31 Essential Craft Breweries You Need to Try in San Diego
From Mexican-style lagers to American ales, stouts, sours, and more, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the craft beer capital of America.
It’s no secret that San Diegans love their beer, and, Portland notwithstanding, we have the best craft beer scene in the country. In a city with 150+ breweries, though, finding the right one for the right occasion can be more than you bargained for. Whether you’re looking to sip suds in a scenic beer garden by the beach, take in rooftop views with a growler in hand, or pair your brews with some of our city’s best Mexican food, there’s a San Diego brewery that can fill the bill. To help you navigate the array of choices, we (selflessly) drank lots of local beers and compiled a guide to the best breweries in town, from the well-known to the hidden gems, from the longstanding to the up-and-coming, to help you plan out your next pint. Now go on and get to sippin’.
New English Brewing
This off-the-beaten-path brewery often flies under the radar, but their 10,000-square-foot production facility in Sorrento Valley boasts 15-20 taps that span styles from IPAs, stouts, lagers, fruit and sour beers. There’s two big tasting areas —The Barrel Room includes a large outdoor patio and garden, while The Pub boasts multiple televisions, games, and pool; both are dog- and kid-friendly. The brewery has won awards for brews like Pure & Simple IPA and Bourbon Barrel Aged Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout that’s aged for 12 months in Kentucky bourbon barrels. Order online for pickup.
Once known as a “ghost brewery,” one that collaborates with other breweries rather than operating its own, Mikkeller opened its first US brewery in the Miramar space formerly occupied by AleSmith, with whom the owners have a long friendship. Combining the best traditions of European and Southern California, expect a spectrum of choices, from boundary-pushing, modern takes, to classic Old World styles, including the award-winning beer that started it all, Beer Geek Breakfast Stout. Check the individual location for pickup and delivery options.
As one of the fermentation industry’s most important suppliers of liquid yeast for over 25 years, White Labs’ tasting room hosts both casual beer drinkers and hardcore beer nerds with equal aplomb. If you've ever wondered what makes a Belgian ale taste so different from an American ale, this is the place to hone your palate. They offer free tours at 1 pm and 3 pm every Friday and Saturday, after which you can head to their tasting room to experience for yourself how much yeast impacts the flavor profile of beer. Order cans, crowlers, and bottles, as well as liquid yeast, online.
Rincon Reservation Road Brewery
Affectionately known as 3R, Rincon Reservation Road Brewery is the first certified Native American-owned and operated brewery located on tribal land in SoCal. Run by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and the Rincon Economic Development Corporation (REDCO), it takes its name from an ancestral trail that ran between the San Luis Rey River headwaters and its mouth at what is now Oceanside. 3R’s signature lineup—Oasis Blonde Ale, Rez Dog Hefeweizen, Red Rattler Amber Ale, and Chief IPA has been joined by a trio of new brews—Tuupash Blueberry Saison, Luiseño Hazy IPA, and Cloud Pale Lager. Early this year, the brewery opened a second tasting room in Ocean Beach, filling the space formerly occupied by Belching Beaver Brewery. A massive overhaul to the 3,200-square-foot space created a main bar area and a tasting room, with plans for future collaborations with other local brewers and an array of beer cocktails in the works.
Novo Brazil Brewing
Owner Tiago Carniero never expected to end up brewing beer in Southern California, but after opening a successful brewery in Brazil in 1999, he and his brother set their sights northward to San Diego. First launching Novo Brazil Brewing in Chula Vista in 2015, they followed up with Novo Brazil Restaurant at Otay Ranch Mall and their newest tasting room in the Market on 8th in National City. A quartet of core beers—The Mango Fruit IPA, Momo Haze Hazy IPA, Ipanema DIPA, Wet Hops Hazy DIPA, and Corvo Negro Russian Imperial Stout are available throughout the year, and another five rotate in periodically for three-month stretches. You can also find Novo Brazil beer on tap at their other project, Nova Easy Kombucha, a tasting room for both beer and booch in the heart of hippieville, Ocean Beach.
