With my brother driving up to Portland and Seattle, I thought of the beers he should bring down. While the pacific northwest is heavy in brewing tradition and skill, I really cannot think of many exciting beers I would have my brother bring back for me. There are many beer guides suggesting I visit this bottle shop and that bar, but to order and pick up what? That’s what is hard to figure out. Sure in Portland, there’s Deschutes, Widmer, and Rogue, but we already see great distribution down here. So I started looking, limiting myself to a total of six bottles and the research began.
Hopworks, Cascade, and Elysian came to the surface first, offering unique beer styles ranging from the fruity Elysian styles, to the sour barrel aged beers coming out of Cascade. I am not very knowledgeable about the beer scene up there, but I think I know a bit about San Diego. So here it is, my six pack (plus a little more) of the beers to pick up while in San Diego:
1. Anything Alpine (IPA’s preferably – Duet, Nelson, Pure Hoppiness)
Alpine is the leader in the west coast IPA beer styles with each offering that big citrus and fruity hop profile backed by a nice dry finish. Certainly not for the faint of heart or those who don’t care for bitter beers, but you’ll be missing San Diego’s best local brewery if you decide to pass this one up. This beer maybe a little harder to find, but call around, and stick to the bigger bottle shops around town. (I can think of maybe a dozen that carry Alpine, or just go and visit the brewery itself!) Should be able to find a 22oz for around $8
2. Alesmith Speedway Stout
Once ranked the best beer in the world, this Imperial Russian Stout clocks in at a boozy 12%. Split a bottle of this coffee packed beer with a few friends and be greeted a rich roasty stout experience. Year around availability, 750mL, around $12
3. Ballast Point Sculpin
One of the more sought after IPA’s coming out of San Diego, this beer keeps true to its west coast roots with hoppy notes of apricot and mango prevalent. This beer should be easy to find in both 6 packs and 22oz bottles ($14 for sixer, $9 22oz)
4. Anything Lost Abbey
These guys are the Belgian cousin of the award winning Pizza Port brewery and easy stand on their own producing fine Belgian style ales. The Lost Abbey has a wide range of styles that can fit your taste, whether you like something a bit light like Red Barn Ale, or something a bit bigger and intense like the Judgement Day Quadrupel Ale. They’re year around offerings are good, but their seasonals are a treat if you time your trip accordingly: Serpent Stout and Carnavale come to mind. Prices vary but expect anywhere from $8-$14
5. Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard Ale
Stone is the largest brewery in San Diego and has been around long enough to pioneer styles such as the American Strong Ale. It all started with the Arrogant Bastard Ale back in 1997, and while surely there are more sought after ales, Arrogant Bastard stands on its own being an in your face bitter assault backed by a sticky rich malt profile. Stone is distributed pretty well and chances are you can find this beer in your area, but I say go to the brewery, take a tour, and grab a table as the brewery is one of the nicest settings and to drink a beer. $4-$5 for 22oz, year around available. Also available in 6 packs.
6. Pizza Port Old Viscosity
“Not your dads 30 weight” motor oil sits in on the front of the label and this big Imperial Stout, partially aged in oak barrels is a rich treat. 20% of the beer is aged in oak which picks up some smoke, booze, and vanilla notes. A complex brew that is easy to find for $9 or less a 22oz.
That is it!
Here are some breweries and beers to seek out produced outside of San Diego that you should snag up:
Russian River: Pliny the Elder, its double IPA is most hyped but you’ll find its sours are world class. Note that the sours are a bit expensive at $15ish/375mL or 12 oz bottle.
Firestone Walker: good solid year around beers with some seasonals like Velvet Merlin which is a favorite of mine.
Green Flash Brewing: Maybe should have included them in my 6 pack, but get their Double Stout, Imperial IPA, or West Coast IPA.
The Bruery: Great Belgian inspired beers, they often experiment with spices and other adjuncts which put a new twist to established styles like using yams instead of pumpkin for its Autumn Maple.
Hope this will serve as a small guide if you are visiting San Diego and looking to take home some of the beer back with you.