San Diego is at the forefront of the craft brewery craze. The city has a thriving, continually growing and well-regarded microbrewery community. While new breweries are opening around San Diego all the time, there are some that have stood the test of time and have become staples of the San Diego brewery scene. Here are San Diego's most iconic craft breweries.
You've gotta give props to a brewery whose rise to notoriety rode on a beer called "Arrogant Bastard Ale." But a snappy name is the norm for a brewery worth its hops, and Stone Brewing Company in Escondido has built a rock-solid reputation with its lineup of hearty brews. The brewery started in 1996 by beer lovers Steve Wagner and Greg Koch and has evolved into one of San Diego's leading beer producers. Stone's hip vibe stems from its lineup of hop-infused brews such as Stone Pale Ale, Stone IPA, Stone Ruination IPA, and many more. Its headquarters in Escondido also features a stunning restaurant setting of the Stone World Bistro & Gardens. It also has a restaurant location at Liberty Station in Point Loma and the San Diego Airport plus a tasting room in Oceanside.
It was the beer that started the micro-brew movement in San Diego in 1989 when the first brewpub in 50 years opened. Karl Strauss Brewing Company is the namesake of renowned master brewer and cousin to the founders of the brewery, Chris and Matt. They enlisted Karl's expertise and founded a craft brewery that is quintessentially San Diego, with a lineup of beers like Woody Gold, Red Trolley Ale, Tower 10 IPA and Endless Summer Light. Karl Strauss now has locations in Downtown San Diego, La Jolla, Sorrento Mesa, Carlsbad, 4S Ranch, Temecula, Costa Mesa, and Universal City.
Pizza Port is kind of a weird name for a beer (not that weird names for craft brews is unusual), but it makes sense when you take into consideration the Pizza Port is also a restaurant serving up -- you guessed it: pizza. The Pizza Port restaurant opened in 1987 in Solana Beach and the owners started brewing beer as a hobby and served their first handcrafted beer in 1992. Pizza Port's brews range from light ales and perfect for a summery day to heavy stouts perfect for showing off your beer palate.
Named for the phenomena that occurs at the seashore at sunset (no, I haven't experienced one), Green Flash Brewing Company produces a lineup of hoppy ales. The tasting room is located in a hip warehouse with a long bar and inviting beer garden. Food trucks often sidle up to the beer garden so you can get some grub to eat with your beer at the picnic tables in the beer garden. Green Flash has a "Beer First" philosophy, which has resulted in high-quality and inventive specialty craft ales, starting with its original brew, the beloved West Coast IPA.
Ballast Point Brewing Company got its beginnings as the store Home Brew Mart to encourage budding home brewers and eventually grew into its own label. The founder also had a love of fishing, so many of the names of Ballast Point's beers are inspired by fish. The brewery was started in 1996 and today it has five tasting rooms you can visit, located in Scripps Ranch Little Italy, Miramar, Temecula and the Home Brew Mart in the Linda Vista neighborhood of San Diego. The California Kolsch and California Amber are popular brews. So is the Sculpin IPA, which has branched out into the Pineapple Sculpin IPA, Grapefruit Sculpin IPA and Habanero Sculpin IPA. Big Eye I.P.A., Black Marlin Porter and Wahoo Wheat Beer throughout San Diego.
It might not have the profile that Stone or Karl Strauss breweries have, but Alesmith Brewing Company has its own rabid following. It also has a state of the art new brewing headquarters that it opened in 2015 in celebration of its 20th anniversary. The headquarters is in Mira Mesa and features a sleek new tasting area and innovative brew system. When tasting, you'll discover a variety of handcrafted ales sporting hard-to-forget names like My Bloody Valentine, Old Numbskull, and Wee Heavy. Many of Alesmith's beer are inspired by European brews.
Updated by Gina Tarnacki on May 26, 2016.