The West Coaster ran a series of year-end summary blog posts this week on San Diego's best new breweries, most improved breweries, and best breweries right now. The three lists were not mutually exclusive, but only Karl Strauss made more than one (most improved and best breweries right now). There are so many breweries in San Diego, and I have not tried beers from all the breweries on the list, so I cannot knock the judgement of author Brandon Hernandez or West Coaster.
Stone Brewing. It should be on the list of best breweries right now. I hope the biggest Stone news of the year is not that it cut 5% of its staff, or that head brewer Mitch Steele left, or that it hired a new CEO, or that it opened locations in Berlin and Richmond, Virginia, but that it continues to make great beer. Stone's incredible Enjoy By, which seems to change with every release, is reason alone to put it on the best breweries right now list. Stone's new Ripper Pale Ale, replacing the short-lived Pale Ale 2.0, was released in early November and I expect it to compete with AleSmith's .394 as one of San Diego's best pale ales. Stone's decision to re-release some of its Anniversary Ales in 2016 brought back some stellar beers. My favorite was the 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA. Stone increased its seasonal releases adding a red ale, a citrus wit, and a stout. It has so many good beers that they overshadow the rare miss, like the RuinTen affront.
Stone has been around for so long and is such a craft beer presence, especially here in San Diego, I think people tend to overlook it. That is a mistake. Stone could sit back and just rework its core beers, add a fruit salad of ingredients and repackage the beers as new, but it does not. Yes, Stone does release variations of its core beers, but most importantly it continues to create new exciting beers, like its Arrogant Bastard brand's Who You Callin' Wussie pilsner, the above mentioned seasonal beers, and the many draft-only and experimental beers available at Stone's breweries. To me, Stone does not seem satisfied to rely on its past successes and reputation, but continues to push forward so that its future exceeds its past. That is why Stone is one of the best breweries right now.