San Diego Beer Week (henceforth known as SDBW because I’m not getting paid by the word) is upon us and I have already passed my first hurdle – the annual Guild Fest at Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier. Year over year it proves to be one of my favorite festivals, so I constantly jockey to cover it for “journalism”. Normally I’d regale you with the sights and sounds of this flagship event, but internet style guidelines demand that my experience be somehow enumerated to hold your attention. So here are The Eleven Best Beers I Managed To Drink At Guild Fest 2016 In No Particular Order Which Are Not Necessarily The Absolute Best Since I Couldn’t Possibly Drink Through All The Offerings And I Don’t Wish To Marginalize Any Overlooked Breweries. NUMBER SIX WILL SHOCK YOU!
Little Miss Brewing – Hoperation Overlord Imperial Oatmeal IPA
You know a beer is good when it essentially creates a style category and simultaneously establishes an absurdly high standard for it.
In truth I’ve likely had a IPAs with oatmeal in them before, but none of them left an impression on me like this one. The indulgent floral and orange rind aromatics perfectly complemented the chewy pine notes of the beer. It was potent, dank, highly memorable, and easily the strongest beer to come out of the relatively young brewery to date. I liked Little Miss Brewing before, but now I’m excited about them.
AleSmith Brewing Company – Barrel Aged Vietnamese Speedway Stout
This beer smells like happiness soaked in bourbon. That may be a little redundant, but whatever.
The Vietnamese Speedway Stout is a tough one to improve on, but this does just that. It hits you with a quick boozy snap up front that initially diminishes its rich earthiness, but slowly gives way to dark chocolate and berry sweetness. It’s a masterstroke in making the barrel sing.
Pure Project – Keep Amurka Dank
I know a lot of folks are riding the Northeast-style hazy IPA hype train these days, but this was a top notch take on it. The haze offered a little supplementary heft without feeling like it was dosed with flour to thicken it like a gravy.
Its substantial fruity orange character aromatics were capably backed by a familiar blend of citrus and pine. It was a great example of simple flavors executed with incredible finesse.
Abnormal Brewing Company – All of the Lights
When faced with a description “Coffee Nutella Imperial Milk Porter”, you can be virtually assured one of the adjectives you’ll trot out to describe it won’t be “subtle”. Sure enough, the nose hovered somewhere between Nestle Quik and Cocoa Pebbles with an unmistakable roasted hazelnut tone to it. The beer had touches of earth and maduro cigar to it, but was primarily a nutty, chocolate-y juggernaut.
Seeing the word “coconut” in a beer name often gives me pause. When applied with some restraint it can add a beautiful texture to a brew, but otherwise it cruelly devolves the brew into a fizzy piña colada. Both of these managed to march right up to the edge of that cliff without tumbling over.
The coconut in Darkness Refined was true to its moniker, delivering a restrained, silky stout with a rich milk chocolate character. I could sip on this all evening without worries of suntan lotion-flavored belches. The Vacation IPA used it even more capably, maintaining an IPA-forward experience throughout. The nose was dominated by grass clippings, leaving a subtle coconut creaminess to bolster the floral and tropical fruit flavors.
Intergalactic Brewing Company – Planet Invader (with coffee) Russian Imperial Stout
The body on this imperial stout was lighter bodied compared to those in its cohort at the festival, but then maple syrup would be considered thirst quenching compared to some of the monsters this festival has had to offer. Still, its 11.6% ABV was masked to the point of being perilous.
The coffee burst out of the mix and had a delightful resonance on the palate. Planet Invader delivered the RIS embodiment of a stellar coffee liqueur without oppressive sweetness.
Lost Abbey Brewing Company – Track 8
This one is a bit of a cheat as I am all too familiar with this barrel-aged ale, but it still managed to stand out among its peers. It reminds of oatmeal raisin cookies soaked in bourbon, just like mom used to make.
Aztec Brewing Company – Bruja Rubia
This may well have been the sleeper hit of the festival. Unlike the innumerable, massive imperial stouts it was flanked with, this unique wheat beer seduced with subtlety. The combination of aging in white wine barrels with blue agave and apricots produced a restrained citric bite with loads of dried fruits and lemonade sweetness.
Groundswell Brewing Co. – Oathbreaker
I appreciated Groundswell Brewing’s approach to the massive signage for this beer. Compared to the standard notebook paper-sized most everyone favored, it was as imposing at the 13% ABV stout itself. It left little doubt that it meant business.
The nose was redolent with coffee, vanilla, and milk chocolate, but favored a palate of anise, dark chocolate, and coffee ground earthiness. It was surprisingly nuanced for something that could have easily been a booze-bomb.
