San Diego Beer Week is the longest, two-weekend-spanning mother of all beer weeks that includes more than 600 events, with 20,000 visitors expected. It starts on Friday, November 7.
To best tell the San Diego craft beer week story, I tracked down Karl Strauss Brewing Company’s Cofounder Chris Cramer. Not only is he responsible for helping start one of San Diego’s oldest and most successful craft breweries, he’s also to thank for initiating what’s now one of the country’s most-visited beer weeks.
“Sometimes you make plans and goals and they don’t work out, and other times things come together beautifully and people come to support it,” says Cramer. “That’s really the case with this beer week and how it has grown over the past few years.”
San Diego Beer Week begins on the first Friday of every November, a time chosen specifically to support the local tourism industry. The beginning of November, “which locals know is one of the nicest weather times,” admits Cramer, “happens to be off-peak for hotel/tourism industry. We decided we’re willing to share it,” he jokes.
Also with the intent to promote local tourism, SDBW spans two weekends, each one dedicated to a different San Diego Brewers Guild signature event that Cramer calls “bookend events.”
“San Diego Beer Week is first and foremost an endeavor of SD Brewers Guild,” says Cramer. So naturally, the first weekend of beer week features the San Diego Brewers Festival. This year, the festival has grown to a two-day celebration. Guild Fest, which takes place on Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego, will serve as the official SDBW kickoff event with VIP happenings beginning on Friday, November 7, at 6:00 p.m. Get tickets to and details about Guild Fest here.
On the other end of this ten-day extravaganza, the second bookend event is a showcase of just how food-centric San Diego’s craft-beer scene is. The Beer Garden (pictured at top) is a 24-brewer, 12-chef pairing event that caps off SDBW at the scenic Lodge at Torrey Pines resort. It takes place on Sunday, November 16, from noon to 3:00 p.m.
"It’s a magnificent venue, just spectacular,” says Cramer. “It’s scenic; it overlooks the Pacific and a world class golf course. . . . You’ve got all these craft brewers in this craftsman environment—all these crafters working together to make this extraordinary experience.”
In between the two bookend events, just about every brewery, bar, tavern, and bottle shop throws a party, or ten, for SDBW. To get the inside scoop, and to keep my head from spinning, I reached out to some of San Diego’s locals to help me compile this non-exhaustive list of the events that you shouldn’t miss during San Diego Beer Week 2014.
There’s nothing fashionable about a late arrival to San Diego Beer Week.
UnderBellyGet SDBW started early on Thursday, November 6, at An Evening With Hitachino at UnderBelly, a ramen house on West Fir Street. “Ramen and Japanese beer pairing is pretty epic, and they always do collaboration limited edition merchandise,” says Kory Stetina, the cofounder of the San Diego craft beer and vegan food pairing organization LOVELIKEBEER. Each day of SDBW, LOVELIKEBEER will be posting event picks to its social media channels, with a particular spotlight on events that have rare beer and vegan food offerings.
Like UnderBelly, another noodle house in Ocean Beach gets its SDBW start a day early. OB Noodle House expands beer week into fourteen days of special tappings with a featured brewery each day, starting with Ommegang on November 6. Other breweries in the lineup include Delirium, Avery Brewing, and Lagunitas. Here’s the complete list.
The first official SDBW event is now a two-day festival, beginning with the VIP Brewer Takeover on Friday, November 7. The event is a teaser for the official opening event of beer week, Guild Fest on Saturday, November 8.
We’ve been doing this San Diego Brewers Guild fest for a number of years now, and it has evolved to be one of the premier festivals in the country,” says Chris Cramer. “[It’s] only locally brewed beers, plus the brewers themselves attend and pull out specialty beers that can’t be found elsewhere.”
You probably never expected to burn calories at a beer week.
Fathom Bistro Bait & TackleUnique to this beer week are the multiple athletic events associated with it. On Monday, November 10, go fishing off the Shelter Island Pier with local brewers at Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle. Tickets include fishing poles, hooks and weights, breakfast burrito bar, lunch, T-shirts, and of course, plenty of beer. Register for this one-of-a-kind event.
On Wednesday, November 12, the Sixth Fling, an annual disc golf tournament put on by Green Flash Brewing Company and Hamilton’s Tavern, will take place at the Morley Field disc golf course, with an after-party at Hamilton’s. Get details and register.
Head out for a two-mile kayak paddle around Mission Bay’s Vacation Isle at the Pints & Paddles For A Cause event on Saturday, November 15. Then head to the Barefoot Bar & Grill’s Pints For A Cause After-Party. Ninkasi Brewing Co. will be donating all proceeds from the paddle and $1 from every pint sold at the party directly to the San Diego chapter of Team River Runner.
Come hungry: this beer week promises some of the best food pairings on the planet.
On the first day of beer week, Stone Brewing promises to wow brunch-goers with its Rare Beer Breakfast by Chef Tausha Lopez, paired with rare brews by cicerone Bill Sysak. Then on November 9, URBN St. Brewing Co. will serve the Sunday Funday Brunchday SDBW Edition.
By the time the second Sunday of SDBW rolls around, you’ll inevitably need a beer for breakfast. Find one (a Saint Archer’s Coffee Brown specifically) on tap paired with donuts as well as beer French toast and chicken & biscuits at Draft at Mission Beach for Ballin’: Brunch n’ Brews on November 16.
Benchmark BrewingAlso on Sunday, November 16, find Donuts, Coffee, and Stout (both oatmeal and imperial) at Benchmark Brewing Company and beer brunch at Karl Strauss Sorrento Mesa, which will feature a special appearance of the brewery’s limited Peanut Butter Cup Porter.
San Diego Beer Week is manic,” jokes Chris Cramer. “Most of us are doing anywhere from three to seven events a day for ten days straight. At the end of it, many of us don’t have voices left!”
When you too have lost your voice and you’re feeling like you can’t go on, consider these last few events.
On Saturday, November 8, Thorn Street Brewery will bring together handcrafted dry sausages and salamis from The Meat Men with breads and pretzels from Prager Brothers’Artisan Breads. Enjoy five sausages paired with five 5-ounce pours of the brewery’s beers. Advance reservations are recommended.
Toronado SDThree California brewers’ guilds will join forces for one giant tap takeover at Toronado on Friday, November 14. The Meeting of the Guilds will serve samples from San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco (fifteen representatives for each city), and guests will cast their votes for the best. The winning guild gets a golden keg.
Cap it all off with the festival’s capstone food and beer event, The Beer Garden at Torrey Pines on Sunday, November 16. “Here’s a little secret that a lot of people don’t know about,” says Cramer. “This event will sell out, so the best way to go is to get a room at Torrey Pines. You get the room at a discount rate you could almost never get and two passes to The Beer Garden thrown in for free.”