Bottle (re)Cap: San Diego Beer News for February
New cans of old classics, new beers from San Diego icons, and a trio of new breweries
Alesmith's Speedway Stout — now available in cans.
Let me just say, right here and right now, that bottles and cans are awesome. Of course, nothing is as fresh and tasty as beer right from the tap, but what you lose in freshness with bottles and cans (often not really all that much) you gain in accessibility, portability, and collectability.
This past month, a bunch of our “founding generation” breweries released some of their special beers in bottles and cans, and made some of their most sought-after brews more widely available for their adoring public to enjoy. In addition, three new breweries hit the scene in recent weeks, bringing our latest count up to a whopping 137.
The Stout Is Out
AleSmith Releases Its Iconic Speedway Stout in Cans
If there’s any downside at all to having Speedway Stout in cans it’s that it makes one of San Diego’s most delicious stouts (12% ABV) too easy to drink. Rather than opening the traditional 750ml bottle, fans can now pop open a single-serving 16-ouncer to enjoy the rich mix of Speedway’s chocolate, coffee, caramel, and dark fruit flavors. This Russian Imperial Stout, which has been one of AleSmith’s best-selling beers for more than a decade, is available on draft and in cans at the Miramar tasting room. The newly packaged Speedway will be also be distributed to 21 states across the country and will be available in Denmark.
Yes They Can
Alpine Packages Willy Wheat and Truck Trail
This year will mark a number of firsts for Alpine Beer Company, including their first-ever canned offerings and the debut of some entirely new beers. Willy Wheat Ale (5% ABV) and Truck Trail Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) will both be available for the first time in 12-ounce cans and will be part of the brewery’s year-round, core lineup. In addition, Alpine is also releasing its brand new Windows Up IPA in 12-ounce bottles. Featuring Mosaic and Citra hops, this IPA formulation provides big hop aromas and bold flavor with relatively low bitterness.
Yes Way, Cuvee
Lost Abbey Bottles Cuvee de Tomme
During the past few weeks, Lost Abbey released one of its most sought-after blends in both draft and limited 750ml bottles. Last bottled in 2013, this year’s production was capped at 120 cases and was made available exclusively through Eventbrite. Although those bottles are all likely spoken for, the good news is that Cuvee de Tomme (12.5% ABV) is available on draft at the brewery’s tasting rooms and at many local quality craft beer bars. This special beer is a blend that starts with a base of Judgment Day, which is a quad brewed with caramelized raisins and then aged with Brettanomyces yeast in bourbon, brandy, and red wine barrels. Although this beer is awesome on tap, if you have a chance to buy a bottle and lay it down, it will increase noticeably in awesomeness over time.
It Will Be Feral
Societe Releases Highbinder
Fans of barrel-aged sours and Brett beers had to wait patiently as the beer-filled barrels at Societe worked their magic over time to create elixirs that meet the exacting standards of the brew team. Well, I’m pleased to announce that much of the wait is over and beers have started to flow more regularly from the barrel room into the bottles and out to Societe’s many fans. This month saw the release of The Highbinder (5.7% ABV), a blended wild-yeast-inspired “feral” ale that's barrel aged with raspberries. With a tantalizing mix of raspberry, dark fruit, and toasted bread aromas, the beer is tart, crisp, and pleasingly “funky” from the wild yeast strains. It will surely take on beautiful nuances as it ages and mellows over time. A total of 3,000 bottles (500ml) were produced and are available exclusively at the Societe tasting room for $18 a piece (no limit). If you can swing it, I highly recommend grabbing at least two bottles; drink one now and lay the other down for 9 months to a year.
Let Them Drink Cake
Coronado Releases a Barrel-Aged German Chocolate Cake Stout
Coronado recently reconfigured their Coronado Collection, which is their lineup of special-release barrel-aged beers, and this German Chocolate Cake Imperial Stout (9% ABV) is the first offering in that new program. This beer started off as an Imperial Russian Stout before brewmaster Ryan Brooks aged it in wet bourbon barrels for 6 months to impart the luscious notes of vanilla and bourbon. Then Brooks blended in toasted coconut and cacao nibs to create his own unique interpretation of the German Chocolate Cake experience. The beer is available on draft at the Bay Park and Imperial Beach tasting rooms, and is also available in limited quantities in 22-ounce bottles at those locations.
