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10 San Diego Beers Perfect for Summer

This year's Rhythm & Brews offered high temperatures and refreshing brews to match


A taster glass filled with Mission's tart and refreshing Passionfruit Gose. | Photo: Bruce Glassman

Each year, the San Diego Brewers Guild puts on two major events: The Guild Fest takes place at the beginning of San Diego Beer Week in November (at the Broadway Pier downtown), and Rhythm & Brews is produced in May (in downtown Vista). Both events feature great music, a wide variety of beer-friendly foods to choose from, and the year’s best opportunities to taste your way to a true overview of the San Diego craft brew scene.

The Guild Fest is the larger of the two events; it typically provides the best variety and largest collection of San Diego breweries in one location. Rhythm & Brews is typically a much smaller affair (around 2,000 people), but its more manageable size has some distinct advantages. I enjoy the fact that the May fest feels a lot more intimate, less hectic, and definitely more casually paced.

At this year’s Rhythm & Brews (held May 5), 72 breweries took part, offering a total of 176 different beers. I started the fest with the idea that I would try to find the best examples of numerous categories, such as IPA, stout, and Belgian-style, but the nearly 90-degree heat inspired me to scrap that idea within minutes of strolling through the front gate. Instead, I decided to find the best (and most refreshing) beers to sip when the thermometer climbs upwards of our median 75º F. So think of the Top 10 list that follows not only as the best from the fest—but also my top choices for the upcoming season of summer time sipping.

In May, the San Diego Brewers Guild hosts the Rhythm & Brews festival, which highlights great local bands and more than 75 breweries. | Photo: Bruce Glassman

Belgian Pale Strong

Ebullition Brew Works
Great spicy/bready aromas and medium body make this easy-drinking beer with mild bitterness a refreshing and interesting quaff.


Faint of Tart, Fruited Blonde Ale

Bagby Beer
A light-bodied beauty that’s bursting with tart fruitness from pomegranate, cherry, raspberry, and cranberry.


Strawberry Hibiscus Wit

Legacy Brewing Co.
This wheat beer has great body for a light style, and the addition of strawberry-hibiscus flavors gives it just the right touch of fruitiness and heady floral aroma.


Agavemente Lager

SouthNorte Beer Co.
SouthNorte's excellent Mexican lager provides the base for this slightly toasty classic style; the agave and hibiscus provide a luscious touch of sweetness and floral aroma that elevate it to another level.


Boneshakeur New Zealand Pilsner

Rouleur Brewing Company
Light and crisp with an extra bite from citrusy, piney hops, this classic German pils stands out for its perfect balance and great drinkability.


Salt Shaker Gose Tart Ale

Toolbox Brewing Company
An enticing aroma of coriander and a hint of briny flavor from sea salt make this gose a distinctly unique and refreshing brew.


Passionfruit Gose

Mission Brewery
Light sourness mixed with heady aromas of passionfruit and lemony Citra hops make for a crisp, light, and super-refreshing summertime ale.


Afternoon Zester

Owl Farms
This pear kettle sour has a hint of sweetness, which blends nicely with the added lime zest, creating a bright and refreshing brew that’s perfect for poolside.


Gin Gose*

Owl Farms
Up-front aromas of fresh fruit and gin make this beer stand out. The flavors are wonderfully balanced and the gin component works beautifully with the gose base.
*This beer also won the coveted “Tracy’s Favorite Award” of the festival. (Tracy is my wife, who helped me “certify” all the tastings of the day.)


Power in Numbers Imperial Stout

Pure Project
Alright, I lied. I said all the beers on my favorites list were going to be light summer sippers, but I couldn’t go without including this killer beer. Caramel, biscotti, chocolate, espresso: This deliciously rich, viscous brew—which clocks in at 12.5% ABV—is not exactly a beach beer, but it’s definitely what you want next to (or over!) your bowl of vanilla ice cream when you get home.

Follow Bruce on Instagram: @sdbrewdude

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