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No brew lover's visit to San Diego is complete without a tour of one (or more) of our top areas of brew mastery. Here are the four best - and the must-see breweries to hit when you find yourself there - as recommended by San Diego beer legends.
Great beer is found all over San Diego, but some places seem to exist purely to satisfy our thirst for delicious, hoppy, suds. Here are four can't-miss areas for beer aficionados, as recommended by San Diego beer legends and insiders Mike Hinkley (Green Flash), Doug Constantiner (Societe) and Vince Marsaglia (Pizza Port).
An astounding percentage of San Diego County's craft breweries are found along Highway 78, from Oceanside to Julian. This stretch of North County is where some of the beer greats decided to set up camp.
Where: 601 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054
A huge space with great, classic beer styles. "Jeff Bagby is possibly the greatest brewer of this modern generation," says Doug Constantiner. "Don't just order the hoppy stuff. Everything they make is as good as it gets."
Where: 571 Carlsbad Village Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008
A local legend near the beach, with a family-friendly vibe that includes multiple pinball games. "Killer beer, killer pizza, killer atmosphere," Doug Constantiner says. "Visit the Pizza Port Bottle Shop next door with more than 600 beers to choose from."
Where: 155 Mata Way, Unit 104, San Marcos, CA 92069
Great barrel-aged beers. "Ask to walk around the barrel room!" says Mike Hinkley. "And don't fall for just the hard-to-get, rare beers," says Doug Constantiner. "Order a Devotion (blonde ale)."
Where: 1495 Poinsettia Ave, Unit 148, Vista CA 92081
Fans of sours (both kettle and barrel) and brettanomyces beers will love Toolbox, known for its interesting, highly creative, small batch pours.
Where: 1999 Citracado Pkwy, Esocndido, CA 92029
Stone is perhaps San Diego's best-known brewery, and is responsible, in many ways, for giving San Diego an international reputation as a craft beer capital. "It's a landmark, legendary, path-clearing, take-no-prisoners, outta-my-way brewery," says Doug Constantiner. "Take the tour and stay for the food."
30th Street has been called the best craft beer street in the country, and one visit will show you why. Not only will you find a big collection of breweries right in the middle of North Park, but the bars and restaurants also serve an amazing collection of San Diego's craft brews.
Where: 3812 Grim Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
"Probably the coolest tasting room in San Diego," Doug Constantiner says of the setup surrounding the actual brewing equipment. When you're there, "go for the Ex Umbris imperial stout."
Where: 3176 Thorn St, San Diego, CA 92104
Thorn St. is the epitome of the neighborhood brewery. Filled nightly with locals who biked or walked to grab a pint after work, this beautifully designed rustic brewery features two levels, nightly food trucks and a Trivia Night competition every Wednesday.
Where: 3000 Upas St, Unit 102, San Diego, CA 92104
"A funky and fun tasting room," says Mike Hinkley. Great beers aside, visitors enjoy a nostalgic gander through all the old VHS tapes that make up the bar.
Where: 4101 30th St, Unit A, San Diego, CA 92104
Winner of 2015's "Very Small Brewing Company of the Year" at the Great American Beer Festival, this place is right in the center of it all.
Where: 4542 30th St, San Diego, CA 92116
Three industry vets opened this fun, friendly tasting room that's become a favorite of locals and brewers alike. A great place to take your dog, too!
Where: 3416 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Vince Marsaglia calls Automatic "the MacGyver of the beer scene." Automatic is the brewery in the back of Blind Lady Ale House, the favorite beer bar of many beer lovers.
Where: 1517 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102
The newest project of San Diego beer legend Scott Blair is attached to his renowned beer mecca, Hamilton's Tavern. It specializes in serving fresh fish made to order, too, which is designed to be a delicious pairing with your craft beer.
Where: 3038 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
The next big thing to come to Beer Blvd is North Park Beer Co., a stylish, beautifully designed brewery from local homebrew star Kelsey McNair. Don't miss his Hop Fu IPA!
Tucked away in business parks and around unexpected turns are some of the best breweries in the country, complete with world-class tasting room experiences.
Where: 9045 Carroll Way, San Diego, CA 92121
This San Diego giant has great beer - including many experimentations and variations of its popular choices - as well as awesome food. This enormous production facility houses a great bar, restaurant, and outdoor patio space. It's always busy, and has generated an incredible amount of buzz, thanks to the massive scale and design of the place.
Where: 6550 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92121
One of the local staples with a huge tasting room, awesome tour program and good food trucks. One of the Shang-ri-las for any serious hop head.
Where: 9990 Alesmith Ct, San Diego, CA 92126
AleSmith has the largest and "most beautiful tasting room," says Vince Marsaglia. Doug Constantiner goes even further: "AleSmith is one of the best breweries in the world. If you visit San Diego and don't go to AleSmith, you might as well throw your travel money away."
Where: 9495 Canidida St, San Diego, CA 92126
White Labs is one-of-a-kind. It proves that brewing beer is a science, focusing on yeast and fermentation advancements. "They're the industry's #1 source for liquid brewers' yeast and have a tasting room to try the same beer fermented with different yeast strains," says Doug Constantiner.
Where: 8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111
Mike Hinkley's "favorite of the new guys," Societe features a taproom with rustic design that sits right next to where it's brewed. The Pupil is considered by many to be one of San Diego's best IPAs, and The Harlot is considered to be an equally great Belgian-style.
San Diego's East Village neighborhood is a hub of arts, culture and beer. The trendy district has some of the most unique breweries and tasting rooms in San Diego - all within the excitement of downtown.
Where: 805 16th St, San Diego, CA 92101
Great selection of creative, fun and highly-flavorful beers, both brewed by Monkey Paw and by others. Mike Hinkley and Doug Constantiner agree that Monkey Paw has the best cheesesteak in San Diego.
Where: 1441 L St, San Diego, CA 92101
Mission Brewery originally opened in 1913 but was closed during Prohibition (like most breweries). It opened again in 2007, and now is located in the old Wonder Bread factory home - a truly one-of-a-kind downtown experience.
Where: 903 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
In the heart of East Village is this Victorian home filled with early 1900s decor. This unexpected two-story building houses Half Door Brewing Company, which offers a wide variety of beers as well as tasty comfort pub foods, like chicken pot pie and fish and chips.
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