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San Diego's Craft Beer Guide

Breweries, brewpubs & beer bars!


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The Mexican craft brew scene is blowing up. Read more here!

Click here to check out our beer critic's favorite spots to toss one back.


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.


Up North


BREWERY

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

BREWERY

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

BREWERY

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

BREWERY

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

DON’T MISS IT! May 2-5, 2012
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.

BREWERY

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

BREW PUB

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

BREW PUB

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

BREWERY

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

BREW PUB

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

NANO BREWERY

On-The-Tracks Brewery   

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

BREWERY

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

BREW PUB

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

NANO BREWERY

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


MORE!

Craft Beer 101: An Interactive Flavor Guide

Craft Beer Cheat Sheet

Beer of the Week Blog

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