Head of the Glass

By Brandon Hernandez

(Published in the June 2010 issue)

The word “Olympics” conjures visions of hard-bodied athletes running, jumping, lifting and, yes, even curling their way to fame and glory. When it comes to the World Beer Cup (WBC), the “Olympics” of beer competitions, there’s still plenty of lifting (of pint glasses), but gone is the need for The Biggest Loser-style two-a-days at the gym-at least until after judging literally thousands of sudsy submissions.

The 2010 WBC was the largest beer competition in history. Held in Chicago, it included 3,330 entries from 642 breweries vying for gold in 79 beer-style categories such as India Pale Ale, Pilsner, Stout and the it’s-way-better-than-it-sounds/don’t knock-it-’til-you-try-it Sour Beer.

Thanks to our talented hometown cache of craft brewers, San Diego brought home gold medals for best American Strong Pale Ale, International Pale Ale, American Red Ale, Irish Red Ale, Scotch Ale, German Dopplebock and Barrel-Aged Beer. Breweries of all types and sizes, hailing from throughout the county, came away with some serious bragging rights.

Most notably, Ballast Point Brewing Company was crowned the world’s top Small Brewing Company. In fact, this multi-faceted operation is so dominant that their recently established Ballast Point Spirits won a gold medal with its Devil’s Share Whiskey at a competition held by the American Distillers Institute in Kentucky.

This astronomical achievement is made even more remarkable by the fact that another San Diego brewing operation, Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey, won the same distinction at the previous WBC. It’s no wonder the brewing spotlight is once again trained on America’s Finest City. It’s the region that spawned the double IPA and brought a plethora of outlandish (but now commonplace) beer styles to the forefront such as Belgian-style ales, imperial (strong) ales and even those aforementioned sour beers.

In total, San Diego brewers brought home 21 medals from the 2010 WBC. That’s more than many nations mustered at the competition. It just goes to show what locals already know-you don’t have to travel the globe for great beer when the world’s best is brewing right in your own backyard.