Get crafty in San Diego

by Louise Evans on 15 July 2014, 09:07AM

intro1San Diego is famous for a number of things; endless sunshine, the San Diego Zoo, Anchorman to name a few. But did you know that this Southern Californian city is also winning quite a few International awards for its dynamic craft beer culture? Boasting more than 70 craft breweries in the region, with at least 15 within a mile of San Diego’s 70 mile coastline, they take their beer quite seriously here.

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To celebrate this golden liquid, San Diego hosts San Diego Beer Week, an annual 10-day craft beer celebration throughout the county, every November.  San Diego Beer Week returns this year from 7-16 November 2014 and the festivities kick off with the Brewers Guild Festival and conclude with a Chef Celebration of San Diego Beer, a gourmet beer and food pairing event.

Luckily for visitors, there are multiple ways to enjoy the craft beer scene in sunny San Diego throughout the year.  Here’s a few we recommend:

Guided brewery tours
For those who want to really experience (and taste) San Diego’s beer culture, meet the brewers leaving the driving to someone else, guided brewery tours are an excellent option.

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Brew Hop offers custom-designed private brewery tours of San Diego. Visitors can relax in luxury as they are chauffeured to their choice of local breweries.  The 5-hour “Beer Connoisseur” tour includes samples, behind-the-scenes tours at four breweries and a meal.  The 2.5-hour “Beer Tasters” tour stops at two or three breweries and includes samples and tours.   

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Brewery Tours of San Diego offers regularly scheduled tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  Each tour visits three breweries and includes transportation, tastings and lunch. 

Brewery tasting rooms
A number of breweries offer tasting rooms and tours where you get to meet the brewmasters in person and taste some samples.

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The award-winning AleSmith Brewing Company in Miramar is an artisan microbrewery specialising in handcrafted brews.  Visitors can find fresh flavours inspired by the UK’s and Belgium’s high alcohol content and strongly hopped beers. There are tours of the brewery on Saturdays.

Originally opened in 1915, Mission Brewery would be San Diego’s oldest brewery if it wasn’t shut down during Prohibition. Re-established in 2007, the new Mission Brewery is steps away from downtown’s ballpark, Petco Park, in the East Village, making it the perfect spot for a pre- or post-game beer tasting. In the tasting room, guests can play shuffle board while sampling Mission’s wide variety of beer styles. Tours of the brewing facility are offered hourly on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

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The Ballast Point Brewing Company offers tours and tastings at both their main brewery in Scripps Ranch and its home brew store/brewery in Linda Vista.  Guests can tour behind the barrels for tastings of specialty citrus hops, scotch ales and German Klosch-style beer; they can also purchase a selection of “do-it-yourself” beer making supplies ranging from starter kits to advanced brewing systems. 

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Based in Mira Mesa, Green Flash Brewing Company showcases the use of fine, all natural ingredients in their award-winning beers that are brewed in small batches to ensure each glass is of the freshest and purest quality. Their bottled beer selection includes a line of beers named for San Diego neighbourhoods. The brewery features an on-site tasting room with 30 taps and offers public tours Wednesdays through Sundays.

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Pub crawls (by foot and rail)
If you want to get a taste for several San Diego ales, but don't have time to visit a brewery, then a pub crawl may be the best way to go. Luckily in downtown San Diego, there are several options for beer lovers to map out their perfect pub crawl.  Breweries within easy walking distance of most downtown hotels include Karl Strauss’ downtown location, Mission Brewery and Monkey Paw Brewing Co. in the East Village.  Local beers can also be sampled at numerous downtown pubs and restaurants like Downtown Johnny Brown’s, Neighbourhood and Knotty Barrel. 

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The San Diego Brewers Guild offers itineraries with detailed directions by rail for visiting local breweries and brew pubs. Riding the light-rail San Diego Trolley and local Coaster commuter train, a Central San Diego route stops at Ballast Point, Gordon Biersch, Oggi’s and the San Diego Brewing Company; a North County tour begins at Ballast Point and visits both Pizza Port locations in Solana Beach and Carlsbad. 

Locals call 30th Street in the neighbourhood of North Park “the best street in the world for craft beer.”  More than a dozen restaurants and bars located along 30th Street proudly serve local craft brews including beer-havens like Hamilton’s Tavern, Toronado San Diego, The Linkery and Ritual Tavern.  Just a short walk away on Adam’s Avenue in neighbouring Normal Heights, Blind Lady Ale House serves a top-notch selection including their own top brews.

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Or hop lovers can literally hop on the beer train. We're not kidding. Offered by San Diego Beer & Wine Tours, the Beer Train Tour of San Diego allows guests to hop on the Coaster train along the beach and ride to breweries within walking distance of the stops. In addition to beautiful views of the coastal scenery, the tour offers tastes of local craft beers, food parings, guided brewery tours, games and prizes.

Best brewpubs
In addition to creating outstanding craft beer on-site, the following breweries boast great restaurants where beer tourists can fuel up for further exploration. 

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Stone Brewing Company is recognised as one of the best breweries in the United States, brewing more than 200,000 barrels of beer annually. Guests can enjoy big character beers like Arrogant Bastard Ale at their brewery locations in Escondido and Point Loma. Both locations also feature the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, an expansive on-site bistro serving high quality food made from organic ingredients, many of which are grown on Stone Farms, the brewery’s proprietary farm. Opened in 2013, the new Point Loma location also features a bocce ball court, and both sites include lawns for al fresco movie screenings.

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With multiple San Diego settings and brews served and sold in more than 3,000 Southern California locations, Karl Strauss Brewing Company is one of the largest craft breweries in the country.  The brewery offers a core line-up of five delicious beers, plus a variety of seasonal beers and special releases, each perfectly paired with the restaurant’s menu of West Coast-inspired cuisine.  Karl Strauss also hosts monthly “firkin” parties in which kegs are tapped in the traditional way, by driving a spigot through the front of the keg with a wooden mallet. Guests can find locations in Sorrento Mesa, La Jolla, downtown San Diego, Carlsbad and 4S Ranch. Karl Strauss’ main brewery in San Diego is open for public tours offered Wednesdays through Sundays.

To find out more about holidays to San Diego visit www.travelbag.co.uk/holidays/usa

For more information on San Diego, visit www.sandiego.org


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