2023 San Diego Beer News Awards winners

Third-annual awards ceremony brings local beer community together to celebrate quality and camaraderie, while honoring standouts past, present and departed

Last night, AleSmith Brewing‘s Miramar tasting room was the site of the third-annual San Diego Beer News Awards (SDBNA) ceremony, an awards-show event with members of the brewing industry, local media and craft-beer scene on-stage and in the audience. Hundreds assembled to cheer on local brewers and find out winners in 29 categories recognizing the best beers, venues, staffers and brewing companies in San Diego County, as voted on by nearly 4,000 San Diego Beer News (SDBN) readers and beer enthusiasts. A total of 33 local breweries were recognized.

Burgeon Beer Co. and Eppig Brewing tied with the most medals, seven apiece, with the latter operation retaining its title as the winningest brewery over the SDBNA’s three-year lifespan. Host brewery, AleSmith, came even with The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing for the second-most total medals at six. North Park Beer Co. racked up the most first-place awards with four, including a best-brewery win in the south region. Best brewery honorees in the other regions were Mcilhenney Brewing (east), Pizza Port Brewing (west), Pure Project Brewing (north) and Societe Brewing (central).

The two individuals who have helmed SDBNA host business AleSmith Brewing, Skip Virgilio (left) and Peter Zien, present the winners in the Niche IPA category (all photos by Jenny Mann Photography)

Seek Beer Co. beat out 11 other brewing operations that debuted in 2022 to win Best New Brewery, while also taking first-place for customer service, edging out last year’s winner in that category, Hopnonymous Brewing. The award for best expansion project went to Pure Project for its North Park satellite tasting room, while Stone Brewing won in overall interior/exterior design for its Escondido flagship brewery-restaurant, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. And a duet of commemorative companion beers from AleSmith—Mr. Padre 2000 and Mr. Padre 3000—took top honors for beer-packaging design.

Four beers garnered first-place finishes for the third straight year: Eppig’s “Festbier” in the German Beer category, North Park Beer’s “Art Is Hard” (Hazy IPA), Pizza Port’s “Bacon & Eggs” (Coffee Beer) and Port Brewing’s “Mongo” (Imperial IPA). Other high-profile beer-style winners included North Park Beer’s “Hop-Fu!” (West Coast IPA), Pure Project’s “Rain” (Pilsner), Jacked Up Brewery’s “Dragon Fruit IPA” (Niche IPA) and Mother Earth Brew Co.’s “Cali Creamin’” (Light Beer/Adjunct Lager). The lattermost category had the third-most entries behind West Coast IPA and Hazy IPA. It was a new category, as were Non-Alcoholic Beer (Athletic Brewing’s “Run Wild IPA”) and Best Food / Menu (Pizza Port).

For the first time ever, SDBNA recognition was expanded to include “Small Brewery Standouts”, smaller-sized operations that almost accumulated enough votes to rank in a category’s top three slots despite having less exposure to voters. Inaugural Small Brewery Standouts included BattleMage Brewing, Bay City Brewing, Craft Coast Beer & Tacos, Five Suits Brewing, Jacked Up Brewery, Seek and Wild Barrel Brewing.

The second-annual Vanguard Brewer Award went to Bagby Beer Co.‘s Jeff Bagby, who was introduced by his wife and business partner, Dande. Unlike other SDBNA honors, this category was voted on exclusively by members of the San Diego brewing industry looking to recognize a veteran brewer who has made a positive impact on the local craft-beer landscape for 10 years or more. As a mentor to many young brewers during his time working for Pizza Port, where he became the winningest brewer in the history of the prestigious Great American Beer Festival, a title he’s sustained following establishment of his own brewpub in 2014, he certainly fit the bill. Bagby joins last year’s Vanguard Brewer Award recipient, The Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur, in this veritable hall of fame.

