By Brandon Hernandez
With festivals nearly every weekend, beer dinners on an almost nightly basis and incredible local brews available at thousands of bars and restaurants countywide, every week feels like beer week in San Diego.
But here in the nation’s craft beer capital, nothing quite compares to the fermentable free-for-all that is San Diego Beer Week, a 10-day span packed with more than 500 beer-centric events. Everything from pint nights to homebrewing seminars to grandiose fests with unlimited pours of hundreds of specialty brews will be on tap from November 2 to 11.
So, cheers to beers from here. Have a great 10-day week!
Welcome to the Neighbeerhood
Building a closer-knit community through craft beer
Friends and business partners Travis Smith and Doug Constantiner are combining their collective experience and enthusiasm to craft quality ales in celebration of beer’s propensity for bringing people together. It’s what they and their rookie operation, Societe Brewing Company, are all about.
The company opened in June, and its dual lines of Belgian-inspired ales and IPAs, which explore botanic-inspired nuances (read: more than just bitter bombs), are already garnering fans who congregate at its Kearny Mesa tasting room...just as Smith and Constantiner planned.
With tons of space, a designated brewery-abutting parking spot for a rotating array of food trucks and a set-up where patrons can carry their beer outside when ordering from those gastromobiles, Societe is well suited for making new friends over brews as good as, if not better, than those from San Diego’s most established brewing companies.
The key to that straight-out-of-the-gate quality is Smith and Constantiner’s hearty brewing chops, earned at some of the country’s most renowned brewing companies - Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California, and The Bruery, in Orange County. Both companies specialize in creating beers that go beyond everyday pale ales, ambers and porters, instead leaning heavily into the realm of barrel-aged stouts and sour beers.
Societe’s first oak-infused offering is a robust, chocolaty imperial stout dubbed The Butcher. But the best is yet to come. Smith and Constantier have a storage space filled with vino-stained barrels from Napa’s Stag’s Leap Winery, from which a third line of sour ales will emerge in roughly a year-and-a-half. San Diego Beer Week 2014 is sounding tastier already.
Expanding the vegan side of sudsy cuisine
Beer goes great bratwurst, pizza, burgers, chicken wings and hunks of roast beast. Such pub grub and beer festival staples have carnivores’ appetites covered. Ditto for the more innovative fare served up at specialty beer dinners around San Diego, which often include adventurous takes on pork belly, short ribs, beef cheeks, charcuterie and the like.
Until recently, that query had gone largely unanswered, but a pair of San Diegans, Kory Stetina and Derek Humbard, think they have the solution - LOVELIKEBEER. In just over a year, this dynamic duo has made tremendous headway, expanding the number of inventive, beer-friendly food options available to local vegans via pop-up dining events throughout the city. For each event, they’ve collaborated with the host venue’s chef, providing their knowledge of vegan ingredients to help develop ideal beer pairings for the dishes served.
Those one- and two-nighters (held at sudsy spots like Blind Lady Ale House in Normal Heights, Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park and Tiger! Tiger! Tavern in North Park; plus farm-to-table restaurants including Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park and Local Habit in Hillcrest) have drawn hundreds of beer-thirsty diners - vegan and non-vegan alike - making a case for eateries to provide options for beer-loving vegans that go beyond grilled eggplant, steamed vegetables and mushroom everything.
Despite their rapidly growing following, Stetina and Humbard remain a bit clandestine - and even they aren’t sure where they’ll be popping up next. Keep up at lovelikebeer.com and subscribe to their email list.
Prefer something you can count on any day of the week? Check out LOVELIKEBEER’s Menu Series. A kimchee barbecue seitan dish they worked up with the kitchen team at Sea Rocket Bistro and pair with Green Flash’s Hop Head Red is on Sea Rocket’s regular menu. And just like with the pop-up events, a portion of proceeds from sales of that entrée benefits local charities.
Terminology to help beer novices sound like they know what they’re talking about
Ingredients: Beer is made from four core ingredients - malted grains, hops, water and yeast. Other ingredients may be added to provide additional flavoring, but these ever-present components are the foundation of every beer on the planet.
Ales and Lagers: The style of yeast used is the differentiator here and what lends trademark flavors to ales and lagers. Ales are produced using top-fermenting yeast. Lagers are produced bottom-fermenting yeast and are fermented over a longer period of time at colder temperatures.
Session Beer: “Session” refers to a lengthy period of time spent drinking several beers. “Session beers” are lower-alcohol brews that can be enjoyed, pint after pint, without having to cut the session short due to heavy inebriation.
Imperial / High Gravity Beer: Both of these terms mean the same thing - high alcohol content. Imperial stouts and IPAs are stronger and, typically, more boldly flavored versions of their everyday base beers.
