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The Best New Breweries in San Diego

Here, a roundup of the best new breweries, with input from the people behind San Diego’s most established beer institutions.


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Bagby Beer Company
601 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

This has been the most anticipated debut of the past two years. While heading up the brewing program for Pizza Port, Jeff Bagby and his team became the most medaled brewers in San Diego. Now Jeff brews his own lineup in an expansive, inviting, family-friendly space that offers visitors many choices for sipping and sitting, as well as dining.

What the Brewers Say:

Tom Nickel | Nickel Beer Co.
“Jeff is a true asset to the San Diego brewing scene and Bagby Beer should end up being the premier beer and spirits brewpub in the region. I especially like the Golden Girl, a very easy-to-drink, Belgian-inspired ale that is reminiscent of Duvel, dry with a bright hoppiness.”

Tomme Arthur | Port/The Lost Abbey
“Three years in the making, few (if any) San Diego-based brewery openings have held as much promise. I love the 3 Beagles Brown and Asphalt Jungle Stout. When I’m looking to downshift a bit, some nice sessionable offerings like brown ale and Irish Style Stout are a great place to find depth of flavor and expressive notes.”

 

 

ChuckAlek Independent Brewers
2330 Main Street, Ramona

As Ramona’s first brewery, ChuckAlek is helping expand the San Diego beer scene eastward. Its simple but cozy tasting room offers visitors a chance to try some interesting styles not commonly available at other breweries. Owner and brewer Grant Fraley calls his lineup reinterpretations of “old” and “historic” beer types, like the La Cappellana 100% Brett that uses a yeast akin to wild versions that have been used in brewing for thousands of years.

What a brewer says:

Jim Crute | Lightning Brewery
“I really like the historical approach Grant takes to crafting his beers. I like the Weiss for its slight sourness and flavors and the interesting Dowser, a Dusseldorf Altbier.”

 

 

Half Door Brewing Company
903 Island Avenue, downtown

Just opened in January, this new brewery and pub (in an old two-story home) is a fine addition to the downtown brewing scene. Brewer Dan Drayne—formerly of Coronado Brewing Company—has an impressive range, which he uses to brew small batches in a constantly changing lineup. No matter what’s on tap, chances are good it will be aromatic, balanced, and full-flavored.

What the Expert says:

Bruce Glassman | The San Diego Brewery Guide
“Standouts on my visit [to Half Door] were the Bearliner Berlinerweisse, which had a wonderful balance of sour lemon and tropical fruit, and the Father Ted Belgian Blonde, which was light, crisp, and nicely yeasty. All the beers had rich aromas and were very well-balanced.”

 

 

Modern Times Beer
3725 Greenwood Street, Point Loma, with an additional tasting room at 3000 Upas Street, North Park

When Modern Times first opened its doors in a factory-laden section of Point Loma, it was expanding the geographical boundaries of San Diego craft beer. Since that time, head brewer Matt Walsh has also expanded the flavor boundaries of beer styles, consistently producing some of the county’s most interesting brews (especially his Brett Trois IPAs).

What a brewer says:

Greg Koch | Stone Brewing Co.
“Tallboy cans and eye-catching-yet-subdued graphics—Modern Times is making some tasty twists on classic beer styles, with a hip persona.”

 

 

BNS Brewing
10960 Wheatlands Avenue, Santee

This Wild West- themed enterprise on the outskirts of Santee has a little bit of everything. In addition to a brewery, it’s also a distillery and a homebrew supply shop. The spacious interior is rustic, with a number of pleasing design touches (bullet-casing tap handles and a refrigerated strip on the bar) that add appeal. Brewer Dan Jensen, formerly of Coronado, offers a variety of clean, well-made ales that will please nearly every palate.

What a brewer says:

Paul Segura | Karl Strauss Brewing Company
“The BNS beer lineup is pretty solid. There’s an indoor stage where they have good live local musicians and they’ve normally got good food trucks.”

