Prague Beer 02

Beer in Prague, a Delicious Surprise

In Prague, I visited two breweries, one of them that has been brewing since 1499. I also found some interesting craft beers at a restaurant including a double IPA and an imperial stout. I avoided visiting any breweries that only make a pilsner but I was quite impressed by the rest of the beers I tried.

St. Norbert brewing offered only three beers but each one was quite delicious. They served an amber ale, black ale, and an IPA. The amber was so smooth and delicious that I now have a new standard by which to judge San Diego ambers. The black lager was surprisingly smooth and quite a tasty beer that my husband enjoyed as well. This is a style of beer that I hope a San Diego brewery will explore properly soon. I’ve had a few black lagers but most of them were much higher in alcohol. The IPA was quite tasty and again well-balanced. Still I liked the malts used enough that it did not bother me being so balanced.

Prague Beer 01 Prague Beer 02

The next day I went to U Fleku, a brewery that has been open since 1499 and only serves a single black lager. The black lager was also quite smooth and really made me wonder why we don’t see more of this style in he states. Because they only serve one beer, they go around the tables with a tray of beer and offer them to whoever is sitting there and mark a paper at your table to keep track of how much you drank.

U Fleku Black Lager

U Fleku Black Lager

I could have just stuck to U Fleku for the rest of my trip and been satisfied, but I knew there were some stronger beers around so I had to search them out. I was going to visit one bar to get my fix but they were not serving any food and I happened to stop by when I was really needing some food. Thankfully, the restaurant I visited had a few nice selections, including a double IPA, and an imperial stout.

Prague Beer 04 Prague Beer 05

The double IPA was very much in the style of the previous IPAs I had in my trip. I actually started to grow fond of this balanced IPA flavor. The Imperial stout was unexpectedly strong with a heavy flavor of peat. It was a combination of a strong Scotch, and some licorice flavor. Thankfully the peat did not get too much and I really enjoyed this one. I would recommend that you drink plenty of black lager if you make your way to Prague, especially if you don’t really like pilsners.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Italy Beer 02

Craft Beer in Milan, Italy and Surrounding Areas

When you think of Italy, you tend to think of wine. Italian wines are quite good and well-known for quality. However, there is also a growing group of Italian craft beer. I didn’t spend much time searching out the craft beer while there because you still have to go out of your way to find it. What I did try was quite delicious and showed that the Italian brewers know what quality beer tastes like and strive to produce the best.

The first place I had Italian craft beer was a small beer bar called Pub 38 about half a mile from the hotel where I stayed in Malgrate, an area south of Lecco, a small industrial town about an hour north-east of Milan. I expected to see some Belgian beers and was surprised to see two beers from The Wall, an Italian craft brewery in Varese not too far from where I was, on tap. They had both an IPA and a barley wine. The IPA was well-balanced and yet had some nice grapefruit and citrus flavors that reminded me of home.

Italy Beer 02

I later returned to the same bar to try the barley wine. I was surprised that the flavors I tasted in the barley wine were more on the Belgian style. If I had to compare it to something more well-known, I would say it reminded me of a Duvel but with some added hops. The flavors worked very nicely together. I was also quite glad that the bar I got these at was very careful about giving proper glassware and cleaning everything properly.

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I got to try a few more Italian beers in a bar in Milan after we decided to spend our last day in Italy exploring Milan. It seemed as if most of the craft beer bars were some distance away from the tourist areas so I ended up taking a metro to cut down my trip length a little bit. The bar I visited, called Bere Buona Birra, only had four beers on tap but tons of bottles. I was glad that the bartender and most of the people I met inside spoke  quite good English. I ended up having some interesting chats with them about the San Diego craft beer scene.

Italy Beer 06 Italy Beer 03

The only beer that jumped out to me on tap was an imperial saison dry-hopped with citra. Despite generally not liking saisons, I was quite impressed by the flavors of this one. The higher alcohol made it more smooth and the hops added a nice citrus bite. After trying this one, I was offered a lighter extra-pale but since my palate was likely shot I had a local bottle of double IPA from Brewfist instead. The double IPA was also quite malty but had plenty of hop flavors going. I learned later in Prague that this is the style that Europe tends to brew IPAs. The San Diego style of lighter colored IPA doesn’t seem to have obtained popularity there yet.

