There are more than 150 independent breweries in the craft beer capital of America. And though many of these IPAs and saisons are now bottled and available across the nation, there's nothing like having a freshly poured pint right at the source. The San Diego Brewers Guild even created a map that makes planning your future happy hours a cinch.
San Diego's largest craft brewery was founded in 1996, just when the city was starting to take beer seriously. Its flagship in Escondido — World Bistro & Gardens — is arguably the most beautiful beer garden and tasting room in the nation, complete with two bars and 36 beers on tap. Claim an adirondack chair beside the creek in the tree-filled garden and enjoy some daytime sipping.
Escondido Brewing Company
At just under 300 square feet, Escondido is the smallest brewery in San Diego, but its flavors are big. It opened in 2017 in the city's North Country neighborhood, and here owners Evan Smith and Ketchen Smith (no relation) concentrate on small-batch brews, including their award-winning Hopcondido IPA and a seasonal Grape Day IPA made with muscat grapes. Hang out on their pet-friendly patio, and play some lawn games while you do a tasting.
Modern Times Beer
San Diego's fastest-growing brewery now boasts restaurants and tasting rooms in Los Angeles, Oakland, Encinitas, Santa Barbara, and Portland, Oregon. But the Lomaland Fermatorium in Point Loma is where it all began in 2013. This 2,000-square-foot tasting room offers 32 beers on tap, many of which are fun experiments and test batches available only there.
One of San Diego's craft beer pioneers, Ballast Point opened in 1996, and its sprawling Miramar brewery and restaurant is a great place for lunch or dinner (the food is excellent) or just a couple of rounds while you play a game of beanbag toss by the fire pit. The informative 45-minute tour costs only US$5 and comes with a commemorative glass.
Alesmith Brewing Company
This venerable brewery opened in 1995 and landed at number six on Ratebeer.com's "Top 100 Brewers in the World" list in 2020. Alesmith's massive tasting room is the largest in San Diego and regularly hosts food trucks as well as trivia nights and other events. There's also a mini-museum honoring the Padres' Tony Gwynn. Be sure to try some barrel-aged brews, such as Numbskull, which is matured for up to a year in bourbon barrels.