Though the Olympics have drawn to a close, its pageantry and spirit of global camaraderie lives on in me. At least it will until I manage to get through the 13 remaining hours of handball and rhythmic gymnastics footage clogging up my DVR. Sure, it will be a Herculean task to get through it all, but did Michael Phelps give up when he took the gold medal in the 200-Meter Butterfly? I mean, he didn’t, right? I seriously have no idea. No, wait, don’t tell me.
The point is, I’ve still got Best of the Best fever and the only prescription—is a best-of list. And possibly more cowbell. It’s good with everything, really.
In order to fully appreciate my 10 Best San Diego Beers list, it’s important to understand the criteria I imposed on my selections. First off, all collaboration brews were excused from judging. I won’t have some filthy outlanders tainting the purity of my list. Further, all beers selected had to be available on a semi-regular basis. I’d like readers to be able to enjoy my selections without the benefit of a time machine or wagering their first born in online beer auctions.
1. Alesmith “Speedway Stout”: This stout tumbles out of the bottle awash with creamy coffee and roasted marshmallow flavors that seem without equal. Until you try Speedway served on nitro and realize that it has finally reached its full potential. Until you sample it from a beer engine after some cask conditioning and realize that only now has it peaked. This beer is a wonder
in any incarnation.
2. Lost Abbey “Angel’s Share”: Even my rabid fandom for all things beer cannot completely squelch my miserly streak. Despite this beer inspiring a bit of sticker shock in me, it has never failed to produce an experience commensurate with its expense. Its complex blend of vanilla, oak, rum cake and raisins wins me over every time.
3. Green Flash “Silva Stout”: This can be a little harder to come by than most, but when you consider the payoff is a Green Flash “Double Stout” imbued with sharp bourbon and cookie dough flavors, it’s worth a bit of hunting.
4. Stone Brewing “Ruination IPA”: You may recall some time ago I was lauding the benefits of brewing with restraint. I was so naïve back then. What makes the Ruination IPA great is how it assaults you with massive bursts of grapefruit, pine needles and just enough booze in the finish to remind you to cancel any immediate plans. Drinking it always reminds me of the welcoming hug of a dear friend, especially because, among my friends, the ceremonial hug isn’t completed until you cram your mouth full of hops and exchange punches to the face.
5. Ballast Point “Sculpin IPA”: This perennial favorite manages to be full of apricot tartness and lemony sour notes without resolving like an atomic hop bomb. It is a sticky West Coast IPA that shows a modicum of restraint in all the right ways.
6. Iron Fist “Velvet Glove”: While I’d generally prefer Iron Fist’s “Spice of Life” ale during these dog days of summer, I’m perpetually drawn to Velvet Glove’s unmistakable chocolate and espresso notes and silky texture. I recommend serving it in a tapered brandy glass, preferably after smacking the edge of the bottle on my washing machine, dropping it, and spraying the majority on surrounding walls and flooring. I don’t know if that particular serving technique actually enhances the flavor, but I’d like to pretend something good came of that comedy of errors.
7. Societe Brewing “The Widow”: San Diego brewers never hesitate to muck around with Belgian-style yeasts, but precious few of them produce the more traditional Belgian styles. Societe, a surprise newcomer to this list, recently floored me with this nutty and slightly sweet dark Belgian ale.
8. Hess Brewing “Grazias Vienna Cream Ale”: I’ve never particularly relished the term “mouthfeel” common in beer-writer parlance. To me, it’s akin to a food writer expounding on the joys of chewing something, a process that most would not care to behold. That said, the mouthfeel on this velvety, smooth beer is an experience unto itself.
9. Alesmith “Wee Heavy”: The peaty caramel notes in this robust Scotch Ale are potent enough to cause my chin to erupt with a fiery crop of red whiskers and have me speaking with a thick Scottish brogue (or as close to it as a schooling from repeat viewings of So I Married An Axe Murderer will get me).
10. Port Brewing “Old Viscosity”: This stout is a paragon of truth in advertising. It pours like a bottle of spent 5-30W and tastes better to boot. If you’re looking for chocolaty, roasty beer that will coat your gullet, there are few better.