Bagby Beer Company's ALT in the Family Altbier, Upside Down Frown Brown, and Sweet Ride Bohemian Pilsner
  • Bagby Beer Company's ALT in the Family Altbier, Upside Down Frown Brown, and Sweet Ride Bohemian Pilsner
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It’s gotten tough to keep up with San Diego beer. This is the year the number of breweries in our crowded beer landscape topped 150. But here’s the crazy part — that number has doubled in the past four years. Since the clock struck 2014, we’ve seen around 70 new brewery businesses open. To better illustrate how fast things have been happening, consider this: brash newcomer Modern Times Beer (2013) is older than more than half breweries operating today. So is the word “cronut.” These 70 breweries we’re talking about, they weren’t around to serve a beer to a mayor Bob Filner.

This issue is dedicated to the newcomers, that latter half of San Diego beer companies trying to grab a toehold in the shadow of craft-beer monoliths. We’re not pretending the first 25 years of San Diego beer never happened, just trying to highlight the best of what’s come since.

Next Generation Brands

Of the breweries that opened within the past four years, these brands have best established themselves by capturing customers’ imaginations and producing consistently well-made beers.

North Park Beer Co. skipped the industrial location.

North Park Beer Co. skipped the industrial location.

North Park Beer Co.

3038 University Avenue, North Park

North Park Beer Co.

North Park, 2016

This stylish urban brewer skipped the part where you open in an industrial location and went straight to being an active craft-beer neighborhood’s hub. The beautifully designed space has become a hub for North Park’s beer set; a place where brewers who work or live nearby commonly drop in for evening beers. Having a restaurant operating counter service to the brewery allows founder Kelsey McNair to serve a terrific assortment of guest beers here, but not one of the homebrewing legend’s house brews will let you down.

Liz and Curtis Chism of Kearny Mesa's Council Brewing

Liz and Curtis Chism of Kearny Mesa's Council Brewing

Council Brewing Company

7705 Convoy Court, Kearny Mesa

Council Brewing Co.

Kearny Mesa, 2014

Brewer Liz Chism takes care of business whether she’s turning out IPAs or mixed-fermentation sours. In the short time she and husband Curtis have been growing their small operation, they’ve carved an indelible place for Council on the San Diego brewery map as one of only a handful of beer operations in the county to do both exceptionally well, one small batch after another.

Burning Beard — family-friendly, pet-friendly, rocker-friendly

Burning Beard — family-friendly, pet-friendly, rocker-friendly

Burning Beard Brewing Co.

785 Vernon Way, El Cajon

Burning Beard Brewing Co.

El Cajon, 2016

As brewers and business partners, Burning Beard’s Mike Maass and Jeff Wiederkehr form one of the sharpest tandems in San Diego beer, and they've managed to do what no one else has, short of Alpine or Nickel Beer Company: open a destination brewery in East County. You needn’t drive so far as Alpine to enjoy this family-friendly, pet-friendly, rocker-friendly establishment that serves excellent beer across the board.

Second Chance Beer Co.

15378 Avenue of Science #222, Carmel Mountain

Second Chance Beer Company

Carmel Mountain Ranch, 2015

Founded by OG San Diego brewer Marty Mendiola, Second Chance didn’t waste any time becoming a fan favorite. The beers have been stellar from the outset, and everything they put in a can is worth keeping in your fridge. Although in no way lacking for great beer, denizens of North Park eagerly await a Second Chance tasting room planned to open this fall.

Eppig Brewing

3052 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite C, North Park

Eppig Brewing

North Park, 2016

There’s no one around to compare Eppig’s beers to the 150-year-old New York brand it revived late last year, but it’s safe to say the new brews are way better. Principal brewer Nathan Stephens previously made R&D beers for a somewhat successful little company named Ballast Point, and his talent for capturing knockout flavors in a glass is evident in every sip, whether he’s brewing hoppy ales or traditional lagers favored by the brewery’s German-born namesake.

Burgeon Beer Company

6350 Yarrow Drive, Carlsbad

Burgeon Beer Co.

Carlsbad, 2016

After opening late last year, Burgeon has been steadily gaining acclaim among local beer fans and industry folk alike. Head brewer Anthony Tallman polished his craft for years at local breweries including Stone and Rough Draft, and his prowess avails itself here with a continual rotation of delicious brews ranging from delicate to bold in flavor. It should be great to see how much these guys accomplish in their second year.

