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As a champion of local craft beer, there's something so delightful about turning people on to the quaffable medium or sharing a convo with a recent convert. I had such an experience recently while dining at La Valencia's Mediterranean Room. Several minutes in, their new exec chef, Lance Repp, brought up the fact that they were having a beer-and-food pairing event in association with Ballast Point Brewing Company on July 20. Up to that point, our chat had been cordial, but the moment he started talking about the flavor profiles of the beer, he positively lit up.

He was aglow talking about the beers he'd tasted in preparation for the event and, given some of the brews he selected - cilantro-infused Sculpin IPA, their serrano-laced Yellowtail Pale Ale and Victory at Sea vanilla and coffee imperial porter - his excitement is understandable. These are the types of beers that are best capable of capturing the attention of foodies, whether they're simply eating enthusiasts or full-on chefs. Count Repp among that group, since being introduced to San Diego's craft brewing scene, he and his staff have been touring the county, visiting spots like Port Brewing and AleSmith on what have to be some of the coolest company field trips I've ever heard of.

The result is an expanding list of beer offerings, the Mediterranean Room's Wednesday Beer and Burger nights and events like the Ballast Point Beer Dinner, which will feature different stations offering reimagined street and pub staples including Cuban sandwiches made with pork that's been roasted for eight hours (fear not, delicate reader...no spits were used in the cookery of this pig...as if that matters), local seafood ceviche and fish tacos with heirloom tomato salsa and a citrus creme fraiche.

These are big steps for a venue that has been in desperate need for an overhaul for a long time. Years ago when I visited, the circa 1960s ceramic-tile and faux foliage heavy coastal stale decor was my main point of contention, followed closely by the food. With Repp's arrival, the latter is in good shape and the arrival of a craft beer focus is a solid step toward an overall modernization. The Mediterranean Room is located on the first floor of the La Valencia Hotel at 1132 Prospect Street in La Jolla.


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