As 2018 winds down, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was. We’ll begin by culling the list of new breweries that opened this year (including a few that opened in very-late 2017 since they were too new to call last year) for the best rookie operations. But instead of me weighing in on the subject, I’ve assembled members of the local beer media to offer their thoughts. Tune in tomorrow for this group’s thoughts on the best new beers of 2018.
Bruce Glassman, San Diego Magazine
- The Bell Marker, Downtown: This brewery not only wins most-improved in my book, it also placed itself firmly in the pantheon of excellent San Diego breweries this year. The reason? Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes. A longtime pro, a talented artisan, and a guy who knows how to brew every kind of style and do it well.
- Northern Pine Brewing, Oceanside: New O’side brewery that wasn’t afraid to come out of the gate with a variety of creative and lesser-done styles, including a Scottish ale, rye porter, dark saison and amber. All the beers are clean, balanced and nicely executed.
- Papa Marce’s Cerveceria, Carlsbad: I like these guys for taking some of the good things they learned from Indian Joe Brewing and incorporating them into their own unique brewery concept. Kudos to them for creating an expansive draft list that covers a wide variety of styles and flavors, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
- Deft Brewing, Bay Park: They started out small and unassuming, with a limited but nicely executed tasting board, but within six months or so, they grew into their own and really started making some notable beer, including some excellent traditional English styles and an awesome Belgian tripel.
- Latchkey Brewing, Mission Hills: Originally pegged these guys to be mostly an IPA house (their opening board included numerous hoppy IPAs of both the hazy and clear varieties) but they have since impressed with a number of other well-made styles, including a gose and a memorable dopplebock.
Danielle Stuht, 91X
- Beach Grease Beer Co., Vista
- The Bell Maker, Downtown
- Savagewood Brewing, Scripps Ranch
- Deft Brewing, Bay Park
- Latchkey Brewing, Mission Hills
Esthela Davila, The Indie Beer Show
- Latchkey Brewing, Mission Hills
BETH DEMMON, San Diego CityBeat & West Coaster
- Deft Brewing, Bay Park: Some beers stood out more than others, but the ones that shone really hit the spot. Their English IPA was particularly memorable and a welcome take on an overlooked style of IPA, and despite a less-than-optimal parking situation, it’s a nice spot for some good pints.
- Fourpenny House, La Mesa:I was devastated when Ritual Tavern and ChuckAlek Independent Brewers closed in North Park, so to find a new tavern/pub concept with the former ChuckAlek brewer at the helm was a godsend. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s in my new ‘hood!
- Horus Aged Ales, Oceanside: When your releases sell out in one second, you must be doing something right. I look forward to seeing what else emerges from this mysterious operation.
- Latchkey Brewing, Mission Hills: I know that the Mission Brewery Plaza location has been home to a number of breweries over the years, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how anyof them stayed in business in such a weird spot! But Latchkey seems to be doing more than just surviving—they appear to be thriving. I hope they keep on keepin’ on in 2019.
- Savagewood Brewing, Scripps Ranch: This small Scripps Ranch spot seems to be churning out a small but solid menu of styles in a low-key spot. It’s little guys like these that, I think, are poised to influence the future of craft beer in San Diego.