The Bay Area is large and can often take quite a while to get from one area to another. So while there are some amazing breweries elsewhere, there is a benefit to knowing what you can visit without going too far. My husband’s cousin and her family are in Alameda and we often stay with them while we are in the Bay Area so I visited the brewery on a lazy Sunday during my last trip. If you can’t make it out to Berkeley for Fieldwork or San Francisco for Cellarmaker, the IPAs at Faction are excellent and will satisfy most enthusiasts.
There were so many beers on the board that there was no way I was going to try them all at $2.50 a taster (fairly standard these days). But most of what I tried was quite impressive. I started with the Southern Aroma pilsner, SAPA (pale ale with South African hops), Penske File pale, Norcal Beer Geek IPA, and Cafe Latte. I then got tasters of NZ IIPA, Blitzen IIIPA, Hop Soup IIPA, and the Oatmeal Stout.
The Southern Aroma was an excellent pilsner with a clean dry finish and mild citrus kick. The SAPA had tons of pine and resin with a bitter finish and hints of orange peel. The Penske File had a strong bitter grapefruit kick with hints of pineapple behind that. Norcal Beer Geeks IPA was my favorite of the day. Super smooth and balanced it has notes of pine and resin with some citrus and a mellow bitterness. This is a more classic style IPA but done very nicely.
Cafe Late was a bit strange tasting because it was an older batch but it is also made with cold brew coffee rather than adding coffee beans to the beer. I would recommend trying a splash before ordering a full pint. The oatmeal stout was excellent with a medium body and tons of roast with a smooth mouthfeel. The NZ IIPA was thick and dry without being overly bitter or sweet and tons of fruit notes from the hops. Other double and triple IPAs were similarly well-crafted. The hop soup had more resin and pine notes with a hint of grapefruit and floral notes behind it. Blitzen was a dangerously easy drinking beer for the alcohol and had nice notes of citrus and pine.
While they aren’t yet doing the juicy hazy IPAs you can get at Cellarmaker and Fieldwork, the beers at Faction I tasted were all nicely done and would be plenty to satisfy most hop heads. They have a very unique location out on an old navy hard with high ceilings and a large outdoor seating area and a separately large indoor seating area behind the large tasting room. It has quite an echo and the tasting room gets loud with only a few loud people. I brought a growler of the Norcal Beer Geek IPA to share when I left and my husband’s cousin’s husband really enjoyed it. Hopefully he will return regularly now that he knows what to order.
Come for their wide selection of IPAs. Try the Norcal Beer Geek, my favorite of the bunch.
The Haze Craze is here to stay and is just going to grow bigger in the coming months. While a few Los Angeles area breweries have been getting a lot of attention for the style, I want to focus this post on where you can find the haze in San Diego. I will continue to update this poss throughout the year as this information changes rapidly.
Last Updated: 9-10-17
The breweries in this post are not in any particular order. Higher or lower numbers do not reflect the quality of the beer.
1) Modern Times Brewing
(Sports Arena and North Park)
The brewery is doing monthly can releases you can pre-order online or buy direct from the source starting the release day party. Most of these beers show up on tap at the tasting room prior to release so you can figure out which ones you like best. Word on the street is the Modern Times hazy IPA cans hit the sweet spot after two weeks. Their latest release, Luna Park has hit the sweet spot of soft hazy beer with tons of fruit.
2) Pure Project
Pure Project releases small batches of hazy beers at their tasting room on tap and does small batch can releases. The quality of Pure Project cans has improved nicely since the beginning of 2017. Cans continue to sell quickly in the tasting room. They have started doing releases earlier in the day so that they can sell more quickly before they start serving beers.
3) Mikkeller San Diego
Mikkeller is doing regular small batch can releases and have already announced that they expect to do a number of hazy releases throughout the year. Hazy releases in 2017 have been impressive so far and Mikkeller is the first to add a regular hazy beer for distribution. Pay close attention to their description of each beer as they sometimes add things like lactose or honey to the IPAs. Mikkeller recommends drinking the beers within the first two weeks after purchase.
4) Council Brewing
Though Council has only done one hazy can release so far, a collaboration with Alvarado Street Brewing, they already have a great reputation among hop heads. I expect we will see more hazy can releases throughout the year. They may decide to stick with the sour hazy IPAs like their first release, which would help them differentiate from the rest. More recently, they have added hazy IPA offerings in the tasting room.
