There are a surprising number of craft and specialty breweries in San Diego — more than 220, which is the most in any county of the United States. America’s Finest City is all about beer, and so when it comes to things to do in San Diego for the 21+ crowd (though some are family-friendly), I often recommend visitors check out both the new and established breweries.

There are a lot of guides out there for best breweries in San Diego, but most don’t break them down by neighborhood. We’ve done that in this guide, sticking to breweries close to your hotel. As feedback from multiple sources went into creating this post, we focus on popular tourist areas — or ‘home’ means you can walk or take an Uber.

In some cases, we’ve recommended guided tours of San Diego breweries that are neighborhood-specific. There are private and group beer trolley, cycle, and walking tours — all of which are a great way to see some of the best breweries in San Diego, and taste some of the best beers. 

San Diego is a top destination for craft beer lovers, and widely considered the craft beer capital of America. Here’s what you need to know about the San Diego beer scene, and the breweries that you should check out.

Breweries in Downtown San Diego

There are quite a few breweries in Downtown San Diego serving everything from pale ales to rich stouts, and these are some of the best that might be within walking distance of your Downtown San Diego hotel.

Mission Brewery

This award-winning brewery was originally established in 1913 before going out of business during the country’s prohibition years. Almost a hundred years later, homebrewer Dan Selis relaunched the brand.

After a few years, Mission Brewery was so large that he moved the brewing, canning, kegging, tastings, and tours into 25,000 sq. ft. of space in the historic Wonder Bread building in the East Village. The taproom occupies an impressive 2,500 sq ft space alone, where you can try everything from the brewery’s crisp California lager to its core lineup of IPAs, wheat beers, and stouts to special seasonal offerings.  

Mission doesn’t serve or sell any food, but they’re more than happy for you to bring your own in, and they also often have food trucks parked nearby. They’re also kid and dog friendly.

(Tip: Mission recently opened another taproom in the Kensington area of San Diego, where you can sample 24 beer taps or sip on wine, coffee, or kombucha.)

Resident Brewing Co.

This laid-back San Diego brewery is right in the center of Downtown and has been in operation since 2016. Like Mission Brewery, it was founded as a small homebrewing operation (by Carlsbad resident Robert Masterson) but grew as the beer won awards.

Eventually, the founder and his investor brother-in-law launched a partnership with The Local Eatery & Drinking Hole (the brewery is inside the eatery), and now the tasting room has 20 beers on tap, many of which are brewed by Resident Brewing Co. They are best known for their stouts and hoppy beers, and their impressive collection of awards has only grown bigger.

Resident Brewing also has a celeb connection — in sports, at least. Padres pitcher (no pun intended) Joe Musgrove had just been traded to the Padres when he first encountered Resident and immediately became a fan. When Masterson found out, he invited Musgrove to co-brew a beer with him, and the No-No Joe Double IPA was born.

Knotty Brewing Co.

After the Knotty Barrel restaurant in East Village launched, the owners decided it made sense to start making their own beer in Downtown San Diego. Since then, the in-house brewery, tasting room, and beer garden has been a popular spot (popular enough to warrant a second location in Rancho Penasquitos).

Knotty’s brewmaster Donovan Lane is another home brewer done (very) good. After whetting his appetite with a home brewing kit back in his native Maine, Lane teamed up with a friend and put his chemistry degree when they opened their own brewery in an old renovated garage. Donovan eventually moved to San Diego and joined Knotty Brewing Co.

Knotty Brewing Co. has some interesting beers on tap, all inspired by the family of owners, their crew, and definitely their fans. Case in point, the Tom Tom Blonde, which was named after two of their favorite regulars. Tom… and Tom, gifted the brewery with their first Christmas tree, as well as the decorative sun in the brewery’s patio.


Breweries in Little Italy

San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood is known for its Italian restaurants and the wine, but it’s gradually coming into its own as a destination for beer lovers.

