The West Coast of U.S.A. is home to modern craft beer as we know it. Starting with San Diego and Las Vegas, here are few short thoughts on the cities and breweries that I have visited over the last few weeks. San Fransisco, Chico, Petuluma and Santa Rosa to come in a few days.
A big sprawling city with the highest concentration of breweries of any city in America, San Diego is famous for its bone-dry, bitter and hoppilicious IPAs as well as its great Mexican food. With Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA at 7% and Stone Stone Brewing’s Ruination weighing in at 8.5%, these heavy hitters of the old school can definitely cause issues. Especially if they’re drunk in the same volumes and at the same speeds as perhaps a young, excited and thirsty brewer might drink a 4.5% Australian Pale Ale...
Joining these pioneers of the scene is Societe Brewing Company with possibly the best IPA of my life: Pupil at 7.5% is also very dangerous. However, Societe are also amongst the new wave of San Diego brewers doing some fun and interesting beers and moving away from the IPA train. This new wave of brewers are reaching out to people that might want to drink more than 2 pints and still remain coherent. Modern Times and St Archer had two of the best coffee beers I have tasted with Modern Times actually selecting and roasting their own beans. They have even recently upgraded their coffee roaster to keep up with demand (Modern Times Columbian currently being enjoyed through my Aeropress).
In San Diego, craft beer has been poured for so long that it is no longer something that enthusiasts need to explain to customers and friends. It is just beer, and if that beer is not up to scratch then it will not get a pass mark from the general public. In a city with as many breweries as the whole of Australia, the consumers very quickly decide whether they want to support a brewery or not.
I bet you picture me dropping fat stacks on black and sipping whiskey as I lose it all to the house. Well, that is not what happened. The first port of call was to drop in to see Steve and Steph (Two Brewers Abroad) at CraftHaus Brewery. After a large tasting paddle and a short tour we left the brewery to go to downtown Las Vegas. Not too long ago, if you were heading to downtown Vegas you had a high chance of meeting some unsavoury characters. These days it is much nicer. Our first stop was The Atomic Bar, named as such because customers used to sit on the roof and watch the nuclear testing. A dark dive bar playing excellent music, Atomic Bar has a great beer list featuring, of course, plenty of IPAs as well as Belgians and sours. A food truck fried chicken sandwich and a few cracking beers later we headed off to Hop Nuts, a brewpub with another great beer list made up of their own as well as guest beers. By then it was then 4 a.m. and probably time to hit the hay.
One of the great things about Vegas is that they never close. This is both a blessing and a curse. It means you can grab a great burrito or a perfectly cooked prime steak at 3 in the morning. And if you wanted to drink great, local craft beer with that primo steak, I would bet that you would be handed something delicious. Still well on the younger side of the San Diego scene, Vegas has a growing craft beer culture with local breweries making great beer and bars dedicating themselves to only good beer. If you are ever in Las Vegas, I would definitely recommend seeking out some local beers and beer bars, it will make a pleasant change from the strip.