If there's anyone more insufferable than a beer snob, it's a coffee snob. There are, though, plenty of masochistic brewers in town who aim to please both crowds by combining coffee with beer in caffeine-laced alcoholic creations. For the most part, the masochists are succeeding.
Success is no surprise with world-class coffee roasters such as Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, Caffé Calabria, James Coffee Co. and others within San Diego County limits. It stands to reason that craft-centric alliances would be formed with the slightly newer but arguably more powerful beer scene. Craft beer and coffee lovers are probably already familiar with local names such as Bacon & Eggs Imperial Coffee Porter (Pizza Port Brewing Company), Xocoveza Mocha Stout (Stone Brewing/Cerveceria Insurgente) and Hawaiian Speedway Stout (AleSmith Brewing Company/Swell Coffee Co.). Those are just some of the most prominently available local coffee beers, and here are a few more that deserve a chance to shine:
The staff at this Rancho Bernardo-based brewery knows as much about food as it does beer. By combining its 5.1 percent ABV imperial oatmeal milk stout with chocolate from San Francisco and cold-steeped espresso from Mostra, we end up with a delightful pint perfect for breakfast, lunch or dessert.
A defiant brew that disproves the perception "all coffee beers are dark," Bay City Brewing's Coffee Pale Ale emits a crisp aroma with tinges of fruit and earth roasted into a clean 6 percent ABV, finishing with just the perfect amount of roasted bitterness. Reminiscent of Swell's earlier attempts at dry-hopped coffee, this serves as the flip side to the "beer with coffee" phenomenon to give the two delicious vices equal time to shine.
2015 saw downtown San Diego become a true coffee destination with multiple craft coffee outfits opening within months of each other. Arguably one of the best is the East Village's Bean Bar, which rang in its one-year anniversary by collaborating with neighbor Mission Brewery for a coffee IPA, made with its own single-origin Kenya espresso roasted beans. Best paired with something sweet!
Classic chocolate accents are mild, yet omnipresent in this luxurious midnight coffee stout by Culture Brewing Company and Encinitas-based Revolution Roasters. The fair-trade organic beans used in the brew are recommended to enjoy with pastries and breads, making it the perfect selection for this java-heavy beverage.
Coffee Subscription by Modern Times Beer
Technically, Modern Times' monthly coffee subscription is closer to "coffee with a beer background" than coffee beer. But when it commits to a new creation, Modern Times tends to see it through with irritatingly predictable excellence. Its coffee-roasting program remains outstandingly innovative, with some beans barrel aging the same way that master brewers age beers. In some cases, they even use barrel-aged beans in beer that ends up barrel aging. Now that's meta (and not to be missed).