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30th Street is home to some of the city's best craft beer bars and beer-friendly restaurants, as well as a few breweries and tasting rooms.
There are lots of ways to experience the incredible selection and diversity of San Diego's great craft beer. If you want to go directly to the source and visit the brewery tasting rooms, you're in luck; you've got nearly 140 breweries to choose from! Although this strategy involves covering a lot of ground, many areas of the county have become tiny craft beer "meccas," where a collection of breweries have popped up fairly close to one another. Up in North County, Highway 78 has become known as the "Hops Highway," because so many breweries can be found along the corridor between Escondido and Oceanside. Another grouping can be found along the Miramar and Mira Mesa corridor. Still others have popped up between downtown to the Interstate 8.
But what if you want to sample San Diego's amazing variety without traveling all over the county? Well, then, 30th Street is the place for you. 30th Street (which runs through the neighborhoods of Normal Heights, North Park and South Park) offers visitors an opportunity to try a little bit of everything - it's home to some of the city's best craft beer bars and best beer-friendly restaurants, as well as two or three actual breweries and tasting rooms.
Here's a sampling of some of the many beer-centric things you can do on 30th Street. It's a suggested itinerary that would never actually be done in its entirety, but it guides you from north to south with recommendations for stops along the way.
Where: 4542 30th St, San Diego, CA 92116
The spacious tasting room is light and comfortable, with shiny fermentation tanks on display, plenty of seating and a nice selection of crisp, clean, well-balanced beers to choose from. If the Plenty For All Pilsner, Green Hat IPA or the Coffee Stout (2AM Bike Ride) are on tap when you visit, make sure you don't miss them.
Special Note: As you come down 30th Street and hit El Cajon Blvd., you can take a slight detour east to Ohio Street, where North Park's newest brewery tasting location has recently opened. Sharing the building (but with two distinct tasting rooms) is Pariah Brewing Company and Eppig Brewing Company. These two breweries are perfectly capable on their own of providing all the beer you could possibly need or want in a given outing.
Where: 4494 30th Street San Diego, CA 92116
Poor House prides itself on serving the local community with a selection of beers brewed with its nano 1 barrel system. Walk through the saloon doors and mosey on up to the bar for the popular 30 Hop IPA or if it's on tap, sample (and we emphasize sample) the Belgian Quad which touts a 18.5% ABV.
Where: 3025 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104
Tiger! Tiger! is technically not on 30th Street, but it's only two doors east. And besides, it's so good, it has to be on any 30th Street itinerary! (Draft magazine recently voted it one of America's 100 Best Beer Bars.)
Big wooden communal tables in a casual, friendly atmosphere is how Tiger! Tiger! provides its patrons with a great selection of beers (about 24 taps) and a delicious menu of scaled-up comfort bar-food (there are even some vegan options), with an emphasis on locally grown quality ingredients (their house-made sausages and Sunday brunch are awesome).
As a sister restaurant to Blind Lady Ale House (just north on Adams Ave.), Tiger! Tiger! usually has at least a few selections from Automatic Brewing, which is brewed at Blind Lady. These beers, brewed by co-owner Lee Chase, are always outstanding, so don't pass them by.
Where: 4223 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
This outpost of the production brewery that makes its home in Vista is a smallish space with plenty of seating and a bunch of counters that open out onto the street. But before you head in, make sure to grab a selfie in front of the "Greeting from San Diego Mural", by Greetings Tour, on the north side of the tasting room. Once inside you can choose from a variety of Belching Beaver brews, including nitro selections, seasonal specialties and their perennial fan favorite: Peanut Butter Milk Stout.
Where: 4101 30th Street, San Diego, CA 92104
This outpost of the San Marcos brewery offers a large, airy, comfortable setting in which to taste Rip Current's always-delicious lineup. Founded by two nationally recognized and prolific homebrewers, this brewery does every style well, especially IPAs (Lupulin Lust) and malty beers like Barrier Reef Nut Brown.
Where: 4045 30th St. Ste A, San Diego, CA 92104
Take a break and relax on one of the couches with a beer from Second Chance Beer Co., a local favorite brewing a few miles north in Carmel Mountain. In addition to year-round (Seize the IPA and Tabula Rasa porter are popular choices) and seasonal offerings, Lounge-exclusive beers are poured from time to time.
Where: 4026 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
With an impeccable lineup of more than 53 beers on tap (and an exhaustive list of bottles), Toronado has distinguished itself as one of San Diego's premier craft beer bars (also recently voted one of America's 100 Best Beer Bars by Draft magazine). The casual and comfortable surroundings, along with the friendly and helpful staff, make it the perfect place to taste, explore and experiment. If you want a well-rounded craft beer education, you need not look any further than the offerings at Toronado.