Eppig Brewing Waterfront Biergarten
Originally launching as a tenant in the North Park Brewery Igniter, founder Stephanie Eppig created Eppig Brewing as an homage to her great grandfather, who owned a Brooklyn brewery from the late 1800s until it closed during Prohibition. The company expanded to a stunning biergarten along America’s Cup Harbor in Point Loma in 2018, as well as a headquarters, production facility, and bierhalle in Vista late in 2019, focusing on artisanal ales and lagers in a family- and pet-friendly environment. Local favorite selections include Baltic Porter Strong Dark Lager, Beach Beer Mexican-style Vienna lager, and Try This! West Coast pale ale. Order online for pickup or delivery.
Puesto Cervecería is the largest in Puesto’s collection of restaurants and features its first craft brewery. Spearheaded by longtime San Diego brewer Doug Hasker, who led Gordon Biersch’s program for more than 20 years, the cervecería specializes in Mexican-style lagers, like Puesto Celebration Cerveza, made especially for its 10th anniversary celebration, Puesto Negra (GABF Silver Medalist), and Cinco de Mayo Pilsner. You can find them at Puesto’s other California locations as well. Reservations can be made online and walk-ins are accepted if seating is available. Check the individual location for to go options.
Border X Brewing
Border X, San Diego's first Latino-owned and operated brewery, is a family affair, founded by brothers David and Marcelino Favela and Marcelino’s two sons, Marcel and Martin. Rather than imitate popular styles of European beers, they drew inspiration from traditional Latin flavors. Their flagship Blood Saison, a ruby red beauty rich with tart hibiscus flowers, the selection of beers soon expanded to include stouts, IPAs, and a half-dozen others, earning it a 2020 James Beard Semifinalist nomination along the way.
Mujeres Brew House
San Diego’s first Latina-owned and operated tap room/brewery is a partnership between Border X Brewing and Mujeres Brew Club whose mission is to be a welcoming place for women (and anyone!) to learn about, understand, and appreciate craft beer. Headed up by Carmen Favela of Border X and Estela Davila of Mujeres Brew Club, future plans include a behind-the-bar work experience program and a brewing program. The rotating tap list includes a dozen or so varieties, like Buenas Vibras Blonde Ale, Brumosa Especial Hazy IPA, and Contraste Balanceado Golden Sour blended with Dark Saison. Check their Instagram and Facebook pages for frequent special events (which may require reservations).
Kairoa Brewing Co
Kairoa is another beautiful ode to a foreign country, designed to evoke the lush scenery, unique cuisine, friendly disposition, and otherworldly hops native to New Zealand—where the owners and head brewer all hail from. Decorated to incorporate aspects from the New Zealand countryside and coasts, as well as Maori art into a sleek, modern architecture style, Kairoa specializes in brewing everything from English-style ales to the pale ales San Diegans love, imbued with the hard-to-get New Zealand hop varieties head brewer Joe Peach has direct access to. Try a flight with a trio of blondes that includes Rosy Buggah (blonde infused with strawberry, rosehips, hibiscus and apple), Cheeky Buggah (Belgian blonde), and Tweaky Buggah (Yipao coffee-infused blonde), or stouts infused with cocoa puffs, marshmallows, and cacao nibs, or coffee. For groups of 12 or more, reserve your spot online. Order food, beer and wine for pickup online via Toast.
BattleMage takes its name from Dungeons and Dragons, the ubiquitous RPG board game that co-founders Ryan Sather and Chris Barry have enjoyed playing for the last couple of decades. It’s one thing to have a theme, but to really stand out you have to brew great beer, and BattleMage definitely delivers on that front. Like any good wizard, they know the value of experimenting with their potions. Brewers are always willing to add cocoa nibs to a hefeweizen, but as luck would have it, some of their finest brews are the ones that adhere to traditions, like their Shroud of Mist hazy IPA, Hooded Assassin English Old Ale, or Perception Czech Pilsner. Order beer and merch online for pickup or delivery within California.
