BeerDude Homebrewing


4Beers.jpg = Don't Miss!          Pics/3Beer.jpg = Fabulous!          Pics/2Beer.jpg = Very Good!          Pics/1Beer.jpg = Hey, it's a brewery!

Pics/KarlStraussDowntown.jpgKarl Strauss Brewery - Downtown Pics/4Beer.jpg

Established in 1988, this is the original scene of the crime. At one time it was the only craft brewery in San Diego, and my work buddies and I became loyal regulars. The taste of their well known Amber Lager and Red Trolley Ale remain fresh on my taste buds, yet their newer varieties such as Tower 10 IPA keep up with modern trends. Pay homage to one of the temples of the Old Testament - This is a must-visit for anyone who lives in or is visiting San Diego.

Favorite Beer: RED TROLLEY ALE - My ol' friend.

Ballast Point  Pics/4Beer.jpg

Now we're talking! Ballast Point has won awards for their products on a consistent basis, and quite deservedly so. Personally, I feel they craft the best beers in town, and quite possible the nation. They started as a homebrew supply store in 1992, and I've been a loyal customer ever since. They always have a good stock of grains, hops, and yeast on hand and are knowledgeable and supportive. They first started selling beer in 1994, and I remember thinking it was a noble experiment but would go nowhere. In those days it was hard to find a beer drinker that would venture beyond Bud or Miller. But their courage and hard work paid off, and now I'm relegated to repenting how wrong I was over a pint of their Original Pale Ale (oh darn!). These guys aren't afraid to try difficult beers and have the talent to make it work.

Favorite beer: ALL OF THEM, but if forced to make a decision I'd say SCULPIN IPA.

Pics/Stone2.jpgStone Brewing Company Pics/4Beer.jpg

Massive. Almost to big to be called a micro-brewery, the Stone Brewery in Escondido is essentially a beer factory with a restaurant attached. Located in a 3-story building, the restaurant has an indoor area, bar area, meeting room, outdoor patio, and a pathway laden garden area where customers can get away from the crowd. And don't forget the gift shop that probably takes in more revenue alone than many local breweries. Stone beers are available in several stores including major supermarkets. Their beers are indeed good, but not as impressive as the size of the facility. This place is something every beer-lover needs to experience over a tasty pint .

Favorite beer: STONE IPA - Great example of a modern highly hopped high alcohol IPA that will kick your taste buds as well as your butt.

KarlStraussSorrento.jpgKarl Strauss Brewery - Sorrento Mesa 3Beer.jpg
Even though there are several other Karl Strauss Breweries in San Diego, the one in Sorrento Mesa holds a special place in my heart. This is where my wife and I first dated, came to know each other, and fell in love. There's a large outdoor patio overlooking a Koi pond, a newly remodeled interior, and plenty of room for weddings or other gatherings. My only regret is that the food dishes my wife and I used to enjoy, such as the Portobello mushroom sandwich or pizza made with beer have been replaced with more trendy fare such as mac-n-cheese and meatloaf. Really?

Favorite beer: TOWER 10 IPA - Good example of a traditional IPA.

Karl Strauss Brewery - 4-S Ranch 3Beer.jpg
This is one of the newer Strauss brewery-restaurants. It's in the large 4-S Ranch shopping center on Rancho Bernardo Rd, west of I-15. Nicely laid out, the place seems more spacious than the other outlets, even during buy times. The outdoor area sports a large fireplace where patrons can gather without feeling packed. Service seems a tad better here as well: friendly and attentive , without unnecessary hovering. My wife and I will definitely be back.

Favorite beer: OFF THE RAILS - Like Red Trolley Ale on steroids.

OffbeatBrewing.jpgOffbeat Brewing Company  Pics/2Beer.jpg 

A classic example of an "industrial park brewery", this small bare-bones establishment sports a tasting bar along with a few tables and chairs situated next to the brewing equipment. They don't serve food but it doesn't matter - you go there for the beer, and every one I've tasted is good. As they grow I'll give them a higher rating, but they sure know how to make tasty light brews as well as the strong ones.

