4 Non-hoppy San Diego Classics


A few months ago, a friend told me that she was going to a wedding in Virginia and she wanted to bring some classic San Diego beers for the couple as part of her wedding gift. She asked for my recommendations.

The stipulations? The couple doesn’t like hoppy beer. Hey, no problem there–it took me a while to get into IPAs and hops. And there are so many great beers that aren’t bitter!

I love a good list-making project, so I got to work. In making my list, I tried to include beers:
  • from San Diego breweries the out-of-town couple may be familiar with
  • that aren’t too hop-forward
  • that you can find relatively easily

Here are my recommendations for introducing great San Diego beers to non-hop lovers:

  1. Ballast Point Pale Ale As I’ve mentioned, this is my go-to beer. It’s a Kolsch-style pale that’s quite similar to a Pilsner. The difference is that it’s fermented at ale temperature, which gives it a slightly fruitiness. Perfect if you love craft beer but want a lighter brew. 
  2. Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Stout – This is basically a dessert, and they even serve it as a float with vanilla ice cream at the brewery! Rolled oats and lactose add to the creamy body of this beer, and it tastes almost like a Reese’s peanut butter cup.
  3. Alpine Beer Co. Willy – Weird name, but SO good. This is an American Wheat Ale that’s light and creamy. At the brewery, they have a version of this called the “Willy Vanilly” which is made simply by adding a few drops of vanilla extract. I’ve replicated it at home and it’s truly delicious.
  4. Karl Strauss Red Trolley – This malty Irish-style red is everywhere in the city. I typically wouldn’t recommend this to a San Diegan because everyone has had it, but Karl Strauss is our oldest brewery and this is a beer that I really enjoyed when I first got into craft beer. I still like it from time-to-time, and I feel like out-of-towners would appreciate how different and delicious it is.

So, there you have it: a pale, a stout, a wheat ale, and an Irish red. Though San Diego loves its hops, there are so many other wonderful styles that fly under the radar. These are also good options for those who are entering the craft beer scene and want some tried-and-true classics.

Of course, this list is by no means complete. I could go on and on, and I’m sure others have good suggestions, too. Feel free to leave a comment with your own recommendations!

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