Can you even talk about San Diego without mentioning its exploding craft beer scene? In San Diego beer is not just a beverage; it’s an art form. Before arriving in San Diego I had no idea it was considered the craft brew capital of America. However, it definitely didn’t take me long to figure it out.
Scattered around San Diego County you’ll find over 140 breweries; not to mention brewpubs and tasting rooms. San Diegans clearly love their beer! And with creative concoctions like (my personal fav) Karl Straus’ peanut butter cup porter, who wouldn’t?
The Ultimate Guide to Craft Beer in San Diego
San Diego: A Craft Beer Destination
Beer-related tourism is a thing in San Diego. You’ll find that many breweries offer tours of their facilities and tasting rooms. In addition to that, there are even commercialized beer tours! These tours escort you to selected breweries around San Diego County.
San Diego Craft Beer Tours
There are many beer tours to choose from, but here are a few to check out:
San Diego Craft Beer Festivals
San Diego International Beer Festival
Welcome to the largest beer festival on the West Coast! The San Diego International Beer Festival takes place at the San Diego County Fair every June. Admission to the festival also includes admission to the County Fair, which is the largest County Fair in the nation. Double win! Come to learn more about beer and sample some great brews. With over 1,000 beer entries, you will also discover the winner of the Best of Show trophy and Champion Brewery award.
San Diego Beer Week
San Diego Beer Week is a 10-day long festival held in early November. With 500+ events scheduled around San Diego County, you can pick which event you want to go to. The festival is designed to highlight the local beer scene, with events hosted by breweries, pubs, and alehouses.
San Diego’s Signature Craft Beer
Although you can find every type of craft beer imaginable, San Diego does have a signature beer. San Diego is best known for very hoppy, and high-alcohol beers, such as the Indian Pale Ale (IPA).
As if that wasn’t enough, they began producing an even stronger, and even hoppier style beer. This one is known as the Double IPA. The Double IPA is produced by almost all breweries in San Diego. This super hoppy beer is commonly referred to as the San Diego Pale Ale.
The Top Dogs
San Diego has a few “all-stars” that really put them on the craft brew map. These breweries are famous amongst beer connoisseurs, and consistently win awards at festivals around the world.
- Stone Brewing Co. – The largest brewery in Southern California and one of the largest craft breweries in the United States. They’re best known for their hoppy and high alcohol beers such as the Arrogant Bastard Ale and Stone Pale Ale.
- Karl Strauss Brewing Company – This brewery almost single-handedly kicked off the craft brew craze in 1989. Popular beers are the Karl Strauss Amber Lager and the Red Trolley Ale.
- Ballast Point Brewing Company – Ballast Point began as a Home Brew Mart supplying local brewers with supplies and ingredients. Founder, Jack White’s plan was always to eventually turn his hobby into a pro-level brewery, and he definitely succeeded! Ballast Point’s trophy beer is the extra-hopped and unfiltered, Sculpin.
- Pizza Port – Pizza Port had small beginnings as a struggling pizza place in Solana Beach. After owner, Vince Marsaglia, started dabbling in home brew, he was encouraged to start his own brewpub and never looked back. Together with spin-off companies Port Brewing Company and Lost Abbey the franchise has won dozens of metals for their beer.
- AleSmith Brewing Co. – Similar to the other breweries, AleSmith specializes in hoppy beer with high alcoholic content. Definitely try the Barrel Aged Speedway Stout, which is aged in bourbon barrels and recognized as one of the best beers in the world!
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