In 2018, San Diego County’s largest brewery was ...

Who brewed the most beer in San Diego County last year?
(Nelvin Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Recently released production figures reveal an uneven year for San Diego’s breweries, with winners, losers and some that held steady.


The best of years, the worst of years, the so-so of years: that San Diego beer in 2018. Recently released production figures reveal an uneven year with winners, losers and breweries that held steady.


Stone. Escondido powerhouse eked out a 3 percent increase over 2017; its 400,000 barrels means Stone remains the county’s largest brewery and the nation’s ninth largest.

Modern Times. Fast-growing brewery enjoyed an increase of 41 percent, making 51,468 barrels.

Saint Archer. A 21 percent year-over-year rise makes it No. 4 in the county, with 55,000 barrels.

Belching Beaver. Up 68 percent, to 30,250 barrels.


Ballast Point. Fell 15 percent in ‘18, yet remains the county’s second largest brewery at 320,000 barrels.

Green Flash. A year of retrenchment saw a 37 percent drop, down to 45,345 barrels.


Karl Strauss. A 2 percent gain in ’18 took it to 83,654 barrels, making it No. 3 in the county and No. 40 in the U.S.

AleSmith. Ended 2018 exactly where it had in 2017: 35,000 barrels.

The county’s Top 10 breweries, in order: 1. Stone (400,000 barrels), 2. Ballast Point (320,000); 3. Karl Strauss (83,654); 4. Saint Archer (55,000); 5. Modern Times (51,468); 6. Green Flash (45,345); 7. Mother Earth (40,000); 8. Coronado (39,022); 9. Pizza Port-Bressi Rranch (37,290); 10. AleSmith (35,000).

Kings of Beer

Weekend Vibes (6.8 percent alcohol by volume) left me all swoony; this was love at first sip with this Coronado Brewing IPA. Maybe it was the beer’s profile, rich in tropical and stone fruit flavors that come from Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe hops. Perhaps it was the pin-prick carbonation, which moved things along with a welcome briskness. Could have been the dry, isn’t-it-time-for-another-sip? finish.

Some beers require an extended courtship; you need time (and a few bottles) to appreciate their virtues. Others, you take an instant and eternal dislike to.

This is one of those rare beers that woos you with ample surface charms, charms that prove to be deeper and more satisfying than you initially suspect.

Random Question from My Editor

Q. I’ve noticed fewer breweries opening. Why is that?

A. First, may I compliment you on your astute observation? (NOTE TO READERS: Sucking up to the boss never hurts. Besides, he is right.) West Coaster magazine, which tracks local openings, reported 18 new breweries in 2018 but just two in 2019’s first half.

We are over-saturated. San Diego County is home to 150-plus breweries, more than one brewery for every 20,000 residents. Many of those folks — hi, kids! — don’t drink, and many who do drink prefer wine, spirits, hard cider and kombucha.

How to make a small fortune with a new brewery? Start with a large fortune.

Sore Eye

Until 2 p.m. July 19, voting is open for the seventh annual Sore Eye Cup, podcaster Brian Beagle’s competition seeking the county’s best regularly produced independent beer.

You can vote for up to five beers daily at the website of Beagle’s Indie Beer Show podcast, The top 10 selections will then be culled by a panel of judges. The winner will be announced during an Aug. 10 party at the Rabbit Hole, 3377 Adams Ave., San Diego.

Previous winners include Alpine’s Nelson, Second Chance’s Tabula Rasa, Benchmark’s Oatmeal Stout and Burgeon’s Treevana. A two-time victor and the Sore Eye Cup Hall of Fame’s sole member, AleSmith’s Speedway Stout, is barred from further competition.

“Because it would win every year,” Beagle explained.

Why Sore Eye? Beagle was an action sports photographer who never blinked. While he gave up that profession, he kept the name.

Words to Drink By

“IPA #12 was a step back. It was excessively sweet in the finish, and the apricot and peach notes from the Citra hops were overpowering. She wanted the Citra hops to whisper a suggestion, not derail the conversation. Mo said that in every great multi-hop IPA, the various hops are like childhood friends who complete each other’s sentences. No one hop should have the greeting and the last word.” — Brewing advice from J. Ryan Stradal’s “The Lager Queen of Minnesota.”

Stradal’s second novel, following “Kitchens of the Great Midwest,” “Lager Queen” will be published July 23 by Viking.