Best Do-It-Yourself San Diego Micro-Brewery Tour features San Diego’s Best Micro-Breweries. The best feature of this hand-picked list it that they are not only the best of the best, but they are easy-to-find micro-breweries. So if you are a visitor to San Diego with limited time, or you’re a newcomer and want to get on the fast track to get to know the city’s best micro-breweries, this tour will introduce you to the leaders and the sentimental favorites all in a few hours.
These micro-breweries are the absolute cream of the crop. Their brands are the top award-winning breweries in all of San Diego County and winners of more blue ribbons than many countries in Europe can claim to have received. Ironically, they are within a 4-mile radius of Mission Valley’s Hotel Circle, (see map) not by chance but by design. Strategically, speaking their line of thinking is that the more out-of-towners to sample their beer the greater the likelihood that you’ll clammer to your favorite liquor store back home to carry their beer. It’s called forced distribution.
Please take a close look at each of the four maps, and make note of crossing of Highway 8 and the Interstate 5 Freeway are what ties all three of these maps together into being one map with each map being a piece of a bigger map. The numbers in the text correspond to their location on each map. As always, each brewery was personally reviewed (in this case several times) because we only recommend what we experienced and found to be good enough for our best friend. We enjoyed our brew hopping adventure and think you will too.
Micro-Brewery Tour of Bay Park
Ballast Point Home Brew Mart & Brewery is 40 yards east of the corner of Napa St. and Linda Vista Rd. (see map) at 5401 Linda Vista Rd. (619-295-2337). It’s open daily from 10 a.m.–10 p.m. except for Fri., Sat. and Sun. when it opens at 9 a.m. When you walk through the front door of Ballast Point House Brew Mart and Brewery you will be walking through hollowed doors as virtually every brewmaster at every successful micro-brewery took lessons to perfect the art of beermaking in the homebrew mart’s classroom. They still offer classes here.
What put San Diego on the map to one day become the micro-brewery capital of the world happened in these classroom meetings when friendships were forged between the young brewmasters to share their methods of creating better and better beer vs. competing with one another and keeping their successes secret from one another. As a result, micro-brewers exploded into a huge industry and San Diego’s breweries have more blue ribbons they received from more international brewery contests than all of the other countries in the world combined. So enjoy your brew.
As you might expect Ballast Point has several huge brewery/restaurant locations throughout the county, but unless you are a local finding them is difficult the first time you go there. Eventually, Ballast Point from these humble beginnings was bought for $1 billion four years ago by Constellation Brands. This Chicago-based beer company owns the American rights to top Mexican brands that include Modelo Beer.
Six blocks away to the northwest is the immensely popular Coronado Brewery (11) at 1205 Knoxville St. (619-275-6700). Two local beer enthusiasts, who are brothers, created their skills in Coronado, and thus they named their brewery and restaurant Coronado Brewery. Interestingly, they name their brews to reflect the sea such as Mermaid Red. You’ll enjoy their freshly-brewed beers created in their 22,000 sq. ft. working brewery and bottling plant. It has several nice comfortable tasting rooms and a large patio. The brewery is open weekdays 11 a.m.–9 p.m. and till 9:30 p.m. on Sat. and Sun. It’s also a dog-friendly spot. So bring your pouch.
Across the street is the world-famous City Lights Christmas store (11) at 1212 Knoxville St. (619-275-1006). While you’re having a brew your sweetheart can be buying hard to find Christmas ornaments housed in 40,000 sq. ft. of sheer Christmas Wonderment! This store is so popular that it’s become a major San Diego Attraction, especially during the holidays.
Micro-Brewery Tour of North Park
North Park (see map) has a much different vibe to it as this community is definitely a blue-collar community and it draws crowds from many downtown suburbs and thus it’s a huge melting pot of people. The best way to get there is to take the Texas Street Exit south from Highway 8 and proceed. through a couple of traffic lights till you reach University Avenue; then turn left and proceed east till you reach 30th Street. Instantaneously, you’ll find yourself surrounded by bars, micropubs, and eateries. Safety can be an issue here, so park as close to 30th street as possible and only come here during the day.
