Each week, I feature a locally produced beer that is special from one of numerous standpoints. Sometimes it’s an anniversary beer, other times I go with collaborations. The draw of something unique often piques my interest, then there are times when a beer just tastes outstanding. But the basic plan of action is to highlight quality ales and lagers from around the county without featuring the same brewery twice during a single calendar year. This year, I decided to list all of the weekly standouts and rank them. In order to best do this, I broke them into categories (apples-to-apples versus triple-IPA-to-cream-ale). As one would expect from a beat this drenched in hop oil, IPAs of all ilks were featured most often, but there were plenty of lagers, Belgian-style ales, stouts and other concoctions. All were good, but some were outstanding enough that they should be recognized here.
- HFS American IPA, Alpine Beer Co., Alpine: It wasn’t surprising that a recent Great American Beer Festival-winning beer topped this list, and it was great to see its award-garnering quality delivered intact in bottles.
- CT3 Hazy Triple IPA with Local Strawberries, Pure Project Brewing, Miramar: Definitely not the type of beer you reach for every day, but the day I tasted it, I reached for it twice…at two different bars, no less.
- Nelson the Greeter IPA, Port Brewing, San Marcos: This hoppy-beer brewery has little to prove after years of excelling at IPAs, but they pushed themselves and delivered a home run with this drinkable beauty.
- Vera Lynn Double IPA, Mason Ale Works, Oceanside & San Marcos
- Fresh Arrived Triple IPA, Abnormal Beer Co., Rancho Bernardo
- Say When IPA, Mother Earth Brew Co., Vista
- Indie or Bust IPA, Pariah Brewing, North Park
- Buena Vista IPA, Booze Brothers Brewing, Vista
- Trending Travis-ty Hazy Session IPA, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, Point Loma
- Everyday California IPA, Resident Brewing, Downtown
- Clever Hoppy Name #3 Rye IPA, Second Chance Beer Co., Carmel Mountain
- KASHI-entious IPA, Duck Foot Brewing, Miramar
- Larry’s Place IPA, Nickel Beer Co., Julian
- Hoperation Overlord Oatmeal IPA, Little Miss Brewing, Miramar
- Amarillo Session IPA, Culture Brewing, Solana Beach
- Grapefruit Bighorn IPA, Nickel Beer Co., Julian
- Anniversary IPA, Bay City Brewing, Pont Loma
- Brett Coast IPA, Green Flash Brewing, Mira Mesa & Poway
- Capital of Craft IPA, San Diego Brewers Guild Collaboration
- Nelson Lager, Dos Desperados Brewery & Prodigy Brewing, San Marcos: This wasn’t just one of the best lagers I had all year, it was one of the best beers overall; crisp, clean and bursting with Nelson Sauvin character.
- Natural Bridge Festbier, Eppig Brewing, North Park: This is a beer so well-crafted, true-to-style and absolutely perfect for everyday consumption that I find myself thinking about it just about every day.
- Herd of Turtles Baltic Porter, Bagby Beer Co., Oceanside: With so few Baltic-style porters in the county, they could have passed any dark lager off as one, but of course, this standout operation aced it.
- Bird Park Bohemian Pilsner, North Park Beer Co., North Park
- Helles Yeah! Helles, Division 23 Brewing, Miramar
- Ragnabock Doppelbock, Longship Brewing, Mira Mesa
- Sea Señor Mexican Lager, SouthNorte Brewing, Coronado
- Genesis of Shame Foeder-Aged Belgian Blonde Ale with Peaches, The Lost Abbey, San Marcos: Blessed with the Brett-y depth of flavor of Carnevale Ale, the lively texture of dearly-departed Inferno Ale plus a touch of fruit, this was a marvelous beer.
- Barrel-Aged Beátitude Boysenberry Imperial Tart Saison, Council Brewing, Kearny Mesa: Not for the faint of heart, this boozy, aggressively tart bottled offering was a force of nature.
- Sharks with Blazers Hoppy Saison, 32 North Brewing & Home Brewing, Miramar & North Park: Such a lovely, easy-drinking farmhouse ale that, even when the hops dropped out, it remained a standout.
- Barrel-Aged Panic at the Monastery Quadrupel, Burning Beard Brewing, El Cajon
- Cranbarely Sauced Saison, Viewpoint Brewing, Del Mar
- Spring Fling Lemon Verbena Saison, Bitter Brothers Brewing, Bay Ho
- Devil’s Thumb Golden Strong Ale, Rock Bottom, La Jolla
- Queen of Tarts Dark Sour Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing, Multiple San Diego County Locations
- Bear Cookie Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout, Bear Roots Brewing, Vista: It may be the only confectionery beer around that doesn’t taste like a gimmick. Even if it is, there’s no denying (or resisting) its velvety deliciousness.
- Barrel-Aged German Chocolate Cake, Coronado Brewing, Bay Park & Coronado: This onyx offering shows how bourbon-soaked oak can enhance and fill in a base beer’s gaps when done correctly.
- Neapolitan Dynamite Imperial Stout, Stone Brewing, Escondido: Once it warms a bit, you can really get all three flavors of the ice cream this beer dares to emulate, and that’s pretty impressive.
- Winning! Chocolate Stout, 2kids Brewing, Miramar
- Third Avenue Coffee Porter, Chula Vista Brewery, Chula Vista
- Katerina Imperial Stout, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, Ramona
- Barrel-Aged Frankenstout Imperial Stout, White Labs, Miramar
- Hop Slap’d #5 Single-Hop Pale Ale, New English Brewing, Sorrento Valley: Many breweries do single-hop experimentation. Many of those brews feel like fodder for Guinea pigs, but this one felt like a fantastic finished product.
- Beaten Path Extra Pale Ale, Benchmark Brewing, Grantville: With brilliant hoppy high notes and a one-of-a-kind texture, this is a seasonal beer worth waiting for each time it comes around in its green aluminum attire.
- Ol’ Colo Imperial Altbier, Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery, East Village: The proposed recipe for this beer got its conceiver a head-brewer job, and the lovely, malt-forward beer got him a well-deserved BOTW nod.
- Smoldering Pirates American Sour Ale, Belching Beaver Brewery, Oceanside & Vista
- #Buzzwords Hazy Pale Ale, Half Door Brewing, East Village
- Cleveland Style Christmas Ale, Kilowatt Brewing, Kearny Mesa
- Shark Bite Red Ale, Pizza Port, Carlsbad, Ocean Beach & Solana Beach
- Passion Fruit Gose, Mission Brewery, East Village
- The Daily Grind Coffee Cream Ale, Oggi’s, Multiple Southern California Locations
* Author’s Note: This year, Nickel Beer Co. had two Beer of the Week features due to the untimely passing of local publican Larry Koger, for whom owner and business partner Tom Nickel brewed a commemorative beer. It was a good reason to break policy.