16 in ‘16 – The best of #SDBeer 2016: Reader’s Choice Poll results
We ran our online reader’s choice poll late 2016. Using an online form, we asked our readers to type in their favorite choices across sixteen different categories. Here are the results!
Best SD Beer: Normcore Pilsner by Burning Beard Brewing
San Diego pumps out a lot of beer, so as expected this category got lots of different responses. That said, Normcore by 2016 newcomer Burning Beard came through with the most votes. West Coaster staff maintains that you can tell a lot about a brewery based on their pilsner; it’s a tough style to hide off-flavors or flaws. With Normcore, German malt meets Czech hops and there’s nothing but flavor from their East County Pils.
Best SD Brewery: Societe Brewing Co.
Winner of this title in 2014, Societe is a world class craft brewery. It’s no surprise our readers decided that it was the best of 2016. Whether you’re Team Apprentice or Team Pupil, or you favor the Belgian “Old World” styles over “Stygian” offerings – West Coaster staff and readers have yet to bear witness to a bad Societe beer. Recently, the company collected more than 20,000 pounds of food for San Diego’s less fortunate with creative bottle pricing: if you brought in 50 pounds of food, the beer could be had for just $5 (normally $50).
Best Brewpub: Abnormal Beer Co. / Cork & Craft
For the second year in a row, Abnormal Beer Co. is the best brewpub in San Diego according to our readers. In 2016, the Rancho Bernardo operation expanded brewing possibilities and then beers like Boss Pour IPA started appearing on taplists countywide. The Abnormal Dinner Series continues on March 6th with one of #LABeer’s finest: Beachwood BBQ. These quarterly-held pairing dinners are a good way to figure out what all the fuss is about. Don’t forget they make wine on-site, too!
Best Professional Brewer: Paul Segura
Paul Segura has been with Karl Strauss Brewing Co. since January 2000. The brewmaster for Karl’s production facility, Paul and his team had one hell of a year in 2016. At the Great American Beer Festival last October, Karl won medals for four beers and earned the prestigious 2016 Mid-Size Brewery & Brewer of the Year Award. If you haven’t tried beer from Karl Strauss in a while, you are missing out. Get a glass of Aurora Hoppyalis, Mosaic and/or Queen of Tarts at the tasting room in the Bay Ho neighborhood.
Local homebrewer Nick Corona was named 2016’s National Homebrewer of the Year at the American Homebrewers Association’s conference, and we featured him on the cover of our July 2016 issue. One of Corona’s best pieces of advice for homebrewers: “Do your research, plan ahead, never be in a rush, and enter competitions if you want to improve.” At some point he plans to open his own brewery, but he probably won’t be able to use his last name too prominently. Either way, we can’t wait to try the beer!
Best Tasting Room: North Park Beer Co.
The 8,600 square foot North Park Beer Co. location was a gym in its prior life, before being transformed by Basile Studio into a beautiful craftsman-style brewery. Located on the corner of Lincoln and University Avenue in North Park, the company’s tasting room looks like plenty of living rooms in the surrounding neighborhood. Aesthetics aside, the entire family can visit this spacious, well-appointed tasting space and gather in style. There’s food by Mastiff Sausage Co., non-alcoholic offerings and, of course, great beer including house-made ales and lagers, plus guest taps.
Best New Beer Spot: Mikkeller
The Copenhagen-based Mikkeller brand has grown into an international collection of pubs. So when San Diego’s AleSmith announced it was moving into new digs, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø sprung to establish his own brewery, in a “creative partnership” with AleSmith, at the old site. Former AleSmith head brewer Bill Batten decided to stick with the brewhouse he knows best and signed on with Mikkeller. The tasting room is covered in Mikkeller’s quirky-cool art and is slightly larger than its previous incarnation. In 2017, the brewery is planning a new beer release every single week.
Best Beer Bar: Hamilton’s
Dark, cozy and boasting high quality lineups on meticulously clean lines, there’s a reason this bar was named in two categories from previous years. Earning the title of Best Beer Bar in 2014 and Best Tap Selection / Rotation in 2015, we’re not surprised that our readers once again picked Hammie’s as the Best Beer Bar in San Diego. If you’re reading these words and haven’t been to Hamilton’s, we strongly recommend you do so. If you don’t mind crowds, go to the monthly tap takeover event, featuring a free meal, every second Saturday. This month, Karl Strauss takes over the taps on February 11.