Favorite beer: GIFFAFICOPTER PALE ALE - Like their description says, a great beer for after a hard day's work.

Pics/BigBear.JPGBig Bear Lake Brewing Company Pics/3Beer.jpg

Just opened in spring of 2014, this gastro-brewpub is already filled with loyal customers. And no wonder! With a variety of well-crafted bears, decent wine selection, and surprisingly good dishes from a creative menu, this new establishment should have no problem gaining steam. Good location on the corner of Pine Knot Ave. and Stone Rd, sharing the same parking lot as the Peppercorn Grill - Probably the two best restaurants in town.

Favorite beer: RED ALE - I don't remember the name, but it was good and a bit unique.

Green Flash Brewing Company Pics/3Beer.jpg

One of the first large micro-breweries in San Diego, Green Flash paved the way with this new style of after-work entertainment: a simple but clean tasting area, gift items for sale, outdoor tables, and some of the best gourmet food trucks in town tease your pallet in the parking lot. Yes, you feel like you're tasting beer in a corner of a large warehouse, but no one seems to mind. They have a wide variety of beers, and the low prices in the tasting area offer perhaps the best bang-for-the-buck amongst San Diego breweries. Often filled with QualComm and other Sorrento Valley techies, one can always expect an interesting conversation.

Favorite beer: BARLYWINE STYLE ALE - True barley wines are hard to come by, and this place does a good job.

Pics/Culture.jpgCulture Brewing Company Pics/2Beer.jpg

Located in Solana Beach, Culture is another great example of a San Diego start-up micro-brewery. Just steps away from the famous Belly-up Tavern, it is surrounded by an interesting mix of atisan shops and restaurants. It's a nice area for visitors or locals to stroll around, window shop, and have a brew. The tasting room is just the right size for a brewery of this class, and the deck out back insures you'll always have space to enjoy their brews. The owners seem to know what they're doing - Most of the beers I've tried have been very good, amply described by the beer list that includes details of ingredients used. Clientele is a curious blend of after-work professionals and casual beach-goers, who probably switch places later in the week.

Favorite beer: PALE ALE - A nice example of an American-style pale ale, tasty and well-balanced, with that crisp Cascade flavor.

Pics/Nickel.JPGNickel Beer Company Pics/2Beer.jpg

Just east of Julian by 1/2 mile, Nickel Beer just opened in mid 2014. Already they have a steady stream of customers. People out for a cruise in the countryside in their motor-cars or motor-bikes come and go with endless regularity. The tasting room is small, with an even smaller game room of sorts in which a Foosball table is set. The workers serve you quickly and are happy to describe the decent selection of brews. But the best part is the fact that you can sit outside at rustic wooden table in their large patio and drink good beer amongst the pine trees. What could be better?

Favorite beer: DEVIL'S COPPER - A hoppy red ale. But don't forget to honor the Evacuation Pale Ale - Part of the proceeds go to the local fire department.

Pics/PizzaPort.jpgPizza Port - Solana Beach Pics/4Beer.jpg

Although they now sport 6 locations including a Bottle Shop with over 600 different types of beer, the original location on Highway 101 remains as funky as ever. More of a casual beach-bar than a brewery, this place is filled with beach types, kid, dogs, a few video games, surf paraphernalia, and some long rustic tables that beg you to sit anywhere. Don't except to find the usual detailed beer-list, instead you'll see a board plastered with beer names that look like gaudy bumper-stickers. Although the beers are good, they are not particularly special, and no one seems to care. They come here to eat, drink, and be merry in a keg-party atmosphere. During peak times it will be crowded and noisy, but the workers are helpful and seem to thrive on the mayhem. To give you an idea of the culture, my son, John, who used to work there, recalls a story when the owners' eyes welled up because they had to inform the underage staff to quit drinking up the profits. This place is a real throwback, and definitely worth a visit if nothing more than to experience a one-of-a-kind spectacle.