Fall Brewing Company

4542 30th Street, North Park

Fall Brewing Company

North Park, 2014

This place basically shows the county how a brewery as neighborhood hangout is done. Open to friends, family, and dogs, and mostly open to the street, Fall fills up with groups of locals out to enjoy themselves just as much as it does beer enthusiasts. The beer and the vibe both click, with great examples of many styles suiting varied tastes. And a great food-truck lineup.

Pure Project

9030 Kenamar Drive #308, Miramar

Pure Project Brewing

Miramar, 2016

You’d think it would be tough to stand out as a newer beer brand among the 20 or so packed into four square miles of Miramar, but Pure Project has quickly picked up an identity and run with it. First by embracing fresh and interesting adjunct flavors, and subsequently thanks to brewer Winslow Sawyer’s uncanny ability to craft a juicy and opaque, hazy IPA. Of course, it always comes down to great beers, and Pure Project’s got no shortage of those.

Thr3e Punk Ales came home to roost in Chula’s Third Avenue Village.

Thr3e Punk Ales came home to roost in Chula’s Third Avenue Village.

Thr3e Punk Ales

259 3rd Avenue, Chula Vista

Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Co.

Chula Vista, 2017; Santee, 2015

Following a brief stint producing beer at someone else’s brewery in East County, these punks came home to roost in Chula’s Third Avenue Village. They’ve cranked up their beers in a hospitable space and helped establish the South Bay city as a burgeoning craft hub with dank IPAs, refreshing lagers, and loads of laughter.

Thunderhawk Alements

8675 Miralani Drive #100, Miramar

Thunderhawk Alements

Miramar, 2016

Some success comes in small batches. Thunderhawk’s got an eclectic Southwestern-styled tasting room, a one-barrel electric brew system, and a menu of beers good enough to keep friends and fans coming back for more.

New Brewpups

Craft beer as we know it started with brewpubs — 7 of our 10 oldest brands started out making beer in restaurants. The industry grew away from that model for some time, but the past four years have seen a resurgence of the brewpub, led by these, mostly neighborhood oriented businesses.

Jeff Bagby had already run brewing for Oggi's and Pizza Port.

Jeff Bagby had already run brewing for Oggi's and Pizza Port.

Bagby Beer Co.

601 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

Bagby Beer Company

Oceanside, 2014

To say Jeff Bagby had a pretty good run brewing for Oggi’s and Pizza Port is like saying Michael Phelps is a decent swimmer. Bagby was already one of the most acclaimed competition brewers on the planet when he opened his own brewpub with wife Dande, and — with apologies to the aforementioned pizza spots — these days his world-class beers pair with far better food. The restaurant is equally comfortable serving Belgian fries and San Diego tacos — which is fitting, since Bagby’s beers remain deliciously true to style, whether they hail from Belgian, English, German, or American craft traditions.

Abnormal Beer Company

16990 Via Tazon, Rancho Bernardo

Abnormal Beer Company

At the Cork & Craft, Rancho Bernardo, 2015

The only San Diego beer company with its own bar on the Asian continent; here in San Diego, Abnormal operates within an upscale gastropub, where it slings rich stouts, hazy IPAs, and unique, food-friendly styles reflecting the adventurousness of its founding brewer, Derek Gallanosa. While Gallanosa recently departed to open a brewery in Northern California, the Abnormal brand continues to embrace the pairing of fine food and beer.

South Park Brewing Co.

1517 30th Street, South Park

South Park Brewing Company

South Park, 2015

Also known as Scot Blair’s other brewery, South Park sat in the shadow of sister business Monkey Paw even when they shared award-winning brewer Cosimo Sorrentino. Since he left San Diego to make beer in Copenhagen, owner Blair has put on his workboots and started brewing himself. The results? The neighborhood brewpub has kept its taplist filled with diverse, rotating beer often featuring historical beer styles and collaborations with the industry’s best.

Viewpoint Brewing Company

2201 San Dieguito Drive, Del Mar

Viewpoint Brewing Company

Del Mar, 2017

Local residents had to convince the City of Del Mar it could use a brewpub, and their success led to this semi-outdoor restaurant opening across the San Dieguito River from the racetrack and fairgrounds. High-minded food inspires beer production and vice versa while fire elements and games of leisure make it a fun hangout spot, even when the horses aren’t running.

Cash Coffee Stout from Mason Ale Works — deep mocha vibe

Cash Coffee Stout from Mason Ale Works — deep mocha vibe

Urge Common House + Mason Ale Works

255 Redel Road, San Marcos

Mason Ale Works

At Urge Gastropub, San Marcos, 2017

The original Mason and Urge location in Oceanside is a fairly traditional brewpub. The one-acre brewery, restaurant, and beer garden that launched in San Marcos this year is an entirely new and different beast. Thousands of square feet of outdoor space entertain friends and families with music and games, in addition to both table and counter dining. But don’t forget to reserve yourself a lane at The Big Lebowski–themed bowling alley, the absolute best place to drink Mason’s beers.

