Taste your way from the pine-scented mountains outside San Diego, along the Hops Highway, all the way to the ocean breezes of Orange County.
Head to the “Home of Pure Hoppiness” in the quaint mountain town of Alpine in east San Diego County to sample some tasty craft brews. While the hops-forward beers have made the Alpine Beer Company famous, its beermakers also produce small-batch brews you’ll only find at the tasting room. Sit out on the patio and soak up the sun as you sip the much-celebrated Keene Idea double IPA or the popular Hoppy Birthday session IPA. Then walk down to the street to the Alpine Beer Company Pub for a wood-smoked barbeque lunch, washed down with your new favorite ale.
Named after a pioneering master brewer, Karl Strauss Brewing Company is credited with kickstarting San Diego’s now-flourishing independent brewing scene. It was the city’s first brewery since Prohibition when it opened in 1989, an idea hatched by two college buddies at a lifeguard tower in Mission Beach. There are now seven Karl Strauss locations around San Diego County, ranging from lively restaurants to a tasting room and beer garden. Raise a pint and toast to where San Diego’s craft beer boom began with a Tower 10 IPA or try the gold-medal-winning Red Trolley Ale.
Located in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood—an area known for its cool, creative vibe—Pariah Brewing Company is a natural fit in a community full of independent thinkers. Since opening in 2017, the brewery has been attracting attention for its unique beers, flavored with everything from the simple (locally roasted coffee) to the more unusual (kiwi and green tea). Founder and brewmaster Brian Mitchell takes pride in challenging the status quo, and the strategy seems to be working—in 2017 Pariah was named one of the 10 best new breweries by San Diego Magazine. Belly up to the tasting bar for an Off White Wit, a Belgian-style Witbier brewed with orange blossom honey, Jasmine green tea, fresh lemongrass, dried orange slices, and fresh ginger.
Operated by one of the most prolific and famous San Diego breweries, Ballast Point, this reservations-only tasting room showcases small-batch innovation. Housed inside Ballast Point’s Little Italy brewing space, The Kettle Room offers much more than an intimate group tasting experience. You’ll sit down for a gourmet meal (the fixed menu is ever-changing to include the freshest ingredients) and savor Ballast Point pours suited perfectly to each dish. Rally your craft-beer-loving buddies and get ready for next-level beer pairing. (Reservations available Friday and Saturday evenings.)
Stay at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar San Diego, where there’s a beer concierge on staff.
One of San Diego’s oldest craft breweries remains one of its brightest stars, with die-hard fans the world over. Stone Brewing’s massive brewing complex in Escondido is also home to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, named by RateBeer Best in 2017 as “The Best Place for Beer in the United States.” See how the magic is made on a brewery tour then explore the lush gardens, which include waterfalls and plenty of space for the kids to roam. Grab a table on the large outdoor patio and order the Stone Steak Tacos, which pair to perfection with Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale.
This cheery, locals’ favorite brewery just blocks from the Pacific in Oceanside boasts an impressively long and varied beer list. In addition to the nearly 20 Bagby beers, which range in style from American to Belgian, the guest draft list includes more than 40 options. Beeline to the rooftop deck picnic tables and order the house favorite Bagby Worker Bee, an American Golden Ale with a trace flavor of local honey, and the beer-battered fish tacos featuring the local catch. The prismatic sunset views are just a bonus.
Explore North Orange County’s buzzing micro-brewing scene during a 4.5-hour tour. Your group will be shuttled in a limo bus to three different breweries around the Orange, Anaheim, and Fullerton areas, where you’ll spend 45 minutes getting a behind-the-scenes tour and sampling small-batch suds. Craft Brew Tours Anaheim beer-savvy guides handle all the logistics, like keeping you hydrated between tastings and arranging for lunch at the end. If you want to explore even more of Anaheim’s craft beer offerings, start at Golden Road, known for their hop-forward beers and lively patio scene.
It’s hard to say what Beachwood is best known for—the beer or the barbecue. If you like both, you’re in for a real treat at this Seal Beach establishment. Check the “Hop Cam” on the Beachwood website to view what’s currently pouring from the 22 rotating taps.