Ask The Experts: 5 Best Beers According To Brewers

San Diego is Mecca for beer lovers. Whether you find yourself downtown, walking through Ocean Beach, or up north of Miramar driving around the sprawling office parks – you’ll find yourself perpetually surrounded by brewers both big and small. Or, to put it another way, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most discerning beer palates in the nation.

In our minds, the best way to get acquainted with new drinks, food, or gear is to ask the people who know it best. A top chef will likely have more interesting recommendations than your armchair foodie, and by the same token, a recommendation from a world-class brewer is sure to hold more weight than one from your local beer snob. So when we got a chance to talk to some of our favorite beer brewers in San Diego we made sure to ask the experts not only about their favorite beers, but what inspired them to start brewing themselves, and their favorite casual go-tos that they can find anywhere. These are 5 of the best beers – according to the brewers who brew them.

Steve Gonzalez

Senior Manager of Small Batch Brewing at Stone

What beer inspired you to get into brewing?

Probably a three-way tie between Sierra Nevada Porter, Fuller’s London Porter, and Fuller’s London Pride.  They had both been around for a while when I started tasting craft beer and got into homebrewing back in 1991, but these were the first beers I had that were close to perfect for me, and changed the way I looked at beer forever. They all also had medium range alcohol, but packed a ton of flavor and are exceptionally balanced.

What is your go-to beer that you can find anywhere?

Stone Ripper Pale Ale! Sometimes as a brewer you want a beer that expresses hops just beautifully without a ton of complexity beyond what the hop is bringing to the table.  With Galaxy hop being so forward in this beer with a little malt backbone to it, it just hits the spot! Great beer with moderate alcohol, so I can have a couple with dinner on a weekday and not worry about it slowing me down at work the next day.

What is your all-time favorite beer?

Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0. I love Simcoe, Centennial, and Citra hops. Throwing a very generous amount of Azacca in there to add a really awesome melon note to all the citrus and stone fruit character that those other hops bring to the table makes for an exceptionally complex IPA. Plus it has just that right amount of dankness that hop heads like me crave. When we first released this one, I felt pretty strongly that it was simply the best beer Stone had ever made. 

Travis Smith

Brewmaster at Societe

What beer inspired you to get into brewing?

There was no ‘one beer’ that inspired me to get into brewing. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Early in my beer drinking career I enjoyed trying beers that I haven’t tasted before. It was this exploration that inspired me to start brewing. I wanted to see what else could be created.

What is your go-to beer that you can find anywhere?

I tend to drink local wherever I may be. If that is not possible, or if the local offering is not up to par, then Sierra Nevada Pale Ale would be my “go-to.” It is always delicious and well made, and there is no other beer that I could find anywhere that I could fall back on that I would have as good of a chance finding fresh as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

What is your all-time favorite beer?

Although it may appear as being biased, I wouldn’t be able to answer this question honestly otherwise. My current all time favorite beer is The Harlot, from Societe Brewing Company. Beers that are also my favorite beers, include Taras Boulba, and Drei Fonteinen Oude Geuze.

Nick Marron

Head Brewer at Saint Archer

What beer inspired you to get into brewing?

My inspiration beer to get into brewing was Sharkbite Red, from Pizza Port. At the time, I had just gotten a job making pizzas at Pizza Port in San Clemente, and was learning about beer from the brewer there. The “signature beer” they were making was Sharkbite, so that was the first one I chose to try. It was unlike anything I had ever had and intrigued me to learn more about beer.

What is your go-to beer that you can find anywhere?

My go-to beer that I can find anywhere is Pacifico. Most brewers will tell you that all beer has a time and a place, and for me, Mexican lagers are the beers that I can drink any time, any place.

What is your all-time favorite beer?

Cantillon Vigneronne. We had a visit from Cantillon’s Jean Van Roy, and one of the bottles he left for us was this beer. He’s a giant in the beer world, and a gift like that made the already special beer, that much more amazing.

Jacob McKean

CEO and Founder at Modern Times

What beer inspired you to get into brewing?

Three Floyd’s Gumballhead. I love sessionable beers with a ton of aroma and complexity, and this beer inspired me to see if I could make my own

What is your go-to beer that you can find anywhere?

Well, in Southern California, it would be Modern Times Fortunate Islands. The nice thing about owning the brewery is that we make beers exactly to my taste, so that’s convenient.

What is your all-time favorite beer?


Paul Segura

Brewmaster at Karl Strauss

What beer inspired you to get into brewing?

It was a homebrew I tried in the late ’80s called Monkey Paw Brown Ale. I was working in a boatyard in San Diego and one of the carpenters brought in a bottle of his own homebrew. It inspired me to then start home brewing myself in 1989.

What is your go-to beer that you can find anywhere?

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – it’s consistent and good, and it goes with a broad range of foods. I love this beer for what it is and I appreciate all of the skill and talent that goes into making it.

What is your all-time favorite beer?

Liefmans Goudenband, a Belgian Brown Ale. If you can, find a bottle that’s two or more years older. It’s truly Rousseauvian — a perfect blend of old beer and new beer, sweet and sour, and has the perfect balance of everything I’m looking for.

30 Craft Beers To Drink Before You Die

Whether you are an aspiring brewer or just a craft beer novice, check out our list of the 30 best craft beers out there that you have to try before kicking the bucket.

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