If you haven’t read my article, The State of San Diego Craft – 2015, you should. This will be a series of posts where I share the complete and full statements from 20+ amazing individuals that contributed to my work. I’m going to start with those that I used in the article and then release the rest in alphabetical order. Today I have two gentlemen who’s statements roughly similar, talking about the explosion of beer variety lately, Paul McGuire from SD Hop Addict and Peter Zien from AleSmith. Paul even mentioned AleSmith in his comments on the State of SD Craft. Let’s get to it!
2015 brought out an explosion in fruited beers, sours, and coffee beers like we haven’t seen before. Breweries rushed to add citrus to their IPAs as a response to the popularity of Grapefruit Sculpin. Ballast Point pushed things even further with their release of the various fruit varieties of a number of beers including Pineapple Sculpin. Even some of the larger breweries like New Belgium have jumped in this arena with their own offerings. Some of these IPAs with fruit added have been quite well done but often the fruit overpowers the underlying beers. It takes real skill to balance the flavors while letting the hops continue to shine. Other small breweries like Pure Project and Killowat have come out with a lot of adjunct beers that have become quite popular like Killowat’s mango pale ale.
Small breweries around the county have started brewing Berliner Weisse and Gose style beers in large numbers, recognizing the growing population of sour beer drinkers. I see Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker to be part of this because of its mild tartness from the fruit addition. Some breweries are doing better than others with these but those that are on point are delicious and a welcome addition. Division 23 has done a great job pushing this style by providing traditional syrups to add to their Berliner Weisse. Aside from these, breweries have been experimenting with various forms of sours including wine barrel aged beers and oak aged sours to meet the growing demand for these. Council Brewing and Toolbox have both done a great job presenting both the simpler sours and the barrel aged varieties. Council has ramped up production so that these haven’t sold out right away like they did initially. I hope we will see breweries start to release gose and berliner weisse beers in six packs for the ultimate refreshing summer beers.
We have also seen more and more breweries making coffee beers, as shown by the large releases from Stone and Green Flash to join an already coffee-forward stout market. I quite enjoy these coffee beers and welcome the addition to the marketplace. The coffee adds a bold flavor profile that helps these beers stick out from other stouts. Coffee stouts have of course been around for a while but it is nice to see more options on the market. Even Alesmith has put out a lot more beers showcasing different coffee varieties over recent years, giving people alternatives to their ever-popular Speedway stout, like the delicious Hammerhead speedway made with espresso. I expect many of these trends to continue to grow in 2016 as beer drinkers of all areas start to learn how delicious a good Berliner Weisse and Gose can be.
Watching the Craft Beer community of new brewers and craft beer drinkers alike grow in record numbers has been a thrilling, and somewhat unexpected surprise! Additionally, I’ve noticed that the Craft Beer Renaissance has morphed a bit of late. The trend that I’ve been watching for most of 2015 and continuing is what I call the “bright, new, shiny” trend. The marketplace has exploded with so many new offerings- some from the new brewers but also many from the established breweries. These are beers utilizing non-traditional ingredients and pushing the style categories to their limits and beyond. Many are interesting and delicious- and many are not. It’s a bit of a slippery slope to try and please the masses with cutting-edge/experimental beers.
AleSmith acknowledges this trend and we have come up with some experimental beers of our own, albeit tried and practiced so as to meet the high standards of our brewery. I dusted off my homebrew logs and introduced a Spring Bok this year. We’ve also taken the Speedway variations in some new directions with Hawaiian Speedway and a soon-to-be-released surprise variation. Our Tasting Room features inventive uses of the Randall to infuse many of our year-round offerings with fruits, herbs, spices, and vegetables. So although I see AleSmith as a “Classic” brewery, we do like to deliver what the customer wants and for the time-being that means a balance between Classic beer style offerings and something “new” – as long as I can make it delicious! :-).
AleSmith Brewing Company – Crafting Award-Winning Beers Since 1995
Thank you to both Paul and Peter for giving me their thoughts on 2015 and where we’re going in ’16!