Highlights from San Diego Beer Week 2017
The best beers, bites, and bashes
Guild Fest on Broadway Pier is the big daytime kickoff event for San Diego Beer Week. | Photo: Bruce Glassman
Another year, another Beer Week. As always, the many festivities of SDBW highlighted the great diversity of talent and enthusiasm that fuels our craft beer community. Beer Week is not just for fans—though it is unquestionably a sudsy smorgasbord for lovers of San Diego craft—it is also a time for brewers and the folks who work in all facets of the industry to come together for a big ol' group hug.
Taking time out—once a year—to gather, share, and delight in the camaraderie and good feeling that makes San Diego beer such a dynamic and happy industry is one of the greatest benefits of Beer Week. It renews a sense of shared purpose and belonging. And it offers an opportunity for breweries to show off to each other while they quench the thirst of their many fans and followers.
This year, perhaps more than any in the recent past, really highlighted the fruits of collaboration. Collaboration beers have been common for quite a while, but the collection available around Beer Week had a particularly local slant. The debut of Capital of Craft IPA, the collaborative brew from numerous breweries in the San Diego Brewers Guild, set the tone on the first evening, followed by many collaboration offerings at Guild Fest. On the following Saturday, collaborations ruled the day in North Park, as Karl Strauss’s super-fun Collabapalooza event showcased one-off collaborative beers brewed by more than 30 local breweries. Group hug, indeed!
With hundreds of events over the course of the week, there was—needless to say—more beer and food than any one person could experience. There were special beer pairings at restaurants all over the county—pairings with fish (a great taco event at Puesto with AleSmith), pairings with pork, pairings with burgers, brats, and burritos—even pairings with donuts, chocolate, sake, and whiskey. There were rare beer nights, anniversary nights, cask nights, barrel nights, and sours nights. No matter what your taste, Beer Week had you covered. I can’t provide a roundup of everything, but I can offer what I consider to be the food and beer highlights from a bunch of the great events I attended.
VIP Brewers Night and the Guild Fest that followed the next day were the most comprehensive collections of beers and breweries during Beer Week. Wandering both those events, I was particularly impressed with the following:
- Dubbel Buff
Belgian Style Dubbel Aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrels (Bagby)
Big tropical, bubble gum, bready, yeasty, mouthfeel, just right balance of bourbon flavor.
Carajillio-Inspired Imperial Coffee Stout (Mason Ale Works collab with Border Psycho)
Orange, vanilla, espresso, and a whole lotta body.
Imperial Red Ale (Thorn)
Big caramel and toffee aromas and a rich maltiness make this hoppy red a mouth-pleasing winner.
- Big Jefe Weizenbock
(SouthNorte collab with Cerveza Fauna)
Rich and malty with great mouthfeel, this beer has bright notes of banana and clove and finishes with just a kiss of sweetness.
- Bruja Baya
Tart Saison with Boysenberries (Aztec)
Big fresh blast of berry aromas and flavors in a light, refreshing body.
- Call Me Ginger
(Mother Earth Brew Co.)
Crisp, light, refreshing; just the right amount of ginger to add edge.
- Ashes From the Grave
This smoky brown had rich chocolate aromas, a creamy mouthfeel, and enough smoke to add complexity while not overwhelming the beer.
- Althing Belgian Tripel
Clove and allspice on the nose, with satisfying flavors of banana, spice, citrus, apricot, and bubble gum wrapped around a malty backbone.
- Industrial Gris
Grisette (Resident collab with Eppig)
Almost nobody makes these French style farmhouse ales, so “A” for creativity. Also, a very satisfying medium-bodied beer with soft, round maltiness and just the right balance of restrained hoppiness.
- Tres Amigos
Belgian Tripel (Dos Desperados)
Bright aromas of bananas, orange, and spice with a richness of bready, malty flavor, and a nice semi-sweet finish.
- San Diego Vice
Pink Guava Berlinerweiss (Wild Barrel)
Big, fruity, and floral aromas and rich tropical flavors balanced by tartness and acidity.
- Capital of Craft IPA
(Collab from San Diego Brewers Guild)
A blast of pineapple hoppiness on the nose is followed by a full-bodied, slightly malty body that balances a touch of sweetness with a mostly bitter finish.
Karl Strauss’s Collabapalooza was great fun, and a great opportunity to enjoy beers made by brewers who just wanted to let loose with their recipes. Not all the beers on tap were collaborations, but the event highlighted one-offs that were created to be playful and interesting, rather than beers that are intended to be long-term core production products. The standouts from Collabapalooza:
- The Mentor
Smoked Helles (Societe collab with Gordon Biersch)
Light, crisp, and perfectly balanced with restrained smoke.
Weizenbock (South Park Brewing collab with Bitter Brothers)
Like a darker, maltier, richer hefeweizen.
- Hug It Out, Mate IPA
(Karl Strauss collab with Stone)
100% Australian hops—and plenty of ‘em—this IPA was bursting with juicy, tropical aromas and flavors.
Japanese Rice Lager (Karl Strauss collab with Amplified)
Lightly toasted bready aromas, crisp, with just a touch of sweetness.
- Modern Magic
Golden Sour Ale with Tangerines, Peaches, Nectarines, and Vanilla (Council collab with Modern Times)
Wonderfully complex—tart, fruity, sweet, and aromatic.
Brown Ale (Eppig collab with Lost Abbey)
Rich aromas and flavors of caramel, toffee, and coffee, with a pleasing lightness of body.
The Beer Garden at The Lodge at Torrey Pines is the final major event of Beer Week, and it features 14 of San Diego’s most-acclaimed chefs and restaurants working in tandem with some of our best breweries. Together, these teams devise unique pairings for beer and food, which are then prepared and offered to guests in an idyllic setting on the coast.
There were many wonderful dishes and great beers featured this year, but the standouts were notable for their creativity combined with relative simplicity. Perhaps the best example of that was the Dry-Aged Carpaccio with Red Currant Vinaigrette, Black Truffle, and Vanilla Salt from Chef Phillip Esteban at Consortium Holdings. This dish was beautiful in its simplicity and depth of flavor, and the pairing with Amplified’s Double Slide Saison was sheer perfection. Also excellent was Chef Ronnie Schwandt’s (Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge) Pork Kebab with Two Curries, Apple, and Winter Squash that was paired with Alpine’s Keene Idea IPA. The richness of the pork and the spicy curries were beautifully enhanced by the tropical aromas and flavors of the perfectly balanced IPA.
Top honors for the day go to Chef Brad Wise of Trust, whose Duck Dog with Pine Needle Glaze, Pickled Vegetables, Aioli, and Cilantro on a Challah Bread Roll was a uniquely delicious standout that combined a great medley of flavors, clever ingredients that paid homage to the setting, and a construction that made it easy to eat while standing (Yes! Extra points for that!). The sweet and spicy character of this dish was a stellar match for Thunderhawk’s Torreyana Saison (also site-appropriate!), which is spicy, bready, and complex with great aromas and crisp acidity that make it a perfect food beer.
Here is a photo gallery that includes some more of the people, beers, and food that made Beer Week 2017 so memorable. See you next November!