Half Door Brewing Company

903 Island Avenue, East Village

Half Door Brewing Co.

East Village, 2015

Of all the venues to drink beer surrounding Petco Park, none boast the charms of this family-owned Irish pub, built into the living spaces and balconies of a century-old house. Flavorful house beers range from Irish standards to traditional Belgians, but the most popular have been a selection of unfiltered ales leading San Diego’s recent haze craze.

Ocean Beach Brewery

5041 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach

OB Brewery

Ocean Beach, 2016

Hands down, the best view from any brewery in town may be found on the rooftop deck of O.B.’s eponymous brewpub, which faces west overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the neighborhood’s beach and pier. Its beer styles pair well with food, and a recent Great American Beer Festival medal suggests brewer Jim Millea is just hitting his stride.

Resident Brewery at the back of the Local Eatery & Drinking Hole in Gaslamp

Resident Brewery at the back of the Local Eatery & Drinking Hole in Gaslamp

Resident Brewing Company

1065 Fourth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

Resident Brewing Co.

At the Local, Gaslamp, 2016

Recent upgrades at the downtown chapter of the Local include installation of a brewery in the back of the restaurant. Perhaps the best move was picking homebrewer Robert Masterson to operate it. His house beers often range among the better options on a taplist that feature a heap of local breweries.

Newest of the New

We are on pace to see 30 new beer companies open in 2017. They compose more than 20 percent of the San Diego beer brand, but they’ve barely had a chance to get their feet wet — let alone wet anyone’s whistles. These few seem to be off to a strong start, though only time will tell whether they find staying power.

Circle Nine Brewing

7292 Opportunity Rd. #C, Kearny Mesa

Circle Nine Brewing

Kearny Mesa, 2017

Though its name refers to treason, the ninth circle of hell depicted in Dante’s Inferno, don’t read too much into it. Brewers and cofounders Darren Baker and Andrew Campbell remain faithful to the standards represented by the San Diego beer brand, looking for ways to refine and improve their brews with each batch. And they were really dang good to begin with.

Rouleur Brewing Company

5840 El Camino Real #101, Carlsbad

Rouleur Brewing Company

Carlsbad, 2017

This El Camino Real brewery has stayed mostly under the radar since opening in the spring, but mostly due to its tucked away location. Brewer and longtime beer judge Rawley Macias professes a fondness for Belgian yeasts, and some of his beers explore distinctive Belgian flavors. It will be worth monitoring the brewery’s growth now that he’s adding American-style IPAs to the mix.

Wild Barrel Brewing

692 Rancheros Drive, San Marcos

Wild Barrel Brewing Company

San Marcos, 2017

Its ambitious barrel and spontaneous-ale programs will take time to develop, but this October arrival didn't waste a minute furnishing terrific fresh beers, ranging from dank IPAs to winey, fruited Berliner weisses. With an ownership team including craft-beer ambassador Bill Sysak and former Cascade Brewing master blender Pretson Weesner, this brewery’s arrow points steeply up.

BattleMage Brewing Copany

2870 Scott Street #102, None

BattleMage Brewing Company

Vista, 2017

Longtime friends and fantasy-game fans Ryan Sather and Chris Barry rolled the dice on opening a brewery after both worked for years in homebrew supply shops. They used to spend their days talking shop with brewing hobbyists, then exploring different brewers’ ingredients, styles, and methods in their own brews. Now they channel that experience into thoughtfully conceived brews that they serve on battle-ax tasting trays.

Align Brewing Company

8680 Miralani Drive, Miramar

Align Brewing Company

Miramar, 2017

While this is technically a new brewery, Align founder Andrew Heino has been brewing in this space a few years now. For a while he was partnered up with a cohort from his Stone Brewing days. But 2017 finds the brewing vet operating alone, on a thin budget, turning out a handful of terrific rotating beers, particularly of the hoppy variety.

Pariah Brewing Company

3052 El Cajon Blvd, Suite B, North Park

Pariah Brewing Company

North Park, 2017

A veteran of several San Diego breweries, Brian Mitchell brews with an ethos that “no craft is sacred.” The brewery he launched last winter breaches San Diego convention to incorporate unexpected ingredients, ranging from fruit to seafood to latter-day hop products like cryo hops and lupulin powder. His beers are never short on flavor.