Viewpoint Brewing has an unbeatable view that overlooks the San Dieguito Lagoon, plus its outdoor patio is always lively. There's some truly delicious food on the menu (like smoky brisket and an outstanding burger), as well as a constantly rotating tap list that indulges head brewer Moe Katomski’s experimental side, like Pot O’Gold Irish Red on CO2 and Nitro, San Dieguito Saison French S.M.A.S.H (Single Malt Single Hop) Saison, and Wall Of Hops 5.0
100 % wet hop Citra Hops, in collaboration with Stereo Brewing. Make reservations for indoor dining via SpotOn, walk-ins will be accepted if seating is available.
The road to Resident Brewing opening its doors was a purely San Diegan one. Head brewer and co-founder Robert Masterson established himself as a master homebrewer in the local circuit as a side gig from his full-time job as an IT consultant. He won contests hosted by Pizza Port, Karl Strauss, and Stone—the latter of which resulted in the brewing giant releasing his Coconut IPA to the masses. Eventually he decided to make his passion his work, and today, Resident slings wonderfully Americanized versions of English beers and still brews its signature, Vacation Coconut IPA, as well as new favorites like Urbanite Unfiltered West Coast IPA, and Impressionist Chardonnay barrel aged Saison with pear, ginger, and orange blossom honey, in a welcoming environment inside The Local downtown. Order online for pickup.
Burgeon Beer Company
Burgeon, which helped to pioneer Carlsbad’s craft brewing scene, has since opened The Oasis beer garden in Escondido, which is open seven days and hosts a food truck Wednesdays through Sundays; The Arbor in Little Italy, featuring their first scratch kitchen; and The Greenhouse, a gorgeous private event space in Carlsbad. Juice Press hazy IPA is always a solid choice, or push the envelope with Dutchman's Pipe Imperial Stout conditioned on @steadystateroasting "El Mezcal" coffee and Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans, or Clever Kiwi Nelson Dry-Hopped Keller (unfiltered) Pilsner. For menus and to-go options, visit the individual locations page.
North Park Beer Co.
Homebrewer extraordinaire Kelsey McNair’s pet project was born in 2016 after a three-year wait, but that anticipation proved to be worth it. Located right in the heart of North Park, the 9,000-square-foot tasting room is ornately decorated, and offers the perfect locale for anyone looking to grab a pint before a night on the town. McNair’s iconic Hop Fu! IPA is the single most award-winning homebrew in history, and is always a safe bet, but if IPA isn’t your style, try Birdie To Bogey Cali Pils loaded with Strata, Citra, and Mosaic hops. Order online for pickup, delivery or shipping within California.
Pure Project’s entire oeuvre is unique. It was started in part by a Californian couple who returned to the Golden State after spending years in the Costa Rican jungle and felt inspired to imbue the spirit of the country into a brewery. As a result, many of the beers feature floral and tropical notes like hibiscus that you might not expect. But that doesn’t mean Pure Project’s success is based on gimmicks: before finishing its first year of operations, Pure Project had brought home a bronze medal from the Great American Beer Festival for its Roses Red oak barrel-aged Flanders red ale. Dine in and to-go hours vary by location, and beer can be shipped within California and Nevada. Check their webpage for frequent new releases and special events.
Bay City Brewing Co.
Bay City has scored multiple awards for its beers and developed a devoted following for their amazing array of juicy, tropical IPAs like 72 & Hoppy session IPA, Jucci Gang hazy DIPA, Murky Machado hazy IPA. The Midway location hosts a fantastic rotating lineup of food trucks, while East Village has an in-house kitchen slinging wings, pretzels, and pizza. Both locations are dog- and kid-friendly.
