San Marcos, California:
Port Brewing Company / Lost Abbey Tasting Room
Sunday 20th May 2012
This brewery has its beginnings during 1992 when the owners of Pizza Port in Solano Beach, Vince and Gina Marsaglia, decided to install a brewery. They hired Tomme Arthur to brew and started production in 1993.
Tomme had a liking for Belgian beers and began brewing some of this style. Although it seems incredible to me, it was something that had not been done in the USA previously. The brewery settled down and established itself as one of the most innovative of the (then) few brewers in the Greater San Diego area.
The biggest change occurred in 2006 when the well established Stone Brewery moved into a brand new facility with a Visitor Centre further up the valley towards Escondido and vacated its San Marcos premises. This was what Vince and Tomme had been waiting for and they took over the lease of the former Stone property. They had long harboured dreams to expand enough to start bottling and supply pubs in the area. Tomme became the main brewer in the new brewery but the Solano Beach brewery did not close and remains open today (see separate report).
The new Port Brewers facility opened on 5th May 2006 with a 30 barrel plant. Why does the brewery have two names? Well, as mentioned before, Tomme and Vince are very keen on Belgian beer styles but they felt that great American drinking public was still catching up in this respect. So Port Brewing is the American brewery and Lost Abbey is more experimental and specialises in Belgian-type beers. They have over 800 wooden barrels to assist in the maturation of these beers. They were formally used for Bourbon, Brandy, Sherry and Wine.
True to my ethos of trying to make visits by public transport I used the train to get here.
The Sprinter service runs from Oceanside to Escondido and is almost unique in the USA as it has a frequent regular interval service seven days a week. There are fifteen stations on the line and I alighted at San Marco Civic Center.
From here it took me about twenty-five minutes to the brewery in searing heat; it was essential to wear a sun hat.
On the way there I caught a glimpse of a blur hovering by a bush and thought is was a moth. However, on closer inspection, it transpired to be a Humming Bird, a first for me. Quick as a flash it was gone before I could take its picture.
I entered the building and was confronted by the extensive bar on the left and the brewing equipment on the right, with wooden barrels stacked in between. There were various paintings displayed around the drinking area, some a little strange including a large one depicting what I suppose is the Lost Abbey, but what are the Arabs and their camels doing there? In the river in the foreground are two bathroom-type ducks being pursued by a very devilish-looking duck. They feature in another painting on show, see below. There is some heavy symbolism here.
At the bar I was spoilt for choice; shown below is was what was available, with my notes on those that I tried. From Port Brewing the regular beers were Wipeout IPA (7.0%) (I could taste the dry-hopping but the taste was not as assertive as Dead Feather Moon); Shark Attack Imperial Red Ale (9.5%); Mongo IPA (8.0%) (Not as bitter as expected with a melon-type flavour) and Old Viscosity Dark Ale.
The following were the seasonal offerings: Port Pilz (5.5%) (Czech type Pilsener, average yet quite acceptable, with just a suggestion of the true Pils taste); FNG American Pale Ale (6.1%) (American hops to the fore, very good); Dead Feather Moon Pale Ale (6.1%) (Intense dry hop taste, nice bite in the finish); Dawn Patrol Dark Mild (4.7%) (OK, but slightly sour); Hot Rocks Dark Lager (6.2%) and Anniversary American Pale Ale (10.0%).
Lost Abbey were represented by the following beers from their standard range: Devotion Dry Hopped Blonde (6.5%) (A very hoppy Belgian style Blonde); Avant Garde (French Bière de Garde style) (7.0%); Red Barn Saison (6.8%); Lost & Found (Belgian Abbey style) (8.0%) and Judgement Day (another Abbey Ale type). Their seasonal ales were Witch's Wit (4.8%); Carnivale Saison Ale (6.5%); Ten Commandments (Belgian Farmhouse Ale style'?') and Serpent's Stout (10.5%) (An intense dark beer with medium bitterness).
As can be seen, the Tasting Room is a place not to be missed if you should be in this part of Southern California.
Port Brewing Company and The Lost Abbey Brewery Tasting Room,
155 Mala Way, Suite 104, San Marcos, CA 92069
Open: Monday to Tuesday 13.00-18.00;
Wednesday 13.00-21.00 (Food trucks outside on this evening);
Thursday 13.00-19.00; Friday 13.00-21.00; Saturday 11.30-20.00; Sunday 12.00-19.00
The brewery is about a twenty-five minutes walk from San Marcos Civic Center station
of the Sprinter rail service that runs from Oceanside Transit Center to Escondido.
Trains run every 30 minutes from Monday to Friday also from 10.00 to 18.00 on Saturday and Sunday, otherwise hourly.
Oceanside Transit Center is served by the Inter City Amtrak trains between San Diego and Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
Local trains of the Coaster service start there towards San Diego.
MetroLink trains operate on two lines from Oceanside to Los Angeles (Orange County line) and Riverside and San Bernadino (Inland Empire-Orange County line). From San Marcos Civic Center station walk along East San Marcos Boulevard on the south of the station. Turn left into Rancheros Drive. After about a half mile (0.8 Km) you will see Mala Way. Walk along this and you will see the brewery in a small road on the right.