Bar Décor / Modern Times Flavor Dome
The new North Park tasting room decorated with scavenged finds is radness personified. Sip a pint under dozens of inverted lampshades with a view of the VHS tape-plastered bar, or lounge on a retro sofa around the corner from the funky Mister Miyagi/Yoda floppy disc mosaic.
3725 Greenwood Street, North Park
Brewery Crawl / Mira Mesa Bike and Brew
At REI Outdoor School’s tasting room tours, instructors are fluent in both cycling and beer. Brewmasters and bartenders at each brewery conduct yeast taste tests, field home brew questions, and more. We like that you can either BYOBike or rent one from REI, plus they provide bike locks, games, snacks, a cooler for any growlers you buy, and a van escort in case you have a flat. Or need a nap. $65, reservations required.
New Beers / AleSmith
For so long, brewmaster Peter Zien and company focused solely on producing a core lineup of beers which, although outstanding, left beer lovers wanting more. Of late, new, high-quality brews have emerged, including a cream ale, rye-infused brown ale, and 394 Pale Ale, a collaboration with the late Padres great Tony Gwynn.
9366 Cabot Drive, Miramar
Double IPA / Saint Archer
This brewery’s been on a tear since uniting longtime friends and fermentation collaborators Yiga Miyashiro (Pizza Port) and Kim Lutz (Maui Brewing). This grassy, uber-tropical, and refreshing imperial IPA was a watershed beer that transitioned a formerly forgettable operation into something befitting the San Diego scene.
9550 Distribution Avenue, Miramar
Stout / Nickel Beer Co.’s Stonewall Stout
Julian’s lucky to be home to former World Beer Cup champion Tom Nickel. Even after the former Pizza Port and Oggi’s standout’s first bid at bringing craft beer to the quaint rural town went south at The Bailey, he forged on, building a brewery in the old jailhouse and producing this rich yet highly drinkable stout, and yes, it goes nicely with apple pie.
1485 Hollow Glen Road, Julian
Triple IPA / Mother Earth Brew Co.
"More hops" has long been the San Diego beer enthusiast's mantra, so it’s not surprising many local breweries have tried their hands at brewing the behemoth, uber-piney triple IPA. Mother Earth's Big Mother IPA was among the first, and its well-balanced yet immense beer hovers at the top of the heap.
206 Main Street, Vista; 2055 Thibodo Road, Vista
Tasting Room / Booze Brothers Brewing Company
It’s a smallish operation working off a 10-barrel brewhouse, but thoughtfulness elevates Booze Brothers’ tasting space into something rivaling the likes of Stone and Karl Strauss for comfort and aesthetic appeal. American flags, antlers, hanging plant life, hand-forged furniture, and more combine with a picnic-ready beer garden to create something quirkily extraordinary.
2545 Progress Street, Vista
Big Little Beers / Benchmark Brewing Company
It’s hard to gain a big-time rep with more traditionally styled beers, especially those of the lower-alcohol ilk. But brewmaster Matt Akin’s oatmeal stout, brown ale, and table beer are among the best in the county.
6190 Fairmount Avenue, Grantville
Consistent Quality / Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery
As with any highly experimental operation, it took time for this brewpub to find its footing, but an infusion of talent and passion in the form of brewmaster Cosimo Sorrentino has everything from rare Zwickelbiers to the award-winning Bonobos San Diego pale ale tasting consistently stellar.
805 16th Street, East Village