San Diego, you sure are fine. That’s probably why you’re called America’s Finest City.
The city of San Diego is probably best known for its large military community and fair weather, but the area is quickly becoming a mecca for craft beer.
Some of the breweries I’ve checked out in San Diego are big names that I’m sure you’ve heard of, and others are the perfect local craft brewery you plan to visit when vacationing in San Diego.
While this list is far from finished, here are some of the best breweries in San Diego.
Best Breweries in San Diego
Perhaps one of the coolest parts of San Diego’s craft beer scene is that many breweries have more than one location. So, instead of driving all over town for an entire day, you could probably find a few good options right by each other.
For fans of just about any type of beer, Pure Project is a must-visit. Aside from the sustainability practices, community efforts, and giving back through donations (all very cool), Pure Project makes some of the best beers around. From clean farmhouse brews to the perfect Pub Ale, there’s plenty to choose from for all types of beer fans. It’s worth noting that Pure Project specializes in unfiltered beers, so don’t be surprised to see a little bit of cloudiness in the beer.
Ballast Point Brewing Company
Ballast Point is an absolute slugger. I’ve been to two of the locations (Miramar and Little Italy), but my time drinking Ballast Point beer started back in Seattle where you could buy it at a grocery store. Well, imagine all the good Ballast Point store beers, but then with a lot more options. Highlights include the Sculpin IPA, Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, Hazy Sculpin IPA, Aloha Hazy Sculpin IPA…you get the idea. There are other great non-IPA options as well, and the food is more than worth trying.
Modern Times Beer
I don’t know why, but I assumed Modern Times was located in, like, Chicago or something. Nope. Turns out it’s right here in San Diego. Maybe it’s that I had the most refreshing pilsner during a heat wave. Maybe it’s that I sampled a Samoa cookie pastry stout off-site. Whatever it is, I have to say that Modern Times is truly excellent. There are a few locations to pick from, too, including one in Encinitas. So, plan a day trip to Encinitas and drop in.
North Park Beer Company
Located in the North Park neighborhood, North Park Beer Company feels like one of those craft breweries that’s just hitting full stride. Their beers here are phenomenal, and the North Park location is perfect for a night out. I personally like the Hop Fu! IPA and the Birdey to Bogey Cali Pils (who doesn’t love golf beers?), but there really aren’t any bad options on the menu.
Rough Draft Brewing Company
I have to mention Rough Draft because I’ve been drinking more of their beer since moving to San Diego than anyone else’s. This is because I live an eight minute walk from a location, but it doesn’t detract from the quality. The Mesa Nueva Lager is a classic, classic lager that works every time. I also enjoy the aptly named Amber Ale. It’s worth stopping by Rough Draft if you’re in Miramar or Del Mar.
There are a lot of great things about Hopnonymous Brewing. The spot is intimate yet open and always feels full but not packed. The owner made a point to check in on us when we visited. The bartenders were super friendly and great to chat with. Oh, and the beer is very, very good. Hopnonymous has some good flagships (hello Leave Without Saying Goodbye Irish Red), but I recommend trying whatever new or limited release they have on tap.
San Diego Craft Brewery Locations
If you’re planning on making a day of it, I recommend visiting the following areas to get the most out of your craft beer hopping.
Miramar. I’m guesstimating, but I think there are about 250 breweries in this neighborhood. Check out Pure Project, Rough Draft, Duckfoot, and Ballast Point.
North Park. North Park Beer Co and Modern Times both have locations in North Park. This area is incredibly walkable, too, so you won’t have to drive from spot to spot.
Kearny Mesa. Close to Miramar, Kearny Mesa is home to Hopnonymous, Ketch, Societe, and Ataraxia Aleworks, all great picks. You can also swing by Kilowatt Brewing and check out the Tiki Speakeasy…if you can get in.
San Diego, What a Fine City
When I moved from Seattle, I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the craft beer scene in San Diego nearly as much as Seattle’s. Oh boy, was I wrong.
The craft beer scene in San Diego is large, vibrant, creative, and delicious. As with any city, you really need to jump around and try different places to see what sticks. It’s also worth giving the smaller guys a shot. In my experience, breweries flying under the radar can turn out to be some of the best to visit.
Anyway, I’m still new to San Diego and have plenty of spots to try, so expect this list to be updated as I continue exploring.