Our guest columnist proposes that the city cultivate a beer garden.
By Beth Fhaner
There’s certainly nothing more refreshing than indulging in a cold one on a sweltering summer day. For those who love the suds, imbibing in microbrews while relaxing in an open-air beer garden is a desirable way to spend a few hours. In fact, some of my fondest summertime memories involve enjoying craft beers with good friends and occasional happy hours with co-workers in beer gardens throughout my native Midwest.
With Laguna’s year-round sunshine and warm temps, the city seems like an ideal location for an outdoor beer garden. A peaceful place in a natural environment that features kegs on tap and savory nosh would be a welcome setting for friends and co-workers to meet up and taste the latest in microbrews.
In Southern California, one of the best examples of a successful beer garden can be found just to our south in San Diego County. Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido features an alfresco patio and a lush, 1-acre organic beer garden containing an array of vegetation amid elements of wood, water, fire and stone. Flowering plants, fruit trees, olive trees, a small pine forest, stands of bamboo, elms, herbs and other greenery create a tranquil refuge, while a koi pond adds to the Zen-like ambience. A small brook that flows into a rock pool contributes to the beer garden’s harmonious vibe. In addition to its Escondido location, Stone Brewing Co. offers a beer garden at its Liberty Station location, also in San Diego.
“One of the most important elements to any beer garden is creating an environment where nature can take over and we can blend in,” says Steve Robbins, director of hospitality at Stone Brewing Co. “A great beer garden should create space in which you can get comfortable, relax and converse. At both [of] our Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens locations, we have taken the term ‘garden’ quite literally and created an inviting oasis embracing lush trees, fire rocks, flowing streams and ponds, so one can kick back and enjoy an artfully made craft beer.” In Laguna, the closest thing I’ve experienced to a beer garden is the area known as the Sawdust Saloon on the grounds of the Sawdust Art Festival, where patrons can enjoy cold drafts, wine and other beverages, in addition to food and occasional live music. But this place is only open during the run of the festivals.
With undeveloped space at such a premium in Laguna, I’m not sure if any local restaurant has the available real estate to develop a full-fledged beer garden on its premises. However, perhaps our city could explore the idea of a pop-up beer garden? Temporary beer gardens—organized by local craft brew makers—have popped up in various locales around Los Angeles during the past few years on several different occasions.
So why not have a temporary beer garden here? I envision a pop-up beer garden somewhere in Laguna where nature is at its most abundant—maybe in the canyon area, or in a seaside setting with a gorgeous ocean view. Just think—our own mini-Oktoberfest that could take place throughout the year. Bottoms up!
Beth Fhaner is an Orange County-based freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about food, film, travel and local culture.