With so many hundreds of new beers being released each year by San Diego County breweries, getting a good list of standouts from the year gone by is going to require some reinforcements. In that spirit, I’ve assembled a quintet of local beer media from every platform—magazine, newspaper, radio, alt-weekly and podcast—to offer up their favorite #SDBeer quaffs from 2018.
Bruce Glassman, San Diego Magazine: Number one for me was Hooked on Necropolis dark saison from Northern Pine Brewing. A super-interesting blend of dark malts (chocolate pale, Black Prinz and rye) give this saison a fantastic depth of flavor and richness without being heavy. Bright Belgian spiciness and tropical flavors wrap around a medium-bodied backbone. Roggen the Lightning from Burning Beard Brewing is densely packed with gorgeous rye-malt flavors that give it incredible umami mouthfeel and balance perfectly with just the right levels of bright honeyed hops. Jilted Kiwi French farmhouse-style ale from Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station utilizes a unique lend of intriguing adjuncts for a light, highly carbonated, lightly spicy saison-style beer. Brewer Kris Ketcham used kiwi, basil and coriander in perfect balance to create a truly memorable brew. First Snow from Resident Brewing is a blonde ale with coconut, coffee, vanilla beans and cocoa nibs that’s expertly balanced with flavors that don’t obscure the beer. It’s light, crisp and thoroughly refreshing with an appealing island vibe. Finally, Latchkey Brewing’s Doppel Dacker doppelbock-style beer pulled off great concentration of malt, caramel, toffee and coffee flavors with hints of bubble gum, while managing to remain bright and refreshing on the palate. Medium-bodied, this is a great food beer; excellent accompaniment for everything from roasted meats to fatty desserts.
Peter Rowe, San Diego Union-Tribune: Beers come and—gulp—beers go, but one that sticks in my mind is the Fourpenny Ale at Fourpenny House in La Mesa. Not quite a classic Scottish Ale, and certainly not a San Diego-style brown ale, it’s a wonderful blend of Old and New World beer styles. And the snug House is a great, welcoming place to knock back a pint or two.
Danielle Stuht, 91X: I’ve got to give a shout-out to Service Pig IPA. It was an awesome beer to come out of Thorn Brewing. Also, I loved the collaboration between Burgeon Beer Co. and North Park Beer Co., Dead and Gone IPA. And how can we possibly forget the Fall Brewing and Alpine Beer Co. collaboration, Fallpine Triple IPA? Actually, I totally know how we could forget about it with that ABV!
Esthela Davila, The Indie Beer Show: For best new beer, I’m going to have to go with Back to the Filter IPA from Pariah Brewing if I can only pick one. A very close second would be the Blend O Matic from AleSmith Brewing and Second Chance Beer Co.
Beth Demmon, San Diego CityBeat & West Coaster: There were so many that there’s no way to include them all, but here goes: Capital of Craft IPA (a San Diego Brewers Guild collaboration for San Diego Beer Week), SouthNorte Beer Co.’s collaboration with Baja chef Javier Plascencia Aniversario 1, North Park Beer’s Stay Hazy with activated charcoal and glitter (I couldn’t resist!), Modern Times Beer Co.’s Fruitlands: Rosé Edition, Burning Beard’s Roggen the Lightning roggenbier, Home Brewing Co.’s That’s Entertainment dark mild ale, Stone Brewing’s Mojay IPA collaboration with Corey Magers and Elizabeth Bakas and Burgeon Beer, Fall Brewing’s Le Piegon Belgian pale ale, Eppig Brewing’s Zwickelbier and Schwarzbier, and Booze Brothers Brewing’s Spanish Caravan dry-hopped blonde ale with guava.