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Delicious Collaborations Close Out Beer Week

Karl Strauss’s Collabapalooza and the Brewers Guild Beer Garden cap San Diego Beer Week in style

By Bruce Glassman

In the craft beer world, something good always comes from collaboration. Nothing highlights this truism more than the two events that ended San Diego Beer Week this year.

Collabapalooza, which took over the parking lot at the Observatory North Park on November 10, brought dozens of local brewers and beer fans together to sip and share unique one-off brews created exclusively through collaborations. On Sunday, the final major event of Beer Week took place overlooking the Pacific Ocean and golf course at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. Known as The Beer Garden, this event featured collaborations across industries; it matched chefs with local brewers to create dishes uniquely tailored to specific San Diego beers.

About three dozen breweries participated in this year’s Collabapalooza (the second annual) and offered attendees more than 80 beers to sample. (Not every one was a collaboration; some of the “extras” were special seasonals or other one-offs.) One of the most enjoyable aspects of the festival was the fact that the beers reflected a real sense of playfulness and creativity among the brewers; it’s obvious from many of the recipes that the beers were the result of the brewers inspiring one another to be creative, if not a little bit crazy.

Some of the most memorable collabs of the day included Hell Bent for Heather Wee Heavy (Amplified and The Taproom), which incorporated heather tips in the boil; a highly aromatic lime IPA called Laser Limes (Eppig and Modern Times); an oaked and double dry-hopped pale ale called Dank & Woody (South Park and Pat Korn); Coco Zombie Milk Stout (The Bell Marker and Pizza Port) which displayed copious flavors and aromas of fresh coconut and coffee; and Michulada Imperial Gose (Karl Strauss and Thr3e Punk Ales) which utilized cilantro, lemon, and sea salt to create a crisp, light, wonderfully refreshing kettle sour.

In addition to the standout collabs, a number of other special beers made big impressions. Resident’s First Snow blonde ale combined coffee, cocoa nibs, vanilla, and coconut in a flavorful but restrained way; Coronado’s Tecolote Kriek was a malty, tart, sour cherry stunner; and SouthNorte’s Pan a Flores Holiday Porter was a soul-warming combination of Mexican comfort spices, chocolate, and caramel malts that worked magic, even on an 80-degree day.

At The Lodge at Torrey Pines, the collaborations were of a different sort, but no less delicious. A total of 14 chefs each offered a special dish to pair with two specific beers. My favorite pairings were many, but top kudos go to Danny Romero (Stone Liberty Station) for his duck with orange, mole negro, and tomatillo paired with Stone’s rich and malty 2015 Old Guardian Barley Wine; Gunther Emmathinger and Corey Rapp (Karl Strauss) for their grilled oysters with beer butter and hop mignonette paired with Karl’s funky and complex 29th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Saison (which was aged in pinot noir barrels with Brettanomyces); Jeffrey Strauss (Pamplemousse) for his Korean glazed smoked pork belly with Asian slaw and purple sweet potato chips, which was outstanding with The Bell Marker’s PJ’s Irish Red (and mind-blowing with Second Chance’s Hazelnut & Rosemary Brown Ale—my “rogue” pairing not on the menu). Brad Wise (Trust)’s BBQ Pork Sundae layered with pulled pork, smoked papas, slaw, and Mermaid Red BBQ Sauce topped with a spiced chicharrón was transformational with Fall’s Devil’s Right Hand amber lager—this was my absolute favorite pairing of the day.

Special mention has to go to chefs Ira Sylvester and Chelsea Thomas (The Lodge at Torrey Pines) for the most out-of-the-box recipe of the day, a dessert: mincemeat pasty with chimney-roasted beet and bacon fat ice cream. Paired with Latchkey’s Dopple Dacker, the combination made for a rich, multilayered umami experience that underscored the sweet components of the dish. Paired with Benchmark’s Table Beer, the fatty, mouth-coating elements in the pasty and ice cream were balanced by crisp acidity and carbonation, which made the beer a slightly spicy, cleansing complement to the food.

Beer Week 2018 is over, but the San Diego spirit of collaboration continues all year long. Special partnerships and projects enable brewers and chefs to hone their skills, broaden their palates, and deepen their knowledge of the culinary and brewing arts. They also provide inspiration, camaraderie, and an opportunity to share new techniques and best practices. Best of all, collaborations often produce unexpected and exciting results that benefit all concerned—especially the beer-food-loving public that gets to savor the fruits of these delicious labors.

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