These craft beer pioneers continue to inspire fellow brewers, homebrewers and beer drinkers alike. The following new(er) kids on the block are helping to make America’s Finest City, even finer.
Half Door Brewing Company: This brewery opened in January and is located downtown in a 4,000-sqaure-foot historic, two-story home on the corner of 9th Ave. and Island. The Irish-inspired pub oozes cool. HDBC celebrates this old world European tradition, with a new flare. Their Bearleener is a day drinking 3.8% ABV Berlinerweisse brewed with Citra hops and Lactobacillus grown from acidulated malt. Sour meet wheat; wheat, meet sour. This refreshing Summer beer has lovely sour tangerine and lemon notes with a slightly tart finish.
And trick your senses with their white chocolate peanut butter golden milk stout, brewed with four malts and tons of flavor. Gimmick Ale is desert in a glass. Sip it from the upstairs deck and listen to the roar of the crowd at Petco Park. And they don’t just serve great craft beer. Their menu is collaboratively crafted to compliment the house beers.
Modern Times Beer: The appropriately named brewery has a dream team of brewers including former Stone Brewing employee and long-time homebrewer, Jacob McKean and founding brewer of Monkey Paw Pub and Brewery. Modern Times Beer just celebrated their second anniversary. They were named one of the “Top 10 New Brewers in the World” by RateBeer, in 2014.
Modern Times brews four year round beers and is one of the only breweries in the world to roast their own coffee in-house for their beer. Just this month (July), they have finally secured South African hops for their Southern Passion & J-17 IPA. And homebrewers can rejoice, because they provide the homebrew recipe for many of their special release beers. Their Palace of Cracked Heads (gotta love beer names, right?!) is a juicy 9% ABV American wild ale brewed with fifty pounds of heirloom nectarines per barrel.
Love sticky, danky beers? Don’t miss their First Annual upcoming Festival of Dankness. Check out first hand how badass breweries are using incredible new hops from around the world to craft juicy aroma hop bombs.
“Modern Times” was a utopian socialist community founded by innovators and activists, built on Long Island in 1850. All of their beers are named after real utopian experiments or mythological utopias.
This new-ish, yet already influential, brewery is escaping conformity and peacefully providing social happiness, in a stylin’ tallboy can.
Fall Brewing Company: This punk rock influenced brewery opened in November last year in the heart of San Diego’s beer epicenter, North Park. Part owner and graphic designer, David Lively, has done work for Jack Johnson and G. Love’s album covers. In an area known for the west-coast style IPA, brewmaster Ray Astamendi brews what he wants. Plenty For All is a California common-pilsner hybrid. This 4.9% ABV unfiltered zwickelbier is an easy drinking, warm weather standout. They are getting a great reputation for clean, simple and sessionable beers.
Societe Brewing: Society is a production brewery that was founded by Travis Smith formerly of Russian River Brewing Company and The Bruery and Douglas Constantiner. They opened their doors in May 2012 and offer three lines of year-round beers: “Out West,” hoppy beers, “Old World,” Belgian-esque ales and “Stygian,” dark beers.
“Drink it fresh” is Societe’s philosophy; their crisp IPAs are only sold on tap within a 20-mile radius of the brewery.
When you arrive, the Harlot is a must try. This Belgian Extra Ale is a tweaked hybrid beer using a pilsner-lager recipe, then fermented with their house Belgian ale yeast strain. This beer was inspired by three of their favorite beers—Reality Czech Pils from Moonlight Brewing Company, Redemption from Russian River Brewing Company and Taras Boulba from Brasserie de la Senne.Here, the brewery has brought back a lost style once enjoyed at the Belgium and Czech border.
The Apprentice is a dry, hoppy American IPA brewed with a winning combination of Amarillo and Simcoe hops, producing pine, bubblegum and tropical fruit notes. Society is also in the process of doubling its fermentation capacity to deliver even more delicious, hop forward beer.
Amplified Ale Works: Formerly known as California Kebab & Beer Garden, just a block off the beach sits a California inspired nanobrewery. This rockin’ brewpub started production in Pacific Beach (my old stomping grounds) in 2012. Brewmaster, Cy Henley came from San Diego brewing pioneers, Ballast Point, Alpine and Green Flash.
You’ll find their own hoppy brews like Electrocution IPA and Pig Nose Pale Ale and craft beers from other breweries in the city. Electrocution IPA is their flagship beer featuring tropical fruit notes like passionfruit and lychee. The beer, the location, the vibe – it’s very So Cal.
Their rapid growth and popularity has led to a very recent decision to sign a deal with H.G. Fenton Company to utilize a ready-made brewing facility in Miramar. Their new seven-barrel brewhouse (plus four 15-barrel fermenters) will eventually increase their production to an additional 1,000 barrels of beer in the first year.
South Park Brewing Company: SPBC is the youngest of this list, but the owner is no stranger to the San Diego beer scene. Scot Blair was the brain behind Hamiton’s Tavern, Small Bar and Monkey Paw Brewery.
Located in San Diego’s famous 30th St. corridor, the six-month-old seafood-centric brewpub serves fresh yellowtail, blue fin, halibut, oysters along with award winning craft beers. The small fish market and brewpub focuses on fish mainly sourced from Catalina Offshore. Cosimo Sorrentino from Monkey Paw is the head of brewery operations. South Park's original brewery is promoting “Honest Fish. Thoughtfully Crafted Beer,” prepared simply, with inspiration from Asian and Baja cultures.
My suggestion: don’t miss the Scripps Pier Oyster Stout. Roasted coffee and chocolate and faint toffee make up most of the aroma. They brewed with water from Scripps Pier, giving it a light saltiness and earthy flavor.
SPBC’s Lime In Da Coconut is brand new and a GABF submission. It’s a kettle sour with fresh lime zest and raw coconut.
Whether you're looking to grab a delicious pint or pair one with locally sourced dishes, the capital of craft continues to push the envelope and please the palette.
Cover photo: Aplified Ale Works
Seared grouper photo: South Park Brewing
Modern Times photo: gearpatrol.com
Bearleener Photo: Half Door Brewing
Societe Photo: Brian Stechschulte, All Over Beer