Peanut Butter Cup Porter from Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Karl Strauss debuted this brew at last year's San Diego Beer Week, and all 80 kegs of it were reportedly drained in just five days. After having a chance to sample it for myself, that comes as no surprise. Brewed with chocolate malt, caramel malt, peanut butter and cocoa nibs, it's decadent and sweet, but multi-layered enough to hold your interest for a full pint (or two). The frothy head and finish of this 5.6 percent ABV porter reminded me a lot of root beer.
Witch's Hair Pumpkin from Manzanita Brewing
This seasonal experimental ale is made with the traditional pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove) and brewed with over 30 pounds of pumpkin per barrel. This year's batch went heavier on the pumpkin flavor and lighter on the spices compared to last year's edition. With its sweet undertones of vanilla and molasses, it would taste great paired with a slice of pumpkin pie or your holiday bird.
Apricot/Peach Hefeweizen from Indian Joe Brewing
This aggressively fruity beer stood out as one of my personal favorites, though I'll admit I have a bias toward apricot beers. Initially, the flavor is so fruit-forward it tastes like a stone fruit shandy, but its sour finish gives it an unexpected complexity. At 8.2 percent ABV, it also goes down surprisingly easy.
Peanut Butter Milk Stout from Belching Beaver Brewery
I got in line for a sample of this smooth and creamy stout that's brewed with lactose, rolled oats, and peanut butter right before a horde descended. Word must have spread fast because several brewers, in addition to festival attendees, were anxious for a taste of this silky-smooth brew. With notes of coffee, chocolate, nuts, and cream, this 5.3 percent ABV stout would taste great paired with dessert, but I'd rather have it for breakfast (with a doughnut or two).
Founding Fathers Nut Brown Ale from Legacy Brewing Company
This malty brew made with Horizon and Willamette hops offered notes of caramel and chocolate—it's an easy-drinking dark beer that's well suited to San Diego's mild winter weather.
Hef-U-Up from Prohibition Brewing Co
This refreshing wheat ale has a citrusy backbone, and a sweet caramel finish that makes for some seriously delicious drinking. The name hints at the 8 percent ABV and serves as a playful warning. Watch out, or before you know it, this beer will mess you up.
Hibiscus Wheat from Aztec Brewing Company
Floral, fruity, and spicy flavors were all present in this crisp 4.7 percent ABV wheat beer from Aztec Brewing Company. I loved the interplay between the citrusy overtones and the hints of ginger and allspice on the finish.