This year’s Vanguard Brewer Award winner, Jeff Bagby, poses with his partner in every sense, Dande, and Eric Drost from sponsor company BSG

In addition to the elation that comes with winning awards, there was a somber moment in which the owners of O’Brien’s Pub took a moment to remember Bill Snider. A decades-long champion of the local beer scene, Snider frequented that Kearny Mesa bar as well as numerous breweries throughout the county and advanced many San Diegans’ interest in beer through his work as a travel agent leading various brewery-centric tours throughout Europe. Sadly, Snider passed away last December, prompting San Diego Beer News founder Brandon Hernández to establish the Bill Snider Memorial Belgian Ale Award, following a tradition that began in 2021 when the customer-service award was named for Larry Smith, a North County beer fan who passed away in 2020 after many years of supporting local breweries.

As with other award shows, a great deal of entertainment was provided by celebrity presenters. ALT 94.9 FM DJ Jeremy Pritchard and Arthur donned beer helmets and led spectators in an I Believe That We Will Win chorus in light of SDSU‘s upcoming appearance int he NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four. AleSmith owner and Brewmaster Peter Zien presented with the company’s founder and original brewmaster Skip Virgilio, who now heads brewing for Gravity Heights. A pair of professional meteorologists, ABC 10 NewsMegan Parry and East Village Brewing co-founder Aaron Justus, teamed up, as did fellow graphic designers, Fall Brewing owner Dave Lively and California Wild Ales co-owner Bill DeWitt. Bay City Head Brewer Austin Pinder and his former co-worker (and current friend) at Karl Strauss Brewing, Melissa Sanchez, reunited, as did Bagby and his Pizza Port protégé Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes. Meanwhile, two of the local beer scene’s most musical brewmasters, Paul Segura of Karl Strauss and Los Tortugas fame, and Doug Hasker from Puesto Cerveceria and The Barnacles, got the band back together.

ALT 94.9 FM’s Jeremy Pritchard (left) and The Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur outfitted themselves with event-appropriate headgear when announcing winners in the German Beer (Non-Pilsner) category

Presenters also included representatives from the Brewers Association, San Diego Brewers Guild, Girls Pint Out and Women’s Beer Collective, plus the San Diego Humane Society and Paving Great Futures, both of which were beneficiaries of last year’s San Diego Beer News Gives Back charity initiative. There was also involvement from participants in San Diego Beer News’ Homebrew Summer program as well as on-air personalities from 91X FM and CBS 8 / CW 6.

It was a night to remember and one that will help fuel planning and preparation for next year’s SDBNA ceremony, but for now it’s time to take a moment to recognize the breweries and beers that shined brightest. The following are all of the winners from the 2023 San Diego Beer News Awards…


Best Brewery – North Region

  • First Place: Pure Project Brewing (Vista)
  • Second Place: Eppig Brewing (Vista)
  • Third Place: The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing (San Marcos)

Fun Fact: Pure Project received the most votes of any regional Best Brewery winner.

Best Brewery – South Region

  • First Place: North Park Beer Co. (North Park)
  • Second Place: Modern Times Beer (Point Loma)
  • Third Place: Fall Brewing (North Park)

Fun Fact: More than 100 votes separated the first- and second-place winners in this category.

Best Brewery – West Region

  • First Place: Pizza Port Brewing (Carlsbad)
  • Second Place: Burgeon Beer Co. (Carlsbad)
  • Third Place: Belching Beaver Brewery (Oceanside)

Fun Fact: Pizza Port received just one more vote than Burgeon to take first place.

Best Brewery – East Region

  • First Place: Mcilhenney Brewing (Alpine)
  • Second Place: Stone Brewing (Escondido)
  • Third Place: Second Chance Beer Co. (Carmel Mountain Ranch)

Best Brewery – Central Region

  • First Place: Societe Brewing (Kearny Mesa)
  • Second Place: AleSmith Brewing (Miramar)
  • Third Place: Harland Brewing (Scripps Ranch)

Best New Brewery

  • First Place: Seek Beer Co. (North Park)
  • Second Place: South O Brewing (Oceanside)
  • Third Place: Barrel & Stave Brewing (Vista)

Fun Fact: All 12 of the new breweries eligible for this category received multiple votes, with 11 of them receiving more than 20.

