Take it From the Tap


By Brandon Hernández
Alpine Beer Company” src="” alt="Alpine Beer Company” width="373” height="498” />

The past six-pack of years has seen San Diego’s cache of craft breweries rise from a small but sturdy two-dozen-or-so to a patchwork of more than 130 breweries, brewpubs and tasting rooms covering nearly every square mile of the county like a handcrafted artisan beer quilt. Wherever you are, quality brews aren’t far away, but what each spot has to offer varies greatly.

The following lists - Best Hoppy Beers, Best Dark Beers, Best New Breweries, Best Beer Garden - highlight spots that excel in specific areas. Take our word for it or use the sidebar list (of every brewery in the county) to do some suds surfing on your own. Cheers!

Best Hoppy Beers

1) Alpine Beer Company: Their IPAs are legendary enough to merit a drive out to this brewery’s namesake East County digs.
2) Rip Current Brewing Company: The only brewery with the guts and gumption to craft the world’s first quadruple IPA.
3) Stone Brewing Company: Innovators of massively hopped beers and a big reason San Diego became well known for them.
4) Port Brewing Company: Pizza Port’s production brewing arm funnels years of brewpub IPA prowess into shiny bottles.
5) Societe Brewing Company: This place is so devoted to fresh IPAs that they’ve vowed never to bottle its vibrant IPA stock.
Honorable Mention: Green Flash Brewing Company

Best Dark Beers

1) Pizza Port: From brown ales to stouts to barrel-aged imperial stouts, this chain of brewpubs can do no wrong.
2) AleSmith Brewing Company: Their brown ale and coffee-laced imperial stout are unsurpassed beer-style archetypes.
3) Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits: Whether barrel-aged, from a cask or in their base forms, their porters and stouts are tops.
4) Benchmark Brewing Company: A former AleSmith brewer has brought lessons in the dark arts to his new family business.
5) Belching Beaver Brewery: Milk stouts of all types - peanut butter, pumpkin spice, horchata - are as delish as they sound.
Honorable Mention: New English Brewing Company

Best New Breweries

1) Bagby Beer Company: This multi-story, indoor/outdoor brewpub has loads of charm - and beers from a bona fide brewing rockstar formerly from Pizza Port.
2) Council Brewing Company: A husband and wife are making sweet music and epic brews from their homey brewhouse.
3) Fall Brewing Company: A Saint Archer and Mission veteran has converted an auto repair shop into an inner-city beer oasis.
4) URBN St. Brewing Company: The coal-fired pizza kings have made successful entry into the beer market thanks to a skilled ex-Stone brewer.
5) Toolbox Brewing Company: Exploration of the glories that spring forth from wild yeast experiments makes this a standout operation.
Honorable Mention: Fallbrook Brewing Company

Escondido.” src="” alt="Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens’ beer garden in Escondido.” width="580” height="436” />

Best Beer Gardens

1) Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido & Liberty Station: These sister properties set the al fresco standard with expansive gardens pretty enough to win landscape architecture awards.
2) Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Sorrento Mesa: Take a seat on the north side porch and spend a day sipping suds against a lush Japanese garden backdrop complete with pagodas and a koi pond.
3) BNS Brewing & Distilling Company, Santee : Plenty of space filled with shaded picnic tables and cooling misters make this hotspot not just bearable, but enjoyable.
4) Amplified Ale Works, Pacific Beach : Cozy up with a kebob at a communal table looking out at the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.
5) Nickel Beer Company, Julian : Skip the apple pie and have an apple pie ale in the great outdoors of San Diego’s official getaway-ville.
Honorable Mention: Bolt Brewery, La Mesa