 

 

Toolbox Brewing Company
1495 Poinsettia Avenue, Vista

For new breweries opening in Vista, the competition for attention is especially stiff. No other region has seen more new breweries open in the past two years than the State Route 78 corridor, which is now known as “The Hops Highway.” From its first day open, Toolbox has distinguished itself as a small quality brewery that brews the kind of beers that most small startups never attempt.

What a brewer says:

Colby Chandler | Ballast Point
“Head brewer Peter Perrecone has taken his love for homebrewing sours into the professional world and been able to produce bright lactobacillus and clean brettanomyces beers in short amounts of time with a variety of creative flavors.”

 

 

Culture Brewing Company
111 South Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach, with an additional tasting room at 4845 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach

Staking its claim to Solana Beach’s craft beer scene, Culture set up shop on the hip and trendy South Cedros, a stone’s throw from the Belly Up and only a few blocks from the beach. Head brewer Steve Ragan has created a lineup of well-balanced, crisp, and easy-to-drink beers, including a wonderfully hoppy black IPA.

What a brewer says:

Marty Mendiola | Second Chance Brewery
“Culture is making some good, solid beers. When I’m in the area, I stop in because I know they’ll have a great beer and a cool, comfortable vibe.”

 

 

Nickel Beer Company
1485 Hollow Glen Road, Julian

The rustic mountain-town vibe of Julian is captured perfectly in this cozy nanobrewery. Owner and brewer Tom Nickel, who has long been a part of the San Diego craft beer scene (both as a brewer and as the owner of O’Brien’s Pub), brews a tasty variety of hop-centric beers, as well as some delicious darks and a few specialties that use local Julian ingredients.

What a brewer says:

Scot Blair | Monkey Paw Brewery
“Tom Nickel has been a great brewer for many years and what he is doing with his small-batch beers in Julian is fantastic! I especially love his Kupfernickel (barleywine) and his Redstonewall Stout (aka Horchata Stout) which is blended with Vanilla/Cinnamon Mead (honey-wine) from Redstone Meadery in Boulder.”

 

 

32 North Brewing Company
8655 Production Avenue, Miramar

The Miramar corridor has become the hottest new beer sector in mid-county, and 32 North is yet another jewel in the area. The cavernous tasting room, tastefully outfitted with reclaimed wood, offers plenty of space for socializing, playing games, and sipping brewer John Hunter’s excellent, flavorful beers. If you like quirky, sessionable sours, don’t miss the Passion Fruit Sour.

What a brewer says:

Jim Crute | Lightning Brewery
“The Smoked Helles was the best smoked beer I have ever had. Just smoky enough to be perceptible, not over-the-top, very drinkable. Also try the Rye Pale Ale... spicy with lighter hops, and easy to enjoy.”

 

 

Council Brewing Company
7705 Convoy Court, Kearny Mesa

The Clairemont/Kearny Mesa area is quickly becoming one of the county’s fastest-growing beer hubs. At Council, co-owner and brewer Liz Chism offers patrons an impressively large variety of straightforward, well-crafted beers, including numerous hop-centric selections and a very tasty Extra Special Bitter (ESB).

What a brewer says:

Shawn DeWitt | Coronado Brewing Company
“Council came out of the gate brewing great, clean beers with very unconventional equipment. They’ve also been messing around with a bunch of wild yeast strains, which makes them quite unique.”

 

 

Fall Brewing Company
4542 30th Street, North Park

For all the great beer you can find on 30th Street, there’s very little actual brewing going on there. Well, Fall co-owner and brewer Ray Astamendi is trying to change that. Since October of last year, Ray has been brewing a varied lineup of richly flavored, very drinkable beers—many of which are 7 percent ABV or below.

