The San Diego area is renowned for its high-quality beer.
San Diego’s legacy breweries—Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Stone Brewing Co., Ballast Point, Green Flash Brewing Company and AleSmith Brewing Company—have a stellar reputation for brewing consistently great craft beers.
These craft-beer pioneers continue to inspire fellow brewers, homebrewers and beer drinkers alike. Therefore, we decided to check out some new kids on the brewery block that are helping make America’s Finest City even finer.
Half Door Brewing Company: This brewery opened in January and is located downtown in a historic 4,000-sqaure-foot, two-story home on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Island Avenue. The Irish-inspired pub oozes cool. HDBC celebrates old-world European tradition with a new flair. The Bearleener is a day-drinking 3.8 percent alcohol by volume beer brewed with Citra hops and Lactobacillus grown from acidulated malt. Sour, meet wheat; wheat, meet sour. This refreshing summer beer has lovely sour tangerine and lemon notes with a slightly tart finish.
Trick your senses with the Gimmick Ale: a white chocolate peanut butter golden milk stout, brewed with four malts and tons of flavor. It’s dessert in a glass. Sip it from the upstairs deck and listen to the roar of the crowd at Petco Park. Oh, and the food menu is crafted to complement the house beers.
Modern Times Beer: The appropriately named brewery has a dream team of brewers, including founder Jacob McKean, a former Stone Brewing employee and long-time homebrewer. Modern Times Beer just celebrated its second anniversary. It’s also celebrating the fact that it was named one of the “Top 10 New Brewers in the World” by RateBeer in 2014.
Modern Times brews four year-round beers and is one of the only breweries in the world to roast its own coffee in-house for the beer. In July, the brewery finally secured South African hops for its Southern Passion and J-17 IPA. Homebrewers can rejoice, because the brewery provides the recipe for many of the brewery’s special-release beers. The Palace of Cracked Heads (Gotta love beer names!) is a juicy 9 percent ABV American wild ale brewed with 50 pounds of heirloom nectarines per barrel.
Love sticky, danky beers? Don’t miss the First Annual upcoming Festival of Dankness, at the San Diego Waterfront Park on Saturday, Aug. 22. Check out first-hand how badass breweries are using incredible new hops from around the world to craft juicy, aroma bombs.
“Modern Times” was a utopian socialist community founded by innovators and activists, built on Long Island in 1850. All of Modern Times Beer’s brews are named after real utopian experiments or mythological utopias. This new-ish yet already influential brewery is escaping conformity and peacefully providing social happiness—in a stylin’ tallboy can.
Fall Brewing Company: This punk-rock-influenced brewery opened in November last year in the heart of San Diego’s beer epicenter, North Park. Co-owner and graphic designer David Lively has done work for Jack Johnson and G. Love. In an area known for West Coast style IPAs, brewmaster Ray Astamendi brews what he wants. Plenty for All is a California common-pilsner hybrid. This 4.9 percent ABV unfiltered zwickelbier is an easy-drinking, warm-weather standout. Fall is getting a great reputation for clean, simple and sessionable beers.
Societe Brewing Company: Societe is a production brewery that was founded by Travis Smith, formerly of Russian River Brewing Company and The Bruery, and Douglas Constantiner. The brewery opened its doors in May 2012 and now offers three lines of year-round beers: “Out West,” hoppy beers; “Old World,” Belgian-esque ales; and “Stygian,” dark beers. “Drink it fresh” is Societe’s philosophy; the brewery’s crisp IPAs are only sold on tap within a 20-mile radius of the brewery.
The Harlot is a must-try. This Belgian Extra Ale is a tweaked hybrid beer using a pilsner-lager recipe; it’s then fermented with a house Belgian-ale yeast strain. This beer was inspired by three of the founders’ favorite beers—Reality Czech Pils from Moonlight Brewing Company, Redemption from Russian River Brewing Company, and Taras Boulba from Brasserie de la Senne.
The Apprentice is a dry, hoppy American IPA brewed with a winning combination of Amarillo and Simcoe hops, producing pine, bubblegum and tropical fruit notes. Societe is also in the process of doubling its fermentation capacity to deliver even more delicious, hop-forward beer.
Amplified Ale Works: Formerly known as California Kebab and Beer Garden, this California-inspired nanobrewery sits just a block off the beach. This rockin’ brewpub started production in Pacific Beach (my old stomping grounds!) in 2012. Brewmaster Cy Henley came from San Diego brewing pioneers Ballast Point, Alpine and Green Flash.
You’ll find Amplified’s own hoppy brews like the Electrocution IPA and Pig Nose Pale Ale, along with craft beers from other breweries in the city. Electrocution IPA is the flagship beer, featuring tropical fruit notes like passion fruit and lychee. The beer, the location, the vibe—it’s all very So Cal.
Amplified’s rapid growth and popularity has led to a recent decision to sign a deal with H.G. Fenton Company to utilize a ready-made brewing facility in Miramar. The new seven-barrel brewhouse (plus four 15-barrel fermenters) will eventually increase Amplified’s production by an additional 1,000 barrels of beer in the first year.
South Park Brewing Company: SPBC is the youngest brewery on this list, but the owner is no stranger to the San Diego beer scene: Scot Blair was the brain behind Hamiltons Tavern, Small Bar and Monkey Paw Brewery.
Located in San Diego’s famous 30th Street corridor, the 6-month-old seafood-centric brewpub serves fresh yellowtail, bluefin, halibut and oysters along with its award-winning craft beers. Cosimo Sorrentino, from Monkey Paw, is the head of brewery operations.
My suggestion: Don’t miss the Scripps Pier Oyster Stout. Roasted coffee, chocolate and a faint hint of toffee make up most of the aroma. The beer is brewed with water from Scripps Pier, giving it a light saltiness and an earthy flavor.
Whether you’re looking to just grab a delicious pint, or pair a beer with a locally sourced dish, the capital of craft continues to push the envelope and please the palate.