So Diego Tours has a beer walkabout in this neighborhood. Some of the best breweries in Little Italy, San Diego are:

Stone Brewing Tap Room

Close up of Stone Brewing beer being poured out of a tap.
Photo courtesy of Stone Brewing

This outpost location of Escondido’s Stone Brewing Company is one of the best breweries in Downtown San Diego. It’s housed in the historic McClintock Warehouse building on Kettner Blvd., and many of the unique features of the building were maintained in the design when Stone took over, including the storefront façade. The taproom now comprises a tasting room, a retail store, and a pretty patio area with firepits where you can sip your favorite brews.

The taproom has many of the same signature brews, special releases, and small-batch beers on its lineup of taps as its parent brewery. And they even have the odd archived vintage brew for sale for the Stone diehards. For those not in the mood for beer, the taproom serves Stone’s own brand of Cider, Mojitos, and Margaritas.

They also have a great events calendar, including live music and trivia nights.

(Tip: There’s also a fantastic Stone Brewing location at Liberty Station in Point Loma. It has huge indoor and outdoor spaces, a great Koi pond, and is very family friendly.)

Karl Strauss Brewing Company

This popular San Diego brewery crafts some of the most award-winning beers in the world and has nine brewpub locations across Southern California.

Their lineup of locations includes a Little Italy hot spot that offers great stouts, ales, and more along with food that’s rich enough to hold its own against the company’s huge array of varieties, like duck fat pretzel bites, truffle fries, beer sausages, award-winning mac and cheese, and Beeramisu to finish.

Ballast Point

Back in 1996, Ballast Point was launched as a home brewery but quickly grew into one of the best breweries in Little Italy, San Diego. Today, it has six locations in California.

The Little Italy tasting room and restaurant was the first location and remains one of the brewery’s main research and development sites. It’s kid-friendly, and the menu is fantastic, with locally sourced farm-to-table fare.

You can sit inside, but the patio seating is great. Groups can book the private event room with a one-of-a-kind menu and beer pairings. And like many breweries, they have Trivia Tuesday nights, or you can grab a great deal on Burger Mondays.

Tip: The Miramar Road location is quite large (impressive!) with indoor and outdoor seating.

Bolt Brewery

Bolt Brewery has a hip, industrial atmosphere with food to match. You can pair any of their 20 beers on tap with a pizza or bar snacks, and relax out on the patio. They also have two other San Diego locations, in Old Town San Diego and La Mesa.

Check their calendar for their famous trivia night. And while not all of San Diego’s breweries are dog-friendly, but this one definitely is. 

burgeon beer company

Another San Diego star of the craft beer scene since they launched in 2016 is the Burgeon Beer Company. Founded by three San Diego-based high school friends, Burgeon now has three San Diego locations, including their Little Italy taproom and restaurant, The Arbor.

You’ll find 18 beer taps here, as well as wine and Kombucha, and their restaurant serves seasonal dishes with locally sourced ingredients. The brewery also has a great eco pedigree, thanks to its Reclaim The Wild collaboration with the National Forest Foundation. For every pint you buy at Burgeon, a tree will be planted in America’s national forests. A whopping 25,000 trees have already been planted due to the initiative, which only goes to show the popularity of their beer!


Breweries in North Park

North Park is known as one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods and has one of the highest concentrations of breweries in San Diego. Consequently, some of the best breweries in San Diego can be found here, and it’s relatively easy to walk from tasting room to tasting room.

Fall Brewing

This brewery is located in the north end of North Park, and it’s big, which means you can plan a tasting with friends without having to worry about seating.

There are usually 20+ beers on tap, flights, growler fills, and the obligatory food truck parked outside. The bartenders know what they’re talking about and are happy to recommend brews for a flight.

Fall Brewing’s headquarters and tasting room is located in Miramar, and it’s definitely worth a visit for its funky decor alone.

North Park Beer Co.

North Park Beer Co. specializes in San Diego-style lagers and ales, has great service, great food, and of course, great beer.

The taproom is large (there’s even balcony seating), and unlike many San Diego breweries, the decor feels upscale, not industrial. Maybe because of that — and because of the welcoming atmosphere — the mix of people tends to be eclectic. 

The North Park taproom doesn’t serve food, but their other location in Bankers Hill has an on-site kitchen offering a great pub menu and weekend brunch.

