Top Hometown Brewing companies San Diego

Local microbreweries put San Diego on the map.



Fill in the blank: Wine is to Napa Valley as _______ is to San Diego. The answer is beer.

San Diego’s microbreweries are popping up like hops, developing delicious brews from North County all the way downtown. These breweries are creating a variety of different beers to please even the most discriminating palates, including dark, pale ale, red ale, wheat beer and lagers. And several local bars are getting in on the action, carrying local brews on tap.

At the 2010 World Beer Cup—an event that takes place every two years, most recently in Denver—San Diego won more awards than both the United Kingdom and Germany combined. The brew industry has become the latest obsession for beer drinkers and foodies alike, with multiple beer festivals throughout the year in SoCal with many breweries offering guided tours of their facilities daily. Here’s a quick tour of some of the finest local brews.

Greenflash FINE magazine

Located in Mira Mesa, Green Flash Brewing Company (greenflashbrew.com) specializes in assertive and distinctive beers such as the West Coast I.P.A.—an award-winning beer that has helped define a category. It also brews seasonal, collaborative and barrel-aged beers—some of which have won awards at the San Diego County Fair. Join them at their 4,000-square-foot tasting room and beer garden to quench any thirst with 30 state-of-the-art taps featuring all of Green Flash’s favorite frontline beers as well as seasonal, rare and special releases. Along with beer tasting, they offer public and private tours of their facility.

One of the most popular breweries in San Diego County is the world-famous Stone Brewing Co. (stonebrewing.com). Founded in 1996 by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner in San Marcos, Stone has long lead the brewery pack. Now located in Escondido and more recently establishing a location in Point Loma, Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens is the largest restaurant purchaser of local, small-farm organic produce in San Diego. With 32 craft and specialty beers on tap, plus 100 plus bottle selections, guests can refresh themselves with Stone’s 14-tap growler and tasting stations.

Smoked Porter FINE magazine

FINE magazine Stone IPA

It’s no surprise that it has garnered the “All-time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” distinction from BeerAdvocate magazine in 2008 and 2009. It offers special events like farm-to-table dinners, Beer U educational classes, Stone Late Night Movies and the Master Pairing series, as well as beer festivals including Stone Sour Fest and Stone Oakquinox. The annual Stone Anniversary Celebration and Invitational Beer Festival—which will be held on Aug. 16-17 this year—raised more than $1.5 million for charity.

The winner of three gold medals and brewer of the year at the 2010 World Beer Cup is San Diego’s own Ballast Point (ballastpoint.com). Co-founded by Jack White in 1996, Ballast Point was originally Home Brew Mart, a shop to buy supplies and ingredients for home brewing, but customers loved the beer so much that they expanded into a larger facility that includes a tasting room.

Ballast Point FINE magazine

Ballast Point FINE magazine Jack

Since the founders are avid fishers, each unique beer is named after a fish and maintains iconic fish artwork on its labels in homage to the brewery’s origins. Enjoy their tours and then stop by the tasting bar, where 27 taps pour their standards, as well as specialty beers, year-round. One of their most famous brews is Sculpin IPA, which is found in most bars and restaurants throughout San Diego.

Centrally located in North County, Stumblefoot Brewing Co. (stumblefoot.com) is new to the brew scene, but that hasn’t stopped it from winning two gold ribbons at the San Diego International Beer Festival.

Stumblefoot FINE magazine

Stumblefoot brews Chipotle American Stout, American Stout, IPA, Robust Porter, Schwarzbier, Belgian Style Dubbel and more. It was recently awarded a bronze medal in the New York International Beer Competition for its Tommeknocker Belgian Style Dubbel. Check them out at the Encinitas Brewfest on Aug. 3 at the San Elijo Campus of Mira Costa College.

Port Brewing Co. (portbrewing.com), a moniker for Pizza Port and The Lost Abbey, are pouring pints all over San Diego. From locations in Carlsbad, Solona Beach and Ocean Beach, Port Brewing has an aggressive territory advantage. The Lost Abbey is steadfast in its original location in San Marcos (which coincidentally was the birthplace of Stone Brewing Co.) Recently, The Lost Abbey earned six medals and was honored with the first-ever Champion Brewery award at the 7th Annual San Diego International Beer Competition. Other achievements include being named the 2007 Great American Beer Festival Small Brewery of the Year and honored as Champion Small Brewery and Small Brewer at the 2008 World Cup competition. Pizza Port, which pairs delicious pizza with craft beers, has become a staple on the San Diego restaurant scene.

With such wide variety of beers to try and breweries to visit, San Diego has become a top destination for craft beer. From these great stops to Karl Strauss Brewing Company (karlstrauss.com), Pacific Beach AleHouse (pbalehouse), Manzanita Brewery Company (manzanitabrewing.com), Raglan Public House (raglanpublichouse.com), Iron Fist Brewing Co. (ironfistbrewing.com) and more, San Diego is truly a beer lover’s mecca. It’s time to start your pilgrimage.