To most Angelenos, San Diego is the kid sister of SoCal cities. But to beer lovers, San Diego is Mecca. Ten years ago, when L.A. was still trapped by endless Bud and Miller tap handles, San Diego brewers were over-hopping their suds, blowing palletes (and minds) and defining an entirely new west coast style of beer-making.
Last Friday marked the start of the 4th Annual San Diego Beer Week, a 10-day extravaganza that grew out of hundreds of other locally organized beer events to become one of the most sought-after beer weeks in the country. Like L.A. Beer Week, there will be rare kegs, special meet-and-greets and a large-scale beer festival, but unlike ours (which is in its infancy by comparison), SDBW will feature more than 500 events at dozens of bars and restaurants throughout the county, showcasing beers from San Diego's 50-plus groundbreaking breweries.
In honor of SDBW, we took a trek down south for this impressive event's first three days and talked to the locals to figure out which of this week's coming events are totally worth the drive.
5. Green Flash Flanders Drive 10th Anniversary Beer Release, Monday, Nov. 5:
This San Diego Beer Week is a special occasion for Green Flash Brewing Company, one of the region's biggest brewers, as it marks a full decade since the crew began making its groundbreaking IPAs, stouts and West Coast-style Belgian ales. Each night of the 10-day Beer Week, Green Flash's tasting room will be tapping one of its anniversary kegs (yes, that includes its 10 year-old American strong ale) with the special 10th Anniversary beer going on during the Flanders Drive Release Party tonight. A rare barrel-aged experiment from this San Diego brewery, the sour Flanders red-style beer (named after the street of the new, larger brewery) is sure to be one of Green Flash's most delicious. Tickets $50. 6 – 9 p.m., Green Flash Brewing Co., 6550 Mira Mesa Blvd., San Diego.
4. Societe the Apprentice. Bruery the Master, Thursday, Nov. 8:
When two ex-brewers from The Bruery in Placentia left to bring their craft to San Diego, the beer scene down south took notice. Touted as one of the most anticipated new breweries in the entire county, Societe opened earlier this year with a lineup of solid IPAs and well-balanced Belgian-style beers. Since this is its first SDBW, Societe is in hyperdrive with events planned nearly every day. The event at Urge, however, stands out as a worthy drive because it will not only be showcasing the talents at Societe, but also pay homage to the place where they honed their skills — a brewery that in itself originally took influence from San Diego. We love when things come full circle. 5 p.m., Urge Gastopub, 16761 Bernardo Center Dr., San Diego.
3. The Flavors of Yeast (Part 2), Saturday, Nov. 10:
Yes, “yeast” is a really gross word to say, but it is one of only four main ingredients in beer and its impact during the brewing process not to be underestimated (a wise brewer once explained yeast's role as such: it eats the sugar, poops alcohol and farts CO2). During the last weekend of SDBW, San Diego's White Labs will once again be presenting a daytime event that exposes the nuances of different yeast strains with a set of saisons each brewed with a different strain of yeast and an info session with expert Neva Parker. White Labs today makes most of the world's commercial yeast and tubes of its beer-making organisms and the company now has a brewery and tasting room on site where they share their scientific beer-speriments. 2 – 4 p.m., Sea Rocket Bistro, 3382 30th St., San Diego.
2. Hecho En Mexico: Brewers Without Borders, Tuesday Nov. 6:
As was brought up by several commenters on our Cinco de Mayo Mexican beer ratings, there are a lot of new craft breweries sprouting up in Mexico. Unfortunately, their microbrews rarely make it up to the states. The Beer Co. in Downtown San Diego is hoping to change that, though, with an unprecedented night of beers exclusively brewed in neighboring Baja California. A collaboration with Globalisimo.com, which hopes to bridge bridges between U.S. and Mexican markets, eight Mexican brewers will cross the border (legally, of course) to share their libations for the first time on American soil. On hand will be beers from Silenus Brewery, Border Psycho, Cerveceria Kudos, Bosiger Beer, Zombie Cerveza, Ensenada Brew Co, Tres B and Cerveceria Insurgente. This is one of the coolest event ideas ever and, though it makes sense for San Diego to think of it, we're honestly kind of bummed it's not happening in LA. 5 p.m. -1 a.m., The Beer Co., 602 Broadway, San Diego.
1. Beachwood Brewing Showcase, Thursday, Nov. 8:
There aren't too many Los Angeles breweries making appearances at San Diego Beer Week (one SD brewer admitted they've “been a little selfish” this year) but a notable exception is Beachwood Brewing, the only L.A. County beer-maker to medal at this year's Great American Beer Festival and the local brewery with the strongest SD roots. Beachwood's brewmaster Julian Shrago is a longtime homebrewer whose house beers were so well respected in Beer City USA that he was invited to brew his recipes at Pizza Port years before starting operations in Long Beach. Now that his L.A.-area system is cranking out new classics such as Knucklehead Red, Thrillseeker IPA, Hops of Brixton and Kilgore Stout, Shrago is returning to the land that inspired them all to share a few pints. Tasting flight with Julian Shrago, $22, 6 – 8 p.m. Beers also priced individually on draft. Tiger! Tiger! 3025 El Cajon Blvd., North Park.