As you might expect it’s home to TONS of microbreweries and brewpubs including Mike Hess Brewing Company (14) at 3812 Grim Ave. (619-255-7136). It’s open noon till 9 p.m. except Fri. & Sat till 10 p.m.
Another microbrewery with multiple locations is The Belching Beaver Tasting Room (14) at 4223 30th St. (619-282-1062). This is the main thoroughfare in North Park. It’s open from 3 p.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Thurs. and noon to midnight Fri. through Sun.
Micro-Brewery Tour of Liberty Station
Not to miss is the world-famous Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens (16) at Liberty Station. See Pt. Loma map below. It’s super simple to get to by car. Take the Rosecrans exit from Highway 8 and stay on Rosecrans Street until you see a sign that says Liberty Station. Then take a left into this attractive setting of historic buildings called Liberty Station.
Believe it or not, but Signage wasn’t allowed in the strip mall, but everyone knows where Stone Brewery is located and the streets are clearly marked. Plus, there is a TON of parking. If you read the Pt. Loma chapter you’ll discover that there is a lot to see and do at Liberty station. Plus, there’s a TON of great restaurants to discover. And Stone Brewery also has an impressive restaurant. You’ll really like this place.
I don’t want to give it all away, but they have a bubbling brook running through the restaurant and the outdoor grounds with its running brook and fire rings make this place a show stopper.
As if this isn’t enough, they also have three Bocci Ball Courts. If you like playing Bocci Ball or would like to learn, they have 3 nice courts and lots of friendly people to get you started. Don’t miss visiting Stone Brewery.
Yet, this isn’t the main location of Stone Brewery. It’s 40 miles away in the outskirts of Escondido (which means hidden in Spanish and their Brewery in Escondido is definitely hidden). So be happy they built this location. They open daily at 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. and Fri. and Sat. till 10 p.m. Nice extras are the Bocci Ball Courts, a stream running through the restaurant, and a huge outdoor beer garden.
Micro-Brewery Tour of Ocean Beach
In nearby Ocean Beach are a host of microbrewers and brewpubs near the beach. How cool is that? A classic in the true sense of the word is Pizza Port (14) at 1956 Bacon St. When they got founded back in the 1970’s the owners didn’t have enough money to buy chairs and tables, so they bought a lot of picnic tables. Their beer-drinking, pizza-loving clientele, loved eating on their funky picnic tables inside. The rest as they say is history. Now, this kid-friendly local restaurant chain has a half a dozen locations countywide and regionally in San Clemente. Go figure?
Down the street on Voltaire Ave. (see map) is yet another location of Mike Hess Brewing (13) at 4893 Voltaire St. (619-795-1095). What’s great about microbreweries, in general, is the friendship and commodore that gets created over a glass of beer.
Then on Newport Ave. (see map) which is the main street of Ocean Beach are no less than 5 breweries. So once you park all you have to do is discover them on foot. Plus, at 5010 Newport Ave., which is the block closest to the ocean is the world-famous Hodad’s Burger Joint (619-224-4623). On most days there is a long line of people waiting to get in. They claim that they haven’t sold a Billion burgers yet, but don’t be surprised if they do. Since they have appeared on Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins and you are a hamburger aficionado, you gotta eat here. Your best bet is to dine hear midweek to avoid the long lines.
Last but not least is the award-winning Kaiserhof German Restaurant (2), you’ll pass by if you enter Ocean Beach on Sunset Cliffs Blvd. They have a nice beer garden and a small intimate pub. Their claim to fame is their awesome Germain food. So, seriously consider dining here. It’s at 2253 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. (619-224-0606). They have a popular happy hour Tues.– Fri. from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. [See Kaiserhofrestaurant.com] for details. Enjoy!
This tour definitely dots all the I’s and crossed all of the T’s in providing an entertaining excursion of San Diego’s famous microbreweries in a fun do-it-yourself excursion and simultaneously discovering 4 unique suburbs in a few hours.