Favorite San Diego Beers of The Year: 2018 Edition
Better late than never, right? We have always meant to do some kind of end of year beer round-up, but then all of a sudden the new year arrives and we forgot to keep track.
But not this year! Through 2018 we made copious notes about our favorite NEW packaged releases of the year brewed right here in the capital of craft, San Diego. These impressive beers were exceptionally crafted, a fun go-to when it was around, or just plain tasty efforts that really resonated with either of us. It’s not shocking that this list is covered in IPAs.
To make the cut on this list, the beer needed to be a never before released offering, or at least never debuted in packaged format until 2018. And no we didn’t drink every single beer released in SD, so there’s probably some rare whale that you totally loved that we missed out on.
So here they are, in no specific order…
Smylex Rye IPA — Pariah Brewing Company
“Happy Gas” or “Joker Toxin”, aka Smylex is the signature chemical weapon of the Clown Prince of Crime. No way we could ever pass up on a Joker themed beer, especially with a label that helps you put on a happy face like this one. Its rye bill paired wonderfully with Citra, Nelson, and Galaxy, delivering one of the most memorable stone fruit and tropical flavor profiles in an IPA we experienced in 2018. Now we’re just waiting for that Enigma hopped Riddler beer…
Isomerizer — Karl Strauss
Just because the haze craze is running wild all over San Diego, doesn’t mean a brewery cannot release a tentpole West Coast Style IPA like Karl Strauss did with Isomerizer. This beer marked the addition of another light-outs Mosaic based IPA to their portfolio, joining Mosaic Session and Aurora Hoppyalis. Crystal clear in appearance, with huge citrus aromatics followed by more grapefruit and berries with each sip. Clear beer can still be cool guys, and we enjoyed a very fair share of this one last year.
San Diego Vice — Wild Barrel Brewing Company
It would be foolish to overlook Wild Barrel for their naturally flavored arsenal of Berliner Weiss, the series cleverly known as “San Diego Vice”. If there’s a fruit that plays well with this tart style, they probably added it to a batch in 2018. We are putting this series in as a whole, but our highly recommended variants include Pink Guava and Black Currant (pictured), along with POG and Strawberry.
Gimme a 2nd — North Park Beer Company
This one was San Diego beer of the year material, with an aroma you could smell from across the table. To celebrate their second anniversary, North Park Beer Company canned a ridiculously delicious hazy DIPA called Gimme a 2nd. When you double dry hop an India Pale Ale with 7lbs per barrel of Simcoe, El Dorado, Mosaic, Idaho 7 and Citra, the end result is a massively peach forward hazy delight. Imagine a peach smoothie with a side of citrus and berry. Give us a second, and a third, and a, well you get it…
Brut(us) — Resident Brewing Co
It’s no secret one of the best hazy IPA brewers in San Diego is Resident Brewing, deserving accolades for their “Chasing” series, along with other frequent hazy special crowler releases. Their take on the emerging brut IPA sub-style was called Brut(us), and they knocked it out of the park. We have tried many underwhelming bruts last year, so it was not difficult to remember how impressed we were with Brut(us) back in June. The Vic Secret and Mosaic hops complemented each other perfectly, in and extra dry and crushable body.
Puddin’ IPA — Amplified Ale Works and Thunderhawk Alements
“Why would you want to add toasted coconut and vanilla to a double IPA” was the question Amplified Ale Works and Thunderhawk Alements had us asking ourselves in June. The answer was because Hop Puddin’ turned out amazingly delicious, and literally tasted just like coconut pudding! Milkshake IPAs are usually gimmicky flops, but not this one. Both breweries executed this beer so well, right down to their choice in Hopsteiner Exp #06300 which boasts notes of cocoa to accentuate its desserty flavor profile.
Boneshakeur New Zealand Pilsner — Rouleur Brewing Company
In what was dubbed the year of the pilsner (or maybe that’s supposed to be this year?) we enjoyed some very nice examples of the style including Czech and German. So of course we are going to go with a “hoppy” style from Rouleur, Boneshakeur New Zealand Pilsner brewed with Waimea and Wai-lti hops. It’s almost like cheating to add such exotic and flavorful lemony citrus hops to a crisp pils, but sometime you have to cheat to win. Just ask Lance Armstrong.
Fruitlands: Rosé Edition — Modern Times Beer
This beer blew our minds last summer. And it must have had the same effect on other beer drinkers since Modern TImes did a re-brew, and now Fruitlands: Rosé Edition will be the featured release on their 2019 Calendar of Dankness during the months of July-August. Such a thirst quenching Gose with an amazingly perfect fruit medley: Cherry, Raspberry, Cranberry and Lemon. A remarkable beer — tart and refreshing, with multi-layered fruit flavors.
BFF — Stone Brewing Company + Pizza Port Brewing Co.
Last summer two longtime local beer legends combined forces to brew BFF — Beer Friends Forever. Stone and Pizza Port delivered a sessionable, yet totally hopped up pale ale that could easily hold its own fighting up one level higher in the IPA weight class. This beer was so successful they had to brew it again, and we doubt anybody was complaining about its wallet-friendly price point. Wish more places were doing $13 six packs still!
3 Mile Smile — Abnormal Beer Company
What a year Abnormal Beer Company had in 2018! Their limited barrel aged bottles may have sold out in seconds online, but they managed to keep the SD beer scene well supplied with a variety of styles readily available in aluminum cans. Tiki Life for Me and Candy Cane Ice Cream Cake deserve all the creativity points, but we are still drooling over 3 Mile Smile. Brewed as their 3rd anniversary beer, this triple IPA was crammed full of Citra, Mosaic, and Idaho 7 for a full-on hazy orange “juice” experience.
Time Sensitive — Burgeon Beer Company
The hardest part of this whole exercise was deciding which Burgeon Beer release was our favorite last year, because this place brews nothing but exceptional beers. So how do you choose between the likes of Barrel Aged Dutchman’s Pipe variants, or those new fresh hazies like Can’t Stop Juicin’ every month? Actually, this West Coast IPA Time Sensitive was too good to ignore, and easily the best West Coast style India Pale Ale we drank overall last year, period. It was not difficult to recall all the way back to March as to how mind-blowing this Mosaic beer was.