Modern Times Beer
Modern Times has turned the brewing world upside down since its inception. Simply put, they don’t make any bad beers. With a cheeky, fun-above-all mindset highlighted by their membership-based League of Partygoers and Elegant People, the brewery specializes in session beers like Dortmunder Export Lager, Astromancer Marzen, and specialty coffee-flavored releases that capitalize on their in-house coffee roasting. The Midway location has become a destination for beer and coffee lovers alike, while the Encinitas lounge boasts an outstanding vegan menu. Tap lists and hours of operation vary, so check your location’s website before heading out.
Thorn has made one hell of a name for itself since its initial location opened a decade ago. Beyond a sterling reputation for IPAs and a willingness to experiment with their flavors (they famously have a cannabis-flavored session IPA), co-founders Dan Carrico, Dennis O’Connor, and Eric O’Connor founded the initial location on Thorn Street with the goal of becoming a true neighborhood staple. They succeeded, and today the original, homey North Park location is integral to the fabric of the community; it's a place where you’re likely to run into some of the most interesting locals you’ll ever meet (and a handful of dogs) over pints of perfectly brewed pale ales. Tap lists, days and hours of operation vary by location, and beer can be delivered by the keg or case (check out their subscriptions).
Belching Beaver Brewery
Belching Beaver has made waves in the San Diego beer scene since its start in 2012, and has found massive success. The brewery now ships to eight states outside California, and has five locations in the city. While the names of the brews produced by Belching Beaver might seem a bit sophomoric, their craftsmanship is anything but. Head brewer Thomas Peters has won the renowned Alpha King Challenge award twice in his career (most recently in 2017), and seemingly can’t go wrong when it comes to trying out innovative flavors like Peanut Butter Milk Stout and Digital Bath New England-style hazy IPA. Check the individual location for days and hours of operation, as well as pickup and delivery options.
Societe Brewing Company
Societe Brewing Company doesn’t have the decades-long history of an Alpine or an AleSmith, but it has had a meteoric rise to prominence since opening its doors ten years ago, winning West Coaster’s Best Brewery award in 2014 and 2016. The brainchild of brewmaster Travis Smith and brewery curator Douglas Constantiner, Societe makes a bevy of the best damn IPAs you’ll ever have, most notably The Pupil—another one of Beer Advocate’s top beers—and The Coachman, the 2015 gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival for session IPAs. Order online for pick up, delivery, and shipping services.
Amplified Ale Works
With rooftops overlooking Pacific Beach and Petco Park, Amplified Ale Works is another ideal option for pairing a great beer with a view. The brewery's decorated with a collection of music memorabilia, there's always good tunes playing, and head brewer Cy Henley even gives musically inspired names to his brews like Stratacaster! Hazy IPA. On top of all that, the kitchen makes some of the best kebabs you’ll find anywhere in San Diego, which can make it feel next to impossible to actually leave the brewery. Check the individual location for days and hours of operation, as well as pickup and delivery options.
The Lost Abbey
Lost Abbey was spawned in 2006 when Tomme Arthur left Pizza Port to start Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey. Port Brewing retained its West Coast beer style, but The Lost Abbey went about brewing a Belgian-inspired line of beers, and we're all the better for it. No other brewery on this list offers the type of specialty beers that The Lost Abbey does, and if you want to try one of the most original brews in the city, go for the Duck Duck Gooze—or, if you're not one for sour beers, try the Lost and Found Dubbel. Check your location for days and hours of operation.
Green Flash Brewing Company
When the craft beer explosion of the mid-2000s happened, Green Flash was at the forefront of the movement, led by San Diego brewing legend (and former brewmaster) Chuck Silva, who brewed a handful of the hop-heavy IPAs. The beauty of Green Flash’s IPAs, though, was how they balanced their intense hop notes, and perhaps no beer better embodied that than the legendary West Coast IPA, with its tropical grapefruit and floral body. That innovative spirit lives on with original beers like Green Flash’s Hop Head Red and Soul Style IPA.