San Diego Breweries and Tasting Rooms

2kids Brewing Company, 8680 Miralani Dr., Ste. 123, Miramar, 858.480.5437,
32 North Brewing Company, 8655 Production Ave., Ste. A, Miramar, 619.363.2622,
Abnormal Brewing Company, 16990 Via Tazon, Ste. 124, Rancho Bernardo, 858.618.2463,
Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment, 2120 W. Washington St., Mission Hills, 619.299.2537,
AleSmith Brewing Company, 9368 Cabot Dr., Miramar, 858.549.9888,
Alpine Beer Company, 2351 Alpine Blvd., Alpine, 619.445.2337,
Amplified Ale Works, 4150 Mission Blvd., Ste. 208, Pacific Beach, 858.270.5222,
Arcana Brewing Company, 5621 Palmer Way, Ste. C, Carlsbad, 909.529.2337,
Automatic Brewing Company, 3416 Adams Ave., Normal Heights, 619.255.2491,
Aztec Brewing Company, 2330 La Mirada Dr., Ste. 300, Vista, 760. 598.7720,
Back Street Brewery, 15 Main St., Ste. 100, Vista, 760.407.7600,
Bagby Beer Company, 601 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside, 760.270.9075,
Ballast Point Home Brew Mart, 5401 Linda Vista Rd., Ste. 406, Linda Vista, 619.295.2337,
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, 9045 Carroll Way, Miramar, 858.790.6901,
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, 10051 Old Grove Rd., Scripps Ranch, 858.695.2739,
Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen, 2251 India St., Little Italy, 619.255.7213,
Barrel Harbor Brewing Company, 2575 Pioneer Ave., Ste. 104, Vista, 760.734.3949,
Beer Brewing Company, 1813½ S. Coast Highway, Oceanside, 760.505.0160,
The Beer Company, 602 Broadway, Downtown, 619.398.0707,
Belching Beaver Brewery, 980 Park Center Dr., Ste. A, Vista, 760.599.5832,
Belching Beaver Tasting Room, 4223 30th St., North Park, 619.282.1062,
Benchmark Brewing Company, 6190 Fairmount Ave., Ste. G, Grantville, 619.795.2911,
BNS Brewing & Distilling Company, 10960 Wheatlands Ave., Ste. 101, Santee, 619.956.0952,
Bolt Brewery, 8179 Center St., La Mesa, 619.303.7837,
Booze Brothers Brewing Company, 2545 Progress St., Ste. D, Vista, 760.295.0217,
Border X Brewing Company, 8684 Avenida de la Fuente, Ste. 8, Otay Mesa, 619.787.6176,
Border X Tasting Room, 2196 Logan Ave., Barrio Logan,
Breakwater Brewing Company, 101 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside, 760.433.6064,
Butcher’s Brewing Company, 9962 Prospect Ave., Ste. E, Santee, 619.334.2222,
ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, 2330 Main St., Ste. C, Ramona, 760.440.5205,
Coronado Brewing Company, 1205 Knoxville St., Bay Park, 619.275.2215,
Coronado Brewing Company, 170 Orange Ave., Coronado, 619.437.4452,
Coronado Brewing Company Pier-Side, 875 Seacoast Dr., Imperial Beach, 619.424.4900,
Council Brewing Company, 7705 Convoy Ct., Kearny Mesa, 858.256.0038,
Culture Brewing Company, 111 S. Cedros Ave., Ste. 200, Solana Beach, 858.345.1144,
Culture Brewing Tasting Room, 4845 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach, 619.255.3811,
Dos Desperados Brewery, 1241 Linda Vista Dr., San Marcos, 760.566.6209,
Fall Brewing Company, 4542 30th St., North Park,
Fallbrook Brewing Company, 136 N. Main Ave., Fallbrook, 858.342.1851,
Gordon Biersch, 5010 Mission Center Rd., Mission Valley, 619.688.1120,
Green Flash Brewing Company, 6550 Mira Mesa Blvd.,Mira Mesa, 858.622.0085,
Groundswell Brewing Company, 6304 Riverdale St., Grantville, 619.795.2337,
Helm’s Brewing Company, 5640 Kearny Mesa Rd., Ste. C/N, Kearny Mesa, 858.384.2772,
Hillcrest Brewing Company, 1458 University Ave., Hillcrest, 619.269.4323,
Home Brewing Company, 2911 El Cajon Blvd., Ste. 2, North Park, 619.450.6165,
Indian Joe Brewing, 2379 La Mirada Dr., Vista, 760.295.3945,
Intergalactic Brewing Company, 9835 Carroll Centre Rd., Ste. 108, Miramar, 858.750.0601,
Iron Fist Brewing Company, 1305 Hot Springs Way, Ste. 101, Vista, 760.216.6500,
Julian Brewing Company, 2307 Main St., Julian, 760.765.3757,
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 10448 Reserve Dr., 4S Ranch, 858.376.2739,
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 5801 Armada Dr., Carlsbad, 760.431.2739,
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 1157 Columbia St., Downtown, 619.234.2739,
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 1044 Wall St., La Jolla, 858.551.2739,
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 5985 Santa Fe St., Pacific Beach, 858.273.2739,
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 9675 Scranton Rd., Sorrento Mesa, 858.587.2739,
KnB Wine Cellars, 6380 Del Cerro Blvd., Del Cerro, 619.286.0321,
Kuracali Sake & Beer Brewery, 175 Bosstick Blvd., Suite 104, San Marcos, 858.775.6502,
La Jolla Brewing Company, 7536 Fay Ave., La Jolla, 858.246.6759,
