There are few better places for craft beer lovers than San Diego. The county offers a vast number of different breweries – more than 150, according to many estimates! So, whether you want delicious food, unique beers, something familiar, or a place to enjoy with friends, there’s something for you.
Some of the best breweries in San Diego include the famous North Park Beer Company and Pizza Port, both of which produce consistently excellent beers, and The Lost Abbey, which uses wild yeast to create some truly fascinating brews.
San Diego is even known as one of the best craft beer destinations of the United States. This is partly because California allowed brewpubs to operate back in 1982, earlier than in many other parts of the country. From there, the craft beer scene truly has exploded, helping the rest of the county along in the process.
The weather of San Diego helps matters as well, making it easy for visitors to enjoy the sights, wander the city, and enjoy a cool beer in the beautiful sunlight. It’s no wonder that the industry continues to thrive, with no shortage of familiar beers and experimental ones to enjoy.
So, what are the best breweries in San Diego? With such a range of breweries to choose from, there’s no straightforward answer to that question. And, indeed, any ‘best of’ list is heavily influenced by personal preferences. You might have your own strong opinions about some of the breweries featured on this list.
Still… these breweries are consistently popular. They’re all excellent places to begin your foray into San Diego beer, regardless of whether you’re a local, a new resident, or someone just passing through.
North Park Beer Company
North Park Beer Company lives up to its name, with a flagship location in the heart of San Diego’s North Park. The brewery opens at 12pm every day of the week and stays open until at least 10pm, often later. It gets consistently good reviews, not just for its beer, but also for the selection of food. You can find lunch and dinner items on their menu, and there’s plenty of seating – making the location easy to enjoy.
The small original brewery was so popular that North Park Beer Company opened a second location in Bankers Hill. This one has an on-site kitchen and 24 taps, so it too offers a decent selection of food and beer. The location opens at 11am on most days and 10am on the weekend, but only stays open till 10pm.
Their tap list is extensive, featuring regularly changing expressions from North Park Beer Company, plus some guest taps. The beers themselves are famous, often winning awards, particularly for IPAs. In fact, North Park Beer Company is considered experts in the West Coast IPA, making them a wonderful choice for IPA lovers. This IPA variation tends to be bitter with strong hop aromas, making it a beer you won’t soon forget.
The focus on amazing IPAs makes North Park Beer Company the perfect beginning place for any IPA lover. If you can find it, their Hop-Fu! beer is consistently popular – a true example of the American IPA done right.
Pizza Port closely follows on the heels of North Park Brewing Company as one of the most popular breweries and brewpubs in San Diego. They now have seven locations to choose from, making Pizza Port a very accessible option for beer and pizza.
Pizza Port itself was founded in 1987. Back then it was a pizza restaurant, where the owners were simply experimenting with home brewing in their extra space. Then, in 1992, Pizza Port started to sell craft beer and things haven’t been the same since.
The combination of pizza and beer makes Pizza Port an excellent location for families. In fact, Pizza Port locations focus on being family friendly, with large tables that help keep the entire family happy. The pizzas are exceptional too, with original and large “anti-wimpy” pizzas that are even more filling than normal. The pizza alone is a great reason to check out Pizza Port.
Don’t worry. The pizza aspect doesn’t mean that Pizza Port produces inferior beer. The company has won more than 91 awards from the Great American Beer Festival alone. The brewers clearly have a sense of what makes an amazing beer, making their brewpubs a must-visit.
Burgeon Beer Company
Burgeon Beer Company is another brewery that’s made waves in the Great American Beer Festival. The original brewery/taproom is located in Carlsbad, while the company has since expanded with branches in Downtown San Diego and Escondido. As such, you have three different locations to choose from.
While the locations offer similar beers, they each stand apart, with different atmospheres and menus. Their Carlsbad location is a delight, with high ceilings and a strong brewery atmosphere. Food is served from a rotation of food trucks, giving beer lovers an ever-changing selection of accompaniments.
Their downtown branch, called The Arbor is a taproom and restaurant instead, featuring a craft kitchen. Their meal selection includes full meals and plenty of light dishes to accompany beers. Finally, their Escondido branch follows the food truck style for food and offers plenty of seats for open air drinking.
While Burgeon Beer Company doesn’t focus on being family friendly, all three locations are dog friendly. There are even treats stored behind the bar, so your canine companion won’t feel left out.
The Lost Abbey
From the name alone, it’s clear that The Lost Abbey isn’t your typical brewery. The tap rooms all retain strong religious symbology and phrasing. This bleeds through to the beers as well, which include names like Ten Commandments, Serpent’s Stout, and Devotion.
The brewery focuses on Belgian-inspired beers, including sours and barrel-aged expressions. Some of their fame comes from the use of wild yeast, which creates some genuinely unusual flavor profiles.
As a result, The Lost Abbey is an excellent bet if you want a truly unusual brewery, both in terms of their beer and their physical locations. Duck Duck Gooze is an especially interesting expression, if you can find it (it’s only released in small quantities every three years). Otherwise, there are plenty of other interesting beers to experiment with.