A casual café menu complements the liquid selections, with dishes that often incorporate or utilize craft beer. Toronado frequently hosts special beer events, including multi-course beer dinners and brunches that are some of the most interesting and delicious around.
Where: 3038 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
Acclaimed homebrewer Kelsey McNair launched this brewery (just a few doors east of 30th Street) on hip and trendy University Avenue a little more than a year ago. The beers are all good, with McNair's Hop Fu IPA standing out as the best in the lineup, but the space itself is the real star. Beautifully designed in a neo-Deco style, the high-ceilings, long bulky bar, mezzanine area and floor-to-ceiling windows make this room a destination in itself.
Where: 3812 Grim Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
Again, this is a little detour that's worth taking. Two short avenues east of 30th Street (and just south of North Park Beer Co.) is Mike Hess Brewing. If you're looking for the brewery-tasting room combo experience, here's another spot to try.
Hess' spacious tasting room is well-designed and offers the drama of being above the fermentation tanks looking down. The brewery offers a nice selection of beers on tap, including a few unique styles, such as Grazias Vienna Cream Ale, Umbrix Rye Imperial Stout and their award-winning Claritas Kölsch. Most beers are available to take home in very cool cans, crowlers or growlers.
Where: 3007 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
Before heading farther down 30th Street, stop by Bottlecraft for an impressive collection of craft beers and cheese. That's right, pick up a bottle or order pint from the cozy tasting area while enjoying a selection of hundreds of of cheeses as well as charcuterie, paninis, chocolates and other artisan goodies from Venissimo Cheese.
Where: 3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
Here's an option for those seeking a very beer-centric gastropub kind of experience, with a bit more upscale menu. Waypoint Public boasts 27 taps, many of them local beers, as well as an eclectic California-inspired collection of dishes that range from smoked swordfish crostini to braised short rib ravioli to the classic French cassoulet.
Where: 3000 Upas St, San Diego, CA 92104
Step inside the Flavordome just to see the decor. Then order a flight from the 16-taps pouring Modern Times core and unique beers on-tap including variations on their core beers, pilot batches, mysterious experiments.
Feeling hungry by this point? The Flavordome allows patrons to bring in food or have it delivered straight to the table from one of the tasty restaurants nearby.
Where: 3176 Thorn St., San Diego, CA 92104
One last stop before entering South Park is Thorn Street Brewery (a few blocks east of 30th at Thorn). Opening in late 2012, this small operation within a North Park residential area is one of San Diego's true neighborhood breweries.
While offering a nice variety of malt-forward and Belgian-style beers, their most popular beer is the Barrio Lager (Baja-Style Lager), a take on this classic is made from both Domestic 2 row barley and flaked Maize. It’s not at all hoppy or bitter, just smooth and drinkable.
Where: 1517 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102
A another shining star in San Diego's beer bar universe (also voted numerous times by Draft magazine as one of America's 100 Best Beer Bars). Hamilton's 30+ taps and extensive bottle list are the result of owner Scot Blair's personal obsession with quality beer and the best of local beer. His longstanding relationships with hundreds of brewers has enabled him to offer patrons many rare and specialty beers that are not widely distributed elsewhere.
The atmosphere in Hamilton's is pure neighborhood bar: dark wood, low lighting, pool and shuffleboard tables, all provide a comfortable, friendly setting for anyone who happens in. Quality pub food, like their house-made sausages and great sandwiches, pair exceedingly well with the many styles of beer on offer.
South Park Brewing Company is an adjoining space filled with both a 5-barrel brewhouse and a fish-centric restaurant. The beers are all brewed, tanked and tapped right behind the long dark-wood bar and are only available at this location. The other half of the space houses an open kitchen and huge fish case, which displays all kinds of fresh seafood to be cooked there or purchased for home.
As great a place as 30th Street is, it's not the most car-friendly. On most days, parking is a challenge pretty much anywhere on or near 30th Street. In addition, if you're going to spend a day drinking beer, operating a motor vehicle is not really the best option. Walking is a great means of transport on 30th Street, though the entire route from north to south may be a bit longer than you'd like to tackle in a day. Bikes are another excellent choice.
The best choice by far, however, would be the city's #2 bus. Available from many spots downtown (on Broadway), the #2 travels the entire length of 30th Street and will take you close to every spot mentioned in this article. For $7 you can get a day-pass that will enable you to get on and off as you please, and you won't have to spend half your day looking for parking spots...that means you'll have more time to stop, sip and savor some of the best beer stops San Diego has to offer.
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