Blondes on Beers: Happy New Beer! Holiday beers from San Diego breweries and beer trends for 2019

Blondes on Beers:

Bridging the gap from last year into the next, this month's column is actually two-in-one. For this installment, we look at area holiday-inspired beers (which are available at their respective tasting rooms until they run out, so those reading this in the last week of December should hurry!) as well as trends that brewers expect to see in beer for 2019.

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— HOLIDAY BEERS:

Stone Liberty Station, Point Loma:

Holiday Armadillo holiday spiced IPA

Ashley: This is brewed on site at Liberty Station, and while we are told it is brewed with orange, ginger and a little bit cinnamon, there is no aggressive flavor and not what I would typically call a holiday beer.

Crystal: This holiday IPA is definitely hoppy and tastes mildly spiced. It's a bit hazy with a slightly bitter aftertaste. The holiday spices weren't strongly present, but they were blended well.

Enjoy By 01.01.19 Brüt IPA

Ashley: Brewed in the Escondido location, this IPA is drier than most, but still has some body to it. There is very little finish and a really nice blend of Brut Champagne traits and beer traits.

Crystal: A double IPA with 9.4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), this beer was heavy bodied with lots of hop flavor. I loved the citrusy, dry finish.

Pizza Port Brewing, OB:

Liquid Mistletoe Tripel Ale

Ashley: While this is a delightfully well-rounded, full-bodied, fruit-forward ale, the only thing that makes me think of this as a holiday beer is its wintery Belgian influences.

Crystal: I thought this Tripel was a delicious fruity, malty crisp ale. Super smooth for 10 percent ABV, but it lacked typical holiday flavors.

Santa's Little Helper Imperial Stout

Ashley: This is a strong, punchy stout with a burnt-coffee bitter aftertaste. Similarly, I think the potency and depth of this beer is what makes it a seasonal/holiday beer.

Crystal: Thick and chocolatey, this imperial stout tasted overwhelmingly smokey. I got more holiday vibes from this flavor profile and wished we were sipping our tasters fireside.

Culture Brewing, OB:

Ginger Snap Red Ale

Ashley: Made with your staple gingerbread ingredients, this beer smells like fresh ginger then hits with molasses in the palate. This is a great interpretation of a holiday beer, in that the flavors are there, but it is less sweet than the cookie.

Crystal: Made with quintessential holiday ingredients — fresh ginger, molasses, clove and cinnamon — this red ale was delightful! Light-bodied and malty with hints of burnt sugar, the flavors were perfectly proportioned.

Pine IPA

Ashley: Made with actual pine tree needles and Simcoe hops, this is less aggressive than I thought it would be and more herbal than piney or resiny.

Crystal: This IPA was crisp and refreshing and not overly piney. It clearly has a piney aroma, but it's not overwelming on the taste buds. It's hoppy but not bitter, and could easily be served year-round.

Cranberry Hazy IPA

Ashley: There is an undiscernible fruit smell at the forefront, and there is no cranberry color, so if I wasn't told this had cranberry, I might not be able to tell that it is cranberry. Nevertheless, it's a delightful hazy and a nice detour from other fruit-based IPAs going around.

Crystal: This hazy tastes like a juicy IPA and all the cranberry flavor hits you at the back of your palate. It's really good, not overly hoppy or bitter but fruity and refershing.

As a side note, Eppig Brewing in Point Loma released its 2018 batch of Moment of Weakness (Dark American Sour w/ Plum & Cherry) past Point Loma/OB's deadline. Owner Stephanie Eppig describes it as a "dark brown with a deep ruby hue. Complex notes of chocolate and dark fruit in the aroma and flavor with a clean and pleasant tartness in the finish."

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— Beer Trends 2019:

Eyeing the coming year, some OB brewers shared reflections from 2018 and insights on what is to come.

Jim Milea, of OB Brewery, said IPAs will continue to dominate, but "there has been increased demand for beers more on the malty side and less alcohol vs. punch-in-the-face strong, so maybe there will be more of those coming out."

Adding that OB Brewery will focus on its tried-and-true brews, Milea said he hopes to collaborate with other breweries in the coming year.

Reflecting on the year that was, he added: "I suppose my biggest lesson learned is not so much about the beers I actually made, but the beers I didn't make. Time goes by so fast and you really need to plan ahead if you want to make sure you can make certain things happen. … An example for me is wet hop beers. Wet hop beers are brewed with hops freshly picked off the vine and immediately incorporated into the beer within 24 hours. Hop harvest only occurs once a year, from late summer to early fall, and that is the one opportunity per year to make them. I wanted to brew one this year but didn't plan for it and suddenly hop harvest season had come and gone."

Similarly, Haley Smith of OB's Belching Beaver said while "Hazy IPAs are here to stay," craft lagers will make a name for themselves in 2019. "Of course, we love our West Coast IPAs, Hazy IPAs and Stouts, but we feel the consumer is looking for something approachable and light that can be enjoyed any time of year," she said.

On that note, Smith added: "We are very excited for 2019! We have some fun stuff planned. We have a collaboration beer coming out in January with Coronado Brewing Company. It is a Hazy IPA called Tooth & Tail. We've also got some favorites coming back like Peanut Butter Latte on nitro and Peach Be With You, a pale ale with peaches."

Rachel Fischer of OB's Kilowatt brewing said 2019 will bring "innovation and diversification of products" including "non-traditional products" such as hard (alcoholic) seltzers and Kombuchas. "Think wine barrel-aged hard Kombucha blended with a fruited brett beer sour, dry hopped with tropical New Zealand grown hops," she said.

Looking back on 2018, Fischer said she got an enhanced appreciation for local customers. "Wholesale distribution is even tougher than it seems. There's only so many tap handles out there, and more breweries competing for them than there are available. It's like a game of musical chairs where some breweries are going to be left without a chair when the music stops. Unfortunately, we're seeing that with some of the recent brewery closures. It makes us appreciate our team at Kilowatt and all of our customers who visit our tasting rooms that much more. In all seriousness, neighbors coming by and having a beer at our tasting rooms is what keeps us going and we sincerely appreciate our local support!"

Next month: The Blondes on Beers visit Stone Liberty Station in Point Loma.

To contact the Blondes on Beer: E-mail Ashley Mackin-Solomon at ashleym@lajollalight.com

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