With close to 120 breweries nearby, San Diego has emerged as a hub for the craft beer craze. "San Diego has now become the craft beer capital of the United States," says Robert Marks, chief concierge at the Omni San Diego Hotel. "In almost any community you are going to be in, there will be a brewery. Breweries are a big part of who we are these days."
But that wasn't always the case: It all started in the late 1980s with Karl Strauss Brewing Co., Marks says. Now, Karl Strauss is just one of many craft breweries in San Diego, where there's a brew for every taste.
Indeed, according to Christopher Jorgens, chief concierge at the Hotel Del Coronado, "The San Diego brew industry … has a bigger economic impact for the city now than Comic-Con," the city's famous pop culture convention.
Selecting a great San Diego brewery can be overwhelming in a city with so many establishments to choose from. To help you navigate San Diego's thriving beer scene, here are six can't-miss breweries for your next visit.
Stone Brewing's flagship location in Escondido north of San Diego has 36 craft and specialty beers on tap. Stone also includes local organic produce on its food menu to complement its beer. Its Liberty Station location, the former home of several Navy buildings, has indoor and outdoor dining areas that together span more than 23,500 square feet, providing space for patrons to enjoy a beer, a game of bocce or an outdoor movie night. This location has 40 beers on tap, as well as a bottle list of another 100 craft and specialty beers from around the world. "It's an absolutely amazing location that you wouldn't normally think a brewery would encompass," says Justin Robbins, chief concierge at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar.
[Read: Best Foodie Destinations in the USA.]
Both locations are open daily at 11 or 11:30 a.m. and close at 9 or 10 p.m., depending on the day. Daily public tours are offered at the Escondido location from noon to 6 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis.
Mike Hess Brewing
Founded in 2010, Mike Hess Brewing offers tasting flights, beer by the glass, and bottled and canned beer. Guests can see the fermentation tanks up close while tasting the beer, and according to Edna Gutierrez, public relations manager at the San Diego Tourism Authority, the brewery is family- and dog-friendly.
The craft brewery has locations in North Park and Miramar, as well as a tasting room in Ocean Beach. All locations are open seven days a week, though hours vary.
Monkey Paw Brewing Co.
Established in 2011 and located in the East Village, the Monkey Paw Brewing Co. has a creative tap list as well as a food menu and craft cocktails. There are at least 20 beers on tap, brewed both in-house and at other breweries in San Diego and around the world. Patrons can also select from a wide range of music on a jukebox.
Hours of operation are Monday through Wednesday, noon to midnight, and Thursday through Sunday, noon to 2 a.m.
Founded by Jack White, Pete A'Hearn and Yuseff Cherney, Ballast Point has tasting rooms in Little Italy, Scripps Ranch and Miramar, as well as inside White's first venture, Home Brew Mart, in Linda Vista. Each brewery and tasting room has at least 20 beers on tap – all of which are worth trying, Robbins says. The brewery's Grunion Pale Ale, for example, took gold in its category at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. Tasting room hours vary by location, but you can try Ballast Point's brews every day of the week.
Meanwhile, food trucks are often present at the Scripps Ranch tasting room and at Home Brew Mart. The truck schedule can be found on Ballast Point's website. The Little Italy location has a full kitchen. Tours are offered at the Miramar location and can be scheduled online.
What began as a homebrewer's search for higher-quality yeast developed into a full-scale yeast-making and research center. Established in 1995, White Labs now makes yeast for nearly all of San Diego's breweries.
It also offers tastings. At any given time, White Labs has up to 32 beers on tap and three on cask. The tap list changes regularly, and the tasting room staff is extremely knowledgeable about the different brews, as well as brewing and fermentation techniques. Eager homebrewers can buy White Labs' yeast for their own use.
Tasting room hours are Monday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Tours are offered every day, though hours vary.
[Read: 8 Underrated Beer Cities.]
Modern Times is known not only for its creative brews – which include a blood orange sour, a tropical wheat and a coffee stout – but also for its coffee beans. "The decor is just amazing and they also … roast coffee beans [which are] used in their beers," Gutierrez says. Named after a utopian community founded in 1850, Modern Times opened in 2013 and offers 16 beers on tap. Supervised children are welcome, and food can be brought inside or delivered.
Modern Times has two locations, one in North Park, a neighborhood experiencing a surge of microbreweries, and the other in Point Loma. Their hours are Sunday through Thursday, noon to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, noon to midnight.
To experience more of what San Diego has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
Updated on April 28, 2017: This story was originally published on October 20, 2016.
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