Council has released a number of hazy IPAs in 2017 but for me what stood out was their September 23rd release of Beg for Murky in collaboration with Aslin brewing. It finally added the creamy mouthfeel and soft body that make people crave a hazy beer. I am optimistic that they will continue releasing more in this style.
5) Novo Brazil Brewing
Though much further south than most beer drinkers venture, Novo Brazil makes some impressive hazy IPAs. They have already had a few can releases in 2017 and some of them even found limited distribution outside the brewery.
6) Abnormal Beer Company
Abnormal has released an astounding number of IPAs over the short time they have been open. In 2016 they released New Money, their hazy IPA and it disappeared quickly from every bar that had it on tap. Abnormal’s hazy IPAs tend to be high on the hop acidity for those who enjoy that style.
Abnormal has done a couple of releases in 2017 from the tasting room. The latest release was today and they have dialed down the hop acidity from earlier batches.
7) Resident Brewing
(Downtown San Diego)
Resident released a hazy galaxy hop IPA in 2016 and followed it with other delicious hazy offerings. So far they have only been available on tap. A crowler machine was installed recently at the brewery, making it easier to take home this delicious beer. Because of their popularity they have done more limited crowler releases rather than having them available all the time.
8) Burgeon Beer Company
This small brewery barely had a grand opening but already when I visited they had some excellent hazy IPAs. I expect more to come this year as word gets out. So far in 2017 they have done one can release of two hazy beers. I expect more to come throughout the year.
Breweries with hazy IPAs on tap only
9) Half Door Brewing
(Downtown San Diego)
Despite opening in the style of a traditional Irish Pub, Half Door hasn’t wasted any time experimenting with other styles. Half door makes some of the best hazy beer in San Diego though you must go to the tasting room to order it as they do not offer growlers. It is worth making a trip to try what they have to offer.
10) Burning Beard
Burning Beard is known mostly for their traditionally balanced IPAs but they have been experimenting with hazy IPAs and they released a couple of small batch hazy IPAs in 2016 that were quite popular. With how delicious their core IPAs are, you can’t go wrong with anything from them.
Since my original post, Burning Beard released a highly impressive hazy double IPA at their 2nd Anniversary party in March of 2018. The beer mellowed nicely and was delicious, tropical and soft when I filled a growler with it almost 3 weeks later. If they continue to make hazy IPAs like this, they will soon become known for the style.
Other Notable Mentions
Toolbox has been making hazy IPAs and milkshake IPAs (brewed with lactose and fruit) lately. So far they have done one can release. They are in the early stages of haze but off to a great start.
ChuckAlek Biergarten North Park
ChuckAlek started serving hazy beers recently out of their North Park location. All beers are brewed in Ramona but for most people the closest option is their Biergarten in North Park. I stopped by to try them recently and they were quite delicious. They have yet to do any can releases.
Culver Beer Company has a fairly large tap list and a few solid beers though I felt they missed the mark on the IPAs. Thankfully, some other beers they had were solid. I had six tasters in total during my visit. They have a good sized tasting room with plenty of areas to sit. When I read that they were in Carlsbad I assumed they would be right off the 5 freeway but they are actually a bit more inland. Still, they are not too difficult to get to from the freeway. Another thing to keep in mind for both Culver and Burgeon is that the cell signal is quite weak at both. Burgeon had issues with their wi-fi when I visited but Culver had a solid wi-fi.
The Pilsner was fruity and floral with a mild bitterness though I found the bitter finish was a little too strong for the style. The amber lager had some nice fruit notes including some cherry and an herbal/pepper finish from the hops. It had a nice clean finish and was a solid start for a beer of this style. The hoppy saison was a nice balance of fruity hops and spices with a medium body and mild bitterness.
The vanilla stout smelled nice with an intense vanilla on the nose but when I actually tasted it, it tasted a bit off, with a strange bitter finish. I am not sure what was up with this but it didn’t taste like a stout. The Street Walker IPA was floral and intensely bitter with a fruity finish including some banana. It is a decent IPA if you don’t mind intense floral hops. The True Hero IIPA was grassy with hints of pine but was a bit off on the finish. I asked the brewer about it and they said they had a power outage during brewing that prevented it from finishing properly. I hope that is all that happened.
Culver isn’t making bad beer such that I would say you shouldn’t ever visit them, but they are not making anything that is worth seeking out if you don’t live nearby or crave a well-done lager.
