It’s no secret that San Diego has exploded into the craft beer scene in recent years; it’s been called the “Craft Beer Capital of America” and with more than 25 breweries just in the city limits alone, it’s home to some of the best beers in the world. The city’s very first brewery (aptly named The San Diego Brewing Company) opened its doors downtown back in 1896. Big names like Karl Strauss, Ballast Point, and Stone dominate the market, but there are countless other smaller craft options.
7537 Fay Avenue, La Jolla CA 92037 Formerly La Jolla Brewhouse, the La Jolla Brewing Company reopened its renovated doors in the summer of 2013 and prides itself on being a premiere craft beer destination in La Jolla. In addition to their own hand-crafted beer, they feature a 24-tap rotating selection of local San Diego County craft beers. Their in-house beer selection features five signature styles: a Pale Ale, IPA, Pub Ale, Dry Stout, and Brown Ale. The LJBC’s own craft beers are all named after famous La Jollan landmarks; two of their inaugural beers were the Sunny Jim IPA and the Bird Rock Brown. Talk about local!
Featured Beer: Neptune’s Nitro; 4.9 ABV
Originally built as summer beach houses in 1894, the Neptune cottages (also known as Red Rest and Red Roost) remain to this day a reminder of adventure in the wild west. The beer is a delicious golden ale, delicate and lightly hopped with a touch of dryness and a creamy, frothy head. Pairs perfectly with a burger!
2. Societé Brewing Company
8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111
Societé is one of the newer breweries in San Diego – it only opened in 2012 – but is definitely holding its own. The name of the brewery is actually an homage to beer as the world’s greatest social synthesizer – people all over the world gather at bars and pubs to socialize. Their brewery and tasting room occupies a 16,000 sq. ft. building in Mira Mesa, and their family of beers is varied and distinct: hoppy ales, Belgian-inspired Old World brews, dark Stygian beers, and wine-barrel aged Feral sours handcrafted in a 20 barrel brewhouse are just a few examples.
Featured Beer: The Debutante; 7.0 ABV
The Debutante is a Belgian ale, amber in color and heavily aromatic. The aroma delivers notes of allspice and nutmeg mixed with a touch of caramel; it has a light-medium body, but finishes dry and smooth with flavors of caramel and toasted sugar notes in the finish. A very drinkable ale – pair it with dessert or something sweet.
3. Lost Abbey Brewing Company
155 Mata Way #104, San Marcos 92069 The Lost Abbey is a small brewery in San Marcos run by Director of Brewery Operations Tomme Arthur. Spun from a former Pizza Port location in San Marcos in 2006, it’s a joint independent operation with the Port Brewing Company. Doors opened in May, 2006 and in 2007 Port Brewing/Lost Abbey was named Small Brewery of the Year by the Great American Beer Festival. Today, they have a library of more than 1000 oak bourbon, brandy, sherry, and wine barrels that comprise one of the most remarkable barrel-aging programs for a craft brewery of any size.
Featured Beer: Red Barn Ale; 6.7 ABV
This Farmhouse Ale traces its roots to the small rural breweries of Southern Belgium. Lightly spiced with organic ginger, orange peels, black pepper, and grains, this brew is their most fragrant. The first sip begins with a sweet malt expression that combines well with yeasty flavors and peppery spices. It’s a super refreshing beer perfect for hot summer days, and pairs perfectly with spicy food or fish tacos.
4. Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment
1795 Hancock Street, San Diego 92110 Acoustic Ales is an experiment being conducted by the individuals behind beer and burger bastions Encinitas Ale House and La Jolla Public House. Though its only a startup microbrewery, it’s located in the oldest standing brewing facility in San Diego; the Historic Mission Brewery Plaza, built in 1912, housed one of San Diego’s first breweries. Check out the awesome combination of old and new architecture and try one of their beers in the tasting room- with 18 craft brews on tap, nitro and cask, they have an option for everyone.
Featured Beer: Hopski; 5% ABV
This traditional style lager is tastefully balanced, lightly hopped, mildly malty, and left unfiltered. Acoustic Ales is really touching on the roots of its historic home here- this pre-Prohibition style lager emulates the recipe that was first concocted 100 years ago at the same location.
5. AleSmith Brewing Company
9368 Cabot Drive, San Diego Alesmith Brewing is an artisan craft brewery founded in 1995 by Skip Virgilio and Ted Newcomb that specializes in handcrafted ales in a variety of styles. In 2002, the brewery was purchased by the company’s brewmaster, Peter Zien. Zien is a “Grand Master level 1” beer judge – the only one in San Diego County!
Featured Beer: BA Speedway Stout; 12% ABV
They’ve matured their Russian Imperial Stout in premium bourbon barrels for a year to create the perfect blend of flavors. Notes of oak, vanilla, and bourbon add another level of complexity to this beer’s already massive flavor profile of chocolate, Ryan Bros. Coffee, and roasted barley. Designed to be enjoyed now or aged in the bottle for years to come, this special release is exceptionally smooth and also a very food-friendly stout.
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