Alpine Beer Company
San Diego is sprawling, and as tempting as it is for a casual beer fan to not venture past the breweries in the more central locations of the city, sometimes you need to make a hike, namely to Alpine Beer Company. If you're the type to put stock in beer rankings (and really, why wouldn't you?), here's where we tell you that BeerAdvocate lists the brewery’s Keene Idea Double IPA as one of the 120 best beers in the world.
Founded by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, Stone made its name by being boldly unapologetic, and no beer embodies that more than its flagship Arrogant Bastard Ale: a beer so renowned it birthed its own separate brewing company, Arrogant Brewing. Stone never backed away from its ideals, and the results speak for themselves: it's been voted as RateBeer’s “Best California Brewery” and “Best Place to Grab a Beer,” and its Russian Imperial Stout is sought after across the globe. Visit the Stone website for reservations at their individual locations. Order online for pickup or delivery within California.
Of all the staple beers made by San Diego breweries—the Red Trolley Ales, the Speedway Stouts, the Arrogant Bastard Ales—none are as nationally ubiquitous and uniformly delicious as Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA. And yet, while Sculpin consistently ranks among the best beers in the country, the brewery hasn’t rested on its laurels: of its three current locations, Ballast Point uses its spot in Little Italy purely for experimentation in the hopes of creating San Diego’s next truly iconic beer. In the meantime, enjoy the re-release of Watermelon Dorado and Swingin’ Friar Pale Ale. Order from your location for pickup or delivery.
Coronado Brewing Company
Whereas many of the city’s best breweries came out of the industrial sprawl that is Miramar, Ron and Rick Chapman picked their hometown of Coronado to put down roots in 1996. Twenty-plus years later, they’re still staying true to their mission statement of staying coastal by brewing beers inspired by beaches across the globe, with citrus and tropical notes like orange and guava to match. Standouts include Weekend Vibes IPA, Salty Crew blonde ale, and Never Better DIPA. Order from your location for pickup or delivery.
Having taken home the Champion Brewery award at a few San Diego International Beer Festivals, AleSmith clearly doesn’t need any more recognition in this town. That said, if you're reading this and you're somehow unfamiliar with this brewery, go out to its sprawling, state-of-the-art headquarters and get acquainted. AleSmith’s offerings are incredibly well-balanced and universally excellent, from its IPAs to its Anvil ESB, though none is as legendary as the Speedway Stout and all of its varietals, which has achieved almost mythic status in the national beer scene. Order online for delivery within California and Nevada.
The beauty of Karl Strauss is that it brews a multitude of different beer types, all exceptionally well, the most well-known of which is the inimitable Red Trolley Ale. Karl’s take on an Irish Red has won a slew of gold medals at the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival, and it rose to international renown at a time when the city was primarily known for its extremely hoppy IPAs. Red Trolley aside, Karl also makes award-winning brews across the spectrum, including its Mosaic Session IPA and Windansea Wheat. Check the location for days and hours of operation, along with pickup and delivery options.
Pizza Port is as San Diegan as a sunburn in January, or being completely incapable of merging onto a freeway at an acceptable speed. Since its founding in 1987, it’s expanded to include six locations, and has birthed two offshoot breweries (The Lost Abbey and Port Brewing Company), but the original is still king in our eyes. Pizza Port has collected nearly 100 medals at the Great American Beer Festival, and has an absolutely stunning range of brews that rotate through its five locations. Try the Kook DIPA or the Swami’s IPA, two of the many staple beers of the Pizza Port empire. Seating at all locations is on a first-come basis. Check the location for days and hours of operation, pickup and delivery options.
Rob Pursell is an East Coast transplant who spends his time exploring Southern California and far too much of his paycheck at local breweries. You can follow him on Instagram @robpursell.