Mike Hess Brewing Company

This veteran-owned brewery’s North Park branch is also their production facility, and the floating walkway (a.k.a. the Skybridge) that cuts through the brewing tanks highlights this space. You really feel like you’re in the thick of a working brewery in this taproom.

Mike Hess Brewing is unassuming and very chill, and the beers on tap include a lot of great IPAs. They have trivia nights, board games, food trucks, bike racks, and even art shows. The North Park headquarters opened in 2010 and the brewery has opened a further six locations across San Diego since.

The Original 40 Brewing

Original 40 Brewing’s unique name was inspired by the 40-acre parcel of land that would become today’s North Park. The brewhouse is open to the taproom but even so, the space feels surprisingly homey (possibly because of the wall of plants and vintage-style tiled bar). On any given day, there are about 24 beers on tap, a combination of in-house beers plus a handful of guest brews.

Particularly nice is the fact that there’s a small wine list, so if someone in your group isn’t a beer lover, they can still have a drink. There’s also a great food menu, including flatbreads, ribs, and grilled pork chops, all cooked up in their on-site kitchen.

Poor House Brewery

There are typically about 15 different brews on tap at Poor House Brewery at any given time, and the atmosphere is fun and unpretentious. The space is fairly small but has a casual and friendly vibe.

Not all the best breweries in North Park have great bar snacks, but Poor House definitely does. The pretzels are a highlight and pair perfectly with the brewery’s wonderful stouts, ales, and IPAs. 


Breweries in Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach has a fantastic local brew selection. It’s another one of the most brewery-saturated neighborhoods in San Diego, so it’s a good option if your goal is to pub hop an afternoon away. These are some of the best breweries in Pacific Beach.

Amplified Ale Works Kitchen + Beer Garden

Amplified Ale Works opened in 2012 and has definitely fulfilled founder Alex Pierson’s goal of creating a popular beer and music-focused space.

You can sample a lineup of 20+ in-house and guest brews, including porters, IPAs, and wheat beers in their beer garden, with great sunset views and an ocean breeze. They also have a fantastic food menu ranging from traditional pub food to healthier options.

pacific beach alehouse

This great party hang out has good reason to boast that it has the ‘The best Brews and Views in PB’. With its beautiful deck overlooking the ocean and beers like Mango Sunsetter and Playa Pacifica on tap, you’re guaranteed a good time.

PB Alehouse specializes in seasonal variations of their craft beers, all made in their in-house brewery that features an English-style combi system for single infusion (if you know what that means!). They even mill their own grain for their brews.

There’s also a comprehensive craft cocktail list if that’s more your thing, and the restaurant’s menu has great traditional pub food alongside the Truffle Burger, Lasagna, and Ahi Tuna Nachos.

It’s a great spot inside for sports fans, with TVs aplenty, while beachgoers need to head to the deck upstairs for sundowners with a view.


Breweries in Mission Hills and Hillcrest

The small-town atmosphere in Mission Hills and Hillcrest means that these adjacent San Diego neighborhoods aren’t quite the hotbed of breweries that other areas have become, but there are still some great taprooms here.

Thorn Brewing Co.

Mission Hills was without its own craft brewery until Thorn Brewing Co. decided to open a tasting room here (its third location). The small but cozy space has a lounge, patio, and skee ball if you’re up for it.

There are 16 rotating brews on tap, but the atmosphere is so friendly and fun that you don’t need more. It’s definitely more relaxed than the North Park and Barrio Logan locations, but while it’s family-friendly and dog-friendly, it’s worth noting that food is by delivery only. 

Latchkey Brewing Company

Latchkey took over the space that used to belong to Acoustic Ales, and since then, they’ve served up a great lineup of IPAs, Belgians, stouts, and other brews — all of which have the brewery’s signature clever names.

There are games (foosball, giant checkers, and shuffleboard), but the food is BYO.  

Hillcrest Brewing Company

Hillcrest Brewing Company was the first openly LGBT craft brewery in the world with a goal for people to come as they are to enjoy good beer and pizza. The patio is open and airy but feels cozy and is the perfect spot to sip one or more of the breweries 13+ ales, lagers, and other beers.

The brewery operates right behind the bar, which is a bonus for anyone interested in watching the process. 