Best Beer Restaurant: Urge American Gastropub
Whether you are at the original Rancho Bernardo location or the Oceanside brewpub, the Urge American Gastropub crew is serious about good beer. Our readers agree, voting Urge the Best Beer Restaurant in San Diego two years in a row. Whichever arm of the Urge Empire you visit, there’s going to be a monster draft list and decadent-bordering-on-outrageous food. The Oceanside location’s in-house brewery, Mason Ale Works, just started canning, and Urge Common House, a 21,000 square foot site, is coming to San Marcos in 2017.
Best SD IPA: Hop Fu by North Park Beer Co.
After years of earning respect and awards in the homebrewing world, Hop-Fu! made its production debut in 2016 with the grand opening of North Park Beer Co. Brewer Kelsey McNair scaled up the recipe skillfully and this IPA is ready for primetime. McNair was surprised when told he’d won this category: “I think the commercial version of Hop-Fu! still has a lot of room for improvement.” Our readers disagreed, and the history of this recipe bolsters their choice: Hop-Fu! took home a gold medal in the American Homebrewers Association’s annual competition in 2010, 2012 and 2014 in the highly competitive American IPA/Imperial IPA category.
Best Homebrew Shop: The Homebrewer
The Homebrewer proprietor George Thornton worked at Home Brews & Gardens (located in what is now Thorn St. Brewery) before deciding to open his own shop and brewery. In 2012, The Homebrewer debuted in its current location at 2911 El Cajon Boulevard in North Park. The store is as much for homebrew supplies as it is for fermentation education: February classes include “Intro to Homebrewing” on 2/11 and “Cider Making” on 2/13. The on-site brewery Home Brewing Co. opened in 2015, with tasters, pints and growlers now available. If you need ingredients for your next brew, go see why our readers voted The Homebrewer as Best Homebrew Shop two years in a row.
There’s so much beer produced in Miramar that the area’s landmark, the Miramar Pyramid, should be transformed into a giant fermenter. The industrial area north of Miramar Road is home to 21 breweries and three non-brewing tasting rooms. Thanks to help from the area’s councilmember Chris Cate, when AleSmith relocated, the street name of their current location was changed to AleSmith Court. Miramar is also home to White Labs, so brewers in the area have easy access to fresh yeast and fermentation advice.
Best Beer Selection / Tap Rotation: Brew Project
Touting itself as a brewery tour under one roof, The Brew Project has demonstrated a firm commitment to showcasing San Diego Beer. Tap handles from the delicious but seldom-seen Breakwater Brewing Co., newcomer Bay City Brewing Co. and established Green Flash were found on tap at time of press. “We’re proud to have had over 105 different San Diego breweries on tap,” says publican Beau Schmitt. For the full experience of what this cool spot can offer, take a look at the recently-launched Boilermaker Program, which connects local beers and spirits with regular food pairings.
Best Festival: Modern Times Dankness / Funk festivals
Modern Times is a brewery that’s doing quite a lot. Last year’s Best SD Brewery winner has been keen on creating distinct and fun beer festivals, in addition to expanding like crazy. In 2016, Modern Times hosted two festivals: The Festival of Funk and Festival of Dankness. Hosting 1300 beer drinkers each, Funk focuses on sour and funky beers while Dankness on “new wave hoppy beers.” According to the organizer, Derek Freese, “Even though there are lots of beer festivals in San Diego, we felt like there was room for new, thematic festivals that were orientated to quality and beers not distributed in San Diego.” The 2nd Annual Festivals of Funk and Dankness will be on May 20th and August 27th, respectively. If you’re into coffee-infused beers, check out Modern Times’ new festival Carnival of Caffeination on February 11th.
Best Bottleshop: Bottlecraft (all)
A top-tier beer shop with taps, plus the ability to purchase and pop bottles/cans on-premise at all three locations, make Bottlecraft stand out from the herd. A true bottleshop in a land of liquor stores with beer sections, the prices are reasonable and the selection well-curated. The ancillary items offered vary slightly at each location: you can get Venissimo Cheese at North Park or a myriad of treats from Liberty’s Public Market. Bottlecraft publican Brian Jensen will open Bottlecraft’s next edition in Solana Beach in 2017 after recently acquiring San Diego BeerWorks.
Most Underrated Brewery: New English Brewing Co.
Since 2008, New English has been consistently turning out quality beers. Standouts include Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout, made with locally roasted coffee from Zumbar Coffee & Tea, which has earned a bronze and gold medal at the 2016 and 2015 Great American Beer Festival, respectively; and the delicious Pure and Simple IPA. Located at the base of Sorrento Valley, a visit to the tasting room is recommended by both West Coaster readers and staff.