Welcome to I Like Beer, a column dedicated to great beers and the stories that go with them. Since 2019, I have co-hosted I Like Beer the Podcast and through the good fortune of meeting beer enthusiasts over the years, I have been allowed a little space to write about beer and beer-related topics here at The Coast News.
There’s truth in the simple advertising. I do like beer. I like the community of craft beer makers and enthusiasts here in San Diego and abroad. I like the convivial nature of beer drinking with friends: telling stories and sharing thoughts. And, I really do like the taste of beer. All kinds.
So, I hope you’ll read along in this article and those to follow joining me in an ongoing journey and conversation about all things beer.
I have previously contributed as a guest columnist to Cheers! North County. My first assignment was the grand opening of South O Brewing in Oceanside in December 2021. I decided South O was also the best place to launch this new column.
In the year and a half of operation, co-owners Joel Steinmetz and Trevor Whitehead have leaned into Whitehead’s Australian roots with a few of their beers and the results are some of the most unique beers you will find in San Diego.
On my visit, the South O team walked me through three beers that both surprised me in flavor and had the added benefit of a little story to go with. The perfect combination for beer talk!
Beer #1: Sea Rover, a New Zealand hoppy pilsner made in collaboration with Mission Brewing featuring Nelson, Cascade and Motueka hops. It is full of hop flavor but light-bodied and easy to drink at 4.9% ABV.
“Sea Rover is essentially an Australian pirate,” Whitehead says. “And since Mission Brewing has a pirate theme, with our Australian roots, it made sense. The beer we made with them at their brewery is named Plunder Down Under.”
Beer #2: Larrikin Lager, an Australian lager fashioned after some of Australia’s most popular macrobrews. It’s a very light, malt-forward style that is hard to find in San Diego. Larrikin is an Australian term for a prankster.
“It’s very unique,” Whitehead says. “It’s modeled after Victoria Bitter, XXXX Gold and XXXX Bitter. We used the same malt and hops to make this. We had to have the ingredients sent over to the states.”
The biggest challenge in brewing Larrikin Lager was doing it without tasting the beers they were modeling. Whitehead would describe the style from memory, and then the experimentation began.
“You don’t quite know what will happen when you’re crafting something or what it might turn into,” Steinmetz says. “We are trying to craft something amazing every day, and that’s the fun of it. And when it happens, it’s beautiful. There’s nothing like it.”
Whatever the process, it turned out to be a hit.
“A lot of Aussies and folks from New Zealand come by and drink it. And they say it’s a little bit of home,” Whitehead says.
Beer #3: Oside Bogan, an Australian pale ale made with Galaxy hops. It’s also a lighter version of the style at 4.5% ABV, but the hoppiness is full-flavored.
According to Whitehead, a bogan is an uncouth, unsophisticated person, rough around the edges and possibly not a pleasure to be around. That was his more polite explanation. The beer may be misnamed because it is an absolute pleasure to drink.
While the beers may be influenced from far away and down under, the focus of South O remains here at home. Its commitment to the community is commendable, as the brewery has helped raise funds for the Oceanside Fire and Police departments.
South O has even brewed a beer with a local principal for the celebration of his retirement. And then hosted the party! Its events feature local bands, weekly trivia and bingo nights and monthly car shows to bring the community together.
At the brewery, I met with members of the Fab Five Brewing Club. The focus on locals and community brings them back to South O regularly.
“We usually go for the Station Five Red, but today we’re drinking the amber ale,” Michael McKenzie says.
It was a unanimous hit, and the second round of ambers assured me that they weren’t just being cordial.
South O Brewing is located at 1575 South Coast Highway, Oceanside. To find out what’s happening at South O Brewing, check out its Instagram: @southobrewingco.
Jeff Spanier is the co-host of I Like Beer the Podcast. Take a listen wherever you get podcasts. Follow Spanier’s adventures on Instagram @ilikebeerthepodcast.