Take it From the Tap

By Brandon Hernández

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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


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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, 2kidsbrewing.com
32 North Brewing Company, 8655 Production Ave., Ste. A, Miramar, 619.363.2622, 32northbrew.com
Abnormal Brewing Company, 16990 Via Tazon, Ste. 124, Rancho Bernardo, 858.618.2463, abnormalbeer.com
Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment, 2120 W. Washington St., Mission Hills, 619.299.2537, acousticales.com
AleSmith Brewing Company, 9368 Cabot Dr., Miramar, 858.549.9888, alesmith.com
Alpine Beer Company, 2351 Alpine Blvd., Alpine, 619.445.2337, alpinebrewing.com
Amplified Ale Works, 4150 Mission Blvd., Ste. 208, Pacific Beach, 858.270.5222, amplifiedales.com
Arcana Brewing Company, 5621 Palmer Way, Ste. C, Carlsbad , 909.529.2337, arcanabrewing.com
Automatic Brewing Company, 3416 Adams Ave., Normal Heights, 619.255.2491, automaticbrewingco.com
Aztec Brewing Company, 2330 La Mirada Dr., Ste. 300, Vista , 760. 598.7720, aztecbrewery.com
Back Street Brewery, 15 Main St., Ste. 100, Vista, 760.407.7600, lamppostpizza.com/backstreet
Bagby Beer Company, 601 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside , 760.270.9075, bagbybeer.com
Ballast Point Home Brew Mart, 5401 Linda Vista Rd., Ste. 406, Linda Vista, 619.295.2337, ballastpoint.com
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, 9045 Carroll Way, Miramar, 858.790.6901, ballastpoint.com
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, 10051 Old Grove Rd., Scripps Ranch , 858.695.2739, ballastpoint.com
Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen, 2251 India St., Little Italy, 619.255.7213, ballastpoint.com
Barrel Harbor Brewing Company, 2575 Pioneer Ave., Ste. 104, Vista, 760.734.3949, barrelharborbrewing.com
Beer Brewing Company, 1813½ S. Coast Highway, Oceanside, 760.505.0160, beerbrewco.com
The Beer Company, 602 Broadway, Downtown , 619.398.0707, facebook.com/TheBeerCompany
Belching Beaver Brewery, 980 Park Center Dr., Ste. A, Vista, 760.599.5832, belchingbeaver.com
Belching Beaver Tasting Room, 4223 30th St., North Park , 619.282.1062, belchingbeaver.com
Benchmark Brewing Company, 6190 Fairmount Ave., Ste. G, Grantville, 619.795.2911, benchmarkbrewing.com
BNS Brewing & Distilling Company, 10960 Wheatlands Ave., Ste. 101, Santee, 619.956.0952, bnsbrewinganddistilling.com
Bolt Brewery, 8179 Center St., La Mesa, 619.303.7837, boltbrewery.com
Booze Brothers Brewing Company, 2545 Progress St., Ste. D, Vista, 760.295.0217, boozebrothersbrewery.com
Border X Brewing Company, 8684 Avenida de la Fuente, Ste. 8, Otay Mesa, 619.787.6176, borderxbrewing.com
Border X Tasting Room, 2196 Logan Ave., Barrio Logan, borderxbrewing.com
Breakwater Brewing Company, 101 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside, 760.433.6064, breakwaterbrewing.com
Butcher's Brewing Company, 9962 Prospect Ave., Ste. E, Santee, 619.334.2222, butchersbrewing.com
ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, 2330 Main St., Ste. C, Ramona, 760.440.5205, chuckalek.com
Coronado Brewing Company, 1205 Knoxville St., Bay Park, 619.275.2215, coronadobrewing.com
Coronado Brewing Company, 170 Orange Ave., Coronado, 619.437.4452, coronadobrewing.com
Coronado Brewing Company Pier-Side, 875 Seacoast Dr., Imperial Beach, 619.424.4900, coronadobrewing.com
Council Brewing Company, 7705 Convoy Ct., Kearny Mesa , 858.256.0038, councilbrew.com
Culture Brewing Company, 111 S. Cedros Ave., Ste. 200, Solana Beach , 858.345.1144, culturebrewingco.com
Culture Brewing Tasting Room, 4845 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach , 619.255.3811, culturebrewingco.com
Dos Desperados Brewery, 1241 Linda Vista Dr., San Marcos , 760.566.6209, dosdesperadosbrew.com
Fall Brewing Company, 4542 30th St., North Park, fallbrewing.com