Breweries in Other San Diego Neighborhoods

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

The interior of the bistro looking out to the patio with many people enjoying a nice day of sunshine and beer.
Photo courtesy of Stone Brewing

Stone Brewing is the largest brewery in Southern California and is famed for its Arrogant Bastard Ale and range of Hazy IPAs. It has two main locations in San Diego, one in Escondido in North County, one in Liberty Station in Point Loma, and five other taprooms in SoCal.

The Escondido location has served as Stone’s HQ since the brewery was founded in the neighboring city of San Marcos back in 1996. It’s an extremely attractive location with a beautiful one-acre garden dotted with wooden chairs and tables and adorned with fairy lights when the sun goes down. The restaurant inside is cavernous and is flanked by the enormous brewery where the world-famous brews come to life.

The bar serves 36 craft and specialty beers, and the taproom has 45-minute tours every day for diehards. But it’s also a fantastic place for lunch or dinner. The Stone World Bistro has a creative gourmet pub menu, including the Stone Wagyu Luxe Burger, Huli Huli Chicken, and great street taco options. Stone Brewing is a family-friendly and fantastic way to spend an afternoon and one of our top things to do in Escondido.

Barrel Republic

Side view of some of the 40 taps guests can pull from while sampling beer.
Photo courtesy of Barrel Republic

While this isn’t a brewery, this beer bar makes sense for those in the Carlsbad area, new to our craft beer scene, or anyone who would like to just have fun taking sips of multiple beers.

The reason is that at Barrel Republic, guests pour as much as they want from self-serve taps. Take a few sips or pour a full glass — it’s up to you. You pay for beer by the ounce and preload a wristband that you scan at the taps before your pour.

You can’t beat it for selection — there are 52 craft beers on tap, including classic pilsners and IPAs and more eclectic offerings like sours. There are also six wine taps. 

Barrel Republic’s open-plan design and huge street-facing windows that are always open give it a fun vibe where you can either people-watch over your favorite brew or simply kick back for dinner with friends. There’s a nice open fire in the back dining area, and the whole place has a very friendly, casual vibe.

NEW ENGLISH BREWING

This award-winning, family-owned craft brewery has been in business since 2007 and was likely named after its English owner, Simon Lacey. Just off the I-5 freeway in Torrey Hills, the brewery has two tasting rooms — ‘The Pub’ and ‘Barrel Room’ — each serving 15-20 taps. And there’s something for everyone, from IPAs and stouts to fruit and sour beers.

Inside, there are beer barrels for tables, a wooden bar, and fairy lights on the ceiling all of which give the space a warm ambiance. The expansive outdoor space features a great grassy area, ample seating, and games.

You might recognize the brewery’s eye-catching X motif on their beer cans, all produced at their 10,000 sq. ft. facility in Sorrento Valley, as their popular brews are sold across San Diego.

New English is across the street from my daughter’s volleyball club. There’s a really good taco place next door called The Craft Taco at SOVA that you can order to-go from (they’ll even walk it over to your table) and eat at New English. The two share an outdoor lounge space. Mom’s Pizza a few doors down also occasionally delivers to New English via QR codes on the table (sometimes these are not out).

Kairoa Brewing Company

University Heights is home to Kairoa Brewing, an authentic New Zealand-style pub, which is about as family-friendly as possible.

The 10,000-square-foot space has an upscale modern farmhouse vibe, a rooftop patio, lots of lounging areas perfect for gathering on a beautiful sunny day, and a popular dining room.

The in-house brewery serves 24 taps, and the Sausage Rolls are fantastic. For those with a sweet tooth, the meringue-based New Zealand dessert Pavlova is definitely worth trying.

Gravity Heights

This Sorrento Valley brewpub has a variety of beers on tap, from ales, pilsners, and IPAs — all of which have been paired with items on the gastropub menu available for brunch, lunch, and dinner.

The beers are delicious, but the ambiance is the real reason to visit this brewery. The floor-to-ceiling windows in the 12,000-square-foot location let in so much light that you feel like you’re sipping your beer outside. There’s also outdoor seating that’s pleasantly shaded. And everything I’ve eaten at Gravity Heights has been really good.

What are your favorite San Diego breweries?

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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