Something is Brewing: 5th Year Anniversary at Stone!35
My dear wife, Quarrygirl, says she loves only two things more than me: vegan food and beer. Bearing in mind she writes this blog, her standards for vegan food are stratospheric, and her increasingly sophisticated taste in beer (really brought to the forefront when she co-organized the world’s first Vegan Beer Festival) refines itself almost daily.
So, faced with the self-wrought challenge of choosing a perfect location for us to spend our 5th wedding anniversary, I wanted to find somewhere romantic and out-of-the-way that had awesome vegan beer AND really good vegan food, under the same roof. Close to home, I was considering Pure Luck and Tony’s Darts Away – two locations that firmly check the above boxes. However, there was one thing missing: Ms. Quarrygirl really likes freshly brewed beer and prefers to consume it at the point of manufacture – a brewery if possible.
Let’s examine each subject set closely:
Awesome Vegan Food: I had to choose somewhere that knows what a vegan is, can honestly and intelligently answer questions about the veganocity of any menu item, and wasn’t just leaving things out to make vegan stuff (yeah, we’re all fed up of the “turkey and cheese wrap” veganized by omitting the two headline ingredients). No, the place I’d take my honey (as in agave) for our 5th would have to have innovative vegan food offerings, spanning multiple courses of food (after all, we’d be there a while).
Awesome Vegan Beer: There’s a lot of vegan beer, available at just about every bar in America. BUT, we’re talking about more than corporate beers like Stella or Fat Tire. No, this had to be somewhere that brews amazing beers, animal free through the process, and would hopefully have a surprise or two in store on the beer menu when we got there.
Oh, and this ALL had to be in a brewery too. And not very far from Los Angeles as we were saving our vacation days for the upcoming holiday.
Well, as any statistician can tell you, a massive intersection of highly unlikely constants will either lead to absolutely no possibilities or one dead certain result. Thankfully in this case it was the latter and my venn diagram had only one option in its resulting intersection: STONE BREWING, in Escondido, California.
Any menu that has specific (and very tasty) vegan options for each course, and states “Many dishes can be prepared vegan: Just ask your server.” is OK in my book. Also, Stone happens to home-create most of its dishes and therefore isn’t relying on a Sysco-delivered finished product so can modify many things during the cooking/preparation process (see more later).
According to the erstwhile Barnivore, the beer is all vegan. The brewery recently responded to a vegan enquiry thus:
You will be pleased to know that our beer is 100% vegan compatible. So there’s no need to defect to a lesser beer. The fining agent we use for our beer is a protein-binding agent derived from kelp. No cow hooves, no fish guts, no bad karma points for you [...] our beers are made strictly with water, grain, hops, and yeast (a member of the fungus kingdom, mind you). So here’s to your health and that of our creaturely brethren (and sistren). Cheers!
AND, one of the founding head brewers is a vegan. I guess their representations can be firmly trusted.
Talking of romantic and out of the way, Stone’s massive restaurant overlooking the brewery along with acres of outside space (no less than two huge fire pits, an outside bar, ponds, waterfalls, country trails and fountains) all situated on a large space surrounded by undeveloped scrubland made it the perfect romantic setting.
And, the fact that there’s a Holiday Inn a 25 minute walk away resolved the issue of over-imbibed driving. You can either walk to the brewery through the pleasant scrubland (and the not-so-pleasent “Auto Row district of Escondido”) or get a $5 taxi from your hotel. Either way, at Stone you’ll find yourself at an oasis of vegan beer, vegan food, wonderful landscaping and unbelievably polite and helpful staff.
We arrived around 3:45pm on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and were immediately seated in the cavernous restaurant. It was so warm outside that the large doors were open, mixing the interior brewpub vibe with a rustic exterior of exotic plants, stone walkways and fountains.
We ordered a couple of Cali Belguiqe beers – a very interesting California pale ale with a Belgian-style finish that was a total surprise to find as it’s not available anywhere else.
Something like a hoppy, more drinkable Chimay. To say the least, we were delighted. Then, as the light dimmed outside, the large doors were closed and the fire pits ignited. We sat in a warm glow and pondered the menu to decide our first appetizer, ultimately going for the “Housemade Hummus” an amazing garlicky rendition of the standard fare, with green olives (Stone does a “hummus of the day”, so you never know what’s on offer until you get there). Our server advised us to get a side of fresh vegetables instead of the bread (which was buttered).