Favorite beer: Who cares!

Pics/LaJolla.JPGLa Jolla Brewing Company Pics/3Beer.jpg

This place dates back to sometime in the 1990s, regarded as a sort of Karl Strauss wannabe. They went through some hard times, evolved into a late-night rowdy bar, then finally closed. Since then new owners have invested heavily and rebranded the establishment as a large modern brewpub. After my first visit to the new venue I can simply say - Nice job! In addition to brewing good beers, they have pleasant selection of wine, and a menu that surpasses most brewpubs. So far, patrons have responded well to the clean atmosphere and solid service, giving good reason for repeat business.

Favorite beer: BIRD ROCK BROWN - A big tasting but balanced brown ale.

Pics/RoughDraft.jpgRough Draft Brewing Company Pics/2Beer.jpg

This is a very popular afterwork place that is more like a neighborhood bar than yet another industrial park brewery. Don't let the front appearance and surroundings fool you. From the outside it looks like any other boring business, but once inside you'll sense a whole different flavor. The staff is friendly and the variety of furnishings (bar stools, tables, couch, music system) give it a very welcoming atmosphere. Oh, and the beers are good too. It's just a fun, unassuming joint.

Favorite beer: I don't remember. Guess I'll have to go again.

Iron Fist Brewing Company Pics/3Beer.jpg

A bit out of the way for most workers in San Diego, Iron Fist Brewing Company can be a little hard to find. But the search is worth it. One glance at the crowded tasting room will give you the hint that something good's going on. And it is simply the beer! An interesting mix of North Coastal-ites and other locals frequent the place, which has a respectable size brewing facility within view of the packed tasting room. The brews range from light to strong, and they have the courage to brew a Kolsch beer (light but tasty cross between Belgian ale and German lager), which is difficult to get right. They come pretty close.

Favorite beer: RENEGADE BLOND KOLSCH - Like all Kolsch beers it goes down easy. But it's best to go slow and savor it.

Coronado Brewing Company Pics/3Beer.jpg

Although the beer here is good, the main attraction is completeness - They just have everything. Indoor seating, bar area, outdoor seating next to the front sidewalk, child-friendly (without being annoying), brick pizza ovens, and a large menu that offers steaks, seafood, salads, pastas, pizza, and the usual bar food. Yes, the beer alone is worth a visit, but this just might be the best combination brewery-and- restaurant in San Diego. Come hungry.

Favorite beer: CORONADO GOLDEN - It's light, but so tasty.

Pics/HessMiramar.jpgHess Brewing - Miramar Pics/2Beer.jpg

Hess Brewing has recently expanded into a large beautiful facility in North Park. But the small commercial space where it all began is just classic. Located in one of the many  industrial parks in Miramar, it could be mistaken for a furniture repair shop or something. But, there's beer-making equipment in view, and a make-shift tasting room where beer lovers spill out into the parking lot. Their beers are very good, and they have the courage and knowledge to brew a Kolsch beer that tastes clean and light. Occasionally the place turns into a sort of afterwork street party, with 
kids riding bikes, dogs, gourmet food trucks, and live music from some band that just felt like playing.

Favorite beer: I haven't decided. Guess I'll have to go again.

Hess Brewing - North Park Pics/3Beer.jpg

North Park is famous for it's restaurants, wine-bars, and other fun places, and Hess Brewing's new facility is just what the doctor ordered. You can park for free at one of the two lots adjacent to the building. The inside of the building is airy and spacious with a unique entry way. From the door you walk along a wide catwalk of sorts that stretches across the brewing area, view the large tanks that sit below you and tower above you, giving you the feeling of walking amongst beer-giants. But fear not, soon you safely arrive in the tasting room equipped with modern decor and those great Hess brews. There's even dominoes and other games available for patrons in the mood. Like other places in North Park, I sure it will be frequented by locals who live, work, and play in the same neighborhood. And now they have their own brewery!

