The beers of fall


While San Diego’s climate is renowned, it’s not known for brilliant fall colors or crisp autumn days.

Still, there’s one sure sign of fall’s arrival here: wet hop beers. For an expert view on these beverages, PACIFIC tapped Tom Nickel. Not only does he make wet hop beers at Nickel Beer Company in Julian, he serves them at his Kearny Mesa tavern, O’Brien’s Pub.

PACIFIC: What are wet hop beers?
Wet hop beers are brewed using the hops within 24 or 48 hours of picking, when the hops have not been dried and still have most of their water weight.

What’s the difference?
For the brewer, using wet hops means you’ll typically need about six times the amount of dried hops when brewing the same style of beer. For the drinker, it lends a different flavor to the beer.

Such as?
Wet hop beers tend to be not as bitter or as strong as, say, a typical IPA. Instead, the subtle characteristics of wet hops will play out. It may come across as more of a fruity or resiny character.

Why are these beers so popular among craft beer fans?
Wet hops beers are something you can brew only once a year, when the hops are at the peak of freshness. That’s unique.

You’ve brewed several wet hop beers. Other than your own, which do you enjoy?
One of my favorites is Burning Beard’s Circle of Hops, a wet hop version of their regular Circle of Hops pale ale. South Park Brewing’s Baby Buck XPA (extra pale ale) was really nice. I’ve always liked Monkey Paw’s versions and Pizza Port’s wet hop beers are outstanding.

Isn’t O’Brien’s 15th annual Wet Hop Beer Festival this month?
Yes, Oct. 13-15. We should have 30 to 35 beers on tap, most from West Coast breweries.

Fall’s also the season for Märzens, the Oktoberfest style, and pumpkin beers. Have you experimented with those?
Not as a brewer. But I do love the Märzen fest beer style. A well-made German lager is something that is hard to duplicate - when you get those fresh German lagers, it’s a great drinking experience. Hacker-Pschorr’s Oktoberfest is one of my favorites on the German side. Over here, Gordon Biersch always has an awesome Oktoberfest beer.

And pumpkin beers?
Have you seen the video Societe made? (Watch “Crafting the Perfect Pumpkin Beer” at It’s utterly hilarious and kind of sums up my feelings.

Nickel Beer Company
1485 Hollow Glen Rd., Julian, CA
760.765.BEER (2337),

O’Brien’s Pub
4646 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa

Let’s Go to the Hops

In the mood for a dirndl-lederhosen-German lager Oktoberfest? The German American Societies of San Diego have you covered.

El Cajon Oktoberfest: Sept. 29-Oct. 1; Oct. 6-8

Prefer your Oktoberfests with less oompah and a bit more offbeat? Head to the Ocean Beach pier parking lot for OB O’fest, which includes yoga, a 5K Brat Trot and - naturally - beer.

1017 S. Mollison Ave., El Cajon,

OB Oktoberfest: Oct. 6-7

Note: For more information about San Diego Oktoberfests, look here.

Newport Ave. at Abbott St.,

North Park Beer Has it All: Oct. 17

Kelsey McNair’s award-winning beers, a sweet Craftsman-style interior and Oct. 17’s five-course beer dinner. The feast begins at 7 p.m. inside the brewpub. Tickets are $60.

3038 University Ave., North Park,