Top 5 Beers of San Diego Beer Week: Barrel-Aged Brews, Political Beers + Pasadena Sours
A wise San Diego brewer once said, "Every week in San Diego is beer week," an undeniable truth for a county with more than 60 breweries and two decades of beer culture to its fame.
And still, the ten-day festival officially known as San Diego Beer Week continues to amaze palettes, concluding its 4th annual run yesterday after more than 500 craft beer-centric events took place across San Diego County (and we thought L.A. Beer Week's calendar was daunting!).
After trudging through the thick of SDBW opening-weekend madness and making several more jaunts down for special events, we've sifted through all the specialty stouts, spicy lagers and insanely bitter interpretations of European styles and came up with a list of five releases that debuted in the last week-and-a-half that we thought you ought to know about. Most of them won bonus points for being already in L.A. or making their way over (and just for fun, not one is a West Coast IPA!), so turn the page to get our picks.
5. Automatic Brewing Vote For Obama Beer:
It seemed only appropriate that a heated election night landing during San Diego Beer Week would elicit red and blue-themed beers espousing brewers' views. And not that we are choosing any one over the other based on political preference, but Automatic Brewing's Vote For Obama beer was interesting for the fact that it was based off of Obama's own White House homebrew recipe, which was released a few months ago after an online petition pressured the kitchen staff to divulge. The White House Honey Ale is a light golden ale made with honey from the First Lady's Beehive, but the nanobrewery's interpretation uses agave for sweetness and heaps of rye malt to make a well-balanced, but decidedly heavier beer. Renamed "Obama Wins" as results came in Tuesday night, the beer was unfortunately only served in San Diego at a few specialty taphouses and wont be making its way to L.A.
Firestone Walker Brewing Company
4. Firestone Walker XVI:
Last year, Los Angeles Beer Week was host to an unprecedented evening-long deconstruction of Firestone XV, last year's ultra-rare anniversary beer blend from Central California's award-winning mid-size brewery. This year, however, the first place to tap XVI (the latest annual release) outside of Firestone's Paso Robles brewery was Stone Brewing Company's World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido during--you guessed it--San Diego Beer Week. An always impressive combination of eight barrel-aged beers blended with the assistance of local winemakers, the 13%ABV dark horse is now L.A.-available in bottles at select spots (we spied some this weekend at Blue Palms). Keep an eye out for local keg release parties that are sure to come soon.
3. Iron Fist Brewing 2nd Anniversary Imperial Rebellion:
Okay, so Iron Fist's 2nd Anniversary party was back in mid-October, but their Imperial Rebellion--a hoppy-and-boozy 9.7%ABV Belgian-style farmhouse ale--still remained a main offering from the young Vista brewery during San Diego Beer Week. Not only was it on tap at several seminal SD bars, but it was also featured during Stone Brewing Company's Brewmaster's Lunch event, which created a five-course meal paired with Iron Fist and Stone brews. As of this weekend, however, Imperial Rebellion has made its Orange and L.A. County debut with a single keg at The Factory in Long Beach, the city where Assistant Brewer Chris Klein lives.
AleSmith's Barrel Aged Speedway Stout at the San Diego Brewer's Guild Festival
Every year, AleSmith releases its Barrel Aged Speedway Stout during San Diego Beer Week, first in kegs at special events around town and then in $27-each bottles, which are available for pick up at the brewery only (limit four per person). This meaty, coffee-forward stout is an amped-up version of AleSmith's year-round Speedway Stout--already a full-bodied 12%ABV beer--that made its loudest SDBW debut alongside Pumpkin Speedway Stout, Hatch Chili Speedway Stout, Weasel Poo Speedway Stout and others during the annual Night of a Million Zillion Speedways event at O'Brien's Pub. If you're stuck in L.A. without a bottle, you can likely find regular Speedway at any local craft beer purveyor and dream of its complexities once aged in a bourbon barrel for a year.
Craftsman's Summers End Saison (right) with Automatic Brewing's Vote For Obama Ale at Tiger!Tiger! in San Diego.
1. Craftsman Summers End Saison:
Not sure why Craftsman's Founder and Brewer Mark Jilg waited until San Diego Beer Week to show-off this year's version of his brett-brewed Belgian-style saison, but it was one of three amazing sours from L.A. County's oldest-operating brewery on draft at Tiger!Tiger! Tavern when Jilg made an appearance there for a tasting session last weekend. This light and tart, yet sweet and smooth beer might not be number one on a San Diegan's list, but for Angelenos who rarely get opportunities to try Craftsman's sour specialty beers (Honesty Ale is another good one), Summer's End gets mega bonus points for local accessibility. Maximiliano's in Highland Park always has a full draft of Craftsman's seasonal beers and as of this weekend, kegs were also out at Spring Street Bar, Haven Gastropub in Pasadena and Verdugo Bar.
More fun with beer:
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