Alta Brewing Company

1983 Julian Avenue, Barrio Logan

Alta Brewing Company

Logan Heights, 2017

Journeyman brewer Brett Stampf has worked at some of the nation’s best-known craft breweries, typically moving on just before they’ve turned into beer factories. This time, he’s moved on to his own place, tucked in a small corner of the Bread & Salt art and events space just across the highway from Barrio Logan. The dude knows what he’s about, and his beers prove it, turning on a growing set of neighborhood regulars to the flavor of independent brews.

Dali Parker at Chula Vista Brewery helped launch Third Avenue beer scene.

Dali Parker at Chula Vista Brewery helped launch Third Avenue beer scene.

Chula Vista Brewery

294 3rd Avenue, Chula Vista

Chula Vista Brewery

Chula Vista, 2017

Founded by an active-duty serviceman and his wife, this small-batch, neighborhood brewery in Chula helped launch the Third Avenue Village’s rising beer scene. Helping the business establish itself are the quality beers of Rock Bottom alum Russel Clements. Helping its future look bright is the fact owners Timothy and Dali Parker recently picked up the annual brewing business mentorship awarded by Samuel Adams.

Escondido Brewing Company

649 Rock Springs Road, Escondido

Escondido Brewing Company

Escondido, 2017

About as nano as it gets, this tiny brewery attached to a feed-and-pet-supply store has space to serve customers only outside the building. Fortunately, there’s no direct relationship between square footage and flavor: brewer Ketchen Smith’s beers are as big as anything out of a ten-barrel tank.

Black Plague Brewing

2550 Jason Court, Oceanside

Black Plague Brewing

Oceanside, 2017

Black Plague is what happens when a bunch of pro skateboarders pitch in to start a beer company. Turns out, the skate culture’s trademark irreverence doesn’t apply to craft brewing, as these guys have earnestly put together an ambitious brewery space that can support their envious social media reach and brought in brewers tasked with keeping their beer worth trying.

Coronado Brewing Company

170 Orange Avenue, Coronado

SouthNorte Brewing

Why would a champion brewer leave his post with a successful and growing San Diego beer company? Ryan Brooks did so to start his own brand. A conservative launch from within the Coronado Brewing Company brewery where he won the World Beer Cup, but early returns indicate success is brewing. Within two weeks of debuting beers highlighting the brand’s cross-cultural, Mexican-meets-American craft approach, SouthNorte’s won its first medal.

Top New Beers — IPA

For much of the world now, “San Diego beer” is synonymous with “hoppy.” It would be unseemly to push any of the classic IPAs that helped build this community off any legit “best IPA” list. But since we’re only looking at the past four years, it’s possible to cull a few of the current-day hoppy bests without stepping on anybody’s self-righteous sense of history.

Burgeon Beer Co.

Treevana 7.2% ABV
Burgeon has unleashed a variety of seriously tasty IPAs during its short time serving central Carlsbad, periodically releasing a couple in 16-ounce cans. This Mosaic-and-Amarillo-hopped beauty stands out, offering sweet apricot aromatics over a resinous bitter base. It’s like drinking a smooth hop nectar.

North Park Beer Co.

Hop-Fu! 7.5% ABV
This beer’s been around longer than any of the breweries mentioned in this issue, having been a many-time national homebrew contest winner long before North Park Beer opened to the public. Seven types of hop oil up the dank ale with a spectrum of fruit flavors over a West Coast bitterness that has a place next to San Diego’s classic IPAs of years past.

Eppig Brewing

The Wolf 9% ABV
Musky grapefruit and tropical aromas leap from the glass of this heavy but downable double IPA. When you get a big, dank swig of it, the full heft of its earthy resins is buoyed by its Simcoe brightness; it lingers in the nose and sweetens at the outer edges of the palate. Delicious.

Burning Beard Brewing Co.

Dankness Visible 7% ABV
Burning Beard’s lineup rarely falters, so when it comes to the El Cajon brewery’s IPAs, preferences may vary. But Mosaic hop fans will likely gravitate to this one’s bursting grapefruit aromatics. Sufficiently bitter to satisfy ardent San Diego hop cravings, yet almost too easy to drink.

Bitter Brothers Brewing Co.

Prodigal Son 6.8% ABV
Billed as an Amarillo IPA, this refreshing ale does well to show off the hop’s sweet appeal. Fragrant with orange and underlying stone fruit, its measured bitterness pairs well with a meal, whether you adhere to the prototypical beef and spicy food pairings or just because you want an IPA with dinner.

Council Brewing Co.

Bully Pulpit 7.2% ABV
Glamour hops Mosaic and Simcoe surround this redolent, right-on-the-money IPA with mango and orange aromas. It manages to be bright, dank, malty, juicy, and yet finish dry. If Teddy Roosevelt were around to experience craft beer, I’ve got to think he would be into it.