Headed by co-owner Dave Ohmer (with trophy), the crew from Seek Beer Co. celebrate winning the Larry Smith Memorial Award recognizing excellence in the area of customer service

Customer Service

  • First Place: Seek Beer Co. (North Park)
  • Second Place: Hopnonymous Brewing (Kearny Mesa)
  • Third Place: Jacked Up Brewery (Escondido)

Expansion Project

  • First Place: Pure Project Brewing Tasting Room (North Park)
  • Second Place: Black Plague Brewing “Purgatory Lounge” (Escondido)
  • Third Place: Societe Brewing Tasting Room (Old Town)

Fun Fact: More than 100 votes separated the first- and second-place winners in this category.

Interior / Exterior Design

  • First Place: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens (Escondido)
  • Second Place: Eppig Brewing “Waterfront Biergarten” (Point Loma)
  • Third Place: The Lost Abbey “The Church” (East Village)

Fun Fact: The same three venues placed in the same order in this category for the second straight year.

Can / Bottle Design

  • First Place: Mr. Padre 2000 & Mr. Padre 3000, AleSmith Brewing (Miramar)
  • Second Place: Keep On Duckin’, Duck Foot Brewing (Miramar)
  • Third Place: Scenic Loop, Pizza Port Brewing (Carlsbad)

Food / Menu

  • First Place: Pizza Port Brewing (Carlsbad)
  • Second Place: BLAH Brewing / Blind Lady Ale House (Normal Heights)
  • Third Place: Craft Coast Beer & Tacos (Oceanside)

Vanguard Brewer Award

Honoree: Jeff Bagby, Bagby Beer Co.


West Coast IPA

  • First Place: Hop-Fu!, North Park Beer Co. (North Park)
  • Second Place: Treevana, Burgeon Beer Co. (Carlsbad)
  • Third Place: The Pupil, Societe Brewing (Kearny Mesa)
  • Small Brewery Standout: Incognito, Jacked Up Brewery (Escondido)

Fun Fact: This category had the second-most nominees with a total of 55, and the top three beers all occupied first place for significant stretches of time.

Hazy IPA

  • First Place: Art Is Hard, North Park Beer Co. (North Park)
  • Second Place: Muntz, Mcilhenney Brewing (Alpine)
  • Third Place: Juice Press, Burgeon Beer Co. (Carlsbad)
  • Small Brewery Standout: Planet Nectaron, Five Suits Brewing (Vista)

Fun Fact: This category had the most nominees with a total of 69.

Imperial IPA

  • First Place: Mongo, Port Brewing (San Marcos)
  • Second Place: …And You Shall Find, Seek Beer Co. / North Park Beer Co. (North Park)
  • Third Place: Mixed Greens, Burgeon Beer Co. (Carlsbad)

Fun Fact: There was no time in which Mongo wasn’t in first place during the voting period.

Niche IPA

  • First Place: Dragon Fruit IPA, Jacked Up Brewery (Escondido)
  • Second Place: The Coachman Session IPA, Societe Brewing (Kearny Mesa)
  • Third Place: White Sage IPA, Blue Fire Brewing (San Marcos)

Fun Fact: White Sage IPA was in first place from the first to the second-to-last day of voting but ended up taking third place by a single vote over the fourth-place beer in this category.

Gene Fielden from sponsor company Bottlecraft presents Eppig Brewing Head Brewer Nathan Stephens with the first-place medal for Best German Beer (Non-Pilsner)

Hoppy Beer (Non-IPA)

  • First Place: Carlsbad Crush Mosaic Pale Ale, Burgeon Beer Co. (Carlsbad)
  • Second Place: Hazy .394 Pale Ale, AleSmith Brewing (Miramar)
  • Third Place: Daddios Pale Ale, Hopnonymous Brewing (Kearny Mesa)

Fun Fact: Carlsbad Crush received more votes in its respective category than any other beer this year.


  • First Place: Rain, Pure Project Brewing (Vista)
  • Second Place: Hoppy Pils, Eppig Brewing (Vista)
  • Third Place: Birdie to Bogey, North Park Beer Co. (North Park)
  • Small Brewery Standout: Perception Czech, BattleMage Brewing (Vista)

Fun Fact: With one day of voting left, four beers were tied for first place, including Bay City’s Fiesta Island and Burgeon’s Clever Kiwi, which both came in one vote under Birdie to Bogey to tie for fourth place.

