San Diego's Craft Beer Guide
Breweries, brewpubs & beer bars!
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Our Beer Legend
BREWERY: A facility where beers are produced for commercial sale.
NANO BREWERY: A brewing facility in the smallest production class.
BREW PUB: An eatery with in-house brewing capabilities.
CONTRACT BREWER: San Diegans who brew at a facility outside San Diego but sell it here.
Stone Brewing Co.
No single company has done as much to turn the rest of the country on to San Diego’s incredible craft brewing scene. Its Arrogant Bastard Ale, a super-hopped red ale, turned heads and became a talking point for beer connoisseurs everywhere who, in discovering Stone, also discovered high-caliber companies like AleSmith and Ballast Point. Now the 14th largest craft brewery in America, Stone is branching out. Later this year it’ll open version 2.0 of its Escondido restaurant, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, at a site in Liberty Station. Back in North County, it’s expanding its brewery and preparing for construction of a craft beer first—a brewery-owned hotel for beer tourists. 1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido, stonebrew.com
Aztec Brewing Company / Seven Nations Brewing Co.
Headed by a tribe of SDSU alums reviving a defunct brand from the 1940s, ABC brews beers like Agave Wheat and Chipotle IPA that fuse San Diego style with Mexican culture. It also offers Celtic varieties under the Seven Nations brand. 2330 La Mirada Drive, Vista, aztecbrewery.com
Iron Fist Brewing Company
This brewery has rocketed to North County fame behind a wide-ranging lineup of Belgian beers like the fruity Hired Hand Saison and the obsidian Velvet Glove barrel-aged imperial stout. Given how deliciously smooth and chocolaty that last one is, one has to wonder how phenomenal the beers will be after 22-year-old brewmaster Brandon Siemniski does some aging of his own. 1305 Hot Springs Way, Vista, ironfistbrewing.com
Latitude 33º Brewing Company
Just two months after debuting in the old Green Flash brewery space, former Alpine and Back Street brewer Kevin Buckley is racking up kudos for well-constructed beers like his Pascha’s Rye Brown, a medium-bodied brew that tastes like a fresh loaf of pumpernickel. Restraint and balance are the name of Buckley’s game. Nothing is overly hopped—not even his IPA. 1430 Vantage Court, Vista, lat33brew.com
The Craft Brewers Conference, the craft brewing industry’s largest annual trade event, will be held in San Diego this month. The World Beer Cup will also hit town.
Mother Earth Brew Co.
This peace, love, and rock ‘n’ roll-themed operation started as a homebrew store with three heavy metal pots perched atop burners. Two years later, owner and head brewer Dan Love is working with the City to open up a combination homebrew store and tasting bar in Old Town Vista, converting its current location into a production facility where it can pump out more beers like the impressive 12 percent ABV triple IPA, Big Mother. 2055 Thibodo Road, Vista, motherearthbrewco.com
Back Street Brewery
With its commitment to craft brewing, Orange County-based pie chain Lamppost Pizza fits so well into the San Diego scene, most are unaware it’s not another local brew-centric biz. The longest tenured brew house in Vista, it serves as a constant reminder of pizza and beer’s sumptuous symbiosis. 15 Main Street, Vista, lamppostpizza.com/backstreet
Prohibition Brewing Company
There’s a father-son dynamic at work in the brew house of this meat-happy restaurant located in north Vista. Go for a brew as beefy and full-bodied as their sausage, steak, or bacon mac ‘n’ cheese. 2004 East Vista Way, Vista, prohibitionbrewingcompany.com
Oceanside Ale Works
Hosting wild business park throwdowns provided this brewing company the following and capital to move into its larger current facility in 2010. Sample the Buccaneer Blonde, made with a bit of honey. 1800 Ord Way, Oceanside, oceansidealeworks.net
Breakwater Brewing Company
On the Oceanside Strand, this spacious watering hole brings a dose of locally produced, on-site and guest craft beer offerings. The Railside Red never tastes better than when it’s paired with 50-cent wing nights on Thursdays. 101 North Coast Highway, Oceanside, breakwaterbrewing.com
This off-the-beaten-path hideaway brews beers fortified by edibles like ginger root, cinnamon, and Julian pears. 5674 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, ottbrew.com
Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey
Port’s Mongo IPA and Red Barn Ale from the company’s continental Lost Abbey line are great year-round beers, but its specialties are the stuff that makes beer nerds drool. Its unparalleled barrel-aging program yields some of the most beautifully bright, fruity, and acidic sours and dark, oaken stouts in the craft beer universe. With so much to offer and a cult following like no other, it’s no wonder this two-headed behemoth was named the best small brewing company of the year shortly after opening in 2006. 155 Mata Way, San Marcos, portbrewing.com, lostabbey.com
San Marcos Brewery & Grill
Entering this Restaurant Row mainstay is like stepping into the early days of San Diego craft brewing. While breweries everywhere are boosting the hops and alcohol on basic beer styles and creating new-wave hybrids, brewer Dave Nutley is sticking to standards like his California Pale Ale and Premium Golden Ale, both of which are as at home on his draft menu now as they were in the mid-’90s. 1080 West San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos, sanmarcosbrewery.com
Stumblefoot Brewing Co.
