|Nationally recognized seasonal brew from San Diego County based Port Brewing Co.|
THE BEER REPORT—Two stories here on craft beer. First, it’s going to be the most wonderful time of the year—for craft beer! Displaying the spirit, passion and imagination of America’s small and independent brewers, CraftBeer.com —the beer lover-oriented site of the Brewers Association (BA)—released a list of winter seasonal craft beers produced by BA members. San Diego County makes the list, which is very cool because only 11 winter offerings are singled out nationally.
Second, Draft Magazine, one of America’s respected beer journals has come out with its 100 best best beer bars for 2013. We localize the story by excerpting what Draft Magazine picks for the San Diego region.
Says Draft Magazine editors, “...As craft beer has exploded, so has the number of incredible places that serve it. This list celebrates those special haunts with less than three locations and one passionate focus: beer. There might be darts and a jukebox or candlelight and a turntable; there might be five beers or 500. But in every spot on our list, you’ll find an excellent brew in your glass and people—staff, owners, barflies—who care about that as much as you do.”
Going back to winter seasonals for a moment, the Brewers Assn., points out this craft seasonal category has posted huge sales numbers during the holidays, according to supermarket sales data. This year, many of the winter seasonal craft beers featured offer flavors of chocolate, coffee, fruit, malt, cinnamon and oatmeal.
--Carolina Brewery | Santa's Secret | Pittsboro, NC
--Center of the Universe Brewing Co. | El Duderino | Ashland, VA
--Deschutes Brewery | Jubelale | Bend, OR
--East Coast Beer Co. | Beach Haus® Winter Rental Black Lager | Pt. Pleasant, NJ
--Eel River Brewing Co., Inc. | Climax Noel | Fortuna, CA
--Mother Earth Brewing | Silent Night | Kinston, NC
--No-Li Brewhouse | Winter Warmer Ale | Spokane, WA
--Piney River Brewing Co. | Hot Date | Bucyrus, MO
--Port Brewing Company | Santa’s Little Helper | San Marcos, CA
--Smuttynose Brewing Co. | Smuttynose Winter Ale | Portsmouth, NH
--Swamp Head Brewery | Hoe Hoe Hoe | Gainesville, FL
Visit CraftBeer.com’s “Winter Craft Beers are Comin’ to Town” for even more craft beer winter seasonals and descriptions and consider a tour to your local craft brewery or bottleshop for Xmas gift ideas.
LOCAL SEASONALS--Not on the Brewer Assn.'s annual list but many breweries like Karl Strauss in San Diego that are producing exceptional holiday seasonals: For example, Karl Strauss's Four Scowling Owls Tripel and Full Suit Belgian-style brown ale. Ballast Point brewery checks in with the following seasonals that pair well with seasonal turkey dining: Pumpkin Down and/or Brother Levonian Saison.
Draft Magazine’s San Diego area beer bars.
Blind Lady Ale House
Peep where your pint of Automatic Transition Pale Ale’s made (hint: in BLAH’s back room) while waiting for an artisan pizza, or get sucked in by walls of vintage cans, retro beer murals and random kegs knocking about this trendy yet beer-serious bar. 3416 Adams Ave., blindlady.blogspot.com
Churchill’s Pub and Grille
Come here for authentic English charm—the cozy nooks, stained glass and WWII photos almost feel better suited to the British countryside—and toast to King and country with an epic list of American beers, like a 2009 bottle of Russian River Temptation. 887 W. San Marcos Blvd., churchillspub.us
Encinitas Ale House
A few blocks from the surf sits this shaded, hole-in-the-wall beer paradise. Grab a Belgian rarity from the 350-bottle list, a gargantuan garlic burger and a bit of breeze before heading back to the beach. 1044 S. Coast Highway 101, encinitasalehouse.com
Amid San Diego’s crème de la crème beer scene, this neighborhood alehouse is a simple mainstay that brings the best of beer and fun. Sure, hundreds of tap handles dangle from the high ceilings, but the locals here nosh on comfort food from the adjacent café and chat about more than what’s on the taps (and two casks!) or in their bottles (more than 200). 1521 30th St., hamiltonstavern.com
O’Brien’s American Pub
It’s not always location, location, location: This no-frills strip-mall spot holds icon status with a serious following. A self-proclaimed working man’s bar, it draws an in-the-know set, especially when breweries unleash their rare beers on its 20 taps. 4646 Convoy St., obrienspub.net
From the wooden abbey-style front door to the pointed arch back bar to the moody red-and-black décor, this tiny University Heights spot is Gothic-chic. Beware the looming keg suspended from the ceiling—and limited elbow room—as you peruse the mostly local taps inside this cute watering hole. 4628 Park Blvd., smallbarsd.com
As Blind Lady’s sister location, expect the same thoughtfully curated list of locally minded beers, but prepare to make some new friends: The hall’s long picnic tables pack young, hipster patrons shoulder-to-shoulder while pitchers of craft suds give this buzzing bar a fun, social vibe. 3025 El Cajon Blvd., tigertigertavern.blogspot.com
Thanks to San Diego’s West Coastersd.com for assisting in this report