4 Breweries in San Diego

Best San Diego breweries...the microbrewery edition!



Brewery

San Diego is a top contender nationwide for being a microbrewery mecca, with a number of breweries popping up throughout the county all the time. Here are just a few of the newest up–and–coming hotspots that are sure to quench the thirst of even the trendiest hipsters this side of Portland. 

In random order, here's the best new microbreweries in San Diego!

Bagby Beer Company

601 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054 | bagbybeer.com

Combining a love for food with an impressive history of craft brewing expertise, Bagby Beer Company is a new addition to the craft brew scene in Oceanside. Owners Jeff and Dande Bagby celebrated the pub’s one year anniversary last month, and the 20–plus house brews paired with a full menu reflect the company’s tagline of “world–class beer, simple food done well and inviting hospitality.”

Perhaps the most intriguing part of Bagby’s impressive selection is the names given to its original beers, such as “Dork Squad,” an American IPA “dedicated to the beer geek in all of us,” and the “Goon Brigade,” a fruity and hoppy blend with a malt backbone. The names may be silly, but the beer is serious stuff. Jeff takes his brewing knowledge gained from his time spent with Pizza Port in Carlsbad and years of brewing on his own and applies it to Bagby Beer, where the pub is more than just a place to enjoy a pint after a long day.

“For us, it’s more about the experience of the beer, and how people are able to connect with one another and really appreciate the origins of what they’re drinking and eating,” said Dande, Bagby Beer’s Director of Pub Operations. “We’re just trying to do something a little bit different in terms of how we present our product.”

And one of the growing number of breweries in San Diego that serves food. 

That philosophy is reflected in the pub’s varied menu, which includes woodstone pizzas, classic burgers, delectable desserts and more, and is emphasized in the continuous festivals and events the pub participates in regularly. This year Bagby Beer hosted the sixth annual Brewbies Festival benefiting breast cancer prevention, put on a five–course inaugural beer dinner and hosted the 2015 Zwanze Day, to name a few.

“It’s definitely about community, too,” said Dande. “That changes the game, keeps all of us sort of interested and engaged in what we’re doing, especially when there’s an event that has to do with a nonprofit or a charity; it reminds you what the craft beer industry is capable of.”

Culture Brewing Co

111 S Cedros Ave Suite 200, Solana Beach, CA 92075 | culturebrewingco.com

There’s a culture of craft brewing at Culture Brewing Co, one that embraces stimulating conversation, good times and, of course, quality craft brews. With two bustling locations (the flagship tasting room in Solana Beach and the newly–opened Ocean Beach locale with a similar look and vibe), patrons can soak up the SoCal lifestyle with more than 40 in–house brews. 

“We’re trying to create and keep an atmosphere that allows people to conversate with each other and talk with our bartenders and be educated about what we do,” said Carole Busby, Marketing Director for Culture Brewing Co.

She explained that simple things, such as not having TVs and employing a friendly and educated workforce, are what cultivate that conversational culture. Busby and her staff encourage guests to learn how to order beer and only hire employees that truly care about the microbrewery way of life. 

“We all know that the beer has to be great to survive in this industry, but the interaction that the customers have with employees is one of our biggest success stories for us,” she said. “A smile goes a long way.”

Culture always has a rotation of 10 to 15 of its own beers on tap in each location. It boasts a wide variety of hoppy IPAs, malty ales, tasty Belgians and a handful of rich stouts, along with a few barrel–aged barley wines and sours. The special release “Keyhole IPA” is a favorite among guests, featuring roasted grapefruit rinds that add a refreshing citrus kick. Culture’s “Mosaic IPA” is another favorite, a moderately bitter California IPA that also offers a taste of citrus.

“It’s very important for us to keep a balanced [beer] menu so that we’re able to accommodate everyone’s palate that comes in,” said Busby.

Along with the extensive selection of brews and inviting atmosphere, Culture also embraces the communities of San Diego through its First Friday’s Culture + Art + Beer events that showcase a different local artist every month in each tasting room. One of Culture’s beers is usually paired with the art, creating a casual and inviting experience that truly celebrates the microbrew beer culture in San Diego.

Half Door Brewing Co

903 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101 | halfdoorbrewing.com

Just a pitch away from Petco Park in East Village is Half Door Brewing Co., housed in a quaint, two–story historical building on the corner of Island Avenue and 9th Street. This new craft beer company is steeped in Irish custom that’s meticulously upheld by the Drayne family and only recently opened its doors to thirsty San Diegans in January of this year.

Half Door’s current beer selection is simple. Fourteen original brews are rotated, including several types of ales (a pale, a brown and a golden), a milk stout and the “Colemans Stout,” which is in the vein of Guinness. Father Ted is a Belgian blonde with a blend of wheat and Bohemian pilsner. And since this is San Diego, Half Door features a Cal Ale IPA called “House of Hops” that includes Simcoe, Nelson Sauvin, Citra and Amarillo hops.

“We’re trying to keep an Irish tradition—kind of homey, session–style beers,” said Daniel Drayne, Head Brewer for Half Door. “We keep it pretty high–quality with session beers that you can have a few of.”

The brewery isn’t pigeonholing itself in Irish tradition, however. It’s always experimenting with new techniques, ingredients and ideas in order to keep up with the local microbrew scene that’s constantly evolving. Drayne and his brewers take pride in the fact that Half Door does just about everything on its own, including growing the grains that are meticulously crafted into the ever–changing brews for patrons to enjoy. The focus is more on the process of creating a brew rather than the ingredients, he said, and explained how different brewing techniques result in uniquely different products.

This balance between new school experimentation and old school tradition is what brings Half Door out of the tried–and–true Irish pub mold and into today’s craft beer scene. Though its doors have only been open a few short months, Half Door Brewing is already well on its way to making its mark on the industry.

Fall Brewing Company

4542 30th St, San Diego, CA 92116 | fallbrewing.com

Breaking away from the more corporate and money–hungry feel of the beer industry, Fall Brewing Company in North Park is yet another promising addition to the micro brewery scene in San Diego. It opened its doors to the public in November of last year to “a pretty decent fanfare,” said co-founder and president Ray Astamendi.

“Everyone seems to be enjoying the fact that we’re here,” said Astamendi, one of three brewers who left Saint Archer and established Fall Brewing on the premise that beer should be good, fun and honest.

There are currently 15 beers on CO2 and Nitro in rotation with something for everyone. The “Plenty For All” pilsner is a California Common style brew that delivers a clean and crisp rustic edge, while the “Green Hat IPA’s” Citra, Centennial, Crystal and Simcoe hops combine to form a San Diego–style brew. If you’re looking for something darker, try the vanilla bean and Dark Horse coffee stout.

While there’s currently no space for a kitchen in the 750–square–foot tasting room, Fall feeds guests by bringing in local food trucks and nearby restaurants. There are also recurring foodie events such as Sushi Sunday with Sushi Uno, Spinelli Pizza Night and Taco Tuesday with Tacos La Mezcla.

Astamendi said they’re hoping to expand beer production to bottles sometime in the future, as well as trying their hand at sour aging at a facility in Chula Vista. It’s one step at a time, however, and for now Fall Brewing is content focusing on its current success. 

“We’d like to contribute back to our neighborhood, to our community as much as we can, and also represent craft beer and what it is to be a craft brewer in San Diego,” Astamendi said. “We really just want to brew, have fun, make good beer and be good, honest people.”

Having so many wonderful breweries in our backyard can make choosing one a problem, but it’s a good problem to have. There’s no telling what the future holds for San Diego as a brew capital of America, but from what we’ve seen so far it looks as bright as a crisp pale ale on a summer’s day.