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San Diego's Breweries

America's Finest City is home to some fine craft brewers

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The reputation of San Diego as a center for fine craft beers has exploded in the last five years, and San Diego has a thriving, growing and well-regarded microbrewery community. From the pioneer Karl Strauss Brewery to sassy Stone Brewing Company to upstarts like Alesmith, craft brews are to San Diego what wine is to Napa. And if you love beer, it's worth taking the time to seek and discover these lovingly crafted brews. Thanks to Local Wally's comprehensive San Diego Brewery Guide for providing detailed and well-informed insight to our local brew community. Here is a roundup of San Diego's finest microbreweries.

Stone Brewing Company

You've gotta give props to a brewery whose rise to notoriety rode on a beer called "Arrogant Bastard Ale." But a snappy name is the norm for a micro-brewery worth its hops, but Stone Brewing Company in Escondido has built a rock-solid reputation with its lineup of hearty brews. The brewery started in 1996 by beer lovers Steve Wagner and Greg Koch and has evolved into one of San Diego's leading beer producers.

Stone's hip vibe stems from its lineup of ales such as Stone Pale Ale, Stone India Pale Ale, Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, Stone Ruination IPA, and flows into it's new headquarters featuring the stunning restaurant setting of the Stone World Bistro & Gardens. Brewery tours are conducted daily. 760-471-4999

Karl Strauss Brewing Company

It was the beer that started the micro-brew movement in San Diego in 1989 when the first brewpub in 50 years opened. Karl Strauss Brewing Company is the namesake of renowned master brewer and cousin to the founders of the brewery, Chris and Matt. They enlisted Karl's expertise and founded a craft brewery that is quintessentially San Diegan, with a lineup of beers like Woody Gold, Red Trolley Ale, Tower 10 IPA, and Endless Summer Light.

The main brewery is now located in Pacific Beach, and the original downtown brewpub has expanded to six locations, including the serene Sorrento Mesa pub, set in a Japanese garden setting, with koi ponds. Brewery tours are not yet available. (858) 273-2739

Pizza Port Brewing Company

Pizza Port is kind of a weird name for a beer, not that weird names for craft brews is unusual. The Pizza Port restaurant opened in 1987 in Solana Beach and the owners started brewing beer as a hobby and served their first handcrafted beer in 1992.

When people started asking where they could get Pizza Port beer besides the restaurant, they acquired the old Stone Brewing facility in San Marcos and started distributing the beer as Port Brewing. Pizza Port sells a different lineup of brews at each of its three locations in Solana Beach, Carlsbad and San Clemente.

Lightning Brewery

Poway-based Lightning Brewery crafts European style beers: a crisp, clean aroma, pronounced maltiness and a prolonged and slightly bittering finish.At Lightning they brew “Better Beer Through Science” and believe that good beer can be the result of chance and that great beer is the result of an in-depth understanding of the beer making process.

Lightning distributes its array of pilsners, lagers and ales at a variety of San Diego restaurants, and can also be purchased at BevMo. The brewery also has a tasting room open on Fridays and Saturdays. (858) 513-8070.

Green Flash Brewing Company

Named for the phenomena that occurs at the seashore at sunset (no, I haven't experienced one), Green Flash Brewing Company produces a lineup of ales. Located in Vista, the brewery offers tastings of its beer lineup. (760) 597-9012

Ballast Point Brewing Company

Ballast Point Brewing Company started out modestly as Home Brew Mart in 1992, selling home brewing supplies. The name for our brewery comes from the point where Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first set foot on the Point Loma. Stones from this area were used as ballast in the cargo holds of sailing ships returning to the eastern seaboard.

In May of 2005 opened its brewery in Scripps Ranch. They currently distribute five beers, Yellowtail Pale Ale, Calico Amber Ale , Big Eye I.P.A., Black Marlin Porter and Wahoo Wheat Beer throughout San Diego. Ballast offers brewery tours and tastings. (858) 695-2739

The Lost Abbey Brewery

Vince Marsaglia (one of the owners of Pizza Port) was inspired by the numerous Abbey Style beers that he tasted. An idea was born out of these beers and that idea was a brewery project called The Lost Abbey. As a matter of fact, Lost Abbey beers are crafted in the same San Marcos brewery with Port Brewing beers (the two are sister products). And for Lost Abbey, it is a crusade in this ongoing story of Good vs. Evil beer.

Sporting names like Avant Garde, Devotion, Judgment Day, Lost and Found Abbey Ale, Red Barn Ale, Witch’s Wit, Lost Abbey brews with a religious fervor. And you can sample their beer on Fridays and Saturdays in their tasting room altar. (800) 918-6816

Alesmith Brewing Company

It might not have the profile that Stone or Karl Strauss breweries have, but Alesmith Brewing Company has its own rabid following. And its a small (by comparison) operation - no restaurant, no fancy building - just a small facility in an industrial park in Miramar. Alesmith was founded in 1995 as an artisan microbrewery specializing in a variety of handcrafted ales sporting irreverent names like Horny Devil, Old Numbskull, and Wee Heavy. All of Alesmith's employees are home brewers. Go there for a no frills tasting - go there for the beer. 858-549-9888
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