Favorite beer: Like Hess Miramar, I haven't decided. Guess I'll have to go again.

Ale Smith Brewing Company Pics/3Beer.jpg

One of the more interesting breweries in San Diego, they stretch the boundaries of creativity by including Belgian ales, Scottish ales, barley wines, and barrel-aged beers. They also experiment in brewing old styles ales that date back centuries. You can enjoy their beers in their comfortable tasting room decorated with wooden barrels, or simply have your growler filled. Although the tasting room is smaller than most breweries of their size, don't let that fool you - They have done a supurb job of marketing themselves into one of the largest breweries in San Diego, winning several awards in the process. Ale Smith is definitely a brewery to keep an eye on.

Favorite beer: ANVIL ESB - A good example of a traditional British ale, which seems to escape many contemporary breweries.

Helm's Brewing Company Pics/2Beer.jpg

Although a bit hard to find, Helm's is a friendly place situated in an industrial park near San Diego Harley-Davidson, behind it and two buildings to the right. From the outside it looks like a garage (actually it is) but once inside you feel pleasingly immersed in the after-work banter of local patrons. The brew-masters here pride themselves on attention to detail, and so far it seems to have worked. Their beers are fine, and their beer list is pretty complete.

Favorite beer: CHOCOLATE NIGHT - Whew! Russian Imperial Stouts like this are normally sipped slowly from tiny glasses. But somehow this one goes down easy. Too easy.

Blind Lady Ale House Pics/4Beer.jpg

This is not a brewery, but it doesn't matter. I'll make an exception. This gastro-pub has a huge selection of craft beer on tap and in bottles, a pleasing selection of appetizers and bar-style entrees, and is jam packed with happy customers. But what sets this place apart is the amazing collection of old wooden skateboards, beer bottles, and beer cans, mostly from the '60s. The walls are literally covered with them, in what just might be the world's largest collection of such items, as impressive or ridiculous as it may seem. Despite the crowd the service is efficient, and on busy nights you are ushered to the food or beer line as you enter the door. Locals just can't seem to get enough of this family-friendly joint, which is basically an unusual museum that serves beer.

Favorite beer: I don't know. I was too busy admiring the Makaha skateboard.

Societe Brewing Company Pics/2Beer.jpg

Located a stone's throw from The Helm, Societe specializes in hops, using them in varied and creative ways. The tasting room is large and there's an outdoor seating area. This place is hopping (you knew that was coming!) with after-works types due to it's proximity to the surrounding commercial area. One of the more creative things they brew are "single hop beers", light but well hopper beers that showcase a particular variety of hop. I'm not sure how popular these brews are, but I admire the creativity. I'll definitely be back, and maybe over time increase their rating.

Favorite beer: DEBUTANTE - Malty and balanced Belgian Ale.

Pics/LostAbbey.jpgThe Lost Abbey Pics/1Beer.jpg

Lost Abbey happens to be in the same warehouse where Stone Brewing Company started. They brew a wide variety of mostly Belgian ales, and also do contract brewing for Port Brewing which offers the beer served at Pizza Port. So I was quite excited to hear about a brewery that dares to attempt artisan style Belgian Ales. The first time I went there I enjoyed the strong but refreshing taste of Lost and Found Abbey Ale. But the second time was a totally different experience.
It seemed every beer I tried was way overdone, almost to the point of not wanting to finish my pint. (Which for me is shocking!) Half of the servers seem more interested in flirting with regulars than pouring beers, something other patrons noticed as well. I'll give it another chance, but the style of beer, questionable service, and gaudy atmosphere made for an uncomfortable experience.

Favorite beer: LOST AND FOUND - Strong and flavorful Belgian Ale.

Quantum Brewing Company Pics/2Beer.jpg

Yet another brewery in the Kearny Mesa area, it just opened summer 2014. I was there on the 2nd day of business, surrounded by a small but interested crowd. The owners approach their craft meticulously and are quite willing to answer questions about ingredients and techniques. Quantum Brewing is small at this point in time, but so far I like what I taste, and I look forward to watching them grow.