Italy Beer 04 Italy Beer 05

Thankfully Italy is easy enough to get around that finding some of the out-of-the-way beer bars isn’t too difficult, though you may end up walking a decent amount.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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SD Beer Week 2014 07 Alesmith

San Diego Beer Week 2014 Wrap Up

For some people Beer Week is a constant string of drinking rare beers. With so many options, I don’t blame them, especially those who live close to the bars where most of the big events were held. Living a little further from the action, I limited myself a bit more but I still managed to have some fantastic beers.

This year during beer week there were quite a few events where breweries brought out special sour beers. There were so many sour events that some people could have had nothing but sours for most of the week. Prime among these was Green Flash’s 12th Anniversary beer release, a lemon drop sour pale ale, which was debuted along with a number of versions of Little Freak and Super Freak, sour versions of the popular beers. Thankfully along with all these sours Green Flash had a delicious barrel aged barley wine so that those who aren’t as into sours could enjoy something special.

Green Flash Barrel Aged Barleywine.

Green Flash Barrel Aged Barleywine.

Green Flash Barrel Aged Barleywine.

Green Flash Barrel Aged Barleywine.

Another big thing that comes out each year along with the sours is the barrel aged beers and the multiple flavors of big name stouts and porters. Alesmith has released multiple flavors of Speedway Stout for a number of years and this year they split it into 3 different days with 12 varieties to taste in three separate flights of 4 2oz tasters. Alesmith also brought out a few bottles of barrel aged Speedway Stout to sell and tapped a bourbon barrel aged Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout at the tasting room. Ballast Point released a similar set of flavored versions of their Victory at Sea Imperial Porter at a few different bars around town. O’Brien’s pub hosted a barrel aged beer day as well, bringing out a number of delicious beers to taste.

SD Beer Week 2014 07 Alesmith SD Beer Week 2014 08 Alesmith

Many of the big bars around town hosted tap take-overs, where breweries from around town were featured on tap including beers you don’t regularly see from Alpine Brewing. Some of these take-overs focused on beers from breweries in other parts of California such as the much sought-after beers from Russian River. Another way to try some rare beers is a bottle share and there was a big bottle share event called The World’s Biggest Bottle Share held in North Park on Sunday November 9th. Plenty of rare beers were shared along the route with shuttles taking people between the different bars.

Other breweries released some new bottles of beer for the first time. Council Brewing released their second bottle, an oak-aged Belgian Tripel, with the opportunity to taste the beer on tap at the brewery on the first day it was out. I am a fan of their Tripel generally and liked what I tasted on tap. I am looking forward to trying my bottle in a few weeks.

There were so many events going on that I wasn’t able to try them all. If you had a favorite beer week experience that I left out, let me know in the comments.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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OSullivan Brothers 04

O’Sullivan Brothers – San Diego CA

O’Sullivan Brothers is the second new brewery I’ve visited recently that started with everything they need right off the bat and a clear vision in place of where they want to go. Started by five Irish brothers who wanted to re-create the beer styles they love, O’Sullivan Brothers focuses on porters and stouts but they also brew a solid brown ale, pale ale, and amber.

OSullivan Brothers 02

This is one of the smaller tasting rooms in San Diego. The front area is especially small and has two tables with a little bar space. There is some more seating past the bar into the brewing area but when I visited it was quite hot back there. The air conditioning is all in the front space. Still, I was glad to see that they started things out with six beers to try, a pale ale, amber, brown ale, porter, smoked porter, and stout.

The Amber has a nice light hop kick that combines nicely with the malts to give it a good balanced flavor. The pale ale is similar to something like an Alesmith pale at 5.5% using mosaic hops to give it a light citrus kick. The bitterness here is not too intense either but it has some solid flavors. Both of these are as hoppy as you will get for now. Though they talked about possibly doing an IPA in the future to meet with local demand, that isn’t a priority. Thankfully, these two hit the right notes in that flavor profile.

Taster flight. Front left to right, amber, pale, porter, brown ale. Back smoked porter, stout.

Taster flight. Front left to right, amber, pale, porter, brown ale. Back smoked porter, stout.

We had a bit of a mix up between the porter and brown ale when I got my taster flight. The server wasn’t sure if she might have mixed up the two and I had a difficult time telling the two apart. The nice thing about this is that both beers have a good roasted malt flavor. When I talked to one of the owners in the back he said they add a little bit of hops on the back of the brown ale to give it a little extra kick.

The smoked porter was a little too much like drinking mesquite. This was one taster we didn’t finish. However, I heard a guy comment about just how much he loved this one before we left. So if you like smoked beers, give this one a shot. Finally, the sweet stout was the highlight of the place for me. Despite the name, this is not a sticky extra-sweet milk stout. There is just enough sweetness here to get you to notice it and the rest of the beer is full on delicious roasted flavors you expect from a good stout.

