Category Archives: Beer Reviews

Ten Breweries Making Epic Lagers in San Diego

A lot of people first become interested in craft beer when they taste an IPA and fall for the bitter punch or the pine resin but many brewers and beer drinkers eventually learn to appreciate the delicate flavors of a well-crafted lager, usually in the German or Czech style. There are many types of lagers in all ranges including the higher alcohol baltic porter, a strong dark beer brewed with lager yeast. For purposes of this article, I will focus on lower alcohol versions of the style and breweries in San Diego where you can consistently find an excellent version of that style.

1. Societe Brewing Company – Societe is one of the first San Diego breweries where I encountered an excellent lager. They often have two or three variations of the style on tap at once, including single-hopped versions to showcase a hop or more classic varieties. Around Oktoberfest, starting in September, they put on some delightfully authentic versions of the festbeer and kellerbier.

2. Fall Brewing Company – Fall has been delivering six-packs of their delightful pilsners for some time with Plenty for All first followed by the Rise Up Czech style Pilsner. Both are excellent and always refreshing examples of the style. I’m hooked on Rise Up and the lovely wildflower honey flavor I get from it.

3. Burning Beard – Burning Beard’s Normcore Pilsner has been named best beer in San Diego in 2016 as voted by readers of The West Coaster. Then for 2017 it was named best lager in San Diego from the same readers. This beer has quite a following just as the Beard has its loyal fans. Though not brewed in as large quantities as others this is always a reliable choice when you are craving a good lager.

4. Alesmith – Alesmith didn’t always have lagers on tap but then recently they released both the Sublime Mexican style lager and the delicious Spezial Pils, a German style lager. Both are excellent though I prefer Spezial when I am craving something classic. This is now available year-round in cans.

5. Pizza Port – Though not a brewery generally associated with lighter beers, I was really blown away by the quality of the Festbier that Pizza Port released in 2017 as a limited release through their tasting rooms. I was craving more once I finished that six-pack. They also brew a number of one-off beers throughout the year.

6. ChuckAlek Brewing – Chuckalek is the only brewery I know of in San Diego that lets you order a full liter of their German styles at their tasting room, usually limited to the altbier and helles German style lager. Though I usually end up ordering their delightful ESB, ChuckAlek makes a consistently delicious helles lager and altbier, a malty traditional German style.

7. Eppig Brewing – Eppig has a regular pilsner and schwartzbier (dark lager) on rotation along with a Japanese style dry rice lager. I was most impressed by the schwartz, which to me is one of the best examples of the style I have had in California and most authentic to the traditional style. Eppig displays their commitment to this classic style in their choice to open a large beer hall on the waterfront recently.

Schwartz overlooking the water.
Pilsner, overlooking the water.

8. Stone Brewing – Stone brews their year-round lager called “Who You Callin’ Wussie” but they have also released some delightful small-batch lagers throughout the years. More recently I was quite impressed by their Kolsch, an ale brewed with lager yeast. Though not technically a lager, the Kolsch would satisfy most people’s craving for the style.

9. Gordon Biersch – Gordon Biersch is often overlooked as a big brewery that happens to have a location in San Diego but their head brewer is the local guru when it comes to brewing lagers. They are not flashy but the lagers coming out of the Mission Valley location are consistently of high quality.

10. Bagby Beer – Like Gordon Biersch, Bagby gets overlooked by people looking for beers to hype up because they consistently brew beers to style rather than trying for the next big thing. Most times you visit Bagby you will encounter at least one if not two excellent lagers. They also tend to have excellent lagers from out of town on tap as guest beers.

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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10 San Diego Breweries Making Great Hazy IPAs in 2017

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.

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Photo by Mike Lindeblad

 

2) Pure Project

(Miramar)
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.

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3) Mikkeller San Diego

(Miramar)
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

(Clairemont)
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.

Beg for Murk Hazy IPA.

5) Novo Brazil Brewing

(Chula Vista)
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

(Rancho Bernardo)
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.

My additional pour of the delicious Chasing Galaxy IPA.
My additional pour of the delicious Chasing Galaxy IPA.

8) Burgeon Beer Company

(Carlsbad)
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.

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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

(El Cajon)
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.

 

Other Notable Mentions

Toolbox Brewing

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.