The whole thing (as well as another round of beers) was gone very quickly as we scooped up the creamy hummus with slices of tender broccoli, carrot and tomatoes.
Next up, we ordered another round of drinks (5th wedding anniversaries tend to do that to one) as well as the “Housemade Kimchee”, an impossibly spicy and tasty version of the Korean classic and naturally animal-free as prepared and served.
Deciding we had a few more hours to spend before our walk around the gardens we ordered another round of dinks (sic) and the “Stone Style Soft Pretzels” which came with two large helpings of Stone’s Beer Mustard (we subbed out the cheese sauce for an extra mustard at no charge).
When the pretzels were gone (remarkably quickly, I might add) we both agreed that these were the standard to which we’d judge all pretzels going forward. If you don’t believe me (and know this review is full of superlatives as well as interjections in parentheses) please go and see for yourself how well the crispy, warm bread goes with the Stone cold (no pun intended) mustard. You will want another order, as did we.
After another round of derr-inx (sic) we finally ordered the main courses: Tasty Tofu Stir Fry and Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie, both of which are vegan upon request, leaving out the egg and cheese, respectively. We subbed in (again for no extra charge) spicy thai chillies that we’d noticed on another stir fry menu option for our tofu stir fry, and looked very much forward to our dishes arriving.
Well, the Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie was outstanding: Creamy mashed potatoes over a thick base of spicy tempeh and diced vegetables made this one of the most eatable things we’d ever experienced. Like all amazing food, its simplicity belies its subtleties and the end result is mouthful upon mouthful of taste that you just can’t stop eating.
I’m glad that we also ordered the ultimate Yang to the Pie’s Ying: Tasty Tofu Stir Fry. This HUGE entree must have had a pound of rice, three packs of tofu and an entire grocery store aisle of vegetables all stirred up in its tamari sauce. When you consider we also got the Thai chillies instead of eggs, hopefully you have an idea of how “meaty” this dish was. The tofu was blackened, the rice was crispy yet soft inside and the sauce perfectly covered the fresh carrots, broccoli and snow peas leaving a wonderful sense of accomplishment after every bite.
After our incumbent, replete experience with the food, we were ready for one last glass of beer each, before we retiring to the gardens where we wandered for a good hour or so in the warm Southern California evening. We walked around the ponds, basked in the infrared glow of the fire pits and did our best to dodge out of the way of the odd boisterous toddler “exploring” the place with gusto.
All in all, this was a perfect evening, and our short walk back to the hotel with its beckoning pool rounded the day off perfectly.
Assuming Quarrygirl doesn’t get bored with my overly-literate (and constantly parenthised) way of describing just about everything, I’m very much looking forward to going back to Stone on every anniversary I am fortunate to enjoy with her.
Stone Brewing Word Bistro and GardensTags: beer, beer, escondido, pretzel, stir-fry
1999 Citracado Parkway
Escondido, CA 92029
Sunday – Thursday: 11am – 11 pm
Friday & Saturday: 11am – midnight (reservations strongly encouraged)
The Shepard’s pie is the best!! I want to try other things there but every time I have been I always end up ordering the Shepard’s pie! It is so yummy!
Wow, the Shepherd’s Pie and Tasty Tofu Stir-Fry both look and sound delicious! AND those are, I would think, both gluten-free! Hooray!
Happy Anniversary you two! I had no idea the Stone Brewing place was so very vegan friendly. Thanks, as always, for all the good sharing.
This is rad! I’ve been looking for someplace nice to go for -my- anniversary with my agave, too Thanks for the awesome review!
Oh how lovely!!!
Glad it turned out so nicely
My Boyfriend and I just recently ate there after Thanksgiving while visiting his family in the area. It is sooo amazing! I had the sheppards pie and we also had the green olive hummus. Also the Cali Belguiqe! You guys have great taste
We have a 4 year anniversary coming up…I think I know where I would like to go! Thanks for sharing and congratulations to you both
Fat Tire is made by New Belgium Brewery. Another craft brewery like Stone. New Belgium is also vegan. Stella Artois is made by Budweiser. The big corporate beer.
I suggest you get your facts straight before misquoting a beer. I’m a big fan of Stone, too. In fact, I was a fan when they were back off of Mata. If you have never been to New Belgium I suggest you go. They are sustainable, eco-friendly, and every employee gets a bike and are encouraged to ride to work.
