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 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. That’s what we’ve done in this guide, sticking to breweries close to your hotel — we (as feedback from multiple sources went into creating this post) 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 these are the breweries 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.
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.
You can try everything from the brewery’s crisp California lager to its core lineup of seven IPAs, wheat beers, and stouts to special seasonal offerings.
This outpost location of Escondido’s Stone Brewing Company is one of the best breweries in Downtown San Diego, and it has many of the same signature brews, special releases, and small-batch beers on its lineup of 16 taps as its parent brewery.
There are also farm-fresh snacks in the bistro, and if you fall in love with a specific brew, bottles are available for takeaway. (Tip: There’s another downtown location in Little Italy on Kettner Blvd.)
This laid-back San Diego brewery is right in the center of Downtown. Like Mission Brewery, it was founded as a small homebrewing operation but grew as the beer won awards.
Eventually, the founder launched a partnership with The Local (the brewery is inside the eatery), and now the tasting room has 40 beers on tap, 15 of which are brewed by Resident 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).
The sheer variety may be the biggest draw. There are more than 100 kinds of beer produced here — many of which use unusual flavoring elements like hibiscus.
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 Stay Craft beer walkabout in this neighborhood. Some of the best breweries in Little Italy, San Diego are:
This popular San Diego brewery crafts some of the most award-winning beers in the world and has eleven 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 140 varieties, like duck fat pretzel bites, truffle fries, and smoked pork belly braised in — what else — beer.
Twenty-five years ago, Ballast Point launched as a home brewery, but quickly grew into one of the best breweries in Little Italy, San Diego. Today, it has nine locations in and outside of 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 Kettle Room for private events with a one-of-a-kind menu and beer pairings.
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.
Wednesdays are trivia night. Not all of San Diego’s breweries are dog-friendly, but this one definitely is.
Breweries in North Park
North Park is known as one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods, and it also 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.
Alternatively, So Diego Tours offers a tour of the best breweries in North Park, San Diego cleverly named Hipster Hops.
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 15+ beers on tap, and 3-ounce tasting glasses will run you about $2. The bartenders know what they’re talking about and are happy to recommend brews for a flight.
This brewery specializing 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 floating walkway that cuts through the brewing tanks is a highlight of this space — you really feel like you’re in the thick of a working brewery in this taproom.
It’s unassuming and very chill, and the beers on tap — a list that includes a lot of IPAs — number more than a dozen.
The brewhouse is open to the taproom but even so, the space feels surprisingly homey (possibly because of the wall of plants). On any given day, there are about 15 of the brewery’s beers on tap 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 are typically about 15 different brews on tap here at any given time, and the atmosphere is fun and unpretentious.
Not all the best breweries in North Park, San Diego have great bar snacks, but Poor House definitely does. The pretzels are a highlight, and pair perfectly with the breweries 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.
This is the original Amplified location and though their brewing operation has since moved to Miramar, you can still sample the brand’s brews (a lineup of 20+ beers that includes porters, IPAs, and wheat beers) in the beer garden.
One highlight is the bar snacks, which are simple but filling and relatively inexpensive.
One of the smaller San Diego breweries on the list, Bitter Brothers has a limited number of beers on tap, but they’re well-crafted and delicious.
The white beers are excellent, the atmosphere is friendly, and you can see the tanks from just about anywhere in the brewery. Tip: If you want to set up a private tasting, you can reserve the taproom.
Barrel Republic Pacific Beach (Beer Bar)
While this isn’t a brewery, this beer bar makes sense for those who are in the Pacific Beach area and 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 can at the taps before your pour.
You can’t beat it for selection — there are 40 craft beers on tap, including classic pilsners and IPAs along with more eclectic offerings like sours. There are also sometimes hard ciders, hard seltzers, and even kombuchas on tap. We like the popcorn and new food menu.
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.
Mission Hills was without its own craft brewery until Thorn Brewing Co. decided to open a tasting room here (its third location).
There are only about 13 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 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 food is BYO.
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 who’s interested in watching the process.
Breweries in Other San Diego Neighborhoods
Stone Brewing produces more than 100,000 barrels each year and the company’s brews are distributed in 36 states.
The taproom has 45-minute tours every day, a beautiful one-acre garden, and the Stone World Bistro. It’s a family-friendly post, a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, and one of our top things to do in Escondido.
The tasting menu is enormous, with more than three dozen drafts, and soon the brewery will have its very own hotel.
University Heights is home to this authentic New Zealand-style pub, which is about as family-friendly as you can get.
On the rooftop patio, there’s a children’s play area and free sunscreen, which may be why this massive brewpub has become a local gathering spot on beautiful days.
The taproom has 10+ beers brewed on-site plus a bunch of guest beers worth sampling and the New Zealand sausage rolls are fantastic.
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 real reason to visit this brewery is the ambiance. The floor to ceiling windows in the 12,000 square foot location let in so much light you feel like you’re sipping your beer outside. There’s also outdoor seating that’s pleasantly shaded.
What are your favorite San Diego breweries?