What the brewers say:

Colby Chandler | Ballast Point
“Ray is crafting some quality product out of the gate. He has garnered immediate acceptance from the North Park and South Park beer communities with the help of great products like 2 A.M. Bike Ride (Dark Horse coffee and vanilla bean stout), Loudspeaker Rye IPA (fruity/spicy Imperial Session IPA), and Jazz Hands (Berliner Weisse).”

Sean Farrell | Pizza Port Bressi Ranch
“Ray is a fantastic brewer. He makes beers that brewers like to drink: sessionable, simple, and clean.”

 

 

Intergalactic Brewing Company
9835 Carroll Centre Road, Miramar

Small on space, but big on flavor—that’s the sound bite for this nanobrewery. Longtime (and well-respected) homebrewer Alex Van Horne has a knack for crafting delicious beers with interesting components that don’t obscure the styles. His brews show the kind of restraint and balance that only come with years of experience.

What a brewer says:

Jim Crute | Lightning Brewery
“In my opinion, Intergalactic is the best nano out there. Just try Orion’s Stout or Wormhole Wit.”

 

 

South Park Brewing Company
1517 30th Street, South Park

While SPBC may be the newest brewery on this list, the folks behind it are veterans of the San Diego beer scene. Owner and brewer Scot Blair—who is also the force behind Hamilton’s Tavern, Small Bar, and Monkey Paw Brewery—has assembled a stellar team to brew small-batch beers especially well-suited for pairing with its seafood menu sourced locally from Catalina Offshore. Judging from its first releases, the beer and food selections will all be top-notch.

What the expert says:

Bruce Glassman | The San Diego Brewery Guide
“I particularly loved the Oyster Stout [at SPBC], which was deep black, smelled of milk chocolate and roasted coffee, and had a wonderful mix of sweet maltiness and brine. Blair told me that he personally got the water for the stout from Scripps Pier! I also loved the hoppy 2 Griffs Pale Ale, which offered lots of honey and citrus hoppiness with a crisp, bitter finish.”

 

 

Benchmark Brewing Company
6190 Fairmount Avenue, Grantville

This family-run operation is one of a few breweries that have recently taken root in the Friars Road/Mission Valley area. Brewer Matt Aiken, formerly of AleSmith, has created a warm, casual tasting room filled with appealing details (the big, chunky tasting glasses are a great touch). He brews an eclectic lineup of well-crafted beers, many of which are big on flavor without being high in alcohol content.

What the brewers say:

Peter Zien | AleSmith Brewing Company
“Having worked with Matt Aiken at AleSmith, I know his like-minded commitment to quality, [and I know] that he is a creative and talented brewmaster in his own right.”

Colby Chandler | Ballast Point
“After brewing for almost 21 years, it’s hard for me to find a beer to order two of, let alone one that I crave after leaving the brewery. Matt Aiken’s Belgian-inspired Table Beer is one of those craft beers that keeps me coming back to his east Mission Valley brewery.”

 

 

Saint Archer Brewing Company
9550 Distribution Avenue, Miramar

It may be relatively new, but Saint Archer is no tiny startup. From the moment it opened its doors, this hip brewery started by a group of pro surfers and skaters was thinking big. The 17,000-square-foot brewery houses a 30-barrel system on which head brewer Kim Brisson-Lutz crafts a core of clean, well-made, hop-focused beers (the White Ale won gold at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival).  

What a brewer says:

Greg Koch | Stone Brewing Co.
“Who knew a bunch of action sports heroes could get together and create a company that makes great beer? Well, all you have to do is hire some great brewers, and that’s exactly what Saint Archer has done. Bam.”

 

Additional photography by: Luis Garcia, Studio Schulz, Taryn Kent, Rick Nocon, Archana Ram, and Scott Linnett.

*For purposes of selection, we have only considered breweries that opened within the past two years and have not included new sites opened by existing breweries, such as Stone Liberty Station, Ballast Point in Little Italy and Miramar, Pizza Port Bressi Ranch, and Coronado in Bay Park.

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