Tag Archives: San Diego

Breweries to Visit in Downtown San Diego

In my travels I have learned that not everyone has the time or inclination to venture outside of the downtown area. Thankfully Downtown San Diego has seen a lot of new spots opening in the last few years making that a good option while still giving you a good taste of what San Diego has to offer.

Without even leaving the downtown area, you can easily access three of San Diego’s biggest and most established breweries, Ballast Point, Stone, and Karl Strauss. Stone’s tasting room is a bit more difficult to notice as you walk by but once you are inside you won’t want to leave. I suggest visiting Stone’s smaller company store locations anyway over their restaurants because the beers are slightly cheaper and you can still try most of the beers.

Some people may have written off Ballast Point after their sale to the wine distributor Constellation but if that doesn’t bother you, their Little Italy location is large and serves food. Not far from there is Bolt’s satellite tasting room though I suggest you skip that as there are better options. There is also a Mikkeller tasting room somewhere around here but I have not managed to visit yet.

Karl Strauss’ original location is in the heart of Downtown and is a spot I go to regularly for lunch. The food is excellent including vegan options and the beers have evolved nicely with the times. They still brew their standard Red Trolley and delicious Heffeweizen along with a lineup of hoppy beers. They are a brewery tourists tend to overlook for the more shiny spots but you can’t go wrong with their beer.

Other spots you can visit downtown include Resident Brewing, The Bell Marker, Half Door Brewing, and the newly opened 10 Barrel Brewing and Melvin Brewing. Resident is located inside the neighborhood bar called The Local. They have a wide variety of house beers along with a full bar and guest taps. The food is excellent and while it is not listed on the menu they have a few vegan options.

Half Door has not impressed me as much with their food but they have a good variety of hazy IPAs and also some excellent Belgian styles and stouts. They will finally be able to sell growlers and crowlers sometime in January 2019 with a new change to the law. Mission Brewery is near Half Door but I haven’t visited in years and don’t recommend it. Stone also has a small company store location near the ball park if you are in that area. I have never visited.

The Bell Marker recently opened with beers made by an ex- Pizza Port brewer and featuring an excellent variety of food including tons of vegan options. I have only ordered their hummus plate, which is an amazing deal during happy hour. I found their IPAs too bitter for my tastes but I quite enjoy their brown ale and other traditional styles.

I have not yet made it out to 10 Barrel and just stopped by Melvin for the first time recently but they both have brew houses so I included them in the list. 10 Barrel is owned by AB inBev (aka Budweiser’s parent company) and faced fierce opposition from locals, which is why I have never visited and don’t plan to. But if that doesn’t bother you, I hear the beer is solid. Melvin is a new location for a Wyoming brewery with a kung-fu and hip-hop vibe. Expect hip hop playing at high volume when you visit. Their founding brewer got his start in San Diego and they added a brew house at this location making them a San Diego brewery. They are so new that I just visited there a few days ago my first time. They focus on hoppy beers and serve Asian Fusion style food. Not far from these East Village location there are rumors that Little Miss plans to open a satellite tasting room as well sometime next year. Bay City has a new location in the works as well.

If you don’t mind taking an uber, it is not too far to head over to North Park, where you can visit 10 different breweries or Point Loma where you can visit Modern Times’ main location, Stone’s massive Liberty Station restaurant and Eppig’s waterfront beer hall. Those whose family drag them to visit the Hotel Del in Coronado should stop by Coronado brewing, one of the established breweries that I have not yet managed to visit. You could also venture down into Barrio Logan and visit Border X and Iron Fist.

I will do a separate post on North Park breweries later but most of them are excellent and the staff at any of them will happily point you to the best ones nearby. I didn’t include any mention of the numerous bars in the Gaslamp area mostly because I haven’t visited them. I also haven’t mentioned Monkey Paw because it is still unclear if they will re-open in some form after recent troubles. Rumors suggest that they will become a new location for South Norte, a brewery connected to Coronado brewing.

I also missed a few newer spots that I hadn’t even noticed had opened that you can read about on my fellow beer blogger’s site Craft Beer in San Diego  Contrary to his suggestions, I would personally avoid East Village all together and focus on Resident, Karl Strauss, and Stone, though Half Door is certainly worth a visit. Both Amplified and Duck Foot make good beer but I want to send you to places that make excellent beer. It also depends heavily on what styles you like to drink.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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The Bell Marker – Downtown San Diego

The Bell Marker took over a spot on the corner of 6th and Broadway. They had a wide lineup of beers so that it would have been difficult to try them all even doing flights. I happened to visit during happy hour so I had pints rather than my usual tasters because they were only $4 a piece during that window. If you are there for happy hour, I highly recommend you order the hummus plate, which is a great deal and a healthy meal when paired with a pint.