Brothers Bill Randolph and Pat Horton have been homebrewing together for more than a decade. This February, they boosted themselves to the next level with their latest side trip off North County’s sudsy State Route 78 corridor. Try award-winning recipes including the Chipotle Porter. 1784 La Costa Meadows Drive, San Marcos, stumblefoot.com
Julian Brewing Company
Before taking over ownership of Kearny Mesa’s venerable O’Brien’s Pub, Tom Nickel brewed at Oggi’s and Pizza Port Solana Beach. Since then, the Julian resident has continued to hop up the local scene, organizing long-running festivals and opening West Coast BBQ and Brew in La Mesa and The Bailey Wood Pit Barbecue in Julian. The latter is owned by Nickel and partners Vince and Gina Marsaglia of Pizza Port fame. Save room for pie… and beer. No trip is complete without a pint of JBC’s crisp, refreshing flagship Bailey Pale Ale. 2307 Main Street, Julian, baileybbq.com
El Cajon Brewing Company
The City of El Cajon’s decision makers recognize how much the addition of a local source for handcrafted beer can bolster a community. They were so gung-ho on bringing this business to their downtown area, they contributed city funds to the project. An early return on investment came in March 2012, when ECBC took second place in the recent Tap Hunter Brewery Awards. 110 North Magnolia Avenue, El Cajon, elcajonbrewingco.com
Manzanita Brewing Company
From day one, this brewery’s tasting room has rivaled full-on bars as a popular haunt for East County beer lovers. Regulars are eagerly awaiting the day when owner/brewer Garry Pittman and company throw open the doors to a much larger facility on Mission Gorge Road. Such a loyal following is well deserved for a company with so much hometown pride at its core. Try the Riverwalk Blonde or Gillespie Brown Ale. 9962 Prospect Avenue, Santee, manzanitabrewing.com
Cold Bore Brewing Company
Founded by a former Navy SEAL, this newbie isn’t yet open to the public, but its inaugural double IPA, First Shot Ale, is available at hop spots throughout East County. 13381 Campo Road, Jamul, coldborebrewing.com
Alpine Beer Co.
The faraway brewpub makes only enough beer to supply a handful of local bars, so beer enthusiasts flock here to pick up as many bottles as they can of rarified hop harriers like Exponential Hoppiness; Duet and Nelson IPAs, and the maltier, yet every bit as artisanal Odin’s Raven imperial stout and Chex Monieux (pronounced “shame on you”) cherry-infused Belgian-style kriek. 2351 Alpine Boulevard, Alpine, alpinebeerco.com
Coronado Brewing Company
The islanders behind this Crown City brewpub are moving their operations to the mainland. Their new 22,000-square-foot production brewery in Tecolote Canyon will give them room to grow their business as well as their new Coronado Collection, a series of barrel-aged beers that kicked off last year with a vanilla- and caramel-rich barleywine. The new digs will also have a tasting room. Try the Blue Bridge Coffee Stout, which has a java-heavy body that belies its low ABV. 170 Orange Avenue, Coronado; 1205 Knoxville Street, Tecolote Canyon, coronadobrewingcompany.com
The Brew House at Eastlake
This neighborhood brewpub is San Diego’s southernmost center for local suds. Nothing like a nice Bonita Blonde or Otay Lakes Oatmeal Stout along with Friday night DJs and live music. 871 Showroom Place, Chula Vista, brewhouseeastlake.com
Downtown: & Normal Heights
Not only did owner Dan Selis breathe new life into a decades-dead brewery brand, he fueled Mission Brewery Plaza’s rebirth as an operating brewery facility and redesigned the old Wonder Bread building adjacent to Petco Park into a tailgate-friendly hops spot. Note for Padres fans: Mission offers keg delivery to the ballpark’s brewery-abutting parking lot. 1441 L Street, East Village, missionbrewery.com
Automatic Brewing Co.