Attenuation: Attenuation refers to how efficiently the sugars in beer are converted into alcohol during fermentation. Exceptional beers are well attenuated, meaning little sugar is left in the finished product, making the beer well balanced and light on the palate versus sweet and cloying.
Acronyms: Geek out with the geeks by dropping BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program). Beers are judged by BJCP criteria at the GABF (Great American Beer Festival, the largest annual beer competition and tasting event in the country) and the WBC (World Beer Cup, the biennial largest brewing competition on Earth).
Beer Styles, Origins and Basics(in terms anyone can understand)
German: Pilsner (light hoppy lager), Hefeweizen (light wheat lager), Märzen (medium-bodied lager), Bock (light lager), Dopplebock (medium-to-dark strong lager)
British: ESB (light-to-medium-bodied ale), Pale Ale (light-to-medium-bodied bitter ale), India Pale Ale (light-to-medium-bodied abundantly bitter ale), Brown (medium-bodied dark ale), Stout (dark ale)
Belgian: Wit (light wheat ale), Saison (light effervescent ale), Dubbel (medium-bodied ale), Trippel (light strong ale), Quadruppel (dark strong ale)
San Diego has become the beer capital of the U.S.
It’s hard to believe that in 1989, there were zero operating brewhouses in San Diego County. No one could have guessed then that, two decades later, America’s Finest would be known as Nirvana for craft beer lovers. But thanks to the establishment of local companies including Stone Brewing, Ballast Point, AleSmith and Karl Strauss - who blazed a trail leading with passion and full-flavored ales and lagers - that’s exactly what happened.
Today, San Diego is home to almost 60 operating brewhouses. Two local operations are ranked among the country’s largest craft brewing companies (Stone at No. 11, Karl Strauss at No. 44). Even more notable, two San Diego businesses have been named the best small brewing company in the country (AleSmith - 2008, Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey - 2007); three have been named the best small brewing company in the world (Ballast Point - 2010/11, Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey - 2008, Oggi’s - 2004/5); and local chain Pizza Port has won the best U.S. brewpub designations for three consecutive years.
This success has inspired businesspeople and homebrewers to get in on the action, adding their own flavors to the local beer scene. Currently, there are nearly 30 upcoming brewhouses in the planning stages, most of which are slated to open before the end of 2013. This growth not only provides a wealth of quaffable options for beer drinkers, but also generates jobs for citizens. According to the San Diego Brewers Guild, the local brewing industry accounts for approximately 7,000 jobs throughout the county. On top of that, it’s an industry that provides a great deal of stability - craft beer’s most successful industry growth has occurred in the midst of some of the worst economic conditions in our nation’s history. No matter what, people want beer.
But why has beer been such a huge hit in San Diego specifically? Most brewers cite the same key ingredient - weather. San Diego’s ever-sunny climate is perfect for year-round beer craving and consumption, and it’s also a draw for those skilled in the fermentation arts. One of the best things about brewing is the fact that it can be done almost anywhere. So, if a brewer has their pick of where to brew, why not pick a place as pleasant and ale-accommodating as San Diego? Take that, St. Louis!
Route, Route, Route for the Home Team
A trio of beer-touring options for your imbibing pleasure
Nearly every San Diego community has its own brewery, but some areas are saturated than others. We’ve divided the county into three, brewery-heavy beer-touring tracks so you can conquer them in the most efficient manner possible.
Vista: Few municipalities are as supportive of craft brewers as this North County berg. Start by sampling the wide-ranging creations of former nano-brewery Mother Earth Brew Co. at its expansive new tasting room in the heart of the redeveloped Old Town area, then scoot over to the usually packed hotspot, Iron Fist Brewing, for largely Belgian offerings and barrel-aged goodness. Down the road is Latitude 33, a promising newcomer making beers high in flavor but low in alcohol, so they can be enjoyed in greater quantity. Brews flavored with Mexican chilies and spices await at nearby Aztec Brewing, while new neighbor Indian Joe Brewing infuses ingredients utilized by owner and brewer Max Moran’s Luiseño Indian ancestors.
Northeast: With a brewery sporting its own farm-to-table restaurant and one of the best stocked bars in the county, Escondido’s Stone Brewing Company seems like a great place to start, but plan to end up there instead. A better bet is to begin with a chipotle stout at Stumblefoot Brewing in south San Marcos’ University Commons area. Next, head for the 78 and one the county’s newest and most anticipated breweries, Rip Current, for beers brewed by Paul Sangster, 2011’s best homebrewer in America. Alternate pucker-inducing sours, west coast IPAs and Belgian ales at this world-renowned beer tour destination, serving beers from Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey, before heading to Escondido for a pre-Stone session ale or two from Offbeat Brewing.