I first had a pint of their English Brown. This is a style I don’t order very often in San Diego but when I saw the lower alcohol it was worth trying a splash. As expected, the American Brown they have is a bit more hop forward and higher alcohol than the English style. I loved the dark color like a porter. The beer was roasty and quite flavorful for the low alcohol with notes of chocolate and caramel. Some may say this borders on porter territory with the prominent roast but it is a delicious beer either way and a rarity with the low alcohol.

I returned another day and had the cream ale and Belgian Wit. I was going to try their pale ale or session IPA but the splashes of both were a bit high on the bitterness and I wasn’t feeling them so I went on the lighter side. The cream ale was crisp and delicious with notes of pear and peach with a soft body. The Belgian Wit was super dry with a hint of clove and a mildly earthy finish. It paired wonderfully with their hummus plate and is one of the more authentic versions of the beer I’ve had locally. My husband drank the milk stout both times and it was tasty with a mix of caramel and roast with a medium body and not overly sweet.

If you are in Downtown San Diego it may not be too far to walk to Bell Marker. If you do, you will find a good variety of solid beers and a broad menu of food options. Their happy hour is currently 3-6PM daily with $4 pints and discounted appetizers. They have a good sized restaurant with standard restaurant seating and a good sized bar.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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California Wild Ales Sorrento Valley, San Diego

California wild ales had its first day open to the public on April 7, 2018 with the release of its salted yuzu sour. Before that, you could only taste the beers occasionally on tap around town or by purchasing bottles with the membership. The tasting room is located in an industrial area of Sorrento Valley. The front entrance is actually in a walkway between two buildings while the back entrance is the side more easily accessed near the parking area.

The tasting room itself is fairly typical in size with some small tables to hang out and drink your tasters but for the most part it serves as a location to pick up your bottles. I tried three of the beers they had on tap and found all three of them to be fairly subtle both in fruit flavor and tartness and acidity. Of the three, I found the stone fruit sour to be the most complex with more hints of earthy funk and overall more fruit flavor than the other two.

The other two beers that I tried were a guava sour and the salted yuzu sour that I was there to pick up. If I were to decide primarily based upon tasting the beer, I probably would not have picked up a bottle of the salted yuzu although the beer was a bit more complex in the bottle because the carbonation was be from a reaction to the yeast as opposed to forced carbonation. Both the guava and yuzu sour were fairly subtle in fruit lightly tart and lightly acidic. The yuzu tended to be a little bit more citrus in flavor but between the two the distinctions were fairly small.

Since visiting, I got to try the salted yuzu out of the bottle. The first bottle erupted with carbonation quite quickly. The beer has much better carbonation from the bottle. The beer has light buttery oak character and minimal citrus from the yuzu and much more funk than it did on tap at the release. It is a nice refreshing sour but not something that I would want to pay full price for at their bottle prices. Hopefully over time they will lower the price because with the small amount of fruit I taste here I don’t see the beer being worth $20 a bottle.

If you want to come and taste for yourself, for now the brewery will only be open during specific days when bottles they release are available to pick up. Eventually they will be adding public hours on weekends so keep up with them on social media to figure out the best time to stop by.

Come for:
California wild ales only produces barrel aged sour beers. You will not find any other styles on tap.

Disclaimer: I am good friends with one of the people who works for the brewery though I don’t sugar coat my review of places just because of that. I want to help friends achieve greatness just as much as anyone else.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Savagewood Brewing Takes over O’Sullivan Brothers Space

I stopped by Savagewood for their industry appreciation night. Since I went with my brother I was able to try a few more beers than I might have if I was alone doing pints. I tended to stay away from anything O’Sullivan Brothers had already made prior because they were solid but nothing I cared for. They managed to license the recipes of a few of the more popular beers O’Sullivan Brothers had made, which is nice because otherwise they wouldn’t have a dark beer on tap.

I started with their ESB, which was solid though not up to the quality of my other favorites around town. It had a nice malt backbone with light apricot hop character and low bitterness. It could have been a little more attenuated (less sweet). They have the same beer available on nitro though they don’t seem to understand how nitro works because the nitro version is quite under carbonated and not all that different from the regular.

