Karl Strauss

Of all the beers that we’ve reviewed here for Hangover School, we’re a bit disappointed to have left out one of the most popular of local breweries in the San Diego area.

Karl Strauss, the namesake for the brewery, was born in Germany in 1912 on the premises of his father’s brewing company. At the age of 27, Karl emigrated to America and began a career on the bottling line at Pabst. By the 60s, Karl had worked his way up to Vice President of Production, a position he held for another 20 years.

In 1986, three years after Karl’s retirement from Pabst, his cousin Chris approached him about forming a microbrewery in San Diego. He was so passionate about the project that he lent his name, face, and voice to the brewery. Karl even served as Master Brewer until his passing in 2006. He was a man truly dedicated to his beer.

“My life’s work has been brewing and if I had to do it over again, I would pursue the same path, which is to say I have no regrets.”

Karl M. Strauss

Of their astounding repertoire, we sampled four to share with you today.

Red Trolley Ale:

Perhaps the most popular of their collection, Red Trolley won the gold medal at both the 2010 and 2012 World Beer Cup, as well as both the 2010 and 2013 Great American Beer Festival. The ale was originally brewed as the first holiday beer and filled with caramel malts. It’s rounded out with hops for a perfectly balanced ale. It’s at 5.8% ABV and only 17 IBUs, a good strong ale without being too bitter.

Amber Ale:

Karl Strauss goes above and beyond with their Amber, using imported malts from Munich to give an authentic Vienna-style flavor. It’s not quite as caramelized as the Red Trolley, which gives it a nice, crisp taste that’s perfect for any day. This one isn’t nearly as strong as the Red Trolley either, at 18 IBUs and 4.5% ABV.


The brewery has a number of seasonal beers they put out, and this time of year the Oktoberfest is the first we must recommend. Based on the classic Bavarian beer style, in tribute to the world’s biggest beer party! The major ingredients are all imported from Germany to give it a smooth finish. It’s slightly, but only slightly, more bitter than the other two, at about 20 IBUs, which a well balanced 5% ABV.

Windansea Wheat:

We learned something new today, this beer is known as a Hefeweizen, which is a brewed with wheat as well as barley. It’s quite a lovely brew, made with 50% malted wheat and hops. The Windansea Wheat won the silver medal at both the 2011 and 2012 CA State Fair Brew Competitions, as well as the gold medal at the LA County Fair. We highly recommend it, it’s worth all the praise.

If you have a favorite Karl Strauss brew, let us know in the comments below. We’re sure to have another post dedicated to them shortly!

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