If you live in San Diego, you already know more about craft beer than 99% of the world. Between stalwarts like Stone, Green Flash, Ballast Point, and Karl Strauss, you've been drinking the good stuff for over a quarter century at this point and as of this past July, there are 157 craft breweries in total throughout San Diego County. That's more breweries than Wyoming, West Virginia, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Mississippi, Washington DC, and North Dakota combined! No matter what neighborhood you live in, there is likely to be a local breweries within a few minutes of your home, but that doesn't mean there aren't occasions that call for a quick delivery right to your door of one of the classics. Here are just a few of our favorites that are available right now on Drizly.
You can't talk San Diego beer without discussing all things IPA and we may as well begin with the so-called Session IPA from everyone's favorite brewpub, Pizza Port. Without doing any actual research, we feel safe saying that they are San Diego's most award winning brewery as their various brewers rack up medal after medal each year at the Great American Beer Festival. They began packaging their beer in cans just a few years ago and it was a very welcome addition to the bottle shop landscape. Their low ABV (4.5%) session IPA is made for those who want the big flavor of citrus and pine, but also want to drink a few beers in a single afternoon. Aggressively hopped with Crystal, Citra, Rakau, Motueka, Waimea, and Southern Cross varietals, Ponto is maybe the perfect California, seaside beer. It's packed with flavor, but drinks like something much lighter than many of the other options on the market. Perfect for an afternoon with your buddies after a morning on the waves.
For this next pick we take a leap to the classic West Coast IPA from relative newcomer Mason Ale Works. Their Jambi IPA sits comfortably within the style that has become not just a San Diego staple, but a worldwide phenomenon. There was a moment in time, maybe 10 years ago, when a beer like Jambi would have been known as hawkish or audacious, but as our collective palettes have changed, so has our opinion of hoppy beer. Brewed with Simcoe, Amarillo, Mosaic and Citra hops, Jambi showcases many of the classic flavors and aromas associated with the west coast IPA. Hints of orange rind and lemon peel dance with notes of pine resin and a touch of stone fruit, all balanced with a light, biscuit-like malt portfolio and dry finish. Made locally in North County SD, it's a great beer for any occasion and anything you can throw on the grill.
Stone is one of the biggest breweries in the entire country at this point and they have continued to churn out hit after hit for over 20 years. They are one of the originators of the ultra hoppy west coast IPA style and they continue to make great examples of the style today. One, perhaps rather odd standout in their portfolio of hopped up suds, however, is their gluten-reduced offering - Delicious IPA. Brewed using Lemondrop and El Dorado hops, it has a bright, lemony citrus taste that shines brightly on the clean malt backbone. Using a specialized enzymatic process, the brewers remove the majority of gluten from the beer, but you shouldn't think of this as some sort of half-beer or only for those with gluten sensitivities as it is quite spectacular in flavor. Sensitive or not, this IPA should be high on your list. Pair it with bunless burgers, cauliflower crust pizzas, and a sunny patio table.
Session, Standard, Gluten Reduced, so why not Double? Made in the middle of hipster-centric North Park, Mike Hess Brewing's Habitus is a stellar double IPA for those looking for a bit more punch. At 8% ABV, this very pine forward double IPA is still very smooth and drinkable. The brewers here use Chinook and Sterling hops, both classics of the west coast that bring forth those resinous, forest-like hop flavors that we have come to expect and love. The real kicker here is that the malt base is a blend of classic two-row barley along with a dosing of rye malt which adds a hint of caramel, spice, and generally exciting character that helps balance the big hop aroma and bitterness. Alongside an overstuffed carne asada burrito, there really might not be anything better in life.
It took 5 suggestions, but we feel comfortable now moving on from IPAs. It is tough to believe for some people in Southern California, but other options do, in fact, exist. One of our favorites is from quirky Modern Times. Their Lomaland is a crisp, refreshing saison that makes for a marvelous alternative to all of those hops. A tad bit fruity, with hints of crispy crackers, flowery hay, and just a pinch of white pepper, this saison might not be made on a farm, but it certainly recalls a time when the style was enjoyed by farmers. A sip of Lomaland and you'll instantly yearn for a day working in the garden, warm dirt on your hands, sun beating down on your face, a cool beer waiting for you on the patio table. Paired with a bowl of fresh fruit and a simple turkey sandwich, this might be the ideal summer beer.
As we move away from the everyday sorts of IPAs, we could move to recommend one of the many incredible imperial stouts from locally based breweries, but it seems a bit more exciting to suggest this incredible Belgian-style quadrupel from San Marcos' Lost Abbey Brewing Company. Made with dark malts, candi sugars, and raisins, it's a new take on a historical style that makes for something quite delectable on the dessert table. The beer comes corked and caged in a large bottle and drops in at over 10% ABV, the aroma heaving with notes of dark fruits, brown sugars, molasses, and yeasty spice. Quite honestly, for the standard 72º and sunny day in San Diego, this might not be the best choice, but for the not so average cooler day, or a late evening by the ocean breeze, this beer can be quite a delight. It's perfect to serve along with chocolate cake, ice cream, or really anything sweet and delicious.