College is all about learning. So consider this a study guide to the best beer on campus.
San Diego State University
Best bet: Eureka!, opening in South Campus Plaza, is the glitzy new kid on campus. But three-year-old Oggi’s Pizza Express in the Aztec Student Center is determined to remain State’s bastion of beer.
Best beers: Of the 30 beers on tap, 20 are from SoCal stalwarts like Karl Strauss and Modern Times. The other 10 represent Oggi’s award-winning lineup. Try Torrey Pines IPA (6.9%), all West Coast snap and swagger, or Black Magic Stout (7.6%), rich in roast coffee and dark chocolate notes.
Prices: $6 a pint. Don’t look for discounts or leniency toward underage undergrads. “Being on campus, it’s all students and at least half are not 21,” said Estella Ferrera, an Oggi’s vice president. “We are very careful about drinking.”
Food: The pizzas are good, but the balsamic chicken salad? Killer. New this year: Oggi Sticks, half of a 14-inch mozzarella pizza, brushed with garlic olive oil, cut into strips and served with ranch dressing — all for a student-friendly $5.
Atmosphere: Look for string lighting and other touches in the spacious outdoor area. “We’re trying to pizzazz our patio,” Ferrera said, “[to] make it really desirable.”
Campus confidential: Oggi’s hosts social and educational sessions for SDSU’s business of craft beer program. “We try to be the place where people can come and get educated about beer,” Ferrera said.
University of San Diego
Best bet: O’Toole’s, in the Student Center.
Best beers: Doubling its tap handles from four to eight, O’Toole’s focuses on local breweries. Renegade Blonde from Vista’s Iron Fist is a light-bodied, bubbly Kölsch.
Prices: $5.50 a pint.
Deals: Monday through Friday from 4-6:30 p.m., pints are $4.50, and 12-ounce pours are $4.
Food: Tapas and other light fare, plus burgers.
Atmosphere: Cozy and clubby, with a good smattering of faculty regulars. Because O’Toole’s is located outside La Gran Terraza, the private school’s upscale restaurant, diners stop here for pre- and post-meal drinks and apps.
Campus confidential: Fireplace is a nice touch, but don’t expect a roaring blaze on San Diego’s few chilly nights. “It’s a gas flame,” said Luis Rosas, USD’s restaurant unit leader. “The flame is just for looks.”
UC San Diego
Best bet: Round Table Pizza, Price Center & Student Center. Home Plate above RIMAC Arena and Zanzibar Cafe upstairs at Price also sell pints, but Round Table offers ground-floor convenience and 24 taps.
Best beers: A great imperial IPA from Colorado, Avery’s Maharaja (10.2% ABV) makes a rare local appearance here. Donna Buhl, this Table’s owner, also keeps Stone, Rough Draft and Mother Earth on tap.
Prices: $6 to $8 for a pint.
Deals: $2 off pitchers — normally about $17 — every Friday.
Food: ’Za and salads. A large pepperoni runs $17.99.
Atmosphere: The ’80s are calling — they want their food court back! Still, the outdoor patio here is a popular place for Friday afternoon decompression sessions.
Campus confidential: Buhl always stocks ales from Rough Draft, a Miramar brewery owned by Jeff Silver (class of ’94).
Old school tie
Beer and college are tightly linked, and not just at keggers. San Diego breweries are well-stocked with people who hold degrees from local universities.
A partial honor roll of this educated crew:
UC San Diego
Matt Akin, co-founder and brewer at Benchmark: BA, sociology, 2003
Anthony Chen, AleSmith lead brewer: BA, history, 2007
Yuseff Cherney, former brewmaster at Ballast Point: BA, philosophy, 1992
Matthew Laibson, field quality manager at Ballast Point: BS, human biology, 2009
Jeff Silver, owner of Rough Draft: BS, cognitive science, 1994
George Thornton, owner of The Homebrewer: BA, history, 2006
Chris White, co-founder of White Labs: Ph.D, biochemistry, 1996
San Diego State University
Paige McWey Acers, executive administrator of the San Diego Brewers Guild: BA, sociology, religious studies, 2009
Ryan Crisp, head brewer/director of brewery operations at AleSmith: BA, French/history, 2006; MA, English, 2013
Claudia Faulk, co-founder of Aztec Brewing: BA, graphic design, 2009; MS, educational technology, 2012
Matt Johnson, sales director at Bay City Brewing: BS, criminal justice, 2008
Marc Martin, vice president of beer at Karl Strauss: BS, marketing, 1999
Brandon Richards, founder and CEO at SouthNorte Beer: BS, business administration and management, 2003
Paul Segura, brewmaster at Karl Strauss Brewing: BS, political science, 1994
California State University, San Marcos
Derek Gallanosa, head brewer at Abnormal Beer Co.: BS, business marketing, 2008
Kristina Rawlins, event sales manager at Stone Brewing: BA, communications, 2009