Duck Foot Brewing Company

Duckzilla Double White IPA 8.6% ABV
The inclusion of wheat doesn’t keep this from being a gluten-reduced beer and doesn’t stop dark fruits from lurking within its big, piny, resiny body suitable to its monstrous name.

Align Brewing

The Nelson Eclipse 8.1% ABV
Though not a single-hop beer, the Nelson Sauvin hops dominate this double IPA enough to earn the eclipse comparison. The big, resinous beer warms with a little tropical fruit, but primarily within the context of the complex white-wine character Nelson’s known for. Made in small batches in this nano brewery, this beer may prove tough to find.

It's Been a Long Time Coming

For a long while, looking for a light beer at a San Diego brewery generally meant ordering a blond ale or maybe a kölsch. But in the past year, local breweries have embraced lagers in a big way, and it’s been fantastic. Whether you dig a So Cal favorite Mexican lager or find your zen in a clean Bohemian pilsner, in 2017, San Diego has got a beer for you.

Burning Beard Brewing Co.

Normcore Pils Bohemian Pilsner 5.5% ABV
“Making normal cool again,” the Burning Beard guys take a no-b.s. approach to their crisp, refreshing lager. Nevertheless, pleasing bitterness and light fruit come through in a soft, flavorful beer that tastes like you’d imagine a craft lager should taste.

Bagby Beer Company

Sweet Ride Bohemian Pilsner 4.5% ABV
Super soft yet crisply rewarding, this pristine ode to Czech lagering levies a terrific bread, almost cracker-like, flavor, with mild bitterness and subtle citrus. I defy even the most diehard Budweiser fans not to like this better.

North Park Beer Co.

Bird Park Bohemian Pilsner 4.7% ABV
A blend of Czech Saaz and German Perle hops lend floral and spicy notes to this delicately flavored pils, one of the cleanest-tasting San Diego lagers outside Gordon Biersch. For a brewery built on IPA prowess, to find this style so beautifully rendered is remarkable.

Eppig Brewing

Natural Bridge: Zwickelbier 4.6% ABV
There aren’t many zwickelbiers in San Diego, but this dry-hopped take on the unfiltered lager will make you wish there were. Clean and for the most part balanced between malt and hops, the beer’s light layer of fruity aromatics account for a memorable seasonal release.

Sea Senor — craft version of Mexican lager

Sea Senor — craft version of Mexican lager

SouthNorte Brewing

Sea Señor Mexican Lager 4.5% ABV
For the past couple years, local breweries have taken up the challenge to make a craft version of San Diego’s original beer affection, the Mexican lager. One of the city’s newest beer brands nails it with this one, balancing bready malt sweetness with spicy, floral balance, for a crisp, dry, and elevated summer beer.

Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Co.

La Flama Blanca Mexican Lager 5% ABV
The punks’ Mexican-style lager shows the difference between a craft take and the easily guzzled imports may boil down to the application of hops. A deft hand here gives the bready malts a slightly fuller body and more enjoyable bitter notes than anything found canned in 12-packs. Still, La Blanca is not a bit less crushable.

Circle Nine Brewing

Limbo Lager 5.4% ABV
Inspired in part by macro light beers, in part by the rice lagers commonly poured at the Asian restaurants lining nearby Convoy Street, this Kearny Mesa brewery’s take proves one of the lighter craft beers in town. Fans of subtlety, take note.

Ebullition Brew Works

Deli Rye Pilsner 6.2% ABV
A touch of rye, cleverly finished with caraway seed, adds an interesting twist to this new Vista brewery’s core lager. Bready malt character is a hallmark of the style, so evoking rye bread easily works on paper. More importantly, it works in the glass and proves something you could spend an entire afternoon drinking.

The Malt, Right?

The embrace of traditional lager styles hasn’t been the only shift in brewing tastes around here. After years of virtually maltless West Coast IPAs dominating our palates, brewers and beer drinkers have returned to the embrace of sweeter malt-forward styles: your red and brown ales.

Bagby Beer Company

Upside Down Frown Brown 6% ABV
Smile, this brown could prove the most satisfying, perfectly balanced beer you try this fall. Different types of dark malt are layered to create depth of flavors including chocolate and almond notes, with a finish neither too bitter nor too sweet.

Alta Brewing Company

El Camino 6% ABV
He claims not to be fond of brown ales, but brewer Brett Stampf has crafted a great one here. Modest dry-hopping subdues the sweetness of caramel malts and adds complexity to their subtle chocolate hues. Be sure to try it before you dip into his tasty and robust IPAs.

