31 Essential Craft Breweries You Need to Try in San Diego
It’s no secret that San Diegans are awash in beer, and, despite the claims of other cities (we’re looking at you, Portland), we have the best craft beer scene in the country. But in a city with 150-plus breweries, finding the right one for the occasion can be intimidating. There’s a San Diego brewery that can fill the bill, 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. To help you navigate the seemingly endless choices, we drank lots of local beer and compiled a handy guide to the best breweries in town to help you plan your next pint. Now go on and get to sipping.
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. As one of the fermentation industry’s most important suppliers of liquid yeast, White Labs’ tasting room hosts both casual beer drinkers and hardcore beer nerds with equal aplomb. They offer free brewery tours at 2 pm and 3:30 pm every Friday and Saturday, with no reservation required. Afterward, you can head to the tasting room to experience how much yeast impacts the beer's flavor profile.
Novo Brazil Brewing Co.
After opening a successful brewery in Brazil in 1999, owner Tiago Carneiro and his brother José 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, a tasting room in the Market on 8th in National City, and a brewpub in Imperial Beach. A quartet of core beers—Mango Fruit IPA, Momo Haze Hazy IPA, Ipanema DIPA, and Corvo Negro Russian Imperial Stout, are available throughout the year. Another half dozen rotate in and out periodically. 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.
Initially 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 was forced to close during Prohibition. The company has now expanded to three beautiful locations, focusing on artisanal ales and lagers in a family- and pet-friendly environment, where you’re welcome to bring outside food. Local favorite selections include Doppelbock Strong German-Style Lager, Sinister Path Export Stout, and Try This! West Coast pale ale. Order online for pickup or California delivery.
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 with Citra, Nelson and Mosaic hops is always a solid choice, or push the envelope with Dutchman's Pipe Imperial Stout conditioned on Steady State Roasting 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.
Border X Brewing
Border X is a family affair, founded by brothers David and Marcelino Favela and Marcelino’s two sons, Marcel and Martin. As San Diego's first Latino-owned and operated brewery, they drew inspiration from traditional Latin flavors, rather than imitating popular styles of European beer. Their flagship Blood Saison is a ruby red beauty rich with tart hibiscus flowers and crystal malt. The selection of beers has since expanded to include a trio of stouts, IPAs, and a Black Belgian Saison, earning it a 2020 James Beard Semifinalist nomination along the way.
Mujeres Brew House
Mujeres Brew House, San Diego’s first Latina-owned brewery, opened in 2020 with a handful of collaborative brews and guest taps. Since then, they’ve been pouring every Tuesday through Sunday, with events like Thursday Loteria Nights, a Sunday farmers markets hosted by Garden Unidos, and pop-ups featuring local vendors. Check Facebook and Instagram pages for info on what’s pouring and what’s happening.
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 great to have a theme, but not at the expense of brewing good beer, and BattleMage definitely delivers on that front. Like any good wizard, they know the value of experimenting with their potions, but as luck would have it, some of their finest brews are the ones that adhere to traditions, like 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 Co.
Viewpoint Brewing has an unbeatable view that overlooks the San Dieguito Lagoon, and its outdoor patio is always lively. There's some truly delicious food on the menu (like creamy chicken pot pie and an outstanding burger), as well as a constantly rotating tap list that indulges head brewer Moe Katomski’s experimental side, like MOE’S(aic) Pale Ale, Bye Bri Saison with Galaxy and Motueka hops, and local favorite Fairies Wear Boots IPA. Make reservations for indoor dining via SpotOn, walk-ins will be accepted if seating is available. Order pickup and delivery online.
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, the cervecería specializes in Mexican-style beer like Puesto IPA, hoppy ale using rotating hop and malt varieties, Puesto Negra (a GABF Silver Medalist), and Puesto Cinco Pilsner, a Mexican-style pils bursting with pale Skagit malts and Saaz and Hallertauer Blanc hops. 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.
North Park Beer Co.
Longtime homebrewer extraordinaire Kelsey McNair’s pet project was born in 2016, but the anticipation proved to be worth the wait. Located in the heart of North Park, the 9,000-square-foot tasting room proved so popular that a Bankers Hill location, with a scratch kitchen, launched last December. The brewery scored big in 2022, with four winning beers at the Great American Beer Festival: Hop Fu! American IPA (bronze), NZ Fu! New Zealand IPA (gold), Double Fu! Imperial IPA (bronze) and X-Raying Citra Hazy Imperial IPA (silver). Order online for pickup, delivery or shipping within California.
Pure Project’s entire oeuvre is unique, having been inspired by the spirit of the Costa Rican jungle, where the founders lived for several years. As a result, many of the beers feature floral and tropical notes 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. Days and hours of operation vary by location, and beer can be shipped within California and Nevada. Check their webpage for frequent new releases and special events.
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 M.T. Pils, Fruitlands Gose with passionfruit and guava, and specialty coffee-flavored releases that capitalize on their in-house coffee roasting. IPAs are by no means ignored, though, Modern Times releases seasonal and premium DIPAs three times a year. Tap lists and hours of operation vary, so check your location’s website before heading out.
AleSmith Brewing Company
AleSmith clearly doesn’t need any more recognition in this town, having taken home the Champion Brewery award at a few San Diego International Beer Festivals. That said, if you're somehow unfamiliar with this brewery, go out to its sprawling, state-of-the-art headquarters for a get-acquainted pint. 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, which has achieved almost mythic status in the national beer scene, along with all its variants, which include coconutty Hawaiian, Tart Cherry, Double Fudge and Salted Caramel Brownie. Order online for delivery within California and Nevada.
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 four 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, and seemingly can’t go wrong when it comes to trying out innovative flavors like Peanut Butter Milk Stout and Pink Peppercorn Saison, aged in gin barrels. 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 a Pizza Port or an AleSmith, but it has had a meteoric rise to prominence since opening its doors, winning West Coaster’s Best Brewery award in 2014 and 2016. The brainchild of 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 2022 silver medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival for session IPAs. Order online for pick up, delivery, and shipping services.
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.
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, a blend of young and old barrel aged beers that’s brewed just once every three years. If you're not one for sour beers, check out the Lost and Found Abbey Dubbel, which uses crystal malt for a subtle chocolate malt finish. Check your location for days and hours of operation.
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 all its iterations, from Aloha Hazy to Habanero. 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 summer-ready refreshers Watermelon Dorado and Swingin’ Friar Pale Ale. Order from your location for pickup or delivery.
Thorn has made one hell of a name for itself since its initial location opened more than a decade ago. Beyond a sterling reputation for IPAs and a willingness to experiment with their flavors (they famously produced 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 three homey locations are integral to the fabric of the community, where you’re likely to run into some of the most interesting locals you’ll ever meet over pints of perfectly brewed pale ales. Tap lists, days and hours of operation vary by location.
Pizza Port Brewing Co.
Pizza Port is as San Diegan as a sunburn in January, or being completely incapable of driving in the rain. 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. 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 locations. Try the Hazy AF (as fog) or the Swami’s IPA, two of the many staple beers of the Pizza Port empire. Check the location for days and hours of operation and pickup options.