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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Beer of the Week – Foggy Window Double IPA from Monkish

In the beer enthusiast world, Monkish Brewing has been a known quantity for a while for their sours and farmhouse ales. Then they got access to hops and started doing hazy IPAs as limited release cans direct from the tasting room. I’ve heard stories of the crazy lines for these beers but haven’t gotten to have more than a small taste of a couple at a festival, until I stopped by on a whim and they had Foggy Window on tap.

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Foggy Window is a double IPA at a solid 8.2% alcohol but looks like a mango smoothie more than a beer. The beer is not very bitter or boozy as you can sometimes get in this style but instead creamy and tastes like mango and pineapple juice. I was hooked after I tried it and now understand why people from San Diego drive 4 hours round trip to get their hands on this beer (just not the choice to wait in line). Even having enjoyed a few phenomenal hazy beers, I was not expecting the explosion of flavor that I got here.

If you are on the fence about whether you should pick up some hazy IPAs from Monkish or try to get some on tap, do not delay. Hopefully sometime this year they will get to the point where the demand dies down a bit and I can more easily stop by for some cans.

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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Lagunitas Born Yesterday Fresh Hop Pale is my Beer of the Week

I post a lot about beers on tap at local breweries. But I also drink a lot of beer out of bottles at home. Every once in a while there is a beer that stands out form the rest and these are the ones I want to recommend to readers. This week the beer that stood out to me was Lagunitas Brewing Fresh Hop Born Yesterday Pale. Though sadly not bottle-dated, if you buy it anytime in November 2016, preferably in the first two weeks of November, you can rest assured it is fresh.

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Born Yesterday has a strong grapefruit nose and pours a clear golden color. The beer has tons of grapefruit and a good amount of dank pine and the hop character is bursting like you only get on a beer that is extra fresh. When I had my first bottle earlier this week I immediately compared it to Zombie Dust from Three Floyds in Northern Indiana because the beer reminded me of what it was like to drink that delicious beer on tap at the brewery.

If you like a good IPA, go out and grab some Born Yesterday yesterday, or as soon as possible. Try to drink it within the first two months of November for optimum freshness and enjoyment. Make sure you store this beer in the fridge as well once you buy it.

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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Prairie Artisan Ales – Tulsa Oklahoma – Bottling Delicious Stouts and Sours

Due to the various laws in place in Oklahoma I wasn’t able to visit Prairie and do tasters. So while I was in town in April of 2015 I stopped by to pick up a few bottles around Oklahoma City from one of the best known Oklahoma breweries. Prairie is known for its farmhouse ales and imperial stouts. I got to try a few examples of both. I tried the different beers listed here over the course of many days after I came back from Oklahoma.

Set of Prairie Ales.
Selection of Prairie beers I brought back with me (along with another Oklahoma Imperial Stout I did not open yet)

The Prairie Cherry Funk was a nice highly carbonated and lightly tart cherry beer that tasted like carbonated juice. Given its 7.5% alcohol it was hidden very nicely. The Funky Gold Amarillo was a nice strong citrus tart that blended nicely with the inherent tart and the hops. It had a very interesting tart lemon flavor at the end. The Eliza5beth, a tart farmhouse was a nice beer that poured a cloudy lighit orange flavor with a lot of carbonation. The flavors were a mix of tart peach and belgian yeast. It was mildly tart but could have gone more tart from what I tasted.

IMG_20150422_181838 Prairie Funky Gold AmarilloPrairie Eliza5beth

Prairie Bomb is one of the most popular beers from the brewery. A strong imperial stout, this beer is sold in individual 12 oz bottles. At 13% it was strong yet not boozy and had a perfect balance of the coffee, chocolate, and chili peppers. It was lightly sweet with just enough hot pepper flavor and a nice mellow chocolate to make a world class beer. Compared to this, the Bible Belt, a collaboration brew with another brewery, was not as sweet and had a lot more prominent flavor from the peppers. It was almost acidic cherry and lacked the balance of the Bomb. As the beer warmed up, the coffee became more pronounced.

IMG_20150420_185032 Prairie Bible Belt 01 Prairie Bible Belt 02

The final beer I tried from Prairie was called OK Si, a tequila aged imperial stout. I thought that the tequila added a nice bite to the overall beer though I still preferred the Prairie Bomb as the best of the three. Prairie is a highly rated brewery and it deserves the praise. The Bomb is still my favorite of all of them and is worth checking out if you are able to get it for a good price. Hopefully one day Oklahoma will change their beer laws to allow people to visit the brewery for a flight of tasters.

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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