Favorite beer: UNCERTAINTY RED - Well balanced and tasty red ale.

Pics/GordonBiersch.jpgGolden Biersch Pics/2Beer.jpg

Golden Biersch began in Palo Alto and has grown to be one of the larger brewpub chains. The restaurant in Mission Valley opened sometime in the 1990s and soon was regarded as popular and somewhat chic, drawing large crowds and the unavoidable wait time. The food menu is more complete than most breweries, there's plenty of seating inside and out, and the decor is pleasant. But the beer offering is limited and, well, so-so. The last time I was there the place was surprisingly empty for a Friday night, making one wonder if this location will survive the growing competition of breweries in San Diego.

Favorite beer: CZECH PILSNER - Refreshingly good, but not great.

Mother Earth Brewing Company Pics/2Beer.jpg

The tasting room for this brewery is in the heart of Vista Village, a lively area well known to Vista locals but not so well known to others. There are plenty of shops and restaurants within a few blocks, making it a sort of "North County Gas Lamp" region. The brewery features a nice variety of brews on hand, ranging from mild light ales to a brown that could qualify as a barley wine. And for a special surprize, they are one of the few local brewers to actually attempt a real cask-conditioned ale drawn with a handpump - Yes! You can find their beers at several dozen restaurants, bars and stores all over the county, a testament to their marketing prowness.

Favorite beer: PIN UP ALE (cask-coditioned) - Not as good as merry ol' England, but I'll have another!

Intergalatic Brewing Company Pics/1Beer.jpg

Space, the final frontier, is the theme of this new brewery, as the name implies. Yet another commercial garage leased to young brewers, the inside is decorated with posters of (you guessed it) space science fiction movies. The genre ranges from recent Star Wars, not-so-recent Star Trek, those lovely 1950s classics, and all the way back to the 1927 silent film Metropolis, which experts regard as the very first sci-fi movie. But that's about it. I really don't care for their beers, seeming not well balanced and even over-the-top at times. I'll give them another shot, but so far the only things I find amusing are the posters and the customers from the nearby condos who walk or skateboard over to get their fill.

Favorite beer: None yet.

Council Brewing Company Pics/2Beer.jpg

Freshly opened and with only a few reviews, Council Brewing is starting to gain momentum. And with good reason - Their beers are good! Offering a surprising wide variety in a neatly prepared tasting room, the brews I've tried are tasty and balanced. There's the usual food truck out back, largely ignored because patrons are busy enjoying well crafted beer. It's not a big place, and they may soon burst at the seams and be forced to look for a larger facility. But I'l' be keeping an eye on them, and their beer in my hand.

Favorite beer: CLODHOPPER E.S.B. (extra special bitter) Anyone who brews an English-style ale has my vote!

Pics/Amplified.jpgAmplified Ale Works Pics/3Beer.jpg

Not sure when they opened and don't really care. In the Mission Beach Promenade, upstairs, with a nice view of the beach and ocean, great beer, great food, great service ... What more could you want! The lively crowd of beach-goers adds to the fun, and the small but satisfying selection of wine keeps my wife happy. "California-fresh Mediterranean-inspired" is how they describe their menu, and they do a very good job. Everything we savored was delicious and easy on the wallet. The American-style Ale hit the spot, Electrocution IPA lives up to it's name, and the Big Muff Barley Wine goes down so easily it's a tad dangerous - at 9.5% mind you. Beach area businesses tend to come and go but we really hope this one stays.

Favorite beer: PIG NOSE PALE ALE (American-style Ale) - Tasty and hoppy, refreshing after-work ale.

