California Beers to Try Right Now

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Photo from Terra Vox via Flickr

Photo from Terra Vox via Flickr

Beer selection in California can be compared to wine selection in Europe. There are hundreds of breweries popping up throughout California showing off IPA’s, lagers, stouts, fruity beers, darker-than-Guinness-beers, organic beers, and much much more. A road trip through the state will not only give you an eyegasm, gut your taste buds will be sure to fall in love with many local beers that are finding their ways into the spotlight of so many local eateries. Not all of the breweries are producing top grade beers, but these six beers are from breweries that have captured the hearts of true beer enthusiasts and amateurs alike.

Firestone DBA, Firestone Walker Brewery- Central Coast

Firestone Walker, originally SLO Brewing Company recently relocated to Paso Robles where it produces just a few different ales. The beer that started it all is the Double Barrel Ale (DBA), which is loaded with vanilla and toasted oak flavors- maybe from the 60-gallon oak barrels, perhaps.

The DBA is rich in flavor and hold a beautiful amber hue, but do not think for a second that it is weak…this beer is strong, smooth, and sweet, but nothing is in excess. The first sip is caramel, but it transitions into a deep oakey center. The hops make themselves known in the tangy finish of the beer.  Firestone uses the old Burton Union System, which takes this beer as close as you can get to authentic English ale.

The Paso Robles Brewery is a great place to go and taste the wonders of this beer, but it is much better drank next to a tri tip sandwich at their restaurant in downtown San Luis Obispo!

Appearance: White cascading head on top of a dark apricoty amber bodied ale.

First Sip: Oak tones with a hint of bitterness

Mouth feel: Carbonation is not here, drinks like a cognac.

Finish: Vanilla hints with a burst of hops.

Tower 10, Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – San Diego

For anybody looking for a deep, dark, hop screaming IPA, Tower 10 has it all!  From the first sip to the finish, the beer is all hops with a twinge of citrus notes in the middle. The dark caramel color can intimidate the faint at heart (and knock them off their feet after two pints).  Tower 10 is a sipper and goes nicely with the En Fuego Jalapeno Burger offered at Karl Strauss’s eatery.

The beer, much like its brewery has a unique history. Tower 10 came about in the 1930s on Mission Beach near tower 10 by two college graduates and a beer master who had one foot in the grave. It would be the first local beer to be put into production after Prohibition ended.  The actual brewpub itself would not open for fifty more years. Back then, they sold a meager four different types of ale, now the brewery offers more than thirty styles of beer including the six staple beers, and chock full of seasonal  and specialty beers.

Be sure to check out one of the many locations in San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles whenever you pass through town. This beer will find a special place in your belly to give you all of the butterflies needed to fall in love all over again…with beer.


First Sip: Citrus and pine with malted yumminess.

Mouth feel: Medium body, resiny

Finish: smooth, hops, hops, hops

Great White, Lost Coast Brewery- Eureka

The Lost Coast Brewery situated in Eureka, Ca is the 46th largest brewery in the United States and has a basketful of beers that range from dark to the palest of pales. Great White is delight in the pale ale realm. It boasts a citrusy, clean, malted ale taste that pairs with just about anything. It holds medals and awards from the LA County Fair, California State Fair, and many more events.

Appearance: Golden yellow with white foamy head

First Sip: Sweet, orange, lemon grass, and cloves.

Mouth feel:  Smooth and carbonated with a tangy fizzle.

Finish:  Crisp and smooth

Anchor Steam, Anchor Brewing, San Francisco

Anchor Steam in San Fran is all about traditional American brewing. The beer is almost completely handmade with the exception for some modern techniques.  Anchor Steam is rich, full-bodied, and carries a deep amber hue and creamy head.

The beer found its way in the world in the 19th century and was named for the style of brewing done on the West Coast during that era (primitive and without ice).  To this day, the brewery maintains as many traditional and antique methods of crafting beer, which give it an edge in the beer industry. Anchor Steam is truly a California beer.

Appearance:  Carries a slight head with no lacing and a pale, cloudy yellow hue

First Sip:  Rich like an IPA, caramel tones, citrusy

Mouth feel: medium-bodied, but thin textured with a hint of creaminess and good carbonation

Finish:  Light and dry

Arrogant Bastard Ale, Stone Brewing, San Diego

Arrogant Bastard is just what it proclaims. It is rough, dark, loaded with bitter hop goodness, and a swift kick in the butt. Just like any arrogant bastard, it grows on you.  The bottles are large and will satisfy the thirst of many or just one if you can handle it.

Stone Brewery is responsible for this beer and many other dark, hop-filled, secret recipe beers that fill the shelves of local San Diego shops and restaurants. The brewery offers jugs and kegs that can be brought back and refilled, making this beer a true at home staple for local San Diegans.

Appearance: Deep coppery caramel hue topped with a cream-colored head. Laced all of the way down.

First Sip: Very strong caramel and malted flavors. A bit of hops throughout.

Mouth feel:   Full bodied and medium carbonation.

Finish: A clean finish that leaves a sweet dry aftertaste.

Grizzly Brown Ale, Snowshoe Brewery, Arnold

The Snowshoe Brewery is hidden in the foothills of Northern California brewing some of the most distinct beers in the market. Beers similar to hefeweizens, oatmeal stouts, pale ales, porters, wheats…you name it, they make it, but there is one beer here that is unique to them all: the Grizzly Brown Ale. The Grizzly Brown Ale is the darkest ale in the brewery’s repertoire and boasts a roasted malt character and medium hop finish.  The beer is brewed with five different malts giving it a smooth and tasty finish.

Appearance:  Carries a slight head with no lacing and a pale, cloudy yellow hue

First Sip:  Rich like an IPA, caramel tones, citrusy

Mouth feel: medium-bodied, but thin textured with a hint of creaminess and good carbonation

Finish:  Light and dry

As breweries in California make audacious stabs at the craft of beer, a beer enthusiast can only hope the more innovators step on stage to vie for a slot in the local brewery spotlight. The next time that you are in California, or if you already live here, check out on of the breweries mentioned above and give the beers a fighting chance— maybe they will give you one as well.

A creative and health conscious journalist pursuing dual degrees in nutritional biochemistry and literature.


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