The porch is where I do my most relaxed beer drinking. It is where my beer always tastes the best. It is a Beer Happy Place. Beer is the beverage of the people. It has the power to transform minds and situations and build economies. It also seems to be connected to spots on the Earth that make whatever style or brand you’re drinking taste better, smoother, and more flavorful.
Two years ago, I compiled the original list of Beer Happy Places. The pandemic moved outdoor locations up the list last year. In 2022, we find the world at a crossroads of open and yet, COVID? Still? Really. Dang.
The top 10 places — where drinking a beer will cause an irrepressible sigh of satisfaction — have changed once again. These are “Beer Happy Places” where drinking a beer is more than drinking a beer. The unseen powers that connect the universe pool in these special beer-drinking locales enhance flavors and heighten the imbibing experience. A mediocre beer will still be good. Great beer has the potential to be life-changing.
Today, we revisit, revise, and improve that curated top 10 list. For posterity, I’ll put last year’s ranking at the end of each spot.
- Around a campfire: Campfires have retained their No.1 spot this year. Camping is more popular than ever and an activity that can be enjoyed solo or with friends. Nowhere else is the shadowy line between reality and fantasy blurred. Light beers, IPAs, big and bold bourbon barrels — every beer makes sense as the crackle and pop of the campfire takes you from dusk into twilight. As the stars begin to pop out between the treetops and you smile across the fire at whatever is in the darkness on the other side, your beer will always seem perfect. At camp or in the backyard, a campfire calls for a beer while the stars begin to pop out between the treetops. (Last year’s rank: 1)
- On a brewery patio: Jumping from off the list into the number two spot is a big deal. I struggled to make the call, but drinking beer on the patio of your favorite local brewery is an experience not to be forgotten. There is something comforting about hearing the buzz of conversation, the clinking of glasses, and the laughter of strangers. North County San Diego has an abundance of excellent patios to choose from—looking at you, New English Brewery. (Last year’s rank: Off-list)
- On the porch: Moving up one position is the porch (or the patio). Another year being hyper-aware of our surroundings reminds us that home is where we can be the most relaxed version of ourselves. There is no dress code. No random strangers invading our space (or causing a full-on panic when they start coughing one barstool over). The beer is always cold, and the prices are relatively cheap. I know I’ll always love what’s on the menu (currently the Karl Strauss and Burgeon Beer cold IPA collab), and if it gets cool late in the day, it is near the propane campfire we invested in during the early days of the pandemic. The porch is your friend that always shows up with a six-pack. It’s home. (Last year’s rank: 4)
- Overlooking the ocean, lake or river: The big lake, as I have taken to calling the Pacific, creates its own moments. Pulling up to an overlook, cracking a can of beer, and waiting for the green flash is San Diego tradition. A large portion of beer is water, and when you take a moment to appreciate the places from whence it came, you’ll find your beer tastes better. This beer happy place only dropped due to the strength of competition and not because it was lacking in any way. (Last year’s rank: 2)
- On top of a mountain: However you get to the top — bike, foot, chairlift — you’ll be struck by the desire for a beer at the top, if for no other reason than to toast to the majesty of the range you find yourself looking out over. These moments are perfect for pale ales that have enough flavor to chew on but not so much kick that you’ll find yourself unintentionally off the beaten path. A Trail-Thoughts Pale Ale from Northern Pine Brewing is just about perfect for the moment, and with a crowler, you’ll be able to share. Plus, you’ll lighten your load for the trip down. (Last year’s rank: 3)
- In the garage or workshop or general work area outside the home:* According to my father, the best garage to have a beer in is his neighbor’s because “they have a beer refrigerator, and I don’t!” That is as good a reason as any, but more than that, the garage combines the feeling of going out with the comfort of the porch. Crack a beer and noodle the afternoon away on a project that may or may not ever get done. (Last year’s rank: 6)
- *This is San Diego. We can’t all have garages. My work station is the concrete pad behind the apartment, where I set up a folding table and drag my bin of power tools.
- In a bath (but not in a jacuzzi tub): You’re not going anywhere. You’re practicing self-care with a pint of beer and maybe some bubbles. That project you were working on in your workspace was a bathtub table that stretches in front of you with enough space for your favorite glass and maybe a candle for some atmosphere. Keep the jets off in the tub unless you want some of that lavender bath gel to get splashed in your Bagby Beer Continental Cream Ale. (Last year’s rank: Off-list)
- At the Beach or on a Boat: Canoes, kayaks, pontoons, and sailboats will inspire your taste buds more than a speedboat or cruise ship, but in the end, if the sun is on your face and the salty air lingers on your lips, you’re in a prime beer-drinking happy place. Pick up a case of WestBrew Liquid Sol and live the good life. Boat beers should be ice cold. (Last year’s rank: 5)
- At the game night: With vaccines and quick tests, it has gotten much, much easier to hang out with family and friends even if you have differing perspectives on the world. Game nights are back. Arguing over trivia or bemoaning the river card, or enthusiastically shaking the die is all the more fun with fine beer. If you’re into multiplayer role-playing games (and even if you’re not), check out Battlemage Brewery in Vista. They’ll take you on a beer-drinking quest ending in greatness. (Last year’s rank: Off-list)
- At the park: The park holds down the 10-spot for the third year in a row. It’s a classic for a reason. The park is open to all. Get caught up in the smell of the grill. Watch out for absently thrown frisbee. Read a book under a tree. Sip a beer. Repeat. (Last year’s rank: 10)
Continuing its precipitous fall, “On the roof” dropped from the list entirely. It might be that roofs to sit on are harder to come by or that with a few more years under my hat, I’ve realized the danger of drinking on an elevated, sloping surface with no railing. Also, falling off the list was “In the shower” and “At the stadium.”
2022’s Beer Happy Places list reflects the trend towards realizing the need to care for oneself. For me, self-care begins with great beer. Thankfully, I find myself with an abundance of riches here in North County, San Diego. Cheers!