Second Chance Beer Co. – Festa Imperiale
Yes, it’s yet another bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. No, I won’t apologize for picking so many of them.
Festa Imperiale featured the coffee notes you’d expect, but emerged from its peers with its boisterous roastiness and light brandy sweetness. It also summoned notes of toffee and chocolate turtles without becoming cloying or oppressive on the palate. It had a depth of character often clobbered by the booziness of the barrel, which was remarkable.
Comic-Con conventioneers and San Diego craft beer enthusiasts have more than one thing in common this summer. The first annual Heroes Brew Craft Beer Festival will take place July 20 at the Embarcadero Marina Park North, adjacent to the San Diego Convention Center. Local breweries will be well represented with beer pouring from Lost Abbey / Port, Karl Strauss, Coronado, Aztec, Ballast Point, Iron Fist, Stone Brewing Co., Butcher’s Brewing, Mission Brewery, Monkey Paw, Green Flash, Culture Brewing and more.
Festival goers are encouraged (but not required) to attend in costume, and there will be a “Costumed Crusader Contest” with multiple prizes. In addition, live music will be provided via a 100% solar-powered stage blasting the music of Saftey Orange, Metalhead and DJ G-Roy.
No Comic-Con badge is needed for admission. General Admission takes from 1-5PM and costs $40 for two wrist tags and a 4oz tasting mug good for 20 tasters (additional 10 tasters wrist tags may be purchased for $5). The VIP Session starts with and unlimited brewers special selection tasting from 12-1PM, but also includes the same 20 4oz tasters during the general session plus access to the VIP area with unlimited tasting of VIP brewery sponsor beer.
A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to San Diego Coast Keeper. For tickets and more information, visit heroesbrewfest.com. Use promo code “WestCoaster” at checkout for $4 off your ticket! Code expires on July 5th.
This post is sponsored by Heroes Brew Fest.
We’ve got a big, wild weekend coming up in San Diego beer. Below you’ll find plenty of anniversary celebrations, plus an array of other beer-y events all around the county.
El Cajon Brewing Company (1)
Two special releases, Quatro Cajones Quad IPA and French oak bourbon barrel-aged BreakOut 11 Stout, will be released at the East County brewery’s anniversary party that goes from 6 – 11 p.m. The cover charge is $18 for food, including a whole smoked pig, plus two house beers (but not the special releases).
Pre-sale tickets are sold out, and that shouldn’t surprise you. This event boasts some amazing beers, including several from the “five godfathers” of SD brewing: Stone Brewing Co. (Belong to Where You’re From – a blend of 2011 Stone Old Guardian Belgo Barley Wine, Stone 16th Anniversary IPA, Stone Levitation Ale, Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du BUFF, Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, Stone Pale Ale, fresh ginger and orange peel), Ballast Point (Black Scorpion – a blend of Black Marlin Porter and Sculpin IPA), Port/Lost Abbey (pouring a cocktail-inspired barrel-aged beer), Green Flash (5-year old barrel-aged barley wine, plus their Oktoberfest beer and Silva Stout) and AleSmith (Little Devil with Lavender, plus a special batch of Speedway Stout with Mocha Java coffee). $10 for four half-pint tasters on 8th Ave between Market & G Streets from 1 – 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Hamilton’s Tavern (6)
Hamilton’s higher-ups have dedicated their tap list to staff requests, and in addition there will be six cask beers tapped over the course of this weekend. On Friday it’s Alpine Pure Hoppiness and Sweet Georgia Brown root beer style; Saturday features Hamilton’s 6th Anniversary IPA (brewed by Green Flash) and AleSmith Evil Dead Red starting at 5 p.m. along with a delicious feast of food Second Saturday-style. On Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. taste oak-aged Ballast Point Dorado IIPA and Marin White Knuckle IIPA casks.
Live Wire (20)
A classic San Diego beer bar celebrates two decades this weekend. On Friday wear a Live Wire shirt for $3 throw-back-pricing beers with an “alumni” staff of bartenders. Saturday the crew celebrates with a sold-out show at the Lafayette Hotel, and on Sunday there’s a bicycle bar tour that starts at noon. In case you’re too hungover, Live Wire owners have rented a bus for those who’d rather sit than pedal.
From 1 – 6 p.m. on Saturday Hess Brewing Company is throwing a party. Taste the return of the German Dusseldorf Altbier Festivus, plus Claritas Kolsch and many others. Traditional German folk music will be going all afternoon, and Ranchwood BBQ is bringing brats and sauerkraut. For those who want to stick to Southern California fare, Casanova Fish Tacos will be serving too.