Latitude 33 Brewing Company, 1430 Vantage Court, Ste. 104, Vista, 760.598.2337,
Legacy Brewing Company, 363 Airport Rd., Oceanside, 760.705.3221,
Legacy Brewing Tap & Kitchen, 7060 Miramar Rd., Miramar, 760.705.3221,
Lightning Brewery, 13200 Kirkham Way, Ste. 105, Poway, 858.513.8071,
Mike Hess Brewing Company, 3812 Grim Ave., North Park, 619.255.7136,
Mike Hess Brewing Company, 7955 Silverton Ave., Ste. 1201, Miramar, 619.795.4377,
Mission Brewery, 1441 L St., East Village, 619.544.0555,
Modern Times Beer, 3725 Greenwood St., Point Loma, 619.546.9694,
Modern Times Flavordome, 3000 Upas St., North Park, 619.269.5222,
Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery, 805 16th St., East Village, 619.358.9901,
Mother Earth Brew Co., 2055 Thibodo Rd., Ste. H, Vista, 760.599.4225,
Mother Earth Tap House, 206 Main St., Vista, 760.726.2273,
New English Brewing Company, 11545 Sorrento Valley Rd., Ste. 305, Sorrento Valley, 619.857.8023,
Nickel Beer Company, 1485 Hollow Glen Rd., Julian, 760.765.2337,
Oceanside Ale Works, 1800 Ord Way, Oceanside, 760.721.4253,
Offbeat Brewing Company, 1223 Pacific Oaks Place, Ste. 101, Escondido, 760.294.4045,
Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company, 10155 Rancho Carmel Dr., Carmel Mountain, 858.592.7883,
Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company, 12840 Carmel Country Rd., Del Mar, 858.481.7883,
Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company, 2130 Birch Rd., Ste. 104, Chula Vista, 619.746.6900,
Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company, 305 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas, 760.944.8170,
Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company, 2562 Laning Rd., Liberty Station, 619.876.5000,
Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company, 2245 Fenton Pkwy., Ste. 101, Mission Valley, 619.640.1072,
Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company, 9828 Mission Gorge Rd., Ste. A, Santee, 619.449.6441,
Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company, 425 S. Melrose Dr., Vista, 760.295.3500,
Oggi’s Pizza Express, 5500 Campanile Dr., Room 150, College Area,
Oggi’s Pizza Express, 825 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach,
On-The-Tracks Brewery, 5674 El Camino Real, Ste. G, Carlsbad, 760.550.9688,
O'Sullivan Brothers Brewing Company, 9879 Hibert St., Ste. F, Scripps Ranch, 858.577.0350,
Pacific Beach AleHouse, 721 Grand Ave., Pacific Beach, 858.581.2337,
Pacific Brewing Company, 8680 Miralani Dr., Miramar, 303.819.7086,
Pizza Port Brewing Company, 2730 Gateway Rd., Carlsbad, 760.707.1655,
Pizza Port Brewing Company, 571 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad, 760.720.7007,
Pizza Port Brewing Company, 1956 Bacon St., Ocean Beach, 619.224.4700,
Pizza Port Brewing Company, 135 N. Highway 101, Solana Beach, 858.481.7332,
Plan 9 Alehouse, 155 E. Grand Ave., Escondido, 760.489.8817,
Poor House Brewing Company & Supply, 4494 30th St., Ste. B, North Park, 619.592.9555,
Port Brewing Company/The Lost Abbey/The Hop Concept, 155 Mata Way, Ste. 104, San Marcos, 800.918.6816, /
Prohibition Brewing Company, 2004 E. Vista Way, Vista, 760.295.3525,
Quantum Brewing, 5375 Kearny Villa Rd., Ste. 116, Kearny Mesa,
Rip Current Brewing Company, 1325 Grand Ave., Ste. 100, San Marcos, 760.481.3141,
Rip Current Tasting Room, 4101 30th St., North Park,
Rock Bottom Brewery, 8980 Villa La Jolla Dr., La Jolla, 858.450.9277,
Rough Draft Brewing Company, 8830 Rehco Rd., Ste. D, Miramar, 858.453.7238,
Saint Archer Brewery, 9550 Distributor Ave., Miramar, 858.225.2337,
San Diego Brewing Company, 10450 Friars Rd., Ste. L, Grantville, 619.284.2739,
San Marcos Brewery & Grill, 1080 W. San Marcos Blvd., San Marcos, 760.471.0050,
Societe Brewing Company, 8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Kearny Mesa, 858.598.5409,
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Escondido, 1999 Citracado Pkwy., Escondido, 760.294.7899,
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Rd., Ste. 116, Liberty Station, 619.269.2100,
Stone Brewing Tap Room, 795 J St., East Village, 619.727.4452,
Stumblefoot Brewing Company, 1784 La Costa Meadows Dr., Ste. 103, San Marcos, 760.208.1012,
Thorn Street Brewery, 3176 Thorn St., North Park, 619.501.2739,
Toolbox Brewing Company, 1495 Poinsettia Ave., Ste. 148, Vista, 760.598.1477,
Twisted Manzanita Ales & Spirits, 10151 Prospect Ave., Santee, 619.334.1757,
Twisted Manzanita Ales Tasting Room, 4652 Mission Blvd., Pacific Beach, 858.412.4013,
URBN St. Brewing Company, 110 N. Magnolia Ave., El Cajon, 619.328.6922,
Valley Center Brewery, 28960 Lilac Rd., Ste. C, Valley Center, 760.913.0102,
White Labs, 9495 Candida St., Miramar, 858.693.3441,