Tag Archives: Lager

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 serving clients in San Diego California.

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Denver Breweries Black Project and Bierstadt Lagerhaus

I wasn’t planning on visiting Denver during my latest trip but once I ended up in Denver I had to visit both Black Project and Bierstdt Lagerhaus because I had heard great things about both of them. Black Project is known for their sours and Biersdt Lagerhaus is known for their lagers.

Black Project

I didn’t get to try more than one barrel aged sour at Black Project the time I visited but the beers overall were quite good. They have a small tasting room with some seating and serve their tasters in full size glasses.

I started with the IPA. It was soft and mildly hazy with a mix of grass and citrus notes with hits of herbal hops. It had a good balance and minimal bitterness but I could have done with more intense hop aromas. The grapefruit gose was acidic and tart with mild puckering. It had a light salt finish and lingers in the mouth. It was fairly bitter and not really my thing.

The passion peach gose was intensely fruity with tons of passion fruit and peach with a light tart and an overall juicy flavor. This was one of the more flavorful fruited goses I have had. The wild wheat was strong lacto tart with light berry notes but overall fruit was too mellow for the base. The sour golden was quite tasty with a sweet base with notes of tart apple and flavors reminiscent of a Belgian gueuze. It seems like it would make a good base beer for the addition of fruits.

Since I couldn’t try any of their barrel aged sours other than the sour golden I won’t be particularly critical but overall it was a worthwhile stop. Like many sour breweries, the beers available will change regularly including what they may have available in the bottle.

Top 2:
Sour Golden
Gose with passion fruit and peach

Bierstadt Lagerhaus


I was drawn to Bierstadt Lagerhaus because they focus on lagers exclusively and I have heard they are quite particular about what glasses they will allow their beers to be served in when they send them to various local bars. Two things struck me when I visited. They have a large space with tons of seating. They also sell crowlers for $5 a piece for most of the beers which is surprisingly low compared to what many charge.

Slow pour pilsner in their special lager glass.
Helles

I only tried three different beers while I was there because I was there with other people. Otherwise I wouldn’t have tried as many beers because they only serve the beers in full pours. The pilsner was crisp and dry with light biscuit malt base and a tasty mild lager yeast character. They serve it in a way that makes it quite creamy.

Their massive beer hall area downstairs with games.

The helles was more fruity than the pilsner and had some light floral hops with a good crisp finish and light white cake malt base. The dunkel had notes of caramel and toast with mild fruit and a dry finish. It was a tasty dunkel. I would recommend you stop by Bierstadt Lagerhaus if you are tired of all the IPAs and sours and want to try some solid lagers in Denver.

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 serving clients in San Diego California.

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3 Punk Ales – Chula Vista San Diego

Thr3e Punk Ales opened in Chula Vista recently in an area that has not seen many breweries. They have a good variety of standard beer styles and are open late, sometimes up to Midnight. I thought it was on the noisy side when I stopped by on a Friday night but then Chula Vista Brewing down the street was amped up much louder.

Beer wise, only one beer was clearly to style and a few were standouts. Others defied convention and expectations in ways you might expect from a punk brewery. Rather than the double IPA packing the biggest hop kick, the hoppy pilsner was the most explosively hoppy.

The Flama Blanca Mexican Lager was delicious, fruity and crisp with a lightly sweet dry finish. It tasted exactly like I would expect a lager to taste. The Morning After Pils, a hoppy pilsner, was so hoppy I thought they might have given me the wrong beer. It had an intense mix of resin and floral hop character and a mild to medium bitter finish. Next to this, the two beers labeled as IPAs didn’t taste very hoppy.

The Rye You Trippin, rye IPA, was sweet with light rye and biscuit malt character balanced out nicely with some mild citrus hop character. By San Diego standards the hops were barely there. Similarly the Needle in the Hey, double IPA, was on the sweeter side with a caramel malt base, low bitterness, and earthy hop notes. It finished with a bitter and sweet finish that I didn’t really care for.