Two beer releases are the highlight of the day at Aztec. Barrel-aged Noche and barrel-aged Sacrifice will be on tap, and you’re invited to dress up in traditional German attire for a costume contest. Local caterer Oscar Meat Pie will be in attendance serving brats. The party goes from 12 – 7 p.m. in Vista.
The Lost Abbey’s “Ultimate Box Set” series is close to completion, with Track 10 of 12 debuting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Having started as Serpent Stout, Track 10 was infused with coffee and cacao in four specially-selected bourbon barrels before bottling. Don’t expect to take one home with you, though; each 375mL bottle must be consumed on site, same day.
Wet Hop Beer Festival
Now in its tenth year running, the O’Brien’s Wet Hop Fest is always a huge hit. This year, owner Tom Nickel has rounded up 31 different beers with many never seen at the event before. It’s also his biggest haul of out-of-state beers, ever. All the local and California beers go on tap Saturday, while of the non-CA brews go on this Sunday. Check out our “Wet Hop Beer Watch” page for the full list of beers.
Beginner Homebrew Class
If you’ve ever wanted to homebrew, but don’t know how to get started, visit All About Brewing this Saturday at 9 a.m. Store owner James Nunnally is hosting a malt extract brewing demonstration in front of the store, and he’s one of the most personable guys in the business. The class will be over by 11:30 a.m. so you can check out the weekend’s other events.
Beer and Fundraising
The High Dive in Bay Park is stepping up to support the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on Saturday. A portion of beer sales, plus the money raised from the silent auction that includes Chargers and Aztec tickets, will go to the cause. The event goes from 5 – 9 p.m. at 1801 Morena Boulevard.
Beer and Music
Held in downtown Vista, this new festival features tons of local breweries, including Mother Earth, Belching Beaver (set to soft open next week), Latitude 33, Backstreet, Indian Joe, Pizza Port, Stone, Oggi’s, San Marcos, Fezziwig’s, AleSmith, Breakwater, Offbeat and Oceanside Ale Works. Regional breweries Left Coast, Ironfire, Maui, Hangar 24 and Golden Road complete the list. Tasters are five for $20 or ten for $30 at vistabluesandbrews.com.
This weekend two San Diego breweries will host anniversary parties benefiting local charities.
The Seasoned Veteran
Green Flash Brewing Co.
Mira Mesa’s biggest brewery is kicking off 10th anniversary celebrations with their largest event of the year tomorrow. Rare and specialty beers will be poured from 12 – 4 p.m., including Silva Stout (bourbon barrel-aged Double Stout), Sleepin’ with Shaggy brandy barrel-aged barley wine, Treasure Chest Belgian blonde ale, Goddess Coffee Double Stout (a collaboration with Caffe Calabria), Little Freak, Super Freak, Vintage Le Freak, Highway 78 Scotch Ale (Green Flash / Pizza Port Carlsbad / Stone collaboration), and casks will be tapped on the hour. Other highlights include a fleet of classic cars, pin-up gals in swimwear by local designers and more than 15 vendors and food trucks. 100% of the proceeds from this event will go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure San Diego in the fight against breast cancer. Tickets are $30 pre-sale at greenflashbrew.com, or $35 at the door; tickets include 10 tasters and a souvenir glass.
The Up-And-Coming Pro
Aztec Brewing Company
Vista has become a beacon for the beer scene recently and Aztec Brewing Company is a big part of it, mixing the ideals of a historic local brand with unique events and interesting beers. Tomorrow (noon – 10 p.m.) and Sunday (noon – 7 p.m.) they’ll be celebrating one year of business with the release of a spicy limited-edition anniversary beer brewed with chipotle and ancho chiles, organic cacao nibs, cinnamon, nutmeg and grains of paradise. Tickets to the party are $30 each day, and a 22 oz. bomber of the new beer is included for the first 100 partakers. Admission also includes five tasters of Aztec beer, beer mac & cheese, dishes served from a whole pig plus more munchies. A portion of the proceeds benefits Paws’itive Teams, a local non-profit that provides service dogs and therapy pets for persons with disabilities. Purchase tickets at the door or over the phone by calling 1-800-706-6324 ext 1.
There are several San Diego beer events happening this Saturday. We’ve divided them by the goal you want to accomplish.
ENJOY BEERS FROM THE EAST COAST
Shipyard BeerBQ @ KnB
Monthly beer-focused barbeques have helped make KnB a must-visit spot across the freeway from SDSU. For August, Portland Maine’s Shipyard Brewing Co. have sent out 10 beers for you to try: Monkey Fist IPA, Brewers Brown, Applehead, XXXXIPA, Smashed Pumpkin, Smashed Blueberry, Double Old Thumper, 2011 Imperial Porter, 2011 Barleywine and 2011 Prelude. On the food side, Monkey Fist IPA-battered Fish ‘N’ Chips will be served. The party goes from noon until 5 p.m.