FYI Whole Foods carries the Cali-Belgique IPA in 22oz bottles
i had never seen it outside of the Bistro/Brewery until this weekend
great review, Stone never ceases to amaze me
also they are now one of the largest Organic Local produce buyers in all of San Diego county
Also, you can get Stone Cali Belgique on tap at Stout in Hollywood.
As a fan of both Stone and New Belgium, I would have to wholeheartedly disagree with you about NB.
NB brews some of the best beers in the country, and probably the world. Their Ranger IPA is on par with Stone IPA. 1554 is a unique ale which was rediscovered by NB after finding the recipe in a hundreds of years old crumbling manuscript. Mighty Arrow is as good of a pale ale as any other micros’ pale, and better than some.
Yes, Fat Tire is malty and sweet, but its an amber ale. All amber ales are malty and sweet.
Again, this is just my opinion.
The servings looked a tad small in the pictures. Mr. Meaner, were the dishes “Madeleine Bistro” small? Thanks
Could have sworn the Cali-Belgique was on @ Tony’s the time we were there. Either way, its even available out east If you like that style (bummer I don’t have any more of my Hoppy Tripel left for you to try) the Green Flash Le Freak is very similar.
Fat tire imho is a completely pedestrian, uninteresting beer. And no not “all amber ales are malty and sweet”
NB Lips of Faith series = awesome though. La Folie is one of my favorite beers.
If you want to get pissy about it… Stone’s production is not even really in the ballpark with NB. Pretty sure the latter is producing 5 or 6 times the number of barrels per year as Stone does.
Stone does meatless Mondays. All dishes on Monday are vegetarian, often they’re veggie versions of their regular dishes (including a vegetarian ceviche). I’m sure even more of those can be made vegan!
Awesome! Had no idea Stone was so veg-friendly (meatless mondays even?!). Based on all of their IPA I drink – on tap, and in bottles from the office’s beer fridge – I’ll bet I could single handedly keep Stone successful. Can’t wait to check out the brewery now. And those pretzels. Also, I picture QG and MM to weigh in at about 650lbs each, with all the tasty food you two order. Either that or you must be utilizing a duffel bag for leftovers.
@ meaner or QG – did you guys confirm with stone that the pretzels were vegan? my girlfriend and i have been going for some time now and on multiple occasions the stone staff have told me that their pretzels aren’t. on our most recent trip (i like to check every time because i know how god damn good they are) the waitress told me that they don’t actually make the dough there, but that it’s purchased from a bakery in the sd area. i’ve also left messages with their kitchen in the past asking if they were vegan but never got a call back.
i’d love to hear that you confirmed with them, hopefully you can update us. other than that you hit the nail on the head with everything else. by far the best brewery in southern CA and certainly the most vegan-friendly i’ve ever been to.
certainly appreciated. if i’m able to pick you two out of the crowd next time we’re there (hint: this sat) beers are on me.
I believe Stone Brewing produces some cask conditioned ales, as special releases. To the best of my knowledge, all cask conditioned ales are fined (clarified) with isinglass, a fish product similar to collagen.
Stone Ales from a bottle or normal tap are most likely vegan, but those from a cask are most likely not.
The best of your knowledge is severely lacking in this instance.
Please read up on vegan beer – I recommend checking out the site “barnivore” for starters, which mr meaner actually quoted at the beginning of the post. I’m guessing you missed reading that part in your quest for douchebaggery.
There are a PLETHORA of US Craft breweries producing cask conditioned ale without using isinglass or gelatin.
Regardless, this place looks incredible. I’m going to make a special trip down to Escondido next time I’m in the OC.
Those pretzels look AMAZIIINNNGGGGG!
Stone is hard to find outside of Southern California? They distribute to over 20 states… I can find most of their specialty stiff even here in small town Alaska…
I’ll concede Fat Tire is boring… but La Folie and many of their specialty Belgian style beers are great… Like their Tart Lychee. They also have a far better tour.
A friend of mine and I did the Stone tour about 10 days ago and were kind of disappointed by the food at the Bistro. I had the mac and cheese with broccoli substituted instead of sausage, and she the garlic soup. The mac and cheese was incredibly bland and the portion was tiny for $14… The soup was decent. We also tried the pretzels… They were the highlight but still not that amazing… The mustard was pretty good though. I’m not sure I’d eat there again after our experience, but the beer was great… as you’d expect. Glad your experience seemed better than ours.
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