Coffee brown ale

The brown ale with coffee was bursting with coffee on the nose and in the taste. Tons of nutty coffee came through overpowering the base beer completely. The beer had a nice medium body and a sweet finish. I brought home a crowler of this one though I hope when I open it I won’t be up all night. The Russian Imperial Stout on nitro was a bit smoky on the nose and noticeably boozy. It had notes of cherry and dark fruit and a dry bitter finish. While a solid stout, it is significantly different than the style we typically get in San Diego.

Stout on nitro

Thr3e punk ales had some tasty beers on tap. If you are looking for something hoppy, stick to the hoppy pilsner. It is the closest to a West Coast style IPA.

Top 2:
Flama Blanca – Mexican Lager
Brick Top with Coffee

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 serving clients in San Diego California.

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Maui Brewing Company – Maui Hawaii

It is becoming standard to suggest that going to the source to visit the brewery makes a difference. This difference is most obvious when you try Maui Brewing beers in Maui and compare them to how they taste in the mainland. Their Big Swell IPA is a standard West Coast style IPA inspired by the San Diego breweries but on the mainland you wouldn’t know it. I visited two locations, their brewpub out by Kahana and their main brewery location in Kihei. The beers were mostly the same but the atmosphere was drastically different in the two locations.
I did a small flight while I was at the brewpub and then had mostly full pours at the tasting room based on what I already tried. The saison was crisp and fruity with a dry finish, nicely done. The Big Swell IPA was an excellent classic West Coast style IPA with mild bitterness, citrus, tropical fruit, and pine. It was so much better than what I had on the mainland it was hard to believe it was the same beer. The pueo pale ale was a bit more malty than the Big Swell and more bitter. Though to style, I didn’t care for it.
At the brewery I had a couple of full pours of both the Vienna Lager and Pilsner they had on. The Vienna Lager was crisp and clean with a mild malt character. The Pilsner was also quite excellent. The Imperial Coconut Porter was a fantastic coconut bomb while I was at the brewpub where they served it on nitro. At the brewery it was enjoyable but a little more mellow on the coconut, but still a great beer. The Mosaic Double IPA was good but a bit bitter and sticky with not enough fruit notes from the mosaic itself.
Overall, every beer I had at Maui Brewing was well done and tasting great close to the source. If you are taking a trip to Maui and like a good San Diego style IPA, the Maui Big Swell should satisfy you as long as you get it fresh. The tasting room was a bit more quiet with more open space and food trucks than the brewpub though they are far enough apart that it is more likely your decision on which one to visit would come down to what happens to be closer to you.
Top 2:
Big Swell IPA
Imperial Coconut Porter

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 serving clients in San Diego California.

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Pinthouse Pizza Austin Texas

Pinthouse Pizza has two locations in Austin and I visited the southern location. They have a spacious interior and a broad menu of house beers and guest beers. I stopped by for a flight of five of the most interesting beers on the menu and was quite impressed by their IPA.

The pilsner was crisp and clean with a mild hop bite. This is an excellent example of the style. The alt beer was a great mix of caramel malt and mild smoke with a clean finish. This is a style that I’m not too familiar with but every version I’ve had in Texas so far has been great. The IPA was soft and juicy haze with citrus and tropical fruit notes. The hazy IPA was up there with a lot of what is coming out of San Diego lately. I was very close to bringing home a few crowlers of this beer.

The stout was a bit unusual with prominent tart cherry flavors and some mild smoke in the back. It was almost a sour stout. Though I enjoy a good sour stout, this was simply labeled as a stout. The porter was good and roasty with a fairly dry finish, done nicely to style. Though dry it wasn’t nearly as dry as the classic dry Irish stout.

Besides the beers I tried, Pinthouse had a number of lighter alcohol options, but I did not have the capacity to try everything. If you are looking for excellent hoppy beers in Austin, Pinthouse Pizza is the place to go.

Top 2:
IPA
Pilsner

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 serving clients in San Diego California.

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