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Craft Beer in North County: Beer lunch

Above: The cheese steak at Plan 9 Alehouse goes well with their house brown ale. Photo by Bill Vanderburgh

A drink with lunch used to be a lot more common than it is today in America. We all know that the laborers who built the pyramids were paid in beer—there was no better way to deliver sufficient calories for the work while at the same ensuring safe hydration by getting the alcohol to kill off the nasties in the water.

The beer called porter took its name from the men who used to drink it for refreshment and rejuvenation as they carried things all over London.

Guinness is good for you, the ads used to tell Dublin’s shipyard workers. And any re-watch of the hit show Mad Men will remind you that drinking during the workday used to be almost required.

We’ve since mostly given up this civilized practice, in part because alcohol makes industrial accidents a little too likely, in part because of our obsessive focus on workplace productivity, and in part because American society seems to always oscillate between liberty and prohibition.

After the three-martini lunches of the 1980s, it makes sense that we would pull back. But maybe it is time for the pendulum to swing in the other direction again.

After all, alcohol is good for you. At least in moderate quantities. In fact, large-scale studies show that moderate drinkers have better health outcomes than absolute non-drinkers. The effect is usually described as being due to a lowering of incidences of heart disease.

Drinking more than a moderate amount—about two standard drinks per day—is also associated with higher mortality rates due to increased cancers and other health problems. Drinking a lot on some days of the week and none at all on the others leads to the worst outcomes.

Slow and steady seems to win this race, too. But keep in mind that a standard drink is 12 ounces of a 5% alcohol-by-volume drink: One 16-ounce pint of your favorite 8% IPA already puts you over the two-standard-drink threshold. (For more details, check out this blog post of mine.)

Health considerations aside, a nice beer just tastes good. What’s the point of being alive if you aren’t going to enjoy it, amirite? And there are few pleasures in life better than pairing beer with food. A single, low-ABV beer with food probably won’t impair your work performance, and it might just make the day go better.

So where can you get a beer with lunch? Unfortunately, a lot of the breweries and tasting rooms in North County don’t open for business until late afternoon. Some are closed altogether early in the week. But a few spots stand like shining beacons on a hill, ready with a cold pint and a warm sandwich so we can relish the middle of the day.

In a column earlier this spring, I told you about the excellent deli at Culver Beer Co. in Carlsbad. Carlsbad is also home to two Pizza Port locations—pizza and beer, what could be better? And don’t forget the gorgeous Karl Strauss restaurant near the flower fields.

In Escondido, there’s the huge Stone location, plus Plan 9 Ale House. Plan 9 doesn’t usually have more than one or two of their own beers on, but they have an excellent guest tap list.

In San Marcos, your options are Mason Ale Works near CSUSM and the San Marcos Brewery & Grill.

In Oceanside, you’ve got the amazing Bagby Beer Co., Breakwater Brewing, Mason Ale Works, and Northern Pine Brewing.

Vista has a higher density of breweries than most other parts of North County, so it isn’t surprising that it has several good options for a beer with lunch. Belching Beaver has two vista locations that are open for lunch: the Tavern & Grill in Vista Village, plus Pub 980 on Park Center Drive.

Back Street Brewing is co-located with a pizza place. Prohibition Brewing also has an extensive food menu and a long list of house beer.

Most of the places I’ve mentioned open at 11am, but some are closed part of the week. It is best to do a quick check online so you don’t show up and find yourself disappointed.