Yes the tasting room is that small.

Yes the tasting room is that small.

I don’t normally do tours when I review breweries but I happened to go back on a tour here and was shown the great brewing setup that they have going at O’Sullivan Brothers. A computer system monitors most of the process and they have a quality control lab in the back. Besides all that, the guy I spoke to mentioned that they also make a point of trying to mimic the water from different parts of the world when brewing so that an English beer has English water.

With a system that is a step above some of the new breweries with glorified home-brew setups and a clear vision I expect great things in the coming years from O’Sullivan Brothers. They also mentioned that their first Imperial Stout should be out in December. This won’t be a coffee or chocolate-forward imperial stout but just a good strong traditional imperial stout. I’m curious to see how this differentiates them from the trend of coffee and chocolate flavors in most San Diego imperial stouts.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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32 North Brewing 01

32 North Brewing, San Diego

The area around Alesmith, Green Flash, and the new Ballast Point is increasingly becoming crowded. Recently added in that area is a new brewery called 32 North. The owner partnered up with a brewer who previously brewed for Karl Strauss and White Labs and opened up with a nice-looking tasting room and a solid selection of beers to start. The Karl Strauss influence is especially noticeable in the peanut butter cup porter and imperial stout, both very similar to Karl Strauss’ offerings of the same style.

32 North Brewing 01

One thing that sets this brewery apart from many of the places around the area is its operating hours. They are open every day from Noon to 10PM. For a while most breweries closed on Mondays and many also close on Tuesdays. Plus this is one of the few that remains open until 10PM. Also impressive is the lineup of beers to start. I didn’t get to try everything in my first visit but I came back the next day to try the other three. I always like to see a brewery that focuses on a few core beers.

The four core beers are a 3.8% berliner weisse, a 5.5% pale ale, a strong 7.5% IPA, and a 6% coffee milk stout. Also on tap when I visited on October 28, 2014 was a 4.5% toasted coconut English mild, 6.3% rye pale ale, a 5.5% peanut butter cup porter, and a 10.5% imperial stout.

32 North Brewing 03

The berliner weisse is an interesting light-bodied beer that is quite tart. It really isn’t my thing but I was glad to see something from a wheat beer that is a bit different than the usual. Since there has been some mention of future sours in the works, I expect this would be the basis for those sours. The pale ale is quite tasty with a lot of peach and citrus flavors going on. It is lightly malty, which sets it apart from many of the malt bomb pale ales around.

Left to right, Coconut Mild, Berliner Weisse, Pale Ale.

Left to right, Coconut Mild, Berliner Weisse, Pale Ale.

The rye pale ale was a little strange tasting to me. It had plenty of the rye flavors but the hops used didn’t seem to mix properly, giving it a really herbal flavor. There is some room to tweak this one, maybe with a different type of hops. Especially when comparing this to something like Aurora from Modern Times there is a way to go. The IPA was solidly flavorful and bitter. It boasted plenty of tropical fruit and citrus and a powerful bitterness. This is a great start and a solid beer to have as a core.

Left to right, imperial stout, peanut butter cup porter, rye pale, IPA.

Left to right, imperial stout, peanut butter cup porter, rye pale, IPA.

The peanut butter cup porter was very similar to the Karl Strauss one and had a good mix of nutty flavors and sweetness. The milk stout had some solid coffee flavors and a little more sweetness than I typically prefer but that is balanced by some roasted malt flavors. I would personally prefer a little more pronounced coffee but then I did try it after the imperial stout, mostly because I didn’t realize the milk stout had coffee in it until I chatted with the bartender. The toasted coconut mild was especially tasty on nitro. The mild underlying beer takes on the flavor of the coconut really nicely, giving it a strong lightly sweet coconut taste.

32 North Brewing 06

The Imperial Stout is very similar to the fantastic Karl Strauss Imperial Stout sporting plenty of coffee and chocolate flavors. 32 North uses fresh roasted local coffee from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters in both the imperial stout and the milk stout, and it tastes great.

With a spacious amount of seating inside and a good set of core beers, 32 North is off to a great start and seems poised for great things. The initial lineup seems to indicate a recognition of the demand in the local market where a solid IPA and solid imperial stout are both essential.

Have you gotten to try the beers at 32 North brewing yet? If so, what do you think? What was your favorite?