Miramar: Hard to believe, but the most stocked beer track in San Diego begins in...Scripps Ranch? Kick things off at the recently expanded tasting room of 2010-11 best small brewing company in the world, Ballast Point, then take Miramar Road to 2009 best small brewing company in the U.S., AleSmith. Get a glimpse of what these now vaunted operations looked like in their earlier days with a stop at artisanal nano, Hess, then take a short trip to one of the most comfortable tasting rooms in San Diego at Rough Draft Brewing. Next up is Mira Mesa’s rapidly expanding house that hops built, Green Flash Brewing, followed by proper pints of traditional British ales at New English Brewing in Sorrento Valley. Still thirsty, or just need a place to detox? Get one last brew and edible sustenance on the majestic outdoor patio at Karl Strauss’ Sorrento Mesa brewery-restaurant.
Planning A Head
Sudsy standouts from the Beer Week calendar
With 500-plus events taking place during San Diego Beer Week, it’s crucial to pick and choose. Here are day-by-day best bets for a full-bodied experience. For more information on each, or the week as a whole, check out the official Beer Week website: sdbw.org.
Friday, November 2
Book Signing at Mission Brewery: Last year, Chefs Press brought nearly every brewer in San Diego together for the signing of its first book, San Diego’s Top Brewers. A number of them will be back for this event, this time joined by chefs and culinarians who contributed to Chefs Press’ new San Diego- and beer-centric cookbook, Brew Food
Saturday, November 3
San Diego Brewers Guild Festival: Expected to draw 4,000, this festival, stocked exclusively with beers from all of San Diego’s brewing companies, will be the biggest party this 10-day span has to offer. Get in there and drink up our sudsy subculture.
Sunday, November 4Green Flash Brewing Brunch and AleSmith Cheese Night at Urge Gastropub: Come early and get midday food paired with Green Flash beer, Show up a bit later and discover cheeses from AleSmith’s work-in-progress offshoot fromage biz, or hold down a barstool and do both.
Monday, November 5
10th Anniversary Beer Release Party at Green Flash Brewing Company: Check out a Flanders-style sour brown ale brewed to celebrate a decade of Green Flash beer at the company’s brewery, located, not coincidentally, at the corner of Mira Mesa Boulevard and Flanders Drive.
Tuesday, November 6
Night of a Million Zillion Speedways at O’Brien’s Pub: AleSmith owner and brewmaster Peter Zien is bringing on multiple versions of Speedway Stout, a beer considered by most to be the world’s best imperial stout (most rate it 99 or 100). ‘Nuff said.
Wednesday, November 7Hamilton’s 4th Annual Frisbee Golf Tournament at Morley Field: Frisbee golf is so popular among brewers it could qualify as the industry’s unofficial sport. Fling, nosh and drink with some of San Diego’s finest at this spirited athletic competition.
Thursday, November 8
Brewmaster’s Dinner at Local Habit: Meet Hess Brewing owner and brewmaster Michael Hess over five courses of Southern-tinged fare designed to pair perfectly with Hess’ ales and lagers at this Hillcrest haven for farm-to-tablers.
Friday, November 9
First Anniversary Party at Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery: Toast the first 365 days of this instantly successful East Village brewpub’s promising life with several of their many diverse beers.
Saturday, November 10Second Saturday at Hamilton’s Tavern: Hamilton’s Tavern’s Second Saturday events are always epic, jam-packed affairs. Inject Beer Week fever and beers from NorCal visitor, Marin Brewing Company, and it’s bound to be even, um, epic-er?
Sunday, November 11
Beer Garden at The Lodge at Torrey Pines: Each year, toques from Chef’s Celebration, a non-profit supporting the education of young kitchen professionals, gather to push beer-and-food pairing into the stratosphere at this AAA five-diamond resort. Eleven local chefs, 22 local beers, a Pacific Ocean overlook...it’s the perfect way to close out ten extraordinary days of beery fun.
A Hawaiian beer returns to San Diego
By Allie Daugherty
Fans of Kona Brewery’s Pipeline Porter can say “Aloha” to the Hawaiian beer once again as it makes its way to the mainland for the seventh year.
Available until December, the seasonal brew makes a name for itself with the inclusion of its 100% Kona coffee, which is grown on the Big Island. But don’t let the inclusion of this ingredient keep you up at night.
“The beer has a negligible amount of caffeine,” says brewing operations manager Anthony Bledsoe, who oversees
the team who makes the beers at Kona. “The coffee is added for flavor to round out the robustness of the beer. The
smooth nature of Kona coffee really complements the profile of our porter.”
The drink should be paired with coldweather foods such as stews and roasts. It’s also meant to be a session beer at
5.4% ABV (alcohol by volume), meaning “you can have more than one and not feel the alcohol’s effects too strongly,”
The brewer also says Pipeline’s complex blend of roasty flavors and aromas mean a different appeal to
“There’s a wide range of reviews and notes that people detect,” he says. “We have heard hints of cola, raisin and caramel, among others like chocolate and nuttiness