Each spring, three California-based beer contests assess thousands of craft brews for quality, and each spring they send San Diego brewers home with a fresh heap of medals and ribbons to show off in their tasting rooms. This spring was no exception. However, this year a couple of our perennial award winning brands were joined by on the podium by new San Diego breweries. Most of San Diego’s most dominant performers at 2019’s San Diego International Beer Competition, Los Angeles International Beer Competition, and California State Fair Commercial Craft Beer Competition have been in business fewer than four years.
We’ve gotten used to seeing names like Pizza Port, Rock Bottom, Rip Current, and Societe on beer awards lists. But how about this for a new list of standard bearers for San Diego Beer: Deft, Eppig, Papa Marce’s, Rouleur, and South Park?
From the three competitions combined, San Diego added 152 pieces of hardware to remind us how good we beer fans have it, and 54 of those were gold medals (in the case of the State Fair, first place ribbons, but we’ll consider them gold for this tally).
Pizza Port Brew Co.: Three Pizza Port locations combined for 17 medals, including six golds. The Carlsbad brewpub alone added six overall and three golds to its huge list of awards.
Burning Beard Brewing: The most awarded individual brewery, El Cajon’s Burning Beard came away from the three competitions with ten medals on its own, including two golds. Remarkably, it did so with nine different beers, and a pair of medals for Roggen the Lightning, its roggenbier, a.k.a. rye beer.
South Park Brewing Co.: The neighborhood brewery from South Park came on strong in its fourth year, hauling in eight medals, including four golds and three silvers. It mostly won for English-style beers, sort of a niche offering in this town.
Eppig Brewing: From North Park and soon to be Vista, Eppig Brewing earned eight medals, three of them gold. True to the brand’s name, it did so primarily brewing German styles. Its Meister north German wheat ale won, placed, and showed in the three contests, which already gives it nine awards in Eppig’s two year history. Its Japanese style Special Lager also earned a pair of medals.
Papa Marce’s Cerveceria: Not even a year old, newcomer Papa Marce’s contributed eight medals to San Diego’s claim as the Craft Beer Capital of America. That included two medals for its Ryesilience rye IPA, and an otherwise diverse line-up including a couple of brett beers, one brewed in collaboration with its Carlsbad neighbor, Rouleur Brewing Company.
Rouleur Brewing Company: Speaking of Rouleur, it tallies six medals plus an honorable mention of its own. Counting the Papa Marce’s collaboration, Rouleur tallied eight wins to go with a bronze medal the two year old brewery won at last fall’s Great American Beer Festival. Bonkeur pale ale claimed two medals, including one of Rouleur’s two golds, and its Belgian style Soloist golden strong twice earned recognition.
Deft Brewing: Another newcomer, Deft Brewing came on strong with three golds towards seven medals overall, including German, Belgian, and historical beer style, plus a fresh hop beer using hops grown on its Bay Park patio. Six of Deft’s medals and all three of its golds were given by Los Angeles International, and like Burning Beard, all for distinct beers.
Rock Bottom La Jolla: The tradition runs strong with this longtime awards fixture, which added seven more medals (two golds) to its historic totals despite a brewer change last year. It did so with a range of brews, but its Sunset Blonde ale led the way with both gold and silver.
Rip Current Brewing: Arguably the most impressive showing this spring goes to Rip Current: six of its seven medals glittered gold! Its Breakline Bock took gold in all three contests. Safe to say Breakline is one of the best German-style beers made in the U.S.: it has now won twelve medals since 2015, nine of them gold. More surprising may be the two golds Rip Current won with its first batch of a new beer: Corriente Negra Mexican Lager. The second batch sits in fermenters as I type this.
Societe Brewing Co.: Societe racked up six medals, but did most of its damage at the San Diego International, where it led all San Diego breweries with five medal showing, including 2 golds. Both fresh and sour beers contributed to the brewery’s winning season, but its two-time Great American Beer gold medalist, the Coachmen session IPA, added two more medals to its credit.
Twisted Horn Mead & Cider: It may not make beer, but Twisted Horn earned four medals at the San Diego International, for its meads and ciders. That’s why it was named 2019 contest’s Champion Meadery/Cidery.
Full San Diego International Beer Competition results
Full Los Angeles International beer Competition results
Full California State Fair Commercial Craft Beer Competition results