THE 60 BREWERIES PROJECT
Miss! = Fabulous!
= Very Good!
Hey, it's a brewery!
Strauss Brewery -
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
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.
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
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
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
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
every beer-lover needs to experience over a tasty pint .
beer: STONE IPA - Great example of a modern highly hopped high
alcohol IPA that will kick your taste buds as well as your
Strauss Brewery - Sorrento Mesa
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.
Strauss Brewery - 4-S Ranch
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
can gather without feeling packed. Service seems a tad better here as
well: friendly and attentive , without unnecessary hovering. My wife
I will definitely be back.
Favorite beer: OFF THE RAILS - Like Red Trolley Ale on
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.
Bear Lake Brewing Company
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.
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
beer: RED ALE - I don't remember the name, but it was good and a bit
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
beer: BARLYWINE STYLE ALE - True barley wines are hard to come by, and
this place does a good job.
Solana Beach, Culture is another great example of a San Diego
start-up micro-brewery. Just steps away from the famous
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
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
Nickel Beer Company
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
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
Pizza Port - Solana Beach
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
particularly special, and no one seems to care. They come here
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
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
Favorite beer: Who cares!
La Jolla Brewing Company
This place dates back to sometime in the 1990s, regarded as a
of Karl Strauss wannabe. They went through some hard times, evolved
into a late-night rowdy bar, then finally closed. Since then
owners have invested heavily and rebranded the establishment
large modern brewpub. After my first visit to the new venue I
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.
Draft Brewing Company
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
It's just a fun, unassuming joint.
Favorite beer: I don't remember. Guess I'll have to go again.
Fist Brewing Company
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
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
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.
the beer here is good, the main attraction is completeness -
have everything. Indoor seating, bar area, outdoor seating next to
the front sidewalk, child-friendly (without being annoying),
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
restaurant in San Diego. Come hungry.
Favorite beer: CORONADO GOLDEN - It's light, but so tasty.
Brewing - Miramar
Brewing has recently expanded into a large beautiful facility in North
Park. But the small commercial space where it all began is
classic. Located in one of the many industrial parks in
it could be mistaken for a furniture repair shop or something. But,
there's beer-making equipment in view, and a make-shift tasting
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
that just felt like playing.
beer: I haven't decided. Guess I'll have to go again.
Hess Brewing - North
Park is famous for it's restaurants, wine-bars, and other fun places,
and Hess Brewing's new facility is just what the
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
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.
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
beer: Like Hess Miramar, I haven't decided. Guess I'll have to go again.
Ale Smith Brewing Company
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
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.
a bit hard to find, Helm's is a friendly place situated in an
industrial park near San Diego Harley-Davidson, behind it and
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
themselves on attention to detail, and so far it seems to have worked.
Their beers are fine, and their beer list is pretty complete.
beer: CHOCOLATE NIGHT - Whew! Russian Imperial Stouts like
are normally sipped slowly from tiny glasses. But somehow this
goes down easy. Too easy.
Lady Ale House
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
bottles, a pleasing selection of appetizers and bar-style
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
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
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
and maybe over time increase their rating.
Favorite beer: DEBUTANTE - Malty and balanced Belgian Ale.
The Lost Abbey
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
the beer served at Pizza Port. So I was quite excited to hear about a
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
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
made for an uncomfortable experience.
Favorite beer: LOST AND FOUND - Strong and flavorful Belgian
Quantum Brewing Company
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
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.
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
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.
Earth Brewing Company
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
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!
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.
Freshly opened and with only a few reviews, Council Brewing is
starting to gain momentum. And with good reason - Their beers
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!
Amplified Ale Works
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.
Brewing Tap and Kitchen
is the restaurant owned by Legacy Brewing Company
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
and reasonably priced menu.
Favorite beer: Founding Father's Nut Brown Ale
Kids Brewing Company
small "rollup garage" type brewery, owners Rob and Sarn have
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
brewery. That's right, they'll walk the whole 30 feet just for you!
Favorite beer: Incredulous English Pale Ale
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
Island Brewery & Grill
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
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
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
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
to keep their head above water.
Favorite beer: Classic IPA
unique, this seems to be a dive bar that was upgraded
modern times and expanded to include home-brewed beer.
with a well-stocked full-service bar, they invent their
own drinks and serve them in creatively adorned vessels. But
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
Beer Co. (Cork & Craft)
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
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,
Favorite beer: Porter (I don't remember the name)