Your best bet for getting a sip of owner and former Stone Brewing Co. brewmaster Lee Chase’s creations is at inner-city festivals, as he’s known for putting out small batches here and there. But hopefully, when his Tiger! Tiger! Tavern matures, sampling his work will be easier. 3416 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights, automaticbrewingco.com
The Beer Co.
The 2010 arrival of this brewpub gave downtown denizens exactly what they lacked—an urban oasis offering a house-made alternative to the big brand beers dominating the Gaslamp’s tap lists. Hit them up at happy hour, when house beers are $3.50. 602 Broadway, downtown, sdbeerco.com
Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery
Late last year, beer bar innovator Scot Blair went from procuring kegs of fine handcrafted beer to owning his own brewpub. A self-admitted “average homebrewer,” he enlisted overachieving local brew monkey Derek Freese to bring his ideas for interesting, rarely seen styles like their Oatmeal Pale Ale to life. The result is more exceptional beer from a guy whose empire of venues—Hamilton’s Tavern, Small Bar, Bar Eleven—is built on just that. 805 16th Street, East Village, monkeypawbrewing.com
In the Middle
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
What started as a humble brewery in the back of a Linda Vista supply shop has evolved into the reigning best small brewing company in the world (awarded by the World Beer Cup, the Olympics of beer). San Diegans are lucky to have easy access to brews like the tropically hop-assertive Sculpin IPA and Victory at Sea, a velvety imperial porter brewed with vanilla and coffee from North Park’s Caffe Calabria. Ballast Point recently expanded its main facility in Scripps Ranch, adding a new, lengthy tasting bar with extra space for the county’s only craft distillery. Only two years old, that side project has already garnered industry kudos for its Devil’s Share Whiskey. Overachieve much? 10051 Old Grove Road, Scripps Ranch; 5401 Linda Vista Road, Linda Vista, ballastpoint.com
San Diego Brewing Company
This spot was years ahead of the craft beer renaissance thanks to its installation of a multi-handled tap system loaded with microbrews and beers straight from SDBC’s tanks. The latter is also available at sister restaurant, Callahan’s Pub, in Mira Mesa. 10450 Friars Road, Mission Valley, sandiegobrewing.com
Amplified Ale Works
J.C. Hill, owner of Mission Beach’s California Kebab, beefed up his operation by installing a small brewing rig and bringing homebrew recipes (coming soon!) to his carnivorous clientele. 4150 Mission Boulevard, Mission Beach, cali-kebab.com
Pacific Beach Ale House
There are more bars in PB than any other part of the city, but most of them deal in fizzy yellow macro-lager. Grab a seat on this brewpub’s rooftop deck and literally turn your back on such operations while simultaneously taking in a Whitewash Wheat and the sun setting over the Pacific. 721 Grand Avenue, Pacific Beach, pbalehouse.com
Societe Brewing Company
Brewers Travis Smith and Doug Constantiner bring double shots of youth and pedigree to previously brewery-free Kearny Mesa with the installation of a three-pronged palate attack. The duo, who’ve logged time at some of the country’s most critically acclaimed breweries, produce both a hop-centric line of West Coast-style beers (pale ales and IPAs) and a separate array inspired by traditional Old World Belgian brews. Part three will come in 2014 when they start releasing barrel-aged dark ales and sours. The waiting is the hardest part. 8262 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Kearny Mesa, societebrewing.com
Quality across an expansive breadth of diverse beer styles is the calling card for this long-esteemed operation, named the country’s best small brewing company at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival. Owner, brewer, and master beer judge Peter Zien has tripled the space at his facility. The most recent expansion involved doubling the tasting room, adding ample space for sampling everything from the ultra-piney AleSmith IPA to the tamed 12 percent ABV chocolate-coffee beast that is his critically acclaimed Speedway Stout. Should you happen on a barrel-aged or otherwise supped-up version of that last one around town, don’t think, just order two and brace yourself for something extraordinary. 9368 Cabot Drive, Miramar, alesmith.com
Rough Draft Brewing Company
The newest addition to the Miramar/Mira Mesa area, this brewery’s taking on numerous global beer styles in the most non-committal means ever seen in San Diego. Owner and brewer Jeff Silver is starting out with rough drafts he plans on tweaking based on feedback from customers. Skip Yelp and issue your constructive criticism in person. 8830 Rehco Road, Miramar, roughdraftbrew.com