The saison was below average with a strong bubblegum flavor and an overpowering sweetness that bordered on cloying. I’m glad I wasn’t the one who ordered that pint. The session IPA was equally underwhelming with a strong malt backbone that wasn’t attenuated enough leaving a syrupy sweet base with minimal hop character to balance it out. The IPA was solid, if fairly standard for the classic West Coast style. It blended notes of grapefruit, pine, tropical fruit, and light floral hops with a dry finish and low bitterness. The IPA, while clearly better than the rest of the lineup, isn’t that different from the other offerings in the area.

Though Savagewood is still an overall improvement over O’Sullivan Brothers, they need to do more if they want to differentiate themselves from the crowded beer scene in the Mira Mesa/Miramar area. Their core lineup of a Mango Heffeweisen, blonde ale, ESB, session IPA, IPA, and saison isn’t going to do much to bring in beer geeks though the IPA should satisfy hop heads who are looking for a solid IPA to knock back.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Ten Breweries Making Epic Lagers in San Diego

A lot of people first become interested in craft beer when they taste an IPA and fall for the bitter punch or the pine resin but many brewers and beer drinkers eventually learn to appreciate the delicate flavors of a well-crafted lager, usually in the German or Czech style. There are many types of lagers in all ranges including the higher alcohol baltic porter, a strong dark beer brewed with lager yeast. For purposes of this article, I will focus on lower alcohol versions of the style and breweries in San Diego where you can consistently find an excellent version of that style.

1. Societe Brewing Company – Societe is one of the first San Diego breweries where I encountered an excellent lager. They often have two or three variations of the style on tap at once, including single-hopped versions to showcase a hop or more classic varieties. Around Oktoberfest, starting in September, they put on some delightfully authentic versions of the festbeer and kellerbier.

2. Fall Brewing Company – Fall has been delivering six-packs of their delightful pilsners for some time with Plenty for All first followed by the Rise Up Czech style Pilsner. Both are excellent and always refreshing examples of the style. I’m hooked on Rise Up and the lovely wildflower honey flavor I get from it.

3. Burning Beard – Burning Beard’s Normcore Pilsner has been named best beer in San Diego in 2016 as voted by readers of The West Coaster. Then for 2017 it was named best lager in San Diego from the same readers. This beer has quite a following just as the Beard has its loyal fans. Though not brewed in as large quantities as others this is always a reliable choice when you are craving a good lager.

4. Alesmith – Alesmith didn’t always have lagers on tap but then recently they released both the Sublime Mexican style lager and the delicious Spezial Pils, a German style lager. Both are excellent though I prefer Spezial when I am craving something classic. This is now available year-round in cans.

5. Pizza Port – Though not a brewery generally associated with lighter beers, I was really blown away by the quality of the Festbier that Pizza Port released in 2017 as a limited release through their tasting rooms. I was craving more once I finished that six-pack. They also brew a number of one-off beers throughout the year.

6. ChuckAlek Brewing – Chuckalek is the only brewery I know of in San Diego that lets you order a full liter of their German styles at their tasting room, usually limited to the altbier and helles German style lager. Though I usually end up ordering their delightful ESB, ChuckAlek makes a consistently delicious helles lager and altbier, a malty traditional German style.

7. Eppig Brewing – Eppig has a regular pilsner and schwartzbier (dark lager) on rotation along with a Japanese style dry rice lager. I was most impressed by the schwartz, which to me is one of the best examples of the style I have had in California and most authentic to the traditional style. Eppig displays their commitment to this classic style in their choice to open a large beer hall on the waterfront recently.

Schwartz overlooking the water.
Pilsner, overlooking the water.

8. Stone Brewing – Stone brews their year-round lager called “Who You Callin’ Wussie” but they have also released some delightful small-batch lagers throughout the years. More recently I was quite impressed by their Kolsch, an ale brewed with lager yeast. Though not technically a lager, the Kolsch would satisfy most people’s craving for the style.

9. Gordon Biersch – Gordon Biersch is often overlooked as a big brewery that happens to have a location in San Diego but their head brewer is the local guru when it comes to brewing lagers. They are not flashy but the lagers coming out of the Mission Valley location are consistently of high quality.

10. Bagby Beer – Like Gordon Biersch, Bagby gets overlooked by people looking for beers to hype up because they consistently brew beers to style rather than trying for the next big thing. Most times you visit Bagby you will encounter at least one if not two excellent lagers. They also tend to have excellent lagers from out of town on tap as guest beers.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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