I'm occasionally caught off guard by breweries that fly under the radar. As a suburbanite, my exposure to local beer can be limited to what's represented on the shelves of my local bottle shop. I suspect this is the case with many consumers who might venture out to breweries but then favor familiar beers.
So I was fortunate when a planned family outing to Legoland was rained out, and we diverted to Rip Current Brewing Company (1325 Grand Ave.) in San Marcos. Rip Current is fresh off its gold medal showing at the 2015 Great American Beer Fest, and the tasting room was abuzz with eager beer lovers looking for a taste of the Very Small Brewing Company of the Year.
The family-friendly tasting room was accommodating enough for my brooding 7-year-old. He was a little steamed to be at a brewery and not an amusement park, but the available board games were enough to keep him entertained while I got to work. In line with the recent trend of "San Diego-style" pale ales that are a little more "IPA" than "PA" was its Pearling Pale Ale. I'm not complaining. This Mosaic and Amarillo-hopped brew delivered serious hop flavor, punching way above its 5.5 percent ABV weight class. Rip Current's Breakline Bock took home gold in the category, and its clean, robust flavor leaves little doubt as to why.
But if I had to name one beer that speaks to the brewing prowess behind the scenes at Rip Current, it would be the Caught in a Rip IIIPA. This 11.2 percent ABV bomb delivers a dangerously drinkable sledgehammer of hops with little to no booziness. Beer geeks may wait in hour-long lines for 8-ounce pours of Russian River's Pliny the Younger every spring, but Caught in a Rip is a world-class triple IPA right in our own backyard. A North Park location, which opened earlier this year, means the long drive north is not required—nor are the lines, crowds and hype. That could be changing, however. A medal at GABF can do funny things for a brewery. The staff at Rip Current estimated traffic in the San Marcos tasting room is up by at least a third, with out-of-town beer tourists making last-minute additions to their itineraries to facilitate a visit. And if my July column on Santee breweries wasn't enough to motivate a trip east, perhaps the gold medal BNS Brewing (10960 Wheatlands Ave.) won in the crowded American IPA category for its Revolver IPA will.
There are now in the county, most of which you will not find clamoring for shelf space at BevMo.