German Beer (Non-Pilsner)

  • First Place: Festbier, Eppig Brewing (Vista)
  • Second Place: 6th Anniversary Schwarzbier, Eppig Brewing (Vista)
  • Third Place: Oktoberfest, Karl Strauss Brewing (Pacific Beach)
  • Small Brewery Standout: Fest Bier, Seek Beer Co.

Fun Fact: Eppig’s first- and second-place beers missed tying for the top spot by just seven votes.

Belgian Ale

  • First Place: The Harlot Belgian Blonde Ale, Societe Brewing (Kearny Mesa)
  • Second Place: Carnevale Brett Saison, The Lost Abbey (San Marcos)
  • Third Place: The Dorsty Lion Belgian Golden Strong Ale, Hopnonymous Brewing (Kearny Mesa)

UK & Irish Ale

  • First Place: Nut Brown Ale, AleSmith Brewing (Miramar)
  • Second Place: Red Trolley Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing (Kearny Mesa)
  • Third Place: Copper Dragon ESB, BattleMage Brewing (Vista)

Sour Ale (Non-Barrel-Aged)

  • First Place: Fistful of Gummies, Second Chance Beer Co. (Carmel Mountain Ranch)
  • Second Place: Glitz & Glam, Eppig Brewing (Vista)
  • TIE—Third Place: Gose Berries, Northern Pine Brewing (Oceanside)
  • TIE—Third Place: Jazz Hands, Fall Brewing (North Park)

Barrel-Aged Sour / Wild Beer

  • First Place: Red Poppy, The Lost Abbey (San Marcos)
  • Second Place: Framboise de Amarosa, The Lost Abbey (San Marcos)
  • Third Place: Queen of Tarts, Karl Strauss Brewing (Pacific Beach)
  • Small Brewery Standout: Tequila Barrel-aged Gose, Wild Barrel Brewing (San Marcos)

Fun Fact: The Lost Abbey came 15 votes shy of sweeping this category with one of its other nominated beers.

Strong Ale

  • First Place: Wee Heavy, AleSmith Brewing (Miramar)
  • Second Place: Hooded Assassin, BattleMage Brewing (Vista)
  • Third Place: S’mores Pastry Stout, Seek Beer Co. (North Park)

Light Beer / Adjunct Lager

  • First Place: Cali Creamin’ Vanilla Cream Ale, Mother Earth Brew Co. (Vista)
  • Second Place: Buenaveza Salt & Lime Lager, Stone Brewing (Escondido)
  • TIE—Third Place: Japanese Lager, Harland Brewing (Scripps Ranch)
  • TIE—Third Place: Special Lager, Eppig Brewing (Vista)
  • Small Brewery Standout: Al Torque Peruvian Lager, Five Suits Brewing (Vista)

Fun Fact: This first-time category had the third-most nominees with a total of 53.

North Park Beer Co.’s Kelsey McNair (center) and company collecting their medal in the West Coast IPA category from Craft ‘Ohana and Modern Times Beer owner Garrett Marrero (left), Protector Brewery owner Sean Haggerty (second from left) and Mark Amador (second from right) from sponsor Country Malt Group

Barrel-Aged Beer

  • First Place: Bourbon Barrel-aged Macaroons Before Dying, North Park Beer Co. (North Park)
  • Second Place: Monsters Park Vanilla Barrel-aged Imperial Stout, Modern Times Beer (Point Loma)
  • Third Place: Modem Tones Triple Barrel-aged Imperial Stout, Modern Times Beer (Point Loma)
  • Small Brewery Standout: Barrel-aged Gnarlor Pastry Stout, Craft Coast Beer & Tacos (Oceanside)

