The Microbrew Revolution

California’s craft breweries serve up good eats, music, art, and oh yes, great beer. Here’s what’s on tap.

Move over Germany—the new king of beer gardens and breweries is California, where artisan brewers are filling pint glasses to the brim with nutty Pilsners, rich stouts, and thirst-quenching ales.
California beer gardens, music venues, bistros, and taprooms add to the fun.

In San Diego County, almost 40 breweries swing their doors open for visitors. At popular Lost Abbey , take a tour of the barrel room. tap to try Floral and hoppy Devotion Ale (800/918-6816). At Stone Brewing , fuel up on wild boar baby-back ribs at the adjacent bistro. Tap to try: Ebony-hued Smoked Porter (760/471-4999).

In Orange County, Placentia’s The Bruery is open only on weekends, but at The Bruery Provisions , open daily in downtown Orange, enjoy cheeses, charcuterie, and tastings. Taps to try: Orchard White (coriander and orange peel), Trade Winds Tripel (Thai basil) (714/996-6258).

In L.A.’s downtown Arts District, Angel City Brewing has its own beer garden and art gallery featuring local artists. Tap to try: Angel City Pilz (213/622-1261).

Head north to Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles wine country, where vintners show they’re beer lovers too; there’s also a new taproom restaurant in Buellton. Tap to try: Barrel-aged, ultra-hoppy Double Jack Imperial Pale Ale (805/238-2556).

In San Francisco, tour Anchor Brewing , which kick-started California’s microbrew scene back in the 1960s. (FYI, tours fill up months in advance.) Tap to try: Classic Anchor Steam beer—why mess with greatness (415/863-8350).

In the North Coast town of Fortuna, all-organic Eel River Brewing Company sits on the site of a former lumber mill. Have a burger (local Black Angus beef) and a brew in the expansive beer garden. Tap to try: Extra Pale Ale (707/725-2739).

Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley Brewing , in Boonville, offers tours of the solar-powered brewery. Test your Frisbee fling on the brewery’s disc golf course. Tap to try: Quaffable Boont Amber Ale, or fresh Summer Solstice (707/895-2337). Just north, Ukiah Brewing Co. & Restaurant was the first brewery in California to be certified organic (the food is organic too, and it’s really good). Live music nightly in the honky-tonk-style bar. Tap to try: Caramel-colored Big River ESB (707/468-5898).

In the Shasta Cascade town of Chico, enjoy a cool retreat from warm summer days on the trellis-shaded patio at Sierra Nevada Taproom & Restaurant. Come nightfall, catch a concert in the Big Room. Tap to try: If it’s available, don’t miss seasonal Ovila Abbey Belgian-style ale, brewed by local Franciscan monks (530/345-2739).

—Lesley Balla

Photo by Andrea Gomez Romero/Sunset Publishing