The San Diego Brewery Scene

Located on the Pacific Ocean, San Diego is a coastal California city that’s known for it’s mild, beautiful weather, stunning beaches, and many attractions — including restaurants, outdoor activities, boating, and more. San Diego is also a city that’s become known for its many craft beer breweries.

Top 6 Best San Diego Breweries

Award Emblem: Top 6 Best San Diego Breweries

A few of the best breweries in San Diego are also among some of the world’s best, and the city is often dubbed the Craft Beer Capital of America. The San Diego brewery scene includes more than 100 breweries as well as microbreweries and brew pubs.

Based on sales volume, four of the best breweries in San Diego are also among the 50 largest craft beer brewers in America.

San Diego breweries are known for a particular style of beer called the Double India Pale Ale or the Double IPA.

Tourists flock to the best breweries San Diego is known for, and some of them, such as Ballast Point Brewing Company, are known not only as the best breweries in San Diego, but also the world.

The following ranking and review includes San Diego breweries and San Diego craft beer, including established options as well as newer San Diego microbreweries. It serves as a great beginning point for tourists and locals alike who are interested in discovering a great San Diego brewery.

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AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 6 Best Breweries in San Diego

List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the brewery names below to go directly to the detailed review section for that San Diego brewery):

Top 6 Best Breweries in San Diego | Brief Comparison

San Diego Brewery


Key Feature

AleSmith Brewing CompanyMiramarAleSmith is award-winning and was rated #1 Best Brewery in the World based on reviews at RateBeer.com
Ballast Point Brewing CompanyScripps Ranch, Little ItalyOne of the biggest breweries in the U.S.
Karl Strauss Brewing CompanyPacific BeachOldest surviving brewery in San Diego County; founded in 1989
Port Brewing CompanySan MarcosMore than 40 beers on tap at the spacious tasting room
Pure ProjectMiramarFocus is on global and sustainably sourced ingredients
Stone Brewing CompanyMain facility is in EscondidoLocations and venues throughout San Diego County

Table: Top 6 Best Breweries in San Diego| Above list is sorted alphabetically

Styles of Beer from the Best Breweries in San Diego

When you’re visiting a San Diego brewery, you’re going to be able to find nearly any type of craft beer, but the area is best known for its India Pale Ale (IPA) options and the Double IPA. India Pale Ales are very hoppy with a high alcohol content, and Double IPAs are even stronger with more hoppiness.

Double IPAs tend to have a lot of aromas associated with them, and they can taste bitter.

The double IPA style was started at a brewery that once existed in Temecula in 1994 called the Blind Pig Brewery, but now almost every San Diego brewing company offers some type of double IPA, so much so that it’s become known as the signature San Diego craft beer.

It’s also worth noting that San Diego breweries have become one of the fastest growing areas of business in San Diego, and the San Diego microbreweries were responsible for more than $850 million in sales revenue in 2015.

San Diego is known for its beer tourism as well, and the city is often described as a beer city destination.

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Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Breweries in San Diego

Below, please find the detailed review of each of the top breweries in San Diego. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these best breweries San Diego is known for to score so well in our selection ranking.

AleSmith Brewing Company Review

AleSmith Brewing Company is a San Diego Brewery that’s considered one of the best in the city. This best brewery in San Diego specializes in handcrafted ales based on European classic beer styles.

Key Features That Led to This Ranking as a Top San Diego Brewing Company

Below are specific features and elements of this San Diego brewery leading to its ranking as one of the best breweries San Diego has to offer.


AleSmith is one of the most established San Diego breweries, and they also have some of the best facilities. For example, in 2015, AleSmith opened a state-of-the-art brewery in Miramar, which is dubbed AleSmith 2.0.

This best brewery in San Diego features a new tasting room and a brew system that can brew more than 100,000 barrels a year.

The facility is 100,000 square feet, and the tasting room is the largest in San Diego. The new location is also home to the Tony Gwynn Museum.


If you visit the travel review site TripAdvisor, you will see that AleSmith Brewing Company is incredibly well-rated by visitors. It is ranked #87 on the list of the top 426 things to do in San Diego, and it has a Certificate of Excellence.

It also has a 4.5 rating out of 5.

Visitors describe it as amazing with friendly and informative staff, great beers, and plenty of space.


The AleSmith has many beers that are seasonal and year-round, both of which this best brewery in San Diego is known for. This San Diego brewing company offers options like the AleSmith IPA. This IPA combines aromas of tangerine and grapefruit, along with crisp bitterness.

