San Diego is the original West-Coast beer city—discover five of its most innovative breweries

Spectrum of Glasses
Courtesy of Bed, Bath, & Beyond

Credit the bounty of biotech expertise in the area or maybe the abundance of sunshine and free thinking—but whatever the cause, San Diego has been a wellspring of beer innovation for decades. The area counts more than 150 breweries and stands as a living lesson in the many waves of brewing tradition to wash over the country and into your glass. Your tour through beer history starts here.

Pizza Port Carlsbad

Think back to a time when Coors was considered craft beer and you’ll understand why this outpost stood as a beacon of light when it fired up its fermenters in 1992. Hugely influential in the “second wave” of brewing, its hoppy, bitter IPAs helped fuel the explosion of the West Coast scene. Now with five locations, the pies are decent, and the beer is classic West Coast IPA: bitter, clear, and hoppy. 

Drink this: Mongo Double IPA

Stone Brewing Escondido

Stone was among the next wave of brewers influenced by haunts such at Pizza Port. The company went big with this sprawling facility, one of the first to achieve the SITES sustainable initiative certification for its gardens—and remains the only brewery thus far to receive the honor. Come for the aggressively hopped beers, stay for the lush foliage, phytoremediation, and low-water conservation on display out back. 

Drink this: Enjoy By IPA, Ripper Pilsner

Modern Times San Diego (North Park, Point Loma, and Encinitas)

Modern Times produced its first batch in 2013 and has evolved into one of the leading craft beer mini-conglomerates on the West Coast today. The creative, collaborative brewery kicks out dependable, accessible hazy IPAs you might actually find in the case at Safeway and Whole Foods—not to mention a rotating crop of seasonal and special releases that top the charts on the Untappd and RateBeer apps. Check their Twitter and IG feed often for fun news and events; a recent scan announced the brewery’s “6th Anniversary Powerslam” at the “Fortress of Raditude.” Speaking of rad, they even make cider and exquisitely weird whole-bean coffee.

Drink this: Telesto IPA, Fruitlands sour

Pure Project

The past five years have seen the nationwide spread of brewing styles originating on the East Coast featuring hazy, juicy IPAs and fruit-forward beers. Pure Project offers some of the best expressions of the style in San Diego, poured from a simple strip-mall facility just north of the airport and surrounded by dozens of other breweries, from Green Flash to an outpost of Ballast Point to Alesmith. The surf scene looms large for the founders as well; follow their Twitter feed for can releases and beach cleanups alike.

Drink this: Diamond Dust IPA, Log Cabin Stout

Mikkeller SD

San Diego isn’t the only city to host an outpost of this Danish upstart—more than 35 venues dot the globe from Tokyo to Iceland to Paris. This location, however, consistently pumps out some of the most impressive and imaginative brews along with top-notch food.

Drink this: Windy City IPA, Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Breakfast Stout