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Be Careful Where You Buy IPA and How You Store it

I got excited about IPAs because of the flavors that hops bring to a brew. More recently I started to notice the difference freshness makes and how quickly the hop flavors fade. Thanks in part to Stone releasing their Enjoy By IPA series, which expects people to drink the beer within a month of release, general beer drinkers are starting to understand how important freshness is. Follow the Enjoy By link for Stone’s explanation of this. But simply having bottles at home that are fresh is only half the battle. You also have to store those beers properly to avoid losing those hop flavors.

I am not going to go on about specific temperatures but I will simply keep things as simple as possible. Refrigerating your IPAs once you get them home in a bottle (like I know you would with a growler) ensures that your beer tastes as good as it did when you brought it home when you open it the following week. This is only half of the battle though. The other part is making sure that you purchase your beers from a shop that stores their beers properly, or go direct to the source.

There are a lot of steps a beer takes from when it leaves the brewery until you find it at your local shop. Thankfully a lot of the big breweries in San Diego that bottle their beers distribute through Stone. Stone takes the necessary steps to ensure that until they drop the beer off at the next step it is properly refrigerated. Read about how Stone explains it on their distribution site. However, you don’t always know how properly the beer was stored by a particular company before putting it on the shelves.

Sometimes finding beers from certain breweries in a shop is a good indication that the shop stores the beers properly. Russian River is known for being very strict about how their beers are kept both during shipping and once on display. Alpine is also strict so if you can find beer from either brewery at a bottle shop you know that they store the beers properly. Alpine has a list of places where you can find their beers on their website. One thing to look for is coolers that don’t have bright fluorescent lights on the beers.

More recently though, I’ve found that it is worth going direct to any local brewery and buying the beer from the source. That way you are guaranteed that the beer you are buying is as fresh as possible and stored properly. Stone has a few smaller tasting rooms where you can buy bottles without trying to park at one of their big restaurants. But for beers from out of state or out of county proper storage makes all the difference and helps ensure that you enjoy the beers as they were meant to be tasted.

In summary, make sure that you keep your IPAs away from sunlight and/or fluorescent lights and that you store them in a cool place. You should notice the difference right away. Because some of the things I discuss here is based on discussions I had on Facebook with fellow beer friends, if something here is inaccurate, please let me know in the comments. If you think I am making a big deal about something that is not very important, also let me know.

If you are interested in some of the science behind how light affects beer, check out this article from Mark Dredge on Pencil and Spoon as well as a more detailed article from someone in The Bruery’s lab.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Noble Ale Works 01

Noble Ale Works, Orange County CA

A few miles from The Bruery is Noble Ale Works, a brewery that knows how to make a fantastic IPA. My first introduction to the brewery was a double IPA that I tried down in San Diego. I immediately took notice and wanted to stop by for a visit. I didn’t make it to the brewery itself until a few weeks ago when I stopped by both The Bruery and Noble Ale Works on September 27, 2014 on my way home from LA.

Noble Ale Works 01

I tried five beers while there, Rosalita (a hibiscus infused pilsner), pale ale, Big Whig IPA, a coffee milk stout, and man’s milk. The Rosalita was not particularly impressive. There was very little hibiscus flavor and if it wasn’t pink in color you probably wouldn’t even know it was flavored. I didn’t finish this taster. The pale ale was quite impressive with a nice juicy flavor that set it apart from most piney pale ales out there.

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The Big Whig IPA is a powerful IPA that really shows that Noble understands the West Coast style of IPA. It has a lot of citrus flavor and a bit of resinous flavor as well to balance it out. I had this beer on tap down in Mexico pretty recently as well and every time it hits the spot. The coffee milk stout was a bit sweet and strangely light colored. It had plenty of iced coffee flavor to go nicely with the sweetness. The Man’s Milk was pretty similar with a little more syrupy sweetness going on and a lot more caramel in the flavor.

Noble Ale Works 02

Because I had already been to The Bruery and was going to dinner when I got back to San Diego I didn’t try the Galaxy Showers, a seasonal double iPA using just galaxy hops. There was another seasonal double IPA called Chinook Showers as well but I didn’t try that one either. Noble was fairly crowded as well and overall is worth a stop if you like IPAs. If you can’t make it up to the brewery look for their Big Whig IPA on tap at local beer bars.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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The Bruery 02

The Bruery, Orange County California

The Bruery has been open for a few years now but I hadn’t heard of it until I went to the Beer Bloggers Conference this year in San Diego. Though they have a few year round beers, when you visit the brewery you can tell that they are really focusing on sour beers and barrel aged imperial stouts. Many of the sours and barrel aged stouts are limited releases and the bottles are a bit more expensive than usual.