Fallbrook Brewing Company, 136 N. Main Ave., Fallbrook, 858.342.1851, fallbrookbrewing.com
Gordon Biersch, 5010 Mission Center Rd., Mission Valley , 619.688.1120, gordonbiersch.com
Green Flash Brewing Company, 6550 Mira Mesa Blvd.,Mira Mesa, 858.622.0085, greenflashbrew.com
Groundswell Brewing Company, 6304 Riverdale St., Grantville, 619.795.2337, groundswellbrew.com
Helm's Brewing Company, 5640 Kearny Mesa Rd., Ste. C/N, Kearny Mesa, 858.384.2772, helmsbrewingco.com
Hillcrest Brewing Company, 1458 University Ave., Hillcrest, 619.269.4323, hillcrestbrewingcompany.com
Home Brewing Company, 2911 El Cajon Blvd., Ste. 2, North Park, 619.450.6165, thehomebrewersd.com
Indian Joe Brewing, 2379 La Mirada Dr., Vista, 760.295.3945, indianjoebrewing.com
Intergalactic Brewing Company, 9835 Carroll Centre Rd., Ste. 108, Miramar, 858.750.0601, intergalacticbrew.com
Iron Fist Brewing Company, 1305 Hot Springs Way, Ste. 101, Vista, 760.216.6500, ironfistbrewing.com
Julian Brewing Company, 2307 Main St., Julian, 760.765.3757, baileybbq.com
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 10448 Reserve Dr., 4S Ranch, 858.376.2739, karlstrauss.com
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 5801 Armada Dr., Carlsbad, 760.431.2739, karlstrauss.com
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 1157 Columbia St., Downtown, 619.234.2739, karlstrauss.com
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 1044 Wall St., La Jolla , 858.551.2739, karlstrauss.com
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 5985 Santa Fe St., Pacific Beach, 858.273.2739, karlstrauss.com
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 9675 Scranton Rd., Sorrento Mesa, 858.587.2739, karlstrauss.com
KnB Wine Cellars, 6380 Del Cerro Blvd., Del Cerro, 619.286.0321, knbwinecellars.com
Kuracali Sake & Beer Brewery, 175 Bosstick Blvd., Suite 104, San Marcos, 858.775.6502, kuracali.com
La Jolla Brewing Company, 7536 Fay Ave., La Jolla, 858.246.6759, lajollabeer.com
Latitude 33 Brewing Company, 1430 Vantage Court, Ste. 104, Vista, 760.598.2337, lat33brew.com
Legacy Brewing Company, 363 Airport Rd., Oceanside, 760.705.3221, legacybrewingco.com
Legacy Brewing Tap & Kitchen, 7060 Miramar Rd., Miramar, 760.705.3221, legacybrewingco.com
Lightning Brewery, 13200 Kirkham Way, Ste. 105, Poway, 858.513.8071, lightningbrewery.com
Mike Hess Brewing Company, 3812 Grim Ave., North Park, 619.255.7136, mikehessbrewing.com
Mike Hess Brewing Company, 7955 Silverton Ave., Ste. 1201, Miramar, 619.795.4377, mikehessbrewing.com
Mission Brewery, 1441 L St., East Village , 619.544.0555, missionbrewery.com
Modern Times Beer, 3725 Greenwood St., Point Loma, 619.546.9694, moderntimesbeer.com
Modern Times Flavordome, 3000 Upas St., North Park, 619.269.5222, moderntimesbeer.com
Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery, 805 16th St., East Village, 619.358.9901, monkeypawbrewing.com
Mother Earth Brew Co., 2055 Thibodo Rd., Ste. H, Vista, 760.599.4225, motherearthbrewco.com
Mother Earth Tap House, 206 Main St., Vista, 760.726.2273, motherearthbrewco.com
New English Brewing Company, 11545 Sorrento Valley Rd., Ste. 305, Sorrento Valley, 619.857.8023, newenglishbrewing.com
Nickel Beer Company, 1485 Hollow Glen Rd., Julian, 760.765.2337, nickelbeerco.com
Oceanside Ale Works, 1800 Ord Way, Oceanside, 760.721.4253, oceansidealeworks.net
Offbeat Brewing Company, 1223 Pacific Oaks Place, Ste. 101, Escondido, 760.294.4045, offbeatbrewing.com
Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company, 10155 Rancho Carmel Dr., Carmel Mountain, 858.592.7883, oggis.com
Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company, 12840 Carmel Country Rd., Del Mar, 858.481.7883, oggis.com
Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company, 2130 Birch Rd., Ste. 104, Chula Vista, 619.746.6900, oggis.com
Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company, 305 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas, 760.944.8170, oggis.com
Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company, 2562 Laning Rd., Liberty Station, 619.876.5000, oggis.com
Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company, 2245 Fenton Pkwy., Ste. 101, Mission Valley, 619.640.1072, oggis.com
Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company, 9828 Mission Gorge Rd., Ste. A, Santee, 619.449.6441, oggis.com
Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company, 425 S. Melrose Dr., Vista, 760.295.3500, oggis.com
Oggi's Pizza Express, 5500 Campanile Dr., Room 150, College Area, oggis.com
Oggi's Pizza Express, 825 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach, oggis.com
On-The-Tracks Brewery, 5674 El Camino Real, Ste. G, Carlsbad, 760.550.9688, ottbrew.com
O'Sullivan Brothers Brewing Company, 9879 Hibert St., Ste. F, Scripps Ranch, 858.577.0350, osullivan-brothers.com
Pacific Beach AleHouse, 721 Grand Ave., Pacific Beach, 858.581.2337, pbalehouse.com
Pacific Brewing Company, 8680 Miralani Dr., Miramar, 303.819.7086, pacificbrewingco.com
Pizza Port Brewing Company, 2730 Gateway Rd., Carlsbad, 760.707.1655, pizzaport.com
Pizza Port Brewing Company, 571 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad, 760.720.7007, pizzaport.com
Pizza Port Brewing Company, 1956 Bacon St., Ocean Beach, 619.224.4700, pizzaport.com
Pizza Port Brewing Company, 135 N. Highway 101, Solana Beach, 858.481.7332, pizzaport.com
Plan 9 Alehouse, 155 E. Grand Ave., Escondido, 760.489.8817, plan9alehouse.com
Poor House Brewing Company & Supply, 4494 30th St., Ste. B, North Park, 619.592.9555, poorhousebrew.com
Port Brewing Company/The Lost Abbey/The Hop Concept, 155 Mata Way, Ste. 104, San Marcos, 800.918.6816, portbrewing.com / lostabbey.com
Prohibition Brewing Company, 2004 E. Vista Way, Vista, 760.295.3525, prohibitionbrewingcompany.com
Quantum Brewing, 5375 Kearny Villa Rd., Ste. 116, Kearny Mesa, quantumbrewingsd.com
Rip Current Brewing Company, 1325 Grand Ave., Ste. 100, San Marcos, 760.481.3141, ripcurrentbrewing.com
Rip Current Tasting Room, 4101 30th St., North Park, ripcurrentbrewing.com
Rock Bottom Brewery, 8980 Villa La Jolla Dr., La Jolla, 858.450.9277, rockbottom.com
Rough Draft Brewing Company, 8830 Rehco Rd., Ste. D, Miramar, 858.453.7238, roughdraftbrew.com
Saint Archer Brewery, 9550 Distributor Ave., Miramar, 858.225.2337, saintarcherbrewery.com
San Diego Brewing Company, 10450 Friars Rd., Ste. L, Grantville, 619.284.2739, sandiegobrewing.com
San Marcos Brewery & Grill, 1080 W. San Marcos Blvd., San Marcos, 760.471.0050, sanmarcosbrewery.com
Societe Brewing Company, 8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Kearny Mesa, 858.598.5409, societebrewing.com
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Escondido, 1999 Citracado Pkwy., Escondido, 760.294.7899, stonebrewing.com
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Rd., Ste. 116, Liberty Station, 619.269.2100, stonelibertystation.com
Stone Brewing Tap Room, 795 J St., East Village, 619.727.4452, stonebrewing.com
Stumblefoot Brewing Company, 1784 La Costa Meadows Dr., Ste. 103, San Marcos, 760.208.1012, stumblefoot.com
Thorn Street Brewery, 3176 Thorn St., North Park, 619.501.2739, thornstreetbrew.com
Toolbox Brewing Company, 1495 Poinsettia Ave., Ste. 148, Vista, 760.598.1477, toolboxbrewing.com
Twisted Manzanita Ales & Spirits, 10151 Prospect Ave., Santee, 619.334.1757, twistedmanzanitaales.com
Twisted Manzanita Ales Tasting Room, 4652 Mission Blvd., Pacific Beach, 858.412.4013, twistedmanzanitaales.com
URBN St. Brewing Company, 110 N. Magnolia Ave., El Cajon, 619.328.6922, urbnstbrewing.com
Valley Center Brewery, 28960 Lilac Rd., Ste. C, Valley Center, 760.913.0102, valleycenterbrewery.com
White Labs, 9495 Candida St., Miramar, 858.693.3441, whitelabs.com

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