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Craft Beer

Beer trends that foamed to the surface in 2018

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(Courtesy Stone Brewing)

If you’ve just awakened from a 12-month nap, here are five highlights from the year in San Diego beer:

1. Stone Über Alles?

Living in Stone’s backyard, it’s easy to overlook the Escondido brewery’s determination to become a global powerhouse.

Between May and July 2018, Stone opened a brewpub in Napa and taprooms in Shanghai and Berlin, the latter pouring beers from Stone’s production brewery in the German capital.

Is Stone expanding too quickly, neglecting its core audience? We’ll see when 2018 production figures are released next spring — in 2017, Stone sold 397,000 barrels of beers, making it the nation’s eighth largest craft brewery.

2. On Our Waterfronts

Bayside beer spots made a splash in ’18. Eppig’s tasting room and the Ketch restaurant — featuring beers from the Ketch brewery in Kearny Mesa — opened on Shelter Island. Further south, Embarcadero Brewing and Supply brought craft beer to National City’s waterfront.

3. Fond, Frothy Farewells

Your numbers may vary, but I counted 11 closures among county breweries in San Diego — and at least one re-branding, with Torrance’s Absolution Brewing opening a brewpub in the old La Jolla Brew House site, only to close and re-open this fall as CAVU Brewing.

Among the departed, I’ll miss most four: ChuckAlek, with its traditional European styles; Council, for its excellent sour beers; Monkey Paw, for blending what-the-heck creativity and nailed-it excellence; and Toolbox, another sour beer ace.

4. Welcome Arrivals

By my count, the county welcomed 18 brewing newcomers this year. I haven’t visited them all yet, but I was wowed by Fourpenny House in La Mesa. I’ve often found Scottish beers as brooding as a winter night on the moors, but the house beer, Fourpenny Ale, is true to style yet brisk and warming.

5. Reformed in East Village?

When Anheuser-Busch’s 10 Barrel opened an East Village brewpub in 2017, locals organized protests. Not so, when Melvin Brewing opened its outpost this fall, just a few blocks from 10 Barrel.

This muted response may be because Melvin isn’t part of a huge brewing conglomerate and has a reputation for sterling beers. But in its home state of Wyoming, Melvin is also known for a toxic “bro culture,” decidedly unfriendly to women.

Melvin’s owners have vowed that the brewery’s handsy, misogynistic days are over. We’ll see.

Read more of Peter Rowe’s column here.