It seems like just yesterday I was a freshman in college, playing beer pong and ‘tapping the Rockies’ at some random sleazy frat party down the street from my house.
Let’s face it. Back in those days, we all drank whatever we could get our hands on, regardless if the taste was vaguely comparable to that of tepid gutter water. Fortunately, with age comes a heightened sense of wisdom and it didn’t take me long to realize that the beer industry spans much farther than the local 7 Eleven.
With over 30 handcraft breweries operating throughout San Diego, it’s safe to say our city's local beer consumption is alive and well. From the acclaimed Ballast Point Brewing Company and the longstanding Karl Strauss Brewery, to the renowned coastal Pizza Ports and the popular Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, San Diego is overflowing with top notch brew selections.
Discover ten of our favorite San Diego breweries.
Coronado Brewing Company
The Coronado Brewing Company, welcomes locals and visitors alike to come and enjoy quality handcrafted beers and delicious food in a casual family environment. The Coronado Brewing Company is perfect for a quick lunch, a relaxing beverage or a wonderful dinner. Savor a refreshingly crisp pint while noshing on a signature wood-fired pizza or calzone, or choose from a wide selection of fresh seafood, steaks, pastas and dining specials. CBC offers a wide array of year-round selections including the popular Coronado Golden, the Islander Pale Ale, the Orange Ave Wit, and the Mermaids Red Ale. CBC also offers brewery tours that take patrons through the five-part process including the Mash, the Boil, the Fermentation, the Filtration, and best part of all, the Consumption. Drop by and relax with a pint or fill up a half-gallon growler and enjoy CBC's fresh beer at home. Coronado Brewing Company is open seven days a week from 11:00 am (until closing) and offers a weekly happy hour Monday through Friday from 2pm-6pm. For more information, please visit coronadobrewingcompany.com.
Green Flash Brewing Company
In 2002, Mike and Lisa Hinkley took their interest in the craft beer industry to a new level when they founded Green Flash Brewing Company in Vista, California. Green Flash specializes in brewing assertive and distinctive beers, such as awarding-winning beers like the West Coast I.P.A., an extravagantly hopped and full-flavored beer, as well as the Trippel Belgian Style Ale, a luscious, fiery, golden brew and a contemporary rendition of traditional Belgian Trippel. In addition to a copious selection of year-round offerings, Green Flash also brews seasonal, collaborative and barrel-aged beers that are guaranteed to tickle your taste buds. Every Friday from 4pm-8pm, Saturday from 12pm-5pm and Sunday from 12pm-4pm, Green Flash moves aside some equipment to make space on the bottling floor for the Tasting Room. Bring your friends and experience an up close opportunity to sample the latest and greatest beers that Green Flash has to offer. For more information, please visit greenflashbrew.com.
Gordon Biersch Brewery
From the get-go, Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch had a clear vision of what they wanted: a place where beer lovers could come to drink freshly brewed beer and enjoy a great meal. As far as the beer goes, the brewery only serves up authentic Hefeweizen and German-style lagers in the tradition of the ones Dan brewed while attending Weihenstephan, the most renowned brewing school in the world. All Gordon Biersch beers are naturally carbonated during a six-week aging process, refrigerated door-to-door, and are brewed in accordance with Reinheitsgebot: the German Purity Law of 1516 requiring that beer be brewed with only malt, hops, water, and yeast, naturally carbonated, and created without the addition of any adjuncts or preservatives. Head into Gordon Biersch and check out their extensive lunch and dinner menu as well as the beer sampler, which offers a taste of their signatures stouts, including Marzen, Blonde Bock, and Hefeweizen; a bronze medal winner at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival. For more information, please visit gordonbiersch.com.
Karl Strauss Brewing Company
In 1986, world-renowned brewer Karl Strauss was approached by his cousin Chris in San Diego to start a local microbrewery. Karl was so passionate about the project that he lent his name, face and voice to the enterprise, and until his passing, remained actively involved. With locations in Little Italy, La Jolla and Mira Mesa, Karl Strauss currently ranks #40 on the list of Top Craft Breweries in the country. Favorites include the Amber Lager, Red Trolley Ale, Woodie Gold and the popular Windansea Wheat Hefeweizen; a rich ale with banana, clove, and vanilla undertones. This year Karl Strauss Brewing Company turns the big 2-1, the most important year in a beer drinker’s life. This coming of age will be celebrated throughout 2010 with a diverse lineup of 35 beers, including 6 year-round favorites, 3 seasonal offerings, and a host of innovative special brews. In addition to handcrafting quality beers, Karl Strauss is a leader of the beer and culinary connection at their six local brewery restaurants. For more information, please visit karlstrauss.com.
