Ale’s Well

By Brandon Hernandez
Photos by Stacy Keck

Like pale ale seeping from an upended longneck, craft beer has soaked its way into the fabric of our county’s culture. From the breweries that forge these frothy fermentables to the bars and restaurants that serve them and the beer-based businesses inspired by them, beer is big-time and undoubtedly here to stay. In celebration of the much-anticipated arrival of the second annual San Diego Beer Week, PacificSD scrapes the sudsy surface of San Diego’s craft beer subculture.

Pitcher Perfect

San Diego comes up big at nation’s largest beer competition...again!

Every year, beerophiles converge in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), a four-day free-for-all featuring unlimited samples of more than 2,200 beers from 455 US breweries. In addition to being one hell of a good time for beer-lovers, the GABF is also the country’s largest brewing competition. San Diego brewers have always done well, and this year was no exception-especially for Pizza Port’s Carlsbad location, which not only garnered seven medals (three of which were gold), but also won top honors as Large Brewpub of the Year for the second straight time. That’s no small feat, and certainly worth raising a pint to.

San Diego’s GABF medal winners


Pizza Port Carlsbad-3 (Beech Street Bitter English IPA, Reed’s Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, Revelations Belgian Strong Ale); Ballast Point-1 (Fathom Imperial Pale Lager); Karl Strauss-1 (Red Trolley Irish Red Ale)


Pizza Port Carlsbad-3, Pizza Port Ocean Beach -1, Port Brewing-1, Stone Brewing Co.-1.


One each for The Lost Abbey, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Port Brewing, Rock Bottom La Jolla , Stone Brewing Co.

Pour Man’s Heaven

San Diego Beer Week returns

2009’s inaugural San Diego Beer Week (SDBW) was comprised of more than 300 events at breweries, bars, restaurants and an array of diverse and unexpected venues from Chula Vista to Escondido . This year’s celebration of the region’s thriving brewing scene spans 10 days and figures to be even more jampacked-the total number of events in 2010 may top 1,000.

Here’s a six-pack of SDBW events to consider. See the complete LIST at

Rare Beer Breakfast Buffet

Friday, November 5,
9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Instead of starting the first day of Beer Week with a cup of Joe, try an intense, oak-aged, java-tinged imperial stout with breakfast served with a side of live jazz.
Stone World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido

San Diego Brewers Guild Festival

Saturday, November 6,
2 - 6 p.m.
Way before there was a Beer Week, there was this annual grass roots festival focused exclusively on ales and lagers brewed by local artisans.
Liberty Station, Point Loma

Ultimate B

eer & Chocolate

Sunday, November 7,
2 - 3:30 p.m. and 5 - 6:30 p.m.
Three of San Diego’s best chocolatiers-Chuao, Eclipse and Guanni-converge for a decadent sweet session featuring course after course of expertly paired artisanal chocolates and beers.

Stone World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido

Green Flash 30th Street Progressive Tastings

Thursday, November 11, 5:30 p.m.
Several eateries along San Diego’s beeriest stretch of road team up with Green Flash Brewing Co. to provide a unique, multi-venue beer-and food-pairing experience.

Various Locations, North Park

The Lost Abbey Art Festival & Sacrifice Dinner

Thursday, November, 6 p.m.
Check out iconic bottle art from The Lost Abbey while sampling sumptuous fare from executive chef Christian Graves, whose offerings will incorporate entire animals, from head to tail.

Jsix, Downtown

Beer Garden

Sunday, November 14, 11:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
The official closing event of SDBW brings together some of San Diego’s finest chefs and brewers for a station-to-station food- and beer-pairing extravaganza.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla

Ale to the Chief

The President of the San Diego Brewers Guild touts beer week as local stimulus package

From his version of the Oval Office-the shuffleboard table at Downtown Johnny Brown’s-Adam Carbonell, the reigning President of the San Diego Brewers Guild, shares his thoughts on San Diego Beer Week and his favorite local haunts.


What was the biggest success of the inaugural SDBW?

Adam Carbonell: For 10 days, a volunteer-driven organization took a grass-roots concept and made a major economic spike during a serious recession.

How will SDBW be different this year?

Carbonell: The focus is to be better, not bigger. The Guild has raised the bar by greatly enhancing the quality of our two capstone events-the Guild Festival at Liberty Station and Beer Garden [a chef, beer and food-pairing event] at the Lodge at Torrey Pines-and by encouraging other breweries and venues to do the same. You get what you put into it, and quality always sells.

What are your favorite spots to score some suds?

Carbobell: Live Wire [in University Heights ] is my nostalgic favorite. It was my first taste of what good beer could be. If you want a place with a great selection and none of the scene-Downtown Johnny Brown’s. If you want to rock out, there’s Eleven [in North Park], San Diego’s first craft-beer/dive-bar/music venue. And if you want beer-geek heaven, you gotta make the trip to Churchill’s in San Marcos to witness their obscene tap selection.