Pics/Legacy.jpgLegacy Brewing Tap and Kitchen

This is the restaurant owned by Legacy Brewing Company that opened in the fall of 2014. Situated in a small Miramar industrial park, it quickly gained a following. Although the premise looks like it could have once been a Radio Shack, no one seems to mind, and for good reason. The beer is good and the food is surprisingly exceptional. We've been there twice and both times ordered the same thing. I don't know who the chef is or what style to call it, but the Short Rib Tacos and Lamb Burger make it hard to explore the rest of the creative and reasonably priced menu.

Favorite beer: Founding Father's Nut Brown Ale

Pics/2kids.jpg2 Kids Brewing Company Pics/3Beer.jpg

A small "rollup garage" type brewery, owners Rob and Sarn have the passion and friendliness to make it work. As stated in their website, the style of beers they craft are "uncommon and unpretentous". After one visit I have to agree - They make one of the best English pale ales I've tasted in San Diego, and offer small batches of seasonal brews year 'round. This is one of the places I'm hoping will make it big, because their quality deserves it.

Tip: There's a sushi place a few yards away that is inexpensive and offers free delivery to the brewery. That's right, they'll walk the whole 30 feet just for you!

Favorite beer: Incredulous English Pale Ale

Pics/Pacific.jpgPacific Brewing Company Pics/2Beer.jpg

Believe it or not, this brewery is about 100 feet away from 2 Kids Brewing Company (above). So, you get a 2-for-1 deal in the same parking lot just by walking a few extra steps. Although a bit larger that 2 Kids, this brewery can still be classified in the rollup garage category. They specialize in tasty but not overpowering creations that are easy to drink. Surf and Pacific Rim decorations adorn the walls to give the establishment a laid-back atmosphere.

Favorite beer: Bombora IPA

Pics/Kauai.jpgKauai Island Brewery & Grill Pics/3Beer.jpg

Fairly large and filled with a casual combination of locals and tourists, this brewpub has a location that is hard to beat..Kauai! And to top it off, it's in the coastal community of Port Allen, right across the street from where all the tour boats take off. Perfect. Just the thing to do before your cruise, after your cruise, or both. The beers are very good. They also serve wine and decent quality food in the modern bar and grill style. Hint - Most tour boats require you to check in early, so do exactly that and then cross the street and spend a hour tasting Kauai's finest. We did!

Favorite beer: Cane Fire Red

Pics/Stadium.jpgStadium Brewing Co. Pics/2Beer.jpg

This is what I refer to as a "big box" brewpub, along the lines of Gordon Biersch. It's quite large, has a generic chain-style menu, and is located (where else?) in a huge shopping mall in Laguna Nigel. Frequented by suburbian locals, it hosts a lively crowd on weekend nights but seems big and empty during weekend days, save for a few alumni watching sports and cheering for their alma mater. The beer is good, but the place just doesn't have the same charm as a scrappy joint trying to keep their head above water.

Favorite beer: Classic IPA

Pics/OceanAvenue.jpgOcean Avenue Brewery Pics/2Beer.jpg

Definitely unique, this seems to be a dive bar that was upgraded to modern times and expanded to include home-brewed beer. Equipped with a well-stocked full-service bar, they invent their own drinks and serve them in creatively adorned vessels. But the beer list is surprisingly complete for a small-batch brewpub. Locals and tourists gather to have fun and chat with the skillful and entertaining bartender. It was Halloween when we were there, and as you might expect the decorations were a bit over the top.

Favorite beer: Red Sunshine red ale

Pics/CorkNCraft.jpgAbnormal Beer Co. (Cork & Craft) Pics/3Beer.jpg

The Cork & Craft restaurant along with Abnormal Beer Co. offer a new twist. Billing themselves as an "upscale brewpub" or "San Diego's only Restaurant, Winery and Brewery in one", they live up to the claim. Their self-crafted beers are good, the taps offer over 40 other beers, the wine list is ample, and the food is creative without being obnoxious. Although a tad pricey in the dining room, it is well worth it for special occasions, and the bar offerings are reasonable enough for us mortals. The crowd is friendly, lively, and...well, upscale.

Favorite beer: Porter (I don't remember the name)

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