The Craft of Beer

Rayna Yazzie and Erin Jackson |
Beer, Wine, and Spirits

That craft beer flows in our veins is no revelation to San Diegans. But visitors—and locals—can always use a refreshing taste of what's new in the world of San Diego beer, and what better time to showcase it than summer? Dig in with a frothy pint and get excited about what is—and what is to come.

Baja Brews

The rise in popularity of the Baja Craft Beer Tasting Room (BCB) proves good things are brewing south of the border.

Fans of San Diego’s craft beer culture will feel right at home in the BCB. Its industrial design aesthetic feels similar to several San Diegan craft beer bars, with some unique twists. Layered sheets of rusted metal line the entrance, walls, and ceiling, and aluminum kegs have been repurposed as chandeliers.

“Allen Fortis and Mauricio Valavez were the architects, and they really brought our vision to life, “Ruben Valenzuela, owner of BCB, says. “We knew we wanted rustic. The big cages and the lamps were our idea, and they made it into a reality.”

For beer lovers, the most enticing aspect of the space is the glass-paned walk-in cooler that displays rows of tapped kegs, all filled with craft beer that BCB has brought to the local Tijuana community, where there is a growing interest in local, craft brews.

It was here that Ryan Brooks, head brewer at Coronado Brewing Company, taught a beer judging certificate program a short while back. On several recent Sundays, young home brewers, professional brewers, and local beer lovers gathered to expand their knowledge and palates. Brooks says BCB was the ideal spot for the class because the community has embraced the bar, and it's fully stocked with an impressive selection of local and imported brews.

“I’ve found some great saisons, porters, and stouts from both professional and home brewers. San Diego's water makes brewing hoppy beers easier. I know there will be a rise in West Coast-style pale ales and IPAs,” Brooks says.

With 42 taps and approximately 300 bottles of local and imported brews, choosing just one to drink at BCB can be difficult. Valenzuela recommends sipping a local Munceca Prieta Porter or Monastika alongside a good steak, while Brooks says he likes to snack on a veggie pizza while drinking a spicy, refreshing brew like Insurgente’s Tiniebla Ale or the Belgian Blonde from Ensenada’s Zombie Cervez.

Sip on more, if you like, at the source. The Baja Craft Beer Tasting Room is located at 3003-E5 Orizaba, off Agua Caliente Boulevard, in Tijuana's Neidhart District.

News and Picks

Meet Mosaic

From the line of Simcoe, a piney, citrus-like hop found most often in India pale ales, comes Mosaic, a tropical, floral, and earthy hop that combines favorably with pale ales and IPAs. This brewer's darling can be found locally in brews like Green Flash's Imperial Red Rye, and Modern Times' Blazing World and Amber IPA. To get the full flavor, head to the brewery’s tasting rooms: Green Flash in Mira Mesa and Modern Times in Point Loma (opening late July).

In Session: Easy Drinking Ales

Want to kick back all afternoon and still keep a level head? Bring on the session beer! These flavorful and easy drinking beers have moderate alcohol contents (usually hovering around 5-percent ABV), with a balanced malt-to-hop ratio. Try Manzanita Brewing's Jazz Man, a pale ale brewed with jasmine and grains of Paradise; Ballast Point's Even Keel, an American pale ale; or Helm's Pier Beer, an India pale ale.

Coming Soon

The growth of new breweries and tasting rooms shows no sign of slowing down as the heat turns up. Keep these upcoming openings on your radar:

Modern Times Beer is bringing a tasting room to Point Loma where the emphasis is on sessionable beers made by a “crack team of brewing ninjas.” Expect a pimped out tasting room with vintage décor, black velvet art, and 16 taps. {3725 Greenwood Street, opening late July}

Hess Brewing recently opened their second brewery location in North Park, a San Diego neighborhood dubbed one of "America's Best Hipster Neighborhoods" by Forbes. A tasting room is in the works where guests can sample flights or pints while taking in a view of the brewhouse from the front patio or skybridge. {3812 Grim Avenue, tasting room opens late July}

Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits is opening a new brewery, tasting room, and restaurant in Little Italy. Savor a meal seasoned with beer, then sample brews unique to the location in the tasting room. {2215 India Street, opening late summer}

Drink This!

Stuck for ideas on what to sip this summer? Try one of these gold medal winners from the 2013 San Diego International Beer Competition.

The Butcher, Societe Brewing Co.
Russian Imperial Stout, 9.8-percent ABV

A rich, malty brew that pours an opaque black and has aromas of roast coffee with a hint of dark chocolate.

23rd Anniversary Old Ale, Karl Strauss
English-style Old Ale, 12.2-percent ABV

This special brew spends a year inside an American oak bourbon barrel before being bottled. It’s strong and complex, with flavors of molasses and toffee.

Le Freak, Green Flash Brewing Company
American IPA, 9.2-percent ABV

This zesty brew is created by combining two beer styles: Belgian Tripel and American imperial IPA. It’s hoppy, fruity, and great for summertime.

Calico Amber Ale, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
American Amber Ale, 5.5-percent ABV

Being brewed with four different malts gives this beer a deep, ruby red tone. It’s sweet, with flavors of caramel and a unique, floral aroma.

Low and Slow, Monkey Paw
Rauchbier, 5.4-percent ABV

This smoky, sweet brew is compared to “bacon in a glass” on the official website description, earning it a spot on our must-try list.


Care for a Meal With Your Beer?
San Diego chefs' summer beer-food pairings

“For me, grilled fish with a refreshing wheat beer is summer on a plate. I'd go with the local rockfish tacos and an Orange Avenue Wit by Coronado Brewery.” —JC Colón, Executive Chef, Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge

“The new Buttermilk Fried Chicken with braised Italian kale, cornbread, and peach chutney would be great with a Hangar 24 Double IPA or New English Brewing Co.’s Brewer's Special Brown Ale.” —Ryan Johnston, Whisknladle and Prepkitchen

“Tacos and beer are a match made in heaven. I love pairing our grilled shrimp tacos with a Sculpin IPA draft.” —Eric Adler, Puesto