Fall Brewing Company

Speedo’s Tiki Love God 4.7% ABV
Made “not too hoppy” in deference to San Diego rock musician John “Speedo” Reis, this English-style brown ale reveals sweet toffee notes up front but drinks dry, with a winning malt flavor reminiscent of pumpernickel. It’s a great first-round beer to start a night.

Rouleur Brewing Company

Sprinteur Red Ale 5.3% ABV
Vibrant color and citrus hop character give this distinctive red ale out of Carlsbad a feeling of brightness, but it drinks with a full, rich body, rolling with dark fruit and caramel and a complexity that demands you keep sipping.

Chula Vista Brewery

Ruby Red 5.3% ABV
Named not for its hue but for brewer Russ Clements’s daughter, this red ale is actually more of a dark orange or amber. But don’t be distracted by color, just taste through the subdued sweetness of its caramel and toasted malts to find a satisfying umami middle.

Second Chance Beer Company

Mulligan Red 5.6% ABV
Toffee and biscuit aroma give way to smooth textures and caramel malt flavors that veer into savory territory. This coppery red pour is mild enough to be a popular get at golf course bars and a pure enough expression of malts to suit analytical sippers.

Hazy Beer

The New England IPA trend struck San Diego hard this year. Juicy, most often with strong tropical fruity flavors, these unfiltered beers take on a hazy, even opaque appearance and taste far less bitter than a traditional West Coast IPA — enough so to carve out their own category. Because they only taste great when they’re fresh, breweries across the country began selling them in limited-release events direct from their tasting rooms, leading zealous fans to line up — sometimes for hours — to satiate their cravings for the novel style.

While several San Diego breweries made the most of this model, quickly selling out cans and boosting cash flow, the scene has since settled down a bit. We’re now left with a few reliably delicious hazy beers to enjoy in tasting rooms, bars, and on occasional retail shelves.

Half Door Brewing Co.

#Buzzwords Pale Ale 8.7% ABV
One of the better beer names in town accompanies one of the better hazy beers. Impossibly easy to drink for how potent it is, the pale, opaque juice-bomb throws off tantalizing pineapple, guava, and mango aromas, with grapefruit lingering through to the finish. If you’ve never tried a hazy, start here.

Pure Project Brewing

Murklands Pale Ale 5.5% ABV
Preferring to dub its hazy beers “murky,” Pure Project has attracted many a fan with this rye pale ale series, which varies hops to include beloved varieties such as Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe, and Nelson. In any case, the impenetrable murk veers toward big, juicy blasts of stone and tropical fruits.

South Park Brewing Company

Yacht Rock IPA 6.6% ABV
A lot of beer contests still haven’t embraced hazy styles, so not a lot of hazies have won medals. However, this one claimed a gold in the New England IPA category at the California State Fair competition this summer, thanks to subdued bitterness and a soft body rich with juicy tropical and stone fruit.

Rouleur Brewing Company

Dopeur IPA 6.6% ABV
In cycling, a dopeur is someone who “juices” — takes performance enhancers for competitive advantage. By choosing this name, Rouleur pokes fun at itself for juicing to attract trend-chasing beer fans but also highlights the beer’s juicy, citrus appeal. Flaked oats and wheat lend a soft feel to the young brewery’s best IPA to date.

Abnormal Beer Company

New Money 7% ABV
One of the first breweries in town to embrace the haze, Abnormal has its New Money series pretty well dialed in, running the base recipe with the addition of different hops to keep each release tasting fresh, pitting piney bitterness with citrus and/or tropical hops.

Resident Brewing Co.

All the Cheater Hops 6.5% ABV
If you’re keeping notes, the cheater hops boosting the aromatics of this New England IPA are Nelson, Mosaic, and Galaxy, without a doubt a desirable bunch in this hop-loving town. The results are predictably quaffable, with grapefruit, tropical fruit, and hints of white wine.

Stouts and Porters

Thanks to our sunny climate, most of the year doesn’t feel like great stout or porter weather, but take a look at your calendar: winter is coming. Don’t worry, there’s a better Game of Thrones reference in one of the following beers.

Second Chance Beer Company

Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter, 6.2% ABV
A Great American gold-medal winner two years and counting, this beer’s setting the pace for robust porters in America right now. Toasted oats and roasted malts deliver deep, dark chocolate up front with lingering earthy and complex coffee notes.

Abnormal Beer Company

Tummy Cuddles Imperial Stout 9.8% ABV
Dear Abnormal, consider this a humble request for you to bring back this big, cacao-infused one-off from last year. The impenetrably black stout was so densely packed with flavors of roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, caramel, vanilla, and anise, that each sip felt like a luxurious voyage into the stout genre. Please, bring it back.

