A couple of weeks, back I took a moment to acknowledge the work of fellow beer writer Brandon Hernández hoping that, for once, I could deliver some reputable thoughts on San Diego breweries, even if only by proxy. Just days later, I was contacted by the publisher of The San Diego Brewery Guide, another recent release with the aim of succinctly summarizing our local brew scene for consumers. Since these works are competing for our ever-dwindling holiday-gift budget, I thought there might be some value in comparing the two.
(If the walls around you begin to crumble as you read this, know that it's because I’m performing a review review, thereby plunging into an Inception-esque meta-review state from which there may not be any escape.)
The San Diego Brewery Guide (written by Bruce Glassman and brought to you by the publisher of the San Diego’s Top Brewers book) is a comprehensive walk-through of nearly 70 of our breweries. It's built with the profile of a pamphlet and the beefiness of a AAA tourist guide. It's luxurious to leaf through with an intuitive layout and a thoughtful approach to profiling breweries. For example, not only does it highlight key beers at each destination; it also color codes the offerings relative to the beers themselves, providing a subtle index to direct your tastings.
The brewery descriptions are sufficient to capture the key aspects of their operations and give you a sense of their character. It further rates each brewery with an intuitive 0-to-2-stars scale, offering a simple divining rod to steer a tourism itinerary. However, the descriptions of breweries that don’t merit a single star are broadly indistinguishable from the two-star ones, apart from being a little less effusive overall. I understand the author’s desire to maintain a positive tone (as advertised in the foreword), but if you’re going to judge then be judgmental.
While I previously expressed some reservations about various brewery ratings in Hernández’s work, on the whole they aligned more closely with my personal assessments than Glassman’s did. However, just so this review doesn’t devolve into a series of dueling opinions, I’ll focus my concern on the fact that about two-thirds of the breweries listed in The San Diego Brewery Guide are rated at two stars, or “Highly Recommended.” I’m always happy to be a cheerleader for San Diego breweries, but I think that valuation lacks impact when applied so broadly.
The San Diego Brewery Guide summarizes our expansive brewery scene in a clean and attractive way. It will serve well as a stocking stuffer not only by price point, but by virtue of bearing the appropriate dimensions to tuck in a sock. It doesn’t exercise the rigor of Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries in its evaluations, but it will make a capable assistant for out-of-towners wishing to plot out brewery tours.