Oggi’s Debuts Its Roasted Peanut Stout
The “candy bar” beer craze has been one of the trends that has swept through San Diego tastings rooms this past year, and Oggi’s has now joined the candy bar conversation. The Roasted Peanut Stout (5.7% ABV) is one of three seasonal brews that Oggi’s plans to release this year, along with some barrel-aged beers. This dark, malty beer, which offers flavors of chocolate, roasted peanut, caramel, and vanilla has a rich mouthfeel and low hop bitterness that combine to create a pleasing dessert-like sipper. The beer is currently available on draft at Oggi’s in Liberty Station, Carmel Mountain, and Mission Valley.
Pariah Brewing Company, North Park
They named themselves “pariahs,” which are outcasts, but—in my opinion—these guys are more-than-welcome additions to the San Diego brewery scene. As the third brewery to open in the trio of Brewery Igniter suites on the corner of El Cajon Boulevard and Ohio St. in North Park, Pariah Brewing Company is ready to make its mark. The cozy, handcrafted tasting room is spare but welcoming, with high-top communal tables and drinking ledges that provide plenty of room for social sipping. The beer lineup, curated primarily by brewer Brian Mitchell, is a praiseworthy mix of recognizable and creative, with beers that synthesize the straightforward with the downright offbeat. The light, crisp, refreshing and approachable Off White Wit is accentuated with orange blossom, honey, jasmine, green tea, lemongrass, orange slices, and ginger. Of the two IPAs, one is a more traditional hop-bursted brew (Dank Drank) and the other is jazzed up with the addition of peach, mango, and hemp oil (Drupe Fruit IPA). Erotic City, which is a deep golden orange ale brewed with orange blossom honey, muscat grapes, and grains of paradise, is a complex Belgian-inspired winner that rivals some of the best in the Lost Abbey lineup.
Pariah is one of three side-by-side breweries opened through the Brewery Igniter program in North Park this year. They share wall space with Eppig Brewing on one side and San Diego Brewing Company on the other.
3052 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104
San Diego Brewing Company, North Park
San Diego Brewing Company has been part of the San Diego craft beer scene since the early days, but they have only recently taken the leap to significantly expand their production capabilities. With their new space and 10-barrel system on El Cajon Boulevard (made possible through the Brewery Igniter program), San Diego Brewing has expanded its production capacity more than four-fold; it’s also poised to potentially package its beers for distribution and reach a much wider audience. The North Park tasting room is simple and cozy, with fermentation tanks and brewing equipment taking center stage as major design elements for the space. The beer lineup looks a lot like the original from their Grantville location, though there’s a bit more being offered above and beyond the basic core beers. Brewmaster Jeff Drum’s approach is skillful but straightforward; he makes clean, well balanced beers that deliver classic flavors. Perennial standouts in the mix are the caramelly amber, the roasty-nutty brown, and the San Diego Gold (American Blonde Ale), which is a tasty mix of bready pilsner-style malts with a light, crisp hoppiness, and low bitterness.
3052 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104
SR76 Beerworks, Valley Center
When Valley Center Brewing closed its doors last year, a major chunk of North County was left without a local brewery. Luckily, the predicament didn’t last long. At the end of 2016, Harrah’s Southern California Resort jumped into the San Diego brew scene by opening a brewery of its very own, right on site. The finished product, called SR76 Beerworks, was the result of a proposal originally put forth by brewer Brian Scott and Harrah’s GM Darrell Pilant. By the time all the dust settled, Harrah’s boasted a ginormous brewery space with a 15-barrel brewhouse and a spacious, airy, and modern tasting room for hotel guests and locals to enjoy. Scott’s opening lineup consists of four core beers, designed mostly with accessibility and sessionability in mind. His saison, pale ale, wheat beer, and Kölsch are all below 6% ABV and are characterized by minimal hop bitterness, soft, round maltiness, and easy-drinking balance.
777 Harrah’s Rincon Way, Valley Center, CA 92082