Pizza Port Brewing Company
Back in March of 1987 Gina and Vince Marsaglia, a pair of siblings in their 20′s, bought a struggling pizza place in the sleepy coastal town of Solana Beach, just north of San Diego. From a funky storefront on the famous Pacific Coast Highway the duo ran the “Pizza Port” with a classic menu of pizza and chicken wings to which they added their own “San Diego” twist. Since then, the Pizza Port family’s reputation for great foods and craft beer have continued to grow, making them landmarks not just for Southern Californians, but for beer lovers from around the world. Aside from the flagship Solana Beach location, San Diego is home to two other Pizza Port locations and Ocean Beach and Carlsbad. When you walk into any Pizza Port you’ll not only find amazing, awards winning beers brewed fresh on premise, but you’ll also find dozens of great craft beers from breweries throughout San Diego, across the country and around the globe. So no matter whether you prefer a Port’s Porter, a Sharkbite Red, a Hop Suery Double IPA or a No Surf Cream Ale, whenever you’re in a Pizza Port you know you’ll be having one of the best there is. For more information, please visit pizzaport.com.
Ballast Point Brewery
Since opening in 1992, Ballast Point Brewery has won hundreds of awards, including Gold Medals at both the international World Beer Cup of 2002 and Great American Beer Festival. As one of San Diego's premiere breweries, Ballast Point Brewing distributes five of their signature beers throughout San Diego including Yellowtail Pale Ale, Calico Amber Ale, Big Eye I.P.A., Black Marlin Porter and Wahoo Wheat Beer. Ballast Point Brewery gives tours every day at noon, 2pm and 5 pm. After your tour – or before, for that matter – stop by the tasting bar where BPB keeps all of their standard beers on tap, plus always a handful of specialties you can't get anywhere else. For more information, please visit ballastpoint.com.
San Diego Brewing Company
The original manufacturing facility known as San Diego Brewing Company was opened in 1896 by the father of San Diego, A. E. Horton. He referred to the Brewery as the most important industrial enterprise since he founded the town and it operated as the largest manufacturing enterprise in the county until the company was removed from 32nd Street in 1942 and replaced by a base for the Pacific Fleet. Today the new San Diego Brewing Company hopes to carry on the tradition that was started over a century ago. SDBC beers are artfully crafted in small batches using time-honored recipes that utilize only four ingredients including pure water, malted barley, hops and yeast. The ales at SDBC are also brewed without preservatives or adjuncts like corn or rice. Along with an assortment of fresh beers brewed on the premises, San Diego Brewing Company offers fifty taps of beer every day, providing a brew to satisfy each and everyone. For more information, please visit sandiegobrewing.com.
Stone Brewing Company
Founded in 1996, Stone Brewing Company in Escondido has become one of the fastest growing breweries in the country. The Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens is part of the new $13 million Stone Brewing facility, and specializes in creative preparations of locally grown organic produce and natural meats. In recent years, Stone Brewery has become increasingly popular for their exquisite guided tours of their all-new 55,000 square-foot brewery. An expert guide takes you through the heart of the working Escondido brewery where you’ll learn all about the Stone philosophy, the brewing process and the craft brewing industry. Each of the complimentary tours last approximately 45 minutes and are followed by a guided tasting of phenomenal beers such as the flagship Stone Pale Ale, Arrogant Bastard Ale, Ruination IPA, Cali-Belgique IPA, Smoked Porter and Levitation Ale. For more information, please visit stonebrew.com.
Alesmith Brewing Company
Forged in 1995, AleSmith is an artisan microbrewery that specializes in handcrafted ales in a variety of styles. Deeply rooted in the amateur and craft brewing communities, AleSmith ales have continued to garner national and international awards and acclaim, as well as a loyal and rabid following among beer enthusiasts. Anvil ESB was the first beer produced when the brewery opened and to this day, remains Alesmith’s flagship ale. A classic Scotch ale, Wee Heavy has a rich, toasty, malty aroma with a faintly smoky aftertaste and the special-edition Brewer’s Reserve Speedway Stout, which is aged in Bourbon barrels, has been rated the best beer in world the ratebeer.com Horny Devil is an authentic Belgian Style ale, from the Belgian candi sugar right down to the yeast, a Belgian strain from a Trappist monastery in Belgium. As with Horny Devil, Grand Cru is fermented using yeast which originated in a Trappist monastery in Belgium. A darker type of Belgian candi sugar gives it more color and a richer complexity of flavor, consistent with the Belgian style.When a full-size Horny Devil is a bit too much, Li’l Devil Ale is exactly what you’re looking for to satisfy that Belgian craving. For more information, please visit alesmith.com.
Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing
The Oggi’s franchise was originated by two brothers, George and John Hadjis, who began serving up their own pizzeria experience in August of 1991. By 1995, micro-brewed beer was exploding onto the scene and everyone agreed that a micro-brewery would perfectly complement the existing restaurant concept. The concept expansion was a natural fit; it blended perfectly with their pizza, as well as the now established sports orientation. Oggi’s boasts eight different brews including the Light Lager, Sunset Amber Ale, Paradise Pale Ale, California Gold, Duck Dive Hefeweizen, Torrey Pines IPA, Black Magic Stout and McGarvey’s Scottish Ale. For more information, please visit oggis.com.
Insider's Tip: Although this is our list of the best San Diego breweries, there are many others that offer incredible handcrafted beers and tours of their facilities. For info about brewery tours, check out brewerytoursofsandiego.com.