, because on my visit it was very quiet when I arrived yet within twenty minutes there was a queue out of the door! Despite the above description this pub is not large. The brewery is on the right a little further on from the bar. It is a half level down and although the brewers were there, there wasn't a brew on the go. The seating arrangement is long benches, all in line, German biergarten-style.
The beer selection was very extensive as apart from their own brews they offer a good selection of guest beers.
The house-brewed beers were: Cardiff Cream Ale (4.5%); Shark Bite Red Ale (6.0%), an American-Style Red Ale; Jules Winnfield (8.4%), an American Imperial Stout; Surami's IPA (6.9%); Jameson's Irish Red; California Honey Ale (5.0%), an American Pale Ale with honey; T-Grims IPA (7.2%), an American IPA and Seaside Stout (5.3%), an Irish-style dry Stout.
From other Pizza Port breweries there were T-Street Wheat (3.9%), a Bavarian style wheat beer from the San Clemente branch and Spaceman Saison brewed at their Ocean Beach, San Diego operation.
The guest beers consisted of Manzanita (Santee, CA) Pale Ale (6.6%); Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA) Southern Hemisphere Harvest (6.7%); Firestone-Walker (Paso Robles) Walker's Reserve Robust Porter (5.8%); Russian River (Santa Rosa, CA) Blind Pig IPA (6.1%); Bear Republic (Healdsburg, CA) Racer 5 (7.0%); Ballast Point (San Diego) Schooner Pale Ale (6.0%).
And from New Belgian (Fort Collins, CO) Bière de Mars (6.2%), a Bière de Garde, Prickly Passion Saison (8.5%), IPA (6.5%) and Sommersault (5.2%), a Blonde Ale.
I tried four of the house-brewed beers and my notes are as follows: Jameson's Irish Red was just a bit sour and this is not a feature of this type of beer, so I wasn't very taken by it. Seaside Stout was not as dry as expected with just a hint of oatmeal; acceptable nevertheless. Surami's IPA was a very typical West Coast IPA; very good. T-Grims IPA had an even more assertive taste and was excellent.
So, should you be travelling on Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner or the Coaster trains why not stop off for an hour (or more!); I'm sure you won't regret it.
Pizza Port, 135 North Highway 101, Solano Beach 92075. Tel: (658) 481 7532
Open: Sunday to Thursday 11.00-22.00; Friday and Saturday 11.00-24.00
The pub is between two and five minutes walk from the platforms of Solano Beach station, depending on how long it takes you to cross the road!