Coffee Beer

  • First Place: Bacon & Eggs, Pizza Port Brewing (Carlsbad)
  • Second Place: 2AM Bike Ride, Fall Brewing (North Park)
  • Third Place: Barrel-aged Dutchman’s Pipe, Burgeon Beer Co. (Carlsbad)
  • Small Brewery Standout: Gambino Imperial Stout, Bay City Brewing (Point Loma)

Non-Alcoholic Beer

  • First Place: Run Wild IPA, Athletic Brewing (Miramar)
  • Second Place: Non-Alcoholic IPA, AleSmith Brewing (Miramar)
  • Third Place: Athletic Lite, Athletic Brewing (Miramar)

Collaboration Beer

  • First Place: Delta Sequence, Burgeon Beer Co. / North Park Beer Co. / Pure Project Brewing
  • Second Place: …And You Shall Find, Seek Beer Co. / North Park Beer Co.
  • Third Place: A Cold Day in Hell, Fall Brewing / Black Plague Brewing

The 2023 San Diego Beer News Awards were made possible by banner sponsor Yakima Chief Hops, along with the support of categorical sponsors Ale Tales Taproom, Alternative Strategies, Arryved, Bay Bird Public Relations, Beer30 by The 5th Ingredient, Beerwork, Bottlecraft, Brew Hop, BSG CraftBrewing, CLTVT, Country Malt Group, H.G. Fenton / Brewery Igniter, Hauck Architecture, Hoppy Beer Gear, HRVST, John Fearless Company, Katalyst Public Relations, MiraCosta College, OpenTap, Premier Stainless Systems, SDSU Global Campus, Shirts On Tap, TapCraft, Westair, White Labs and Wild West Homebrew Supply Co.

We’d also like to express our heartfelt thanks to our presenters for the evening: Tomme Arthur (The Lost Abbey), Jeff & Dande Bagby (Bagby Beer Co.), Kristine Baker (Women’s Beer Collective), Chris Banker (Barrel & Stave Brewing), Robert Bessone (13 Point Brewing), Tyson Blake (O’Brien’s Pub), Ben “Shaggy” Blaney (My Yard Live Beer Co.), Daniel Cady (TapRoom Beer Co.), Candice Canuso (Girls Pint Out San Diego), Torry Castelo (Jacked Up Brewery), Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes (Pizza Port Brewing), James Cunningham (San Diego Humane Society), Kim Derr (Brewers Association), Bill DeWitt (California Wild Ales), Matt Furman (Furman Photogarphy), Harold Gulbransen (QUAFF), Sean Haggerty (Protector Brewery), Doug Hasker (Puesto Cerveceria), Neda Iranpour (CBS 8/The CW San Diego), Aaron Justus (East Village Brewing), Kris Ketcham (Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station), Simon Lacey (New English Brewing), Dave Lively (Fall Brewing), Jenny Mann (Jenny Mann Photography), Garrett Marrero (Craft ‘Ohana, Maui Brewing, Modern Times Beer), Rachel Maus (Athletic Brewing), Jamie & Shawn Mcilhenney (Mcilhenney Brewing), Jeff Motch (BLAH Brewing), Trent Musho (The BruShow), Marlow Myrmo (Hodad’s Brewing), Tom Nickel (Nickel Beer Co./O’Brien’s Pub), Dave Ohmer (Seek Beer Co.), Jill Olesh (Pizza Port Brewing), Aaron & Anne Ortega (Northern Pine Brewing), Dali & Timothy Parker (Chula Vista Brewery), Megan Parry (ABC 10 News), Austin Pinder (Bay City Brewing), Michael & Caroline Poulson (Jacked Up Brewery), Jeremy Pritchard (ALT 94.9 FM), Romi Rossel (San Diego Brewcycling Collaborative), Melissa Sanchez (Karl Strauss Brewing), Paul Sangster (Rip Current Brewing), Paul Segura (Karl Strauss Brewing), Haley Smith (Belching Beaver Brewery / San Diego Brewers Guild), Danielle Stuht (91X FM), Mitch Tastrom (Mission Brewing), Skip Virgilio (Gravity Heights), Preston Weesner (Wild Barrel Brewing), Marty Whitney (91X FM) and Peter Zien (AleSmith Brewing).

Back to top button