Over the Border
There’s no shortage of San Diego beers that have changed the craft beer world: Stone IPA, a pioneer hop-forward West Coast IPA; Sculpin, Ballast Point’s ground-breaking tropical IPA; Nelson, Alpine Beer’s early celebration of juicy New Zealand hops.
Yet all those beers debuted years ago. In the 2010s, the hot trends — from New England’s hazy IPAs to San Francisco’s brut IPAs — originated elsewhere. A worthy new beer’s resolution for 2020 is to recapture San Diego’s leading position by popularizing new beer styles with national and even global potential.
One possibility: cross-border brews.
This is not an original idea, as Border X (founded in 2013) and SouthNorte (2017) demonstrate. But this fertile territory should be seized by more San Diego breweries, and not just by pumping out new versions of blonde, light-bodied Mexican-style lagers.
“I’m experimenting with real fruits and spices, things that Mexicans are more familiar with,” said Ryan Brooks, SouthNorte’s founder and brewmaster. “You know Bud Light Lime, that garbage beer? How come no one has made a craft lager with lime?”
Or, as Brooks proposed, a blonde ale inspired by tapache, a fermented pineapple drink?
In Barrio Logan, Border X creates a broad range of unique cross-border beers, like the cucumber and key lime-infused Pepino Sour and Horchata Golden Stout.
“I wish I had a crystal ball and could really predict the next hot trend,” Brooks said. “But there’s a wide variety of possibilities here.”
And, just possibly, craft beer’s next great breakthrough.
Q. What are the hot beers to look for in 2020?
A. Expect a year of extremes. On the high end, look for boozy pastry stouts that seduce beer fans with sweet teeth. On the opposite end, breweries will seek one of their holy grails: a low-alcohol beer (because consumers can drink — and buy — more) yet pack plenty of flavor. Look for more Mexican-style lagers and “boat beers” like Coronado’s Salty Crew, in the easy-drinking 4 to 4.5 percent range.
If sales of hard seltzer continue to climb, look for more beers to follow the lead of Thorn Street’s Treading Lightly, a low-carb and low-cal offering.
Finally, we may finally see a pale ale revival. Overshadowed by its more potent cousin, the India Pale Ale, a great pale offers ample flavor and aroma in a more accessible, less alcoholic package. One contender, OB Brewery’s Springboard Pale Ale, will be featured during the Springboard West Music Festival, today through Saturday in Ocean Beach. Details: springboardwest.com.