Today is National IPA Day, so let us rejoice in this beer style’s delicious, hoppy glory. Here in San Diego, where the West Coast IPA was popularized – and its even hoppier cousin, the Double IPA, was invented – just about every day is IPA day. And, for that matter, more days than I care to admit are IPA days. So, as your official unofficial ad agency guide to San Diego beer, I’m going to clue you in on my favorite San Diego IPAs. That way, when you come to visit and interview for one of our open positions, you can celebrate nailing your interviews with one of the Finest City’s finest IPAs.
Societe Brewing: The Coachman Session IPA
Societe Brewing, located in Kearny Mesa, is one of the best hop-forward breweries in America. Its best known IPAS – The Apprentice and The Pupil – regularly win regional and national awards; The Pupil is particularly delicious: imagine guava-infused white wine with a bitter backbone. Go. Drink them. But don’t sleep on The Coachman, which Societe calls its ‘really small IPA’. Clocking in at a mere 4.5% ABV, it competes with the Bud Lights of the world on drinkability, but goes toe to toe with the best IPAs around for flavor. I find that most beers in the ‘session IPA’ category (referring to the fact that you can have a few of them in a single drinking session, thanks to their lower ABV) end up tasting like thin, hoppy water. The amount of citrus flavor that the brewers have jammed into this beer is remarkable, but what really sets The Coachman apart is that it has enough body, enough meat on its bones, to feel like you’re actually drinking an IPA. It also happened to win gold at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival in the session IPA category, so it’s no slouch when it comes to medals & hardware.
Pizza Port Brewing Co.: Jetty IPA
I have the softest of soft spots for Pizza Port. I lived down the street from the Ocean Beach location (there are 4 other Pizza Port locations between San Diego and Orange County) for a few years, and I did an unreasonable amount of reading and grading there while I was in grad school. I haven’t had many Saturdays in the last six years that haven't included a stop at Pizza Port. In short, I’ve helped pay the lease and keep the lights on at Pizza Port. Each Pizza Port location brews a suite of its own beers, and my favorite is Pizza Port Ocean Beach’s house IPA, its hoppy workhorse named Jetty IPA. It’s a West Coast IPA in its truest sense: Piney, citrusy, and bitter - and delicious - Jetty IPA is what I think of when I think quintessential San Diego IPA. Tell them Zach sent you.
Cerveceria Wendlandt: Perro del Mar
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but San Diego is right around the corner from Mexico. Which means that San Diego is practically down the street from the burgeoning food and coffee scene in Tijuana, as well as Baja California’s wine country. But don’t forget the beer: Ensenada, about 90 minutes south of the border, is home to a blooming beer culture, thanks to about a half dozen local breweries that are pumping out beer that can go toe-to-toe with just about anything San Diego offers. And my favorite of these is Cerveceria Wendlandt and its house IPA, Perro del Mar. The brewery’s owner and namesake, Eugenio Wendlandt, got into craft beer while studying at San Diego State University, and its current head of brewery operations worked previously at Pizza Port and Stone Brewery. Perro del Mar is an IPA that would fit in seamlessly amongst the upper echelon of San Diego IPAs. Please visit. The Wendlandt brewpub is my favorite place to sit and watch the buzzing Ensenada (hipster) craft beer scene come to life, but the brewery itself is the perfect place to relax for the afternoon. Imagine drinking a Pizza Port-inspired IPA 90 minutes south of the border, at a brewery across the street from the ocean. Mark my words: I will retire here, and I will live on their beers.
Half Door Brewing Co.: Hoban House
This is my secret spot. Do not tell anyone about this recommendation. If you aren’t overly obsessed with beer trends as I am (Hey, I’m a strategic planner; trends are part of my job), then you might not have heard of the New England-style IPA: an unfiltered, fruit flavor-forward IPA that’s much less bitter than its West Coast counterpart, and is instead, well, juicier, for lack of a better descriptor. Personally speaking, my verdict is still out on the style. When done poorly, they can look like dirty bathwater and taste akin to battery acid. Blech. But hear me loud and clear: I am of the strong opinion that Half Door is brewing not just the best New England-style IPAs in San Diego, but the best IPAs in town right now bar none. And it’s half a block from Red Door’s office. My favorite of the bunch is their Hoban House IPA, which tastes like a peach and pineapple blended into orange juice (in both taste and appearance). It’s a veritable fruit salad in a glass. Try it. You’ll like it.
It almost feels criminal to cull my list of favorite IPAs down to just a handful. There are dozens of breweries and beers I could include on the list. Come in for an interview for an open position or to get onto our Virtual Bench, and I’ll clue you in on the best of the rest. Or the rest of the best. Maybe we’ll even talk about advertising.