Social media savvy and a wide-ranging rotation of small-batch beers has made this small yet solid company a huge hit. Enough so that owner Mike Hess is set to jump beyond the nano ranks via a new, larger production facility opening in North Park later this year. For now, enjoy beers like Amplus Acerba pale ale and Ex Umbris imperial stout. They’re worth deciphering Latin for and best enjoyed at Hess’ Friday Afternoon Club events, where TGIFers converge for sampling brews and food and playing catch with Hess’s unofficial canine mascot, Hudson (though owner Michael Hess calls him Muttley). 7955 Silverton Avenue, Miramar; 3812 Grim Avenue, North Park (coming soon), hessbrewing.com
One of the country’s largest yeast production companies took a huge step outside the box in its quest to highlight the major role yeast strains play in a beer’s overall taste profile, constructing an in-house tasting bar where beers brewed by the company’s lab technicians and the country’s popular pro brewers are split into identical batches, each fermented using a totally different type of yeast. The result—completely different final products. Science lessons never tasted so good. 9495 Candida Street, Miramar, whitelabs.com
Wet ‘N Reckless Brewing
Less than a mile south of Green Flash’s goliath-like facility is its complete antithesis—a tiny start-up celebrating the adventurous nature of amateur brewing, despite jumping to the professional arena earlier this year. Its brewers buck the purist trend by using extracts in some of their beers to attain the flavor profile they’re looking for. 10054 Mesa Ridge Court, Mira Mesa, wetnreckless.com
Green Flash Brewing Company
If there’s one brewery that most embodies San Diego’s trademark hop-’til-you-drop brewing mentality, it’s this fast-growing juggernaut. Green Flash produces a triple IPA called Palate Wrecker and even its stouts and maltier Belgian beers benefit from generous botanical bolstering. For brewmaster Chuck Silva, more bitter equals mo’ better, and beer enthusiasts agree. Nationwide sales of beers like the West Coast IPA allowed the brewers to move from their longtime home in Vista to a sprawling 44,000-square-foot facility in Mira Mesa (one they’re already scheduled to outgrow within the next year). Along the way, they’ve risen in the ranks, battling Karl Strauss as the second largest brewery in San Diego county. 6550 Mira Mesa Boulevard, Mira Mesa, greenflashbrew.com
New English Brewing Company
Who better to educate us on the virtues of traditional UK beers than a proper Englishman? Wallasey-born and -raised Simon Lacey used to brew all of his beers at Mission Brewery Plaza, but recently opened his very own combination brewhouse and beer engine-equipped tasting bar in Sorrento Valley. His pub-friendly flagship Explorer ESB, an archetypal iteration of a British extra special bitter, is a beer style very rarely seen in Southern California. 11545 Sorrento Valley Road, Sorrento Valley, newenglishbrewing.com
A biochemist who rubbed elbows with Nobel laureates, Jim Crute utilizes his extensive science know-how as the county’s foremost producer of lagers. From a crisp pilsner with a sturdy hop backbone to a refreshing Hefeweizen rife with flavors of banana and clove, he rounds out San Diego’s ale-centric scene. 13200 Kirkham Way, Poway, lightningbrewery.com
All Over the Map
Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Twenty-three years after becoming San Diego’s first post-Prohibition brewery, this groundbreaking company shows no signs of slowing down. This fall, the company will finish a grand-scale renovation of its Pacific Beach production brewery, including a tasting room, outdoor beer garden, and upstairs decks with sweeping overhead views of the place where most of Uncle Karl’s magic is made. It’s the perfect place to enjoy some of the brewers’ innovative new concoctions, like the barrel-aged Old Ale cooked up to celebrate the 23rd anniversary. Carlsbad, downtown, La Jolla, Sorrento Mesa, Pacific Beach, karlstrauss.com
This San Diego institution was the starting point for some of the county’s most heralded brewing talent (Tomme Arthur, Jeff Bagby, Tom Nickel). Over the past two decades, Pizza Port’s brew crew has collaborated to create dozens of exceptional, textbook iterations of beer styles from around the world. That mastery has led to the chain’s Carlsbad location being named best large U.S. brewpub of the year in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Not to be outdone, Pizza Port OB nabbed best small U.S. brewpub of the year in 2011 behind the beers of head brewer (and one of San Diego Magazine’s 50 People to Watch) Yiga Miyashiro. Look for this stellar hometown success story to add a new chapter when it opens a large restaurant-affixed production brewery at Carlsbad’s Bressi Ranch development. Carlsbad, Ocean Beach, Solana Beach, pizzaport.com