Burgeon Beer Company
I went to Burgeon Beer Company directly after Culver Beer Company. They are pretty close by and have an even larger tasting room. The tap list was smaller at Burgeon and so I only ordered four tasters. The milk stout was tasty and presented a nice roast character with a creamy finish. The pale ale is a nice balance of crisp pine and grapefruit with a medium bitterness and an overall good balance.
The IPA was a nice hazy orange color and had excellent fruit character with notes of tangerine and tropical fruit. The double IPA was lighter in color but similarly hazy with hints of pineapple, vanilla, and grapefruit. Both the single and double IPA had a nice acidic finish. I was quite impressed by everything at Burgeon and if I lived in the area I would be there regularly for their hazy IPAs.
Out of the two, I would recommend Burgeon for those who are into hoppy beers especially hazy IPAs though Culver is doing some solid lagers and has an interesting variety of beer styles to choose from. I expect Burgeon will do great things in the coming year.
Riip is located in Huntington Beach, south of Long Beach, and fills an area where I hadn’t previously visited for breweries. Though Beachwood also has a location in the area it is nice to add some new breweries there too. I visited Riip on the same day as Mumford and found Riip to be far superior and closer to what I expect from Southern California IPAs. I tried four IPAs at Riip because I had already visited a number of breweries earlier that day.
The Dank IPA was smooth and balanced with a good citra kick and not too bitter. The Riipalicious IPA was tasty for nelson hops and not too bitter, exhibiting grapefruit and citrus notes. The Hop Citrage juicy IPA had a nice citrus kick and some orange peal notes and was nice and mildly bitter. I was ready to take a small growler of this home with me but they weren’t filling growlers. The Super Cali, their award winning IPA, was mildly bitter and nicely balanced with citrus and herbal hops. This was my least favorite mostly because of the herbal hops but it wasn’t a bad beer.
Riip is a great brewery to stop at on your way through Huntington Beach and even better for locals in the area looking for an alternative to the classic style IPAs from Beachwood. I didn’t try any of their non-hoppy beers but they seem to have a good handle on brewing. Their spot did get a bit loud quite easily with an echo from people and music so that also contributed to me having only one flight.
Come for IPAs, especially their hazy offering.
Mumford is located in the heart of downtown LA in between Little Tokyo and Skid Row. I found out about them because of a can that was shared with me from someone up in LA. While they have drawn crowds for beer releases in the past, I expect the can of Un-Presidential IPA was a fluke because none of the other beers were anywhere near that quality. Still, they are able to draw a good crowd with their decent hazy IPA which is enough to satisfy those who aren’t familiar with what it could taste like.
The Pant Suit saison was super fruity with a bitter finish that overpowered it. It was quite unbalanced and I didn’t finish the taster. The Ghostwriter pale ale had some nice citrus notes with pineapple and tropical fruit but again a bitter finish that overpowered the rest of it, making it average at best. The LA Like, hazy IPA, had notes of orange and grapefruit and a cloudy orange color with mild notes of vanilla. I thought this was the best of the bunch but at the end it seemed a bit soapy. I want to hope this was just a glass that wasn’t properly rinsed. Assuming the soap was not in the beer it is a solid average hazy IPA.
Skidrokyo Cafe on nitro is their coffee porter with vanilla. It had some intense coffee and mild roast with some sweet caramel and vanilla on the finish. It is probably the best beer on the menu and for the low alcohol range it is slightly above average for the area. It would certainly satisfy the stout fans who tag along while you enjoy the IPAs. The DTLA IPA had strong hop flavors of pine and also mildly herbal taste with a strong bitter finish. Like others it was too bitter for the hops.
The All Caps was a solid mix of pine and citrus with a dry finish and not too bitter. I got some notes of green tea on the finish that were unexpected. After the LA Like, this is the other IPA I could drink. The East Enders double IPA was sticky sweet and fruity with notes of over ripe fruit and onion. It was both too sweet and missed the mark for the hop flavors, so I couldn’t finish the taster.
I hope in 6 months Mumford will be able to more consistently brew solid IPAs because they had great results with the Un-Presidential IPA. Sadly, most of the IPAs I had when I visited had an off-putting bitter after-taste. I expect it was present in the hazy IPA as well just masked by the haze. For now I think most of their hype is overblown and I wouldn’t go out of my way for another visit anytime soon. For the hardcore beer fan there are better breweries in the LA area. But if you are new to IPAs their hazy IPAs should be more than good for you. Top 2:
SkidRokyo on Nitro