Mason Ale Works

Cash Coffee Stout 9.4% ABV
With a beer this size, featuring Mostra roasted coffee, there’s no way the flavors aren’t going to be bold and rich, and it definitely delivers a deep mocha vibe, though smoothly enough that it’s easy to overlook how potent it really is. A great one to have on hand for a late dessert.

BattleMage, Brewing Company

The Beer is Dark and Full of Terrors 6.3% ABV
My vote for best new beer name this year, this milk stout features toasted cocoa nibs to emphasize its roasty chocolate flavor, which plays nicely off the creamy sweetness of milk sugar. Coffee fans may prefer the Beer is Dark and Full of Caffeine.

Novo Brazil Brewing Co.

Corvo Negro Imperial Stout 11% ABV
Big, dark, and packed with a complex assortment of flavors, this “black crow” stout yields light roasted coffee notes, sweet and bitter chocolates, and a kaleidoscope of fruity harmonics that give chase into a warm boozy center.

Council Brewing Co.

Pirate’s Breakfast Imperial Oatmeal Stout 8.4% ABV
Oats lend a creamy mouthfeel to this big yet oddly drinkable stout, which comes with the added benefit of encouraging a morning beer and making you want to talk like a pirate all day. It’s resonant chocolate and coffee notes arrr good, too.

Sour and Tart

Sours have become more popular in town, though they’re not yet widespread. A few devoted breweries have picked up the puckering banner, though, and ably prove how tasty a tart beer can be.

Bitter Brothers Brewing Co.

Family Tart Berliner Weisse 4.5% ABV
The fruit additions may change — cans with white peach have been distributed this year — but the righteous biscuit and bread notes remain the same, providing an excellent base for the fruity sourness that envelops it. Look for it.

Wild Barrel Brewing Company San Diego

Vice Berliner Weiss 5.6% ABV
Several fruited versions of this beer debuted with this brewery’s October launch, and each took the base beer in different delicious directions. Pink guava resulted in something well rounded and juicy, while black currant came off dry and cabernet-like. A great start, and new flavors are on the way.

Council Brewing Co.

Lickable Staves Sour Red 7.8% ABV
The best in show from this year’s San Diego International beer contest sat with balaton cherries in cabernet barrels where it developed a host of fruit and malt flavors to balance its sour edge. Cherry, cinnamon, and oaky vanilla lead the way. It’s unique and sublime.

Council Brewing Co.

Woofle Dust Golden Sour Ale 6% ABV
If you’re curious to see why Council invested in oak foeders to fuel its Magic Factory sour label, check out this beer. While tasting-room offerings include various fruited options, the base beer on its own beautifully demonstrates the pleasure to be derived from mixed fermentation, with the bright sour notes of pineapple and peach sweetening a refreshing wooded blond.

Toolbox Brewing Company

Ramble on Rose 6.5% ABV
Mixed fermentation specialist Ehren Schmidt may have departed the Toolbox head-brewer position this summer (to work in Denmark), but he left behind a few barrel-aging pleasures, including the return of this medal winner, a gleaming red sour aged in wine barrels with organic blackberries, with the body of a sparkling rosé.

California Wild Ales

Pineapple Expression 4.7% ABV
The first public release on draft from this barrel-aged sour specialist doesn’t have a lot of carbonation, revealing a body very much like chardonnay. While the sour is puckering initially, it loosens up as it warms to allow the subtly applied pineapple to [cough] express itself.

Mikkeller San Diego

Raspberry Blush Berliner Weisse 4% ABV
Most sours are flavored with fruit, many sours are fruited with raspberry, and almost no sours are raspberried with coffee. So, what possessed brewer Daniel Cady to craft a coffee raspberry Berliner Weisse is anybody’s guess. Thing is, what started out as one of Mikkeller’s weekly one-off beer releases in 2017, has been promoted to a regular thing. That’s how much it works.

Flavored Beer — What's that taste?

Flavored beer is nothing new, but some of the flavors being added to beers these days are. Don’t be put off — every one of these beers is worth trying at least once. Subject to taste — or allergies — they could even become your regular thing.

Thunderhawk Alements

Torreyana Saison 6.3% ABV
Try the base first, made with orange-blossom honey, organic ginger, and oak, which make a refreshing complement to the saison’s phenolics. Then check out the version with Torrey pine needles; not only do they add a remarkable sense of fresh air to its aroma, they give it San Diego terroir.

