Editor’s Note: San Diego Uptown News welcomes Lauren Duffy – North Park resident and home beer brewer – as a monthly columnist covering the craft beer scene.
By Lauren Duffy
It feels pretty good to live in an award-winning city. Especially when the awards that come pouring in are for beer – and when they continue to pour. Earlier this month, San Diego brewers returned from the World Beer Cup in Chicago with a whopping 23 medals – nearly 10 percent of the awards bestowed and more than half of the 45 awards given to California breweries. This is no small feat: The World Beer Cup awards are some of the most prestigious brewers can receive (the event is often called the “Olympics of beer”). It’s held only once every two years and receives thousands of entries – there were 3,330 beers entered this year!
Many area brewers are excited about their recent accolades. But the awards are also exciting for local craft beer fans, especially since many of the award-winning beers are readily available around town. If you’re looking to get a taste of some of the best beers in the world right now, here are a few to look for.
Sculpin IPA, Ballast Point Brewing Co.
Gold Medal, International Pale Ale
A bold, intensely hoppy IPA, Sculpin greets the nose with an inviting burst of grapefruit and follows on the palate with a pleasantly bitter kick. At 7 percent alcohol, it’s not too overpowering either. Drinking Sculpin used to be a special occasion – its release was announced with fanfare as bottles always sold out quickly – but luckily for locals, Ballast Point will be amping up their production to meet demand. (The Scripps-Ranch brewery is in the process of expanding, with four new fermenters expected by summer.) When it’s available, Sculpin is almost always on tap somewhere around town; it is also sold in 22-oz. bottles – look for the big ugly fish on the label.
Green Flash Stout, Green Flash Brewing Co.
Silver Medal, Other Strong Beer
This stout may have won a medal in the “Other Strong Beer” category, but it is a fine example of what a stout can be. Dark, roasted, coffee-like flavors give way to a smooth, sweet finish that hints of dark chocolate. This is a wonderful food beer; it’s a treat to conclude a meal (serve it instead of the traditional round of coffee), as well as an intriguing foil to sweet, creamy flavors or a hearty chicken mole. At 8.8 percent alcohol, it’s pretty strong for a stout; in fact, it’s technically a “double stout” due to its strength. In stores, look for it in 22-oz. bottles with a bright orange label.
Duet, Alpine Brewing Co.
Bronze Medal, American-style India Pale Ale
Alpine took home three medals from the World Beer Cup, and it was incredibly hard to pick just one to include here. But it’s pretty hard to pass up a Duet when it’s available. This is Alpine’s take on the classic west coast IPA, and it is executed to perfection. The Duet is almost graceful in its composition, with a wonderful mix of piney, floral and citrus hop notes that carry you from first whiff to last swallow. Thankfully, this is one of Alpine’s regular beers, so look for it on tap around town year-round, or in 22-oz. bottles at Clem’s Bottle House on Adams Avenue in Kensington.
Wee Heavy, Alesmith Brewing Co.
Gold Medal, Scotch Ale
Really, this beer is only a wee bit heavy, especially for a style that is traditionally strong and bold. The classic Scotch ale is wonderfully approachable, with mild caramel notes on the nose and a surprisingly smooth, malty flavor whose sweetness is muted by undertones of coffee, roast malt and smoked meats. While eminently quaffable, this is a strong one – and the 10 percent alcohol content is definitely notable in the aftertaste. Yet it’s also surprisingly palate-friendly and pairs wonderfully with food. Look for it in 22-oz champagne-shaped bottles with a silver cap.
These are just a handful of the 23 amazing beers that won awards in San Diego. For the complete list, visit worldbeercup.org. And before I go, a fantastic congratulations to Ballast Point Brewing Co., who in addition to taking home three gold medals for their beers, was awarded the World Beer Cup Small Brewery of the Year award. Huzzah!
A few for the craft beer calendar:
April 30: Downtown Johnny Brown’s celebrates the release of Ballast Point’s Three Sheets Rum with an evening of craft cocktails, beer-friendly food and at least 10 Ballast Point beers on tap, including the not-to-be missed barrel-aged Black Marlin Porter, Sculpin and Victory at Sea. Food includes cheese from Taste Cheese and what sounds like an amazing Abandon Ship Smoked Lager stew. More at downtownjohnnybrowns.com.
May 1: The annual City Beat Beer Fest is always a great chance to sample local craft beers, enjoy the weather and not leave Uptown. This year’s event will take place outside the Lafayette Hotel on El Cajon Boulevard and will feature more than 40 breweries plus food and music. A $30 ticket gets you 10 tasters between noon and 6 p.m. More at citybeatbeerfest.com.
May 3: Head up the road to Escondido for a session of Beer University at Stone Brewery and taste one of the most unique beers Stone has released this year. Owner Greg Koch will give a glimpse at “Inside the Craft Beer Industry” for Beer U participants, while the collaborative beer Saison du BUFF is released at the restaurant. The beer, brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, was created in collaboration with Victory and Dogfish Head breweries (BUFF stands for “Breweries United for Freedom of Flavor”). More at stonebrewing.com.
May 8: The older Lost Abbey gets, the harder it is to pass up the annual Port Brewing/Lost Abbey anniversary party. This year’s highlights include special releases of Cuvee de Tomme and the Lost Abbey Anniversary Ale, a barbecue courtesy of Port Brewing’s mobile kitchen and live music. A $15 ticket gets you into the morning or afternoon session. More at lostabbey.com/4th-anniversary-party.