CELEBRATE A MILESTONE
Second Anniversary @ Hess Brewing
One of the first local wet hop beers to market this year, Hess Brewing Anno Duo, will be released in 750mL bottles at the brewery birthday party. Brewed with fresh Chinook and Cascade hops driven down overnight from Chico, California’s North Country Hops, this IPA will likely be snatched up quickly. (UPDATE 8/23: Hess stated in an e-mail that this beer had not met their standards for serving. So, they’ve racked it in a freshly emptied wine barrel, inocculated it with Roselare and they’ll wait about a year to see what happens). Also on tap will be a new batch of Hess Brewing’s experimental IPA, the West Coaster IPA. We love this beer each time it comes out, for obvious reasons. This go round it was brewed with locally-sourced wet hops! More event highlights include a Willi Becher-style anniversary glass, MIHO Gastrotruck and Ranchwood BBQ food trucks, plus live music from Mudgrass (12 – 2 p.m.) and The Barnacles (3 – 5 p.m.)
LEARN ABOUT BEER, DRINK THE BEER
Beer-Con @ 57 Degrees
Although 57 Degrees is a wine-focused spot, beer takes over this Saturday. After a keynote on ‘The Localization of Beer’ from Brewers Association Craft Beer Program Director Julia Herz, attendees will choose from eight mini seminars on two tracks. You can see the full agenda here, and there’s even an iPhone and Android app for the event. After your day of learning, and lunch provided by Swieners and Casanova Fish Tacos, the ‘tap haven’ opens at 5 p.m. with unlimited 3 – 4 oz tasters from 15 breweries. Some highlights include Ballast Point barrel-aged Three Sheets Barleywine, Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA, Coronado Brewing Frog’s Breath IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Ovila Golden and the Russian River collaboration BRUX, Lightning Elemental Pilsner and Thunderweizen, as well as 2009 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine. Also, Stone’s “Dr.” Bill Sysak will be pairing a dark chocolate truffle with orange and sea salt with Stone 16th Anniversary IPA and a milk chocolate truffle with banana and saffron with the Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone Saison du BUFF. LOVELIKEBEER will showcase a mini version of their Sea Rocket Bistro menu pairing (spicy BBQ seitan with Green Flash Hop Head Red), and Best Damn Home Brew Shop will be putting on a live home brewing demonstration for you to enjoy. Click here for $69 conference tickets (normally $119). Jump on one of the 12-taster Friday brewery tour routes for just $30 more.
GO TO A BEER FESTIVAL
Mira Mesa Festival of Beers
The first annual Mira Mesa Festival of Beers at Walker Community Park will focus on breweries from the central San Diego neighborhood, with proceeds benefiting the Mira Mesa Chamber of Commerce. VIP tickets ($30 versus $20 General Admission) include an extra hour of beer sampling beginning at 1 p.m., two bonus taster tickets (12 in total) and in-and-out privileges. Live music on the San Diego CityBeat stage and food trucks MIHO Gastrotruck and Devilicious round out the afternoon. Local breweries include AleSmith, Ballast Point, Callahan’s, Green Flash, Hess Brewing, Karl Strauss, Lightning, Manzanita, New English, Rough Draft, Societe, Stone and Wet ‘N Reckless.
GET YOUR CULTURE ON
Artists’ Night @ Stumblefoot
A live art show and great beer will pair up in the San Marcos brewery tasting room. Local artists David Lozeau, Jay’s Gemstone and Pinstripe Chris will demonstrate their craft as you watch on. Southern style food-for-purchase will be available from Stumblefoot Brewing Company’s neighbors Daisy’s Cajun Kitchen. Further reading: Dr. Q from Craft Beer Tasters wrote up a review on Stumblefoot this morning.
DRINK CASK BEER
Collaboration Cask @ Monkey Paw
Every Saturday the East Village brewpub Monkey Paw taps a cask of some cool beer. This week they’re putting on a house-brewed collaboration with New Zealand brewery 8 Wired. “Rhymenoceros” is a rye pilsner brewed with New Zealand Riwaka hops that give off a big guava/tropical aroma. Monkey Paw higher-ups have said that “this is probably the most interesting beer we have made because it defies all concepts of the style, other than maybe the color.” And if you know MP’s beers, you know that’s a big statement.
In our paper we wrote about Aztec Brewing Company’s 1-year anniversary party, which was scheduled for August 25 as well. That celebration has been moved to September 8 – 9. Aztec is still working on a special beer for the occasion, and they’ve just partnered up with non-profit Paws’itive Teams, which provides service dogs for persons with disabilities.
*Know of more events?
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