Pariah Brewing Company

Off White Wit 5.4% ABV
Brewer Brian Mitchell credits boba tea for the inspiration behind this Belgian-style witbier, which features green tea with lemongrass, orange peel, ginger, and honey. The citrusy wit proves remarkably refreshing for something that sounds so loaded with different flavors.

Pariah Brewing Company

Uni Stout 5.4% ABV
It’s not uncommon for beers to have the occasional allergy disclaimer, but it’s not usual for a brewery to warn people with shellfish allergies. Inspired by the briny nature of oyster stouts, this milk stout incorporates sea urchin roe instead, adding Pacific Ocean style salinity to the roasty flavors, which are finished with nori seaweed and sea salt.

Resident Brewing Co.

Vacation Coconut IPA 7% ABV
Nobody’s been able to explain to me why coconut should work in a hoppy beer, but somehow this smooth, tropical IPA pulls off toasted coconut in the mix. You can’t miss the coconut — it actually smells and tastes fresh — but let it warm a little to find the complementary pineapple and citrus.

Toolbox Brewing Company

Mashugana Raspberry Milkshake IPA 7.5% ABV
A raspberry IPA alone would be a lot to figure out — the milkshake element really takes some getting used to. That stems from addition of lactose, aka milk sugar, which gives the otherwise hazy ale a creamy quality. Toolbox enhances that with vanilla, resulting in a soft, fruity, milky beer that in almost no way resembles an IPA.

Culver Beer Co.

Dirty Bird Amaretto Red Ale 5.1% ABV
This Carlsbad brewery tends to be fond of hoppy and Belgian styles, but when they got the idea to add amaretto flavor to its Irish red and serve it on nitro, they found a hit. The amaretto’s nutty, caramelized flavor amplifies the sweetness of the red’s caramel malts, the creamy nitro texture filling out a pleasant dessert-styled beer.

Historic Styles Unearthed

Don’t let their newness fool you; plenty of the brewers working in San Diego have a deep appreciation for brewing history. While these old styles may not turn out to be next year’s trend, part of the privilege in surrounding ourselves with so many astute brewers is we get access to great examples of the types of brews our beer-loving forebears drank.

Burgeon Beer Co.

Noble Miner Grisette 4.4% ABV
Since it’s not a well-known style, you may find this 19th-century beer labeled a saison or “petit saison.” This one’s name is a nod to the Belgian miners it was originally brewed for, and while Burgeon’s grisette does resemble a saison, the phenolics are much subtler, with citrus and wheat notes adding balance to turn out a clean, crisp, and incredibly refreshing beer.

Chula Vista Brewery

Broadway Table Beer 5% ABV
This low-alcohol beer is actually quite a bit stiffer than the early-20th-century Belgian tafelbiers it’s based on, which were low enough to be considered suitable for children. However, its low hops and bready malt sweetness fit the bill; and with only a hint of clove, it proves incredibly easy and pleasing to drink.

Burning Beard Brewing Co.

Banksy ESB 6% ABV
ESB, or extra special bitters, aren’t very bitter by contemporary standards. The 19th-century variant of English pale ale is more about the malt, with bitters being more about bringing balance than blowing your palate like a hoppy American IPA. It’s all perfectly British, mind you. Banksy drinks with a nice round body and treats the grains with clear affection...and only a whiff of wry social commentary.

Fall Brewing Company

Mittens Black Lager 5.3% ABV
This black lager, aka schwartzbier, takes on a style tracing back potentially thousands of years. For all its dark malt, it is at heart a light-bodied German lager. This one smells a little of whole-wheat bread, and its restrained bitterness reveals a hint of allspice in the malt. I’d be happy drinking it before noon.

Bagby Beer Company

ALT in the Family Altbier 4.7% ABV
Literally translated as “old beer,” altbier links back to a German time predating the isolation of lager yeast, or the advent of lighter malts that came with improved kiln technology. In typical Bagby fashion, this take adopts the traditional noble hops, using them to find an exceptional balance with the malts to produce a dry, barely bitter German cousin to an amber ale.

South Park Brewing Company

Grassmarket 80 Shilling Scottish Ale 5.2% ABV
In 19th-century Scotland, hops were expensive, and the cost of beer reflected how potent or heavy it was, expressed by the cost for a barrel (the 90-shilling barrel was also known as a wee heavy). Consequently, this medium range of coppery brown beer from that time leads with sweet malt flavors, though not as richly as the aforementioned browns or ESBs. South Park’s take adds to the mildness with hints of fruity esters. It won’t taste like much compared to the IPAs on the board, but it’s well worth trying an early-round pint (for a wee bit more than 80 shillings).

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