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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 and 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.
Where: 3117 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104
On University Avenue a few blocks east of 30th Street, this brewery/restaurant is the brainchild of longtime locals Steve and Patricia Billings. Its generous taps are housed in a space created in collaboration with Tijuana-based Duhagon Design. House-brewed beers range from the session-y Tell Me Mo', a West Coast pale ale; to a host of IPAs, including the intriguingly named Space Metal Fantasy; to Unique Physique, a 12% ABV coconut-and-coffee concoction. And check out the extensive food menu of homey lunch and dinner favorites.
The proprietors, by the way, explain that the place's name comes from the 40 acres of land purchased in 1893 by James Monroe Hartley and now known as North Park..
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: 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: 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: 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: 2899 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104
Old World traditions meet new approaches to brewing at Rouleur, named for founder Rawley Macias' passion for bicycling (it's French for, basically, "something that rolls," and has extra meaning for cyclists). Rouleur, which has been pouring brews in Carlsbad since 2016, now has rolled into North Park with a focus on unusual flavor profiles and such cycling-minded product names as the ENDO West Coast IPA and the BONKEUR Mosaic Pale Ale.
Where: 3052 El Cajon Blvd., Suite C, San Diego, CA 92104
North Park's newest brewery and tap room, Seek is seeking to be the neighborhood's go-to place for brews in a family- and dog-friendly setting. And it's not just about the sips: The place plans to host such events as bingo and local charity benefit nights, plus games from darts to Mario Kart. Seek also hosts food trucks and vendors, so you can enjoy both brews and bites either in the tap room or on the expansive patio.
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.
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, although 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 No. 2 bus. Available from many spots downtown (on Broadway), the No. 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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