When Stone Brewing Co. opened its first World Bistro & Gardens adjacent to its brewery in Escondido in 2007, there wasn't much else like it. The large restaurant, bar and beer garden was a statement of permanence for the thriving craft brewery and a marquee destination for visitors to San Diego.
In 2013, the brewery opened its second World Bistro & Gardens in Point Loma's Liberty Station, and the new compound is a sprawling tribute to the zeal and, yes, arrogance, of the craft brand that sailed to fame on the back of its Arrogant Bastard IPA.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens at Liberty Station is as impressive a craft-beer destination as I've witnessed. From the voluminous main dining room (once a Navy mess hall) to the smallest of design details that unify the location's many distinct spaces, Liberty Station feels like the architectural representation of Stone's renowned beers. It's big and assertive, but close examination reveals subtleties that belie the initial impressions.
Liberty Station dwarfs the already large Escondido restaurant with more than 50,000 square feet of total space. There's nearly an acre of beer garden space, 2 bocce courts, an outdoor film screening area, two bars pouring dozens of beers, private banquet rooms, a small-scale pilot brewing system for experimental and off-the-wall brews, and -- of course -- a gift shop.
Reclaimed wood, weathered iron and plenty of granite and rock give the complex a unified feel, and each space has its own eye-catching element (massive chandeliers assembled from Stone's beer bottles, a marble table with its own stream running down the middle, towering exposed beam ceilings). The overall vibe of the gardens and dining area splits the difference between a cathedral to Stone's ideologies and a thoroughly imagineered Disneyland for the craft-beer set.
The tap and bottle list is impressive and well-balanced between Stone's offerings, brewed on-site specialty beers, highlights from other San Diego-area breweries and craft offerings from farther-flung breweries (including some well-regarded European breweries). The bistro cuisine is varied and "world-inspired ... featuring local, organic fare" -- much of which is grown on Stone's own organic farm.
If you're even a casual fan of Stone Brewing Co., or a lover of craft beer culture, you should make plans to visit Liberty Station. I've seen a lot of breweries, craft beer bars and high-concept restaurants catering to beer lovers, but Stone's immodest outpost is perhaps the most impressive.