Don’t write off this brewery restaurant just because it’s a chain. Brewer Doug Hasker produces some of the best, most true-to-form lager beers in the county. 5010 Mission Center Road, Mission Valley, gordonbiersch.com
Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company
Several of the San Diego company’s beers (now produced by Left Coast Brewing) have made waves on a global scale, notably the Black Magic Stout and McGarvey’s Scottish Ale, both of which were named the best beers of their respective styles in the entire world at the World Beer Cup. Carmel Mountain, Carmel Valley, Eastlake, Liberty Station, Mission Valley, Santee, Encinitas, oggis.com
Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
Many mistakenly believe the beers at each of this nationwide chain’s brewpubs are exactly the same, but the beer board at each location is populated by selections created by individual brewmasters. Rock Bottom’s La Jolla brew house is presided over by San Diego Brewers Guild president Marty Mendiola, whose Moonlight Porter was named the number one robust porter in the country last year. 8980 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla, 401 G Street, downtown, rockbottom.com
Off the Map
Butcher’s Brewing Company
Local artisan Rey Knight is already well known for the charcuterie skills he displayed with his old company, Knight’s Salumi. Nowadays, he’s pursuing his other longtime passion—craft brewing. The result are beers like his tropical Mucho Aloha HPA (Hawaiian India Pale Ale) and strapping Double Shaka double IPA, both of which are solid enough to make you forgive his departure from San Diego’s meat market. Well … almost. butchersbrewing.com
SDSU grad Wesley Keegan’s all about game time or, to be more exact, the pre-game ritual otherwise known as a raucous tailgate party. So much so, his entire operation is built around manufacturing parking lot-approved canned beers that are high on drinkability and low on ABV. tailgatebeer.com
And Coming Soon...
Benchmark Brewing Company
Experience and freedom are just as important as ingredients like malt and hops. Longtime AleSmith brewer Matt Akin is working on a return to the local scene, and this time, he’s the one calling the shots. 6190 Fairmont Avenue, Grantville,
Devil’s Forge Brewing Company
San Diego has more homebrewers per capita than most states. Several are making the leap to the big leagues, such as Wes McCann, who’s perfecting his recipes while searching for a site. devilsforgebrewing.com
A handful of homebrewing compatriots are conspiring to start a company that, in addition to its regular line, will create custom batches for patrons who like to choose their own adventure. Carlsbad, fezziwigsbrewing.com
Hillcrest Brewing Company
Expect to find beer at the end of the rainbow when the family tree that includes Urban Mo’s, Gossip Grill, and Baja Betty’s sprouts a fourth branch later this year. hillcrestbrewingcompany.com
Mad Lab Craft Brewing
All that’s known about this business-to-be is the location, but its pre-opening blog provides background on all the paperwork and procedures that must be completed for a brewery to get up and running. Otay Mesa, madlabbrewing.blogspot.com
One of San Diego’s most unexpected works in progress is this brainchild of former Stone Brewing Co. social media director Jacob McKean. moderntimesbeer.com
Rip Current Brewing Company
Paul Sangster, the reigning top homebrewer in the country (awarded by the American Homebrewers Association’s annual National Homebrewers Conference), is hitting the pro circuit with beer bud Guy Shobe. They’re opening a tasting bar stocked with a dozen taps combining Shobe’s low-alcohol ales and lagers with Sangster’s aggressively hopped, over-the-top, award-winning quaffs. When this promising newbie debuts this summer, look for medal-worthy numbers like Sangster’s Raked Over Red Ale and Lupulin Lust IPA, as well as experiments like a Belgian farmhouse ale brewed with apricots. San Marcos, ripcurrentbrewing.com
A trio of North County beer buds are banding together to build a public house that will offer a mix of English and Belgian-style ales. Escondido, taprootbrewing.com
Jeff Bagby, known throughout the country for helming Pizza Port Carlsbad during its three-year run as America’s best large brewpub (Great American Beer Festival), shocked the craft beer world last December when he resigned from his post to pursue the dream of opening his very own brewpub. He’s currently cruising North County’s coastal expanses in search of the perfect location, but has no shortage of capital-waving suitors. His is, without a doubt, the most anticipated upcoming project of any in San Diego… or just about anywhere.