Other popular brews include the AleSmith Lil’ Devil, which is an unfiltered Belgian Pale Ale, which is a gold color with a creamy white head and additions of orange peel for a citrus undertone.

These are just a few of the many beers this San Diego beer destination offers.

San Diego Brewery

AleSmith – Top Breweries in San Diego

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Ballast Point Brewing Company Review

Ballast Point is not just one of the top breweries in San Diego. It’s also one of the most well-known and popular breweries in the U.S., having been opened 21 years ago by Jack White.

Key Features of This Selection for a Top San Diego Brewing Company

Reasons Ballast Point is included on this list of the leading breweries in San Diego are below.


Ballast Point isn’t just a great brewery in San Diego based on quality.  It’s also one of the largest breweries in San Diego and the country.

It was founded in 1992, and since that time, this brewery in San Diego has grown to become the second largest brewery in San Diego County. It’s also the 17th largest brewery in the country based on sales volume.

The primary production facility is in Miramar, and there are also brewery locations in Little Italy and Scripps Ranch. The original Home Brew Mart is still located in the Linda Vista neighborhood of San Diego.


Ballast Point is a best brewery in San Diego for many reasons, including the fact that it frequently wins awards. For example, in 2010, Ballast Point was the winner of three gold medals for their beers. They also won the “Small Brewery Championship” award at the World Beer Cup.

In 2013 and 2014, the distillery portion of the business was named the California Distillery of the Year.

Many of their specific beers have also won many awards, including Abandon Ship, Big Eye, Black Marlin, and Brother Levonian, among others.

Notable Beers

Some of the most notable San Diego beer options produced by this leader among San Diego breweries include:

  • Big Eye IPA, which is a 7% ABV India Pale Ale that won a Gold Medal at the California State Far.
  • Ballast Point Pale Ale is one of the most popular San Diego craft beer options from Ballast Point.
  • The Black Marlin Porter has won awards as well.
  • The Wahoo White Beer is a Belgian-inspired beer with flavors of orange peel and coriander.

San Diego Brewing Company

Image Source: Ballast Point

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Karl Strauss Brewing Company Review

The Karl Strauss Brewing Company is the oldest surviving brewery in San Diego, having been founded in 1989. When this San Diego brewery was formed, there hadn’t been a new beer brewing venue since prohibition.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Best Breweries in San Diego

Some of the essential reasons Karl Strauss is included on this list as a top San Diego brewing company and a top destination for San Diego beer are below.


First and foremost, Karl Strauss has an onsite tasting room at their main brewery, which is located in the San Diego neighborhood Pacific Beach. Along with that location, this leader among San Diego microbreweries features eleven brewpubs in places across Southern California.

Karl Strauss beers are available not just at the company’s brewpubs, but they’re also distributed across California.


One of the many things that makes Karl Strauss unique from other breweries in San Diego and sets it apart as one of the best breweries San Diego has to offer is its history. Karl Strauss, as the oldest surviving San Diego brewery, really led the way for the city to become a premier beer and brewery destination. It launched the concept of craft beer before it even really existed.

It’s also one of the largest breweries in the country. According to its sales volume for 2016, Karl Strauss was the 47th largest brewery in the U.S.

It was also named the Mid-Size Brewery of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival.

Beer Awards

As well as this San Diego brewery often being named as one of the best breweries in San Diego, many of its individual beers have won awards over the years.

For example, the Aurora Hoppyalis San Diego-Style IPA won the Bronze Award at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival.

The Mosaic Session IPA has won many awards over recent years, including the 2015 L.A. International Commercial Beer Competition, the 2015 AIBA Silver Award, and the Gold 2014 CA State Commercial Beer Competition. This is just a small sample of the many awards this San Diego brewery has won for its beers over the years.

Port Brewing Company Review

Port Brewing Company is headquartered in San Marco, and this pick for one of the best breweries in San Diego was founded in 2006. This leader among San Diego breweries also produces under the Lost Abbey Brewing name.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Top Breweries in San Diego

When comparing Port Brewing Company to other breweries in San Diego, the following are specific reasons it excels.

Rankings and Recognition

Almost as soon as Port Brewing opened its doors in 2006, it started being recognized in the industry. In fact, it was named the Small Brewery of the Year that year at the Great American Beer Festival. It also received the honor of Champion Small Brewery and Small Brewer at the 2008 World Beer Cup competition in