The Bruery 02

Though I did taste a few barrel aged beers while I was there, I mostly focused on the core brews that sounded interesting. I was heading to Noble Ale Works (only 7 miles away) next so I couldn’t try more than a full five taster flight. A number of the interesting sounding beers were described as hoppy so I hoped that I would find something that would satisfy my hop cravings.

In total, I tried the double dry-hopped red, hoppy belgian golden, india pale lager (IPL), dubel with cacao nibs and vanilla, and a bourbon barrel aged stout with cherry and vanilla.

The Bruery 03

The double dry-hopped red ale was interesting for two reasons. First, it didn’t really have much malt flavor to speak of. Second, it was mostly light bodied and taken over by floral hops. Thus, it really tasted more like a floral session IPA than anything else. It was a solid beer but I found the floral hops to be a little too overpowering leaving just a light citrus background.

The hoppy Belgian golden was a solid Belgian gold though the hops were very light, mostly serving to balance out the typical spice flavors a Belgian beer makes. The IPL was pretty disappointing overall although I have a hard time pinpointing the specific flavor that I didn’t like. Based on the description on the website, it seems the herbal flavors were a bit overpowering in this one.

The dubel was a very tasty chocolate beer and totally different than what I usually get. Rather than a thick full-bodied stout, this was a lighter bodied Belgian beer that displayed the chocolate flavors quite prominently. Finally, the bourbon barrel aged stout with cherry and vanilla was quite nice. The bourbon flavor came through nice and was balanced with a light amount of tart flavor from the cherry.

The Bruery 01

I was generally disappointed by the lack of lower alcohol dark ale offerings. Though they have a bunch of imperial stouts, there is no porter or stout anywhere near the 5% alcohol range. They also didn’t have an IPA, which it seems they were purposefully avoiding. Though many of the beers I tried were described as hoppy, they didn’t really satisfy my cravings. An IPL when done right would take the place of a solid IPA but the IPL here was purposefully avoiding the West Coast style of IPA. By contrast, Ballast Point makes a delicious IPL that I am a huge fan of.

If you like sours, there are a lot of options to try at The Bruery. They also seem to be doing a great job with the barrel aged imperial stouts and special limited release bottles. What they weren’t able to do is satisfy this hop-head’s cravings for the West Coast hop flavors. If you really like floral and herbal hops then you might enjoy their hoppier options a little bit. Otherwise, I suggest you head over to Noble nearby for your hop fix.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Quantum Brewing 01

Quantum Brewing, San Diego CA

Quantum Brewing Company has been open for a little bit as a test but just recently opened officially. I stopped by on September 19, 2014 for a few tasters to see what it was like. I had already gone to Council Brewing before hand so I had to limit my tasters. I decided to try the Uncertainty red, Antimater IPA, Yellowcake double IPA, and Singularity stout.

Quantum Brewing 03

The uncertainty red was an interesting combination of floral and fruity flavors that I don’t normally taste in a red. These flavors were most likely from added hops, though they didn’t bring any heavy bitterness. The Antimater IPA was a bright tropical fruit beer with a light amount of citrus and medium bitterness. Yellowcake double IPA was again strongly floral and had a solid bitterness that didn’t taste like what the board said. So far the beers were solid but not particularly exciting.

Quantum Brewing 02

Then I tried the stout and I was quite happy. Though it is only 5% and quite mellow it has a good amount of flavor and was served on Nitro. Flavors in the stout were a nice combination of roasted malts and light coffee. I ended up ordering a pint after the tasters and enjoyed it quite a bit. The brewer happened to be wearing a Guinness shirt that day so I expect he was trying to create the proper Irish experience of Guinness which everyone says is better in Ireland. Though I haven’t been to Ireland yet I expect he did a pretty good job here. It hit all the right points.

Quantum Brewing 04

Quantum is still in the early stages and so still exploring new beer styles. Others have been more excited about the IPA than I was because everyone has different preferences for hop flavors. Quantum is off to a good start with a solid stout as their standout and should hopefully start to nail down a few of their core beers soon.

Have you been out to Quantum yet? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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The Six-Pack Project Southern California

Bryan Roth, of the blog “This is Why I’m Drunk” started a massive collaboration project to explore beer styles in different states. Max at The Beginner’s Brew did a profile of California beers in 2013 focusing mostly on Northern California. To explore a different side of California beers, I volunteered to provide a look at Southern California beers, which will mostly focus on San Diego because it is the biggest.

