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Held every other year, the World Beer Cup is the largest brewing competition on Earth. Medals earned there are proudly displayed as they equate to big-time bragging rights. One expects to see popular, veteran operations like Ballast Point or Green Flash to bring home hardware from this planetary beer melee, but the WBC presents a stellar opportunity for smaller, newer businesses to make a name for themselves on the back of high quality beer.

The last WBC was held in 2013 in San Diego, so there were plenty of locals in attendance who knew the brewery that won a bronze in the Experimental Beer category, but for most of the packed banquet hall, this was their introduction to Manzanita Brewing Company (10151 Prospect Street, Santee). It was a huge win for the East County business, which at the time, was in the process of moving from a small industrial suite (which has since been sold to Butcher’s Brewing) to a place down the street that it now calls home. That much larger facility includes a roomy tasting room that sports their framed WBC award as well as the beer that won it for them—Manzanita Where There’s Smoke.

Brewed with cherrywood smoked malt, chili de arbol, and Guajillo peppers, it pours a dark chocolate color and presents well balanced flavors of smoke and spice. Smoked beers are en vogue right now, but many tend to be overdone, coming across more like a glass full of smoked salmon as opposed to something one would want to drink a full pint of. That’s not the case here. The smoke is present but subdued, a component versus the star of the show. Ditto the heat of the chilies, which syncs with spice imparted by malted rye, an ingredient that accounts for a third of the total malt bill.

WBC judges were likely impressed with how drinkable Where There's Smoke is. Despite having substantial body—another big reason why the heat and smoke don’t take over—the beer is surprisingly refreshing. It certainly impresses me and, though it’s no WBC medal, a BOTW mention ain’t half bad...and is certainly well deserved.

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