Beer Cups

If brew’s your buzz, you’ll love this sugar high

Photo by Tim King

Misty Birchall is a local entrepreneur who’s turning pub crawls into cake walks. Her creations are called PubCakes, and they’re crafted using quality beers from San Diego and beyond.

PubCakes cover a broad spectrum of flavors, from Birchall’s dark and smoky Stoned Portzilla (fortified with Stone Smoked Porter, coconut and coffee-spiked chocolate ganache) to her light and citrusy Cup O’Hefen (made with Ballast Point Wahoo Wheat and bolstered by citrus buttercream icing and a sprinkle of ground coriander). There’s even a vegan option made with pumpkin and North Coast Old Stock Ale.

Regularly on tap at The Tipsy Crow in the Gaslamp, Toronado in North Park and KnB Wine Cellars by SDSU (which carries her super-sized “Gigantor” cakes), PubCakes are also available in 12-packs at

Let Them Eat Cake

Regarding the skinny on PubCakes’ nutritional value, Birchall says, “It’s a cupcake. Don’t ask how many calories are in it. Just give yourself the treat and don’t feel guilty. You deserve it.”

How sweet...

Raising the Bar

Tapping into the best venues for local beers

The San Diego Brewers Guild (SDBG) has done its homework so beer drinkers don’t have to, creating a stringent set of standards to narrow a shortlist of San Diego’s best craft-beer venues, aka Allied Members. To earn that title, a bar or restaurant must offer a wide variety of local brews, have immaculate tap lines and host events to promote the local beer scene.

There are currently 15 Allied Members, the most high-profile of which is The Grill at the prestigious Lodge at Torrey Pines, which was inducted earlier this year after getting into beer in a big way by hosting monthly beer dinners with local breweries like AleSmith, Ballast Point and The Lost Abbey. They also hosted a grand San Diego Beer Weekend preview event that paired beers from local brewers with dishes from Allied Member chefs.

On the other end of the spectrum is The High Dive in Bay Park. Run by self-proclaimed “Ballast Point whore” Ingrid Qua, this neighborhood bar fully revamped its operation after Qua dove stein-first into San Diego’s craft-brewing scene. The move has been so successful that, now, brewers regularly stop by for special events like get-togethers of the ladies-only Chicks For Beer group on the third Tuesday of each month.

They run the gamut from luxury hotels to everyday alcoves, but there’s one thing all SDBG Allied Members have in common: they’re sure to show craft brew lovers a great time fueled by great beer.

Drink Pink

When a friend’s in need, the local beer community hops to it

Shortly after her interview with


, The High Dive owner Ingrid Qua was diagnosed with breast cancer . She has since endured a mastectomy and an aggressive chemotherapy regimen. A dynamo with a positive attitude and no “off” switch, Qua is already back at work.

When describing her ordeal to some regular customers at The High Dive a few weeks ago, Qua was overheard by brewery sales reps Matt Wilson (Ballast Point) and Rick Chapman ( Coronado Brewing Co.), who shuttled the info back to their respective brewers (Colby Chandler-Ballast Point, Shawn DeWitt-Coronado). Wanting to help their friend, the brewers went straight to work, crafting a unique collaborative beer in Qua’s honor. On tap: One-in-Eight Amber Ale (noting the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer) goes on sale later this month, with proceeds benefitting the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Now hard at work helping others, Qua has already held a successful fundraiser. Next, she plans to convert her Chicks For Beer club into a nonprofit, producing events to benefit the fight against breast cancer and other charities.

Strange Brew

West Coaster has your beer right here

Beer aficionados Mike Shess and Ryan Lamb have an idea so crazy that it just might work: A monthly newspaper and website covering everything brew-related in the greater San Diego area. “The craft beer community has been growing so rapidly that we saw an immediate need,” says self-proclaimed hophead Mike Shess, who serves as editor and co-publisher of West Coaster. One of his favorite slogans is “friends don’t let friends drink bad beer.”

West Coaster offers features and commentary about what makes San Diego such a hotbed of craft-brewing innovation, according to co-publisher Lamb. He’s tapped beer blogger Jeff Hammett (of for their writing staff. Sam Tierney, an avid home brewer and student of the Master Brewer Program at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, will contribute features and commentary. Lamb hopes to cater to beer devotees by providing a complete calendar of events, as well as a directory of craft beer-related locations, such as breweries, bars, pubs and bottle shops.
Visit West Coaster online at

San Diego Brewers Guild

Allied Members

Churchill’s PuB, San Marcos
Downtown Johnny Brown’s, Downtown
The Grill at Torrey Pines, La Jolla
Hamilton’s Tavern, South Park
The High Dive, Bay Park
La Bella Pizza, Chula Vista
Live Wire Bar, University Heights
Luigi’s at the Beach, Mission Beach
Neighborhood, East Village
Newport Pizza & Ale House, Ocean Beach
O’Brien’s Pub, Kearny Mesa
The Ritual Tavern, North Park
SD Tap Room, Pacific Beach
Toronado, North Park
Wit’s End Pub & Cafe, Hillcrest