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I tried to make this list explore what makes San Diego different in the beer scene.

1. Alesmith Brewing, Speedway Stout
San Diego, CA
Speedway Stout represents the big bold flavors San Diego is known for and created a style that has become popular with breweries throughout San Diego, the coffee imperial stout. Though there are now many coffee stouts in San Diego, Alesmith has always had one of the best and most popular. Despite its premium price, in part due to the costs of using that much coffee in a beer, it always draws in people because the flavors are so rich. If you happen to visit the brewery in person, they often have special varieties of Speedway made with different types of coffee. The brewery also did a limited bottle-release made with Jamaican coffee.
Sold in 750ml bottles and available year-round.

Alesmith Speedway Stout small

 

2. Ballast Point Brewing, Sculpin IPA
San Diego, CA
Though there are many beers that represent the west coast style Sculpin always manages to stick out from the pack. It has many imitators but the blend of hops used gives this beer a unique flavor. Other San Diego IPAs are closer to what I consider the true west-coast style but Sculpin is one of the more balanced ones. Thankfully, Sculpin has largely stayed consistent over the years. Make sure you get a fresh bottle of Sculpin by looking for the coded numbers on the front. If it says 14265 that means that it was brewed on the 265th day of 2014.
Available year-round in 22oz bottles and six-packs. Occasionally available in different varieties, including Grapefruit Sculpin and Habanero Sculpin.

Ballast Point Sculpin

3. Modern Times Brewing, Fortunate Islands Hoppy Wheat
San Diego, CA
Released just about the time when the “Session IPA” was gaining popularity, Fortunate Islands uses two hops, citra and amarillo, that provide a big citrus punch that San Diego brewers love to explore. The varieties of malts used provide a subtle background that gives the hops plenty of room to shine. Since this was first released, it seems that most local breweries have some form of session IPA on tap. What sets this apart from other session IPAs is the fuller body. While other session IPAs tend to taste like hop water, this one feels more like a proper beer.
Available year-round in 4-packs of 16oz cans. Watch for enjoy by dates on a sticker.

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4. Stone Brewing Enjoy By IPA
San Diego, CA
Enjoy By IPA is a seasonal beer in a way but it gets released so frequently throughout the year that it is essentially a year-round beer. Stone is one of the biggest San Diego breweries and they decided to send a message of how important it is for IPAs to be served fresh by making a beer where the enjoy by date is so large it is actually part of the name. This beer also represents the style of double IPA that has become quite popular throughout San Diego from a number of breweries. Though the hops change frequently, this is usually a light-colored beer and yet quite strong at 9.4%. The date on the bottle is usually set about a month after bottling so you can get an idea when it was released.
Available in 22oz bottles released fairly regularly.

Enjoy By 02 2014

5. Green Flash 30th Street Pale Ale
San Diego, CA
As it says right on the bottle, a 6% pale ale is only considered a pale ale in San Diego, where beers seem to constantly push the flavor and alcohol content thresholds. Green Flash has been one of the breweries always in this game, with their recent change of the recipes of two mainstay beers, West Coast IPA and Hop Head Red to a delightful yet pretty insane 8.4%. The 30th Street pale has a very floral flavor due to the variety of hops used.
Available in 24 packs and smaller. 

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6. Alpine Brewing Nelson IPA
San Diego, CA
Though one of the smaller breweries in San Diego, Alpine has a bit of a legendary status among locals. Like Russian River, they go for exclusivity over broad availability in an attempt to make sure that their beers are always fantastic. There may be something to this idea that going big causes a loss in quality and if so, you will always find good beer from Alpine. The Nelson IPA was the first of its kind to focus locals on the flavors of the Nelson hop. Since then, many other breweries have tried their hand at making something similar. Council brewing is a smaller brewery that doesn’t bottle but found success by early on with their own Nelson-hopped IPA. The Nelson IPA may not be the easiest to find but there is a certain allure to scarcity that Alpine is counting on.
Available in 22oz bottles.

Nelson IPA

If you are interested in reading some of the other posts in the Six-Pack Project, you can find them at the link above. There is even a post about craft beer in Italy!

Narrowing down San Diego to six beers is difficult but not as hard as you think. I didn’t want to make it just a list of IPAs that are all very similar. And because it has to be both year-round and in bottles that makes things a little easier. Still, if you think I am crazy and left out your favorite beer then please let me know in the comments! After all, people reading this can always appreciate more selections of what locals consider the best.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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