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San Diego has nearly 30 tasting rooms in addition to its 137+ breweries. That means, no matter where you are, you can sample a craft beer straight from the source.
Here's an amazing fact: San Diego has more than 140 brewery locations. That's an astounding number given the county's size and population. What's more amazing is the fact that, even with so many locations, there doesn't seem to be enough places for beer lovers to enjoy great craft beer!
In addition to all the brewery sites, San Diego has more than two dozen "satellite" tasting rooms. These tasting rooms bring beer from their main production facilities and serve it up in proprietary spaces that are sans hoses, barrels, and bulky brewing equipment.
Just as the brewery scene has exploded in recent years, so has the tasting room scene. Well, Ocean Beach is the big winner, with North Park a close second, but Barrio Logan and Miramar/Mira Mesa are coming up fast.
Every brewery has its own reasons for expanding with a satellite tasting room (some have already done two or three!). Most, however, see these outlets as an effective way to increase brand exposure while maintaining control of additional distribution. Direct-to-consumer profit margins are also the most favorable for breweries, so the added cost of a tasting room can be offset by increasing production and selling more beer retail, at a better price for the brewery. Tom Vogel, founder of Belching Beaver (main production in Vista and Oceanside), was one of the first small breweries to open a satellite location. As Tom explains it, "In the beginning, we didn't have a lot of production capacity, so we had to sell to our highest margin potential. Selling beer by the glass has the best margin and the extra income allowed us to buy more equipment." A new tasting room provided a similar boost for The Lost Abbey (main production in San Marcos). Co-founder Tomme Arthur says their second location in Cardiff, called The Confessional, helped to offset some increased expenses for the production brewery in year one. "We purchased a new packaging line last fall and expect to use some of the revenue stream from the offsite space to pay for the equipment," says Tomme. "It's a win-win for us."
Owners realize that an off-site tasting room doesn't provide visitors with the same "hands-on" experience as visiting their brewery, but most agree there are definite advantages that satellite locations have over production locations. Jacob McKean, founder of Modern Times (main production in Point Loma) says, "The satellite tasting room experience is quite different from the brewery experience. There's no production happening in our North Park tasting room, which makes the scale much smaller and more intimate." Tom Vogel likes the fact that, at his tasting room, customers aren't being "disrupted" by noise and machinery from the brewery and his patrons can enjoy a more "relaxed and casual" environment.
Tomme Arthur also likes the fact that his brewery and his tasting room provide very different experiences for Lost Abbey fans. "In San Marcos, our experience is centered on the interaction between our staff and the patrons," Tomme says. "The entire brewing process can be seen from the bar environment, which gives the patrons a chance to be immersed in the action. As an added benefit, our brewing crew is constantly milling around the tasting room and are available for conversation. Cardiff has a much smaller footprint. As such, we focused on creating an intimate space with a well-versed staff that can deliver a high level of hospitality."
Having satellite tasting locations can also be an invaluable marketing tool, especially for smaller breweries. Jacob McKean says his North Park tasting room has done wonders for the Modern Times brand. "It has helped tremendously," he says. "Besides providing a crucial source of income to a very capital-intensive business, it has made many more people familiar with us and our beer. We sell way more beer at bars and restaurants in North Park than we ever did before the tasting room opened. Familiarity is a huge factor in how people decide what beer to order."
If current expansion plans are any indication, the satellite room boom will not be slowing any time soon. Currently, new locations are slated for Liberty Station, Ocean Beach, and Sorrento Valley, with more in Barrio Logan and North Park sure to follow.
Here's the list of tasting rooms now open organized by neighborhood:
Belching Beaver North Park
Where: 4223 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
Modern Times Flavordome
Where: 3000 Upas St, Ste 102, San Diego, CA 92104
Where: 4101 30th St, Ste A, San Diego, CA 92104
Where: 3139 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
Little Miss (Normal Heights)
Where: 3514 Adams Ave., San Diego, CA 92104
Helm's Brewing Company Ocean Beach
Where: 4896 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107
> Find out more about Helm's Brewing Company
Mike Hess Brewing Ocean Beach
Where: 4893 Voltaire St, San Diego, CA 92107
> Find out more about Mike Hess Brewing
Culture Brewing Co - Ocean Beach
Where: 4845 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107
Where: 4836 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107
Where: 1875 Cable Street, San Diego, CA 92107
Where: 4861 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107
Stone Brewing Tap Room
Where: 795 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Stone Brewing Co.
Stone Company Store on Kettner
Where: 1202 Kuttner Blvd, Set 101, San Diego, CA 92101
Iron Fist Brewing - Barrio Logan
Where: 1985 National Ave, #1132, San Diego, CA 92113
> Find out more about Iron Fist Brewing
Border X Brewing
Where: 2181 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113
Bolt Brewery Little Italy
Where: 1971 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Oggi's Pizza & Brew House Point Loma
Where: 2562 Laning Road, San Diego, CA 92106
Stone Company Store Oceanside
Where: 310 N. Tremont St., Oceanside, CA 92054
Mother Earth Brewing Tap Room
Where: 206 Main Street, Vista, CA 92084
Lost Abbey Confessional
Where: 2007 San Elijo Ave, Cardiff, CA 92007
Cellar 3 - Green Flash Brewing Co.
Where: 12260 Crosthwaite Cir, Poway, CA 92064
> Find out more about Green Flash Brewing Co.
Legacy Brewing Tap and Kitchen
Where: 7060 Miramar Rd #100, San Diego, CA 92121
Mike Hess Brewing
Where: 7955 Silverton Ave #1201, San Diego, CA 92126
> Find out more about Mike Hess Brewing
Where: 6304 Riverdale St, San Diego, CA 92120
Coronado Brewing Co. Imperial Beach
Where: 875 Seacoast Dr, Imperial Beach, CA 91932
> Find out more about Coronado Brewing Co.
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