The Lost Abbey tasting room opened in 2006 in San Marcos and currently offers 26 taps. It’s an amazing place to learn more about the brewing process as well. There are other locations as well, including The Confessional, The Sanctuary, and The Church, in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, San Marcos, and Downtown San Diego, respectively.
Pure Project focuses on sustainability and quality, while also producing some unexpected beers. A key aspect is their use of floral and tropical notes in their beers, making them stand out from the crowd.
They also go out of their way to use unusual ingredients and hops, which adds to the uniqueness of the flavor profile. As such, this brewery is perfect for those who love to experiment. Don’t worry though, there are still some more traditional beers on offer.
The brewery’s new North Park location is fantastic, as it has a large amount of outdoor seating, allowing you to enjoy beer while enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. This is only one option, as Pure Project now offers five different locations. Three of these are breweries and taprooms combined, while the others follow different styles.
Opening hours vary depending on location, but all are open seven days a week and often well into the evening. Regardless of location, Pure Project is consistently recommended for new and old beer fans throughout San Diego.
AleSmith Brewing Company
The AleSmith Brewing Company is a mainstay. It’s often recommended as an excellent all-round brewery, one that is reliable and won’t disappoint. The tasting room is incredible, as it’s one of the largest in San Diego. It’s designed to be kid friendly and dog friendly, meaning you can bring along the entire family.
Not only does AleSmith focus on exciting handcrafted beers (particularly ales), but they also have rotating food trucks to ensure everyone is well-fed. Live music makes the venue even more exciting, paving the way for a magical evening.
Another good thing is proximity. AleSmith is located close to multiple breweries, including Pure Project. This is perfect if you’re hoping to sample a variety of beers and breweries, as many people do.
The hours are decent too, starting at 11 am each day and running through to at least 9pm (often 10pm or 11pm). These hours do make AleSmith a poor choice if you’re hoping for a very late session. Still, there are plenty of other tasting rooms nearby, so you can always move from one to another.
We can’t forget about Fall Brewing. This company has multiple locations as well, with its headquarters, brewery, and tasting room being located in Miramar, San Diego. This is a delightful and unusually decorated location, one that’s open from 11am to 10pm every day of the week.
There’s also a North Park brewery and tasting room that follows a more familiar industrial tap room style. This one has similar hours, but stays open even later on Friday and Saturday nights (making it fantastic for a night on the town). There’s an outlet in South Park as well, however this one is just a tasting room.
Fall Brewing isn’t as large and well-known as some of the other breweries on this list. Still, that’s not entirely a bad thing. Smaller companies often have more flexibility and can produce some remarkable expressions.
Fall Brewing generally doesn’t serve food itself. However, they host food trucks, giving guests access to an ever-changing collection of meals. What’s more, Fall Brewing is outside food friendly. This means you can bring in your own food and enjoy it alongside the beers from Fall Brewing.
Then we have Societe Brewing. This independently owned brewery truly is a delight, especially as the brewhouse and taproom are located at opposite ends of the same room. Societe Brewing has also been expanding, with 2020 seeing the development of an exceptional Beer Garden. What better way to enjoy beer than sitting out in the Californian sun?
Societe Brewing gets its name from the idea of society and community. They have a focus on the importance of community, along with how beer can help to bring people together.
This is a great brewery for variety, as their beer portfolio covers a variety of styles. There are bitter and hop-focused beers, including IPAs and other types of pale ale. Then there are light beers, Belgian beers, and stouts. With such a selection, everyone should be able to find at least a few beers they love.
Beyond this, Societe Brewing offers weekly events in both their locations. One of these is an Industry Day/Night, where friends in the industry get an impressive 50% off draft beer. Another is Taco Tuesday, where customers get $1 off regular tacos and full pints.
Eppig Brewing is the place to go if you’re interested in lager, rather than the bitter and hoppy IPAs that many other breweries focus on. Patio seats make the experience even better. You can even bring food from nearby restaurants if you want a treat.
There are three locations, two of which have beautiful waterfront views, which seem to make the beer taste even better. The main location is the Eppig Brewery & Bierhalle in North County/Vista.
You’ll need to time your visit well, as the brew house is only open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday each week. They open at 1pm on the weekends, 4pm on Thursday, and 3pm on Friday, then close again between 7pm and 9pm, depending on the day.
Their Waterfront Biergarten out in Point Loma and La Jolla Bierhaus both have longer hours and are open every day of the week. However, these locations are simply tasting rooms. They don’t have the brewery aspect found in the main location.
Belching Beaver is a bizarre name for a brewery, so it’s no surprise that their beers are equally quirky. One of their most famous is a Peanut Butter Milk Stout. The dark beer’s flavor profile is strongly reminiscent of chocolate peanut butter cups and gets stunning reviews.
The brewery isn’t a one hit wonder. While the Peanut Butter Milk Stout has put Belching Beaver on the map, there are plenty of other delicious beers, with their own distinct characteristics.
Belching Beaver has four locations, including their North Park Tasting Room, a Tavern & Grill in Vista, and Pub980, also in Vista. Then there’s the Oceanside Brewhouse in Oceanside. This is the most interesting, as it’s their brewery location, so you get to see more about how the beer is made and get the true Belching Beaver experience.