Beers that impressed the experts in 2015

Bottlecraft

Some guys try new beers for a living. I asked these local craft bar and bottle shop beer buyers to discuss a few local beers that have stood out to them in 2015.

Scot Blair

Owner, Hamilton’s Tavern/Monkey Paw/South Park Brewing Co.

Green Flash Brewing Company, Ouroboros Stout ­— 12% ABV. Blair notes this barrel-aged stout blend was longtime brewmaster Chuck Silva’s last beer with Green Flash. “This is a big stout with rich dark cocoa and muscavado flavors. Hints of coconut and vanilla from the barrels, sweet and decadent but smooth and drinkable.”

Coronado Brewing Company, Coconado Milk Stout — 8% ABV. Coronado calls this September release a Chocolate Milk Stout, and Blair thinks it hit the mark. “This beer is fantastic,” he says, “Chocolate, smooth mouthfeel from lactose, drinkable and balanced.”

Nickel Beer Company, Pearfect Apple Pie Ale — 6% ABV. For his last selection, Blair chose a beer with unusual ingredients, made by Tom Nickel. “Tom uses local crab apples (Hyslop) and pears grown at the brewery, and spices the beer with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and clove. Unique and seasonally delicious.”

Beau Schmitt

Co-founder of the Brew Project

Monkey Paw I-5 Dark Ale w/ Coconut & Salt — 7% ABV. “This beer was special because it provides both savory and salty stimulation on the palate,” Schmitt says of the dark ale made with toasted coconut and pink Himalayan salt.

Urbn Street Brewing Company, Cafecito Triple Brown — 10.5% ABV. Originally a collaboration with Stone Liberty Station. Schmitt notes, “This big brown ale was very rich in coffee, caramel, and chocolate aroma. It had a very silky mouth-feel with a malty, slightly sweet finish. It’s not very often you find a ‘triple brown’ and Cafecito was a very good representation of the style.”

Division 23 Brewing Company, Sour Superintendent Berliner Weisse — 3.2% ABV. Schmitt visits every brewery in the county and recalls finding this beer served with fruit syrups in keeping with Berliner tradition. “Being a new San Diego brewery, it was cool to see a reasonably unique style on their core draft list,” he says, calling it, “Light, tart and refreshing.”

AJ Jarrett

Beverage coordinator, Churchill’s Pub & Grille

Ballast Point, Grunion with Passion Fruit on cask — 5.5%. Jarrett recalls this fruited pale ale that struck a chord with the Churchill’s clientele. “For a cask to go in two days is fairly astounding,” he says. “The passion fruit really stood out… Up front but not overbearing.”

Green Flash Brewing, Cellar 3 Silva Stout with Mostra Coffee — 10.1% ABV. “I’ve been a really big fan of Silva Stout since Chuck started making it,” Jarrett says of the 18-month, bourbon-barrel-aged stout. But while noting some coffee beers skew acidic, he calls this version, made with cold brew from local roaster Mostra, “spot on.”

The Lost Abbey, Track #8 — 13.7% ABV. Lost Abbey dosed its Judgment Day ale with cinnamon sticks and dried chili peppers for this barrel-aged release, Jarrett’s favorite of the12 bottled “tracks” featured in Lost Abbey’s high-concept Ultimate Box set. “It actually came in a gig box like you’d get from a rock band. It was amazing.”

Gene Fielden

Beer buyer, Bottlecraft North Park

Modern Times Beer, Black House with Coconut and Cacao Nibs — 5.8% ABV. This variation of Modern Times’ flagship stout hit the Bottlecraft shelves in November, and Fielden reports it went fast, with good reason: “The coffee is very fresh, the oatmeal stout itself is really well made…it also had this aroma of toasted coconut that really came through.”

Mother Earth Brew Co., Hop Diggity IPA — 8.1% ABV. Fielden says when Mother Earth switched this seasonal from 22-ounce bottles to 12-ounce cans, “They reformulated it slightly. So now the dry-hopping schedule is Mosaic and Citra, and I have to say I like the new one better than the old one… the effect is kind of a sticky pineapple.”

Pizza Port Brewing, Small Bar Syndrome 6th Anniversary IPA — 7.5% ABV. This limited release out of Pizza Port OB impressed Fielden with its use of rare Southern Hemisphere hop varieties Rakau, Waimea, DR Rudi, and Polaris. “All these hop varietals get to the U.S. so infrequently,” he points out. “Only a few breweries ever get to use them.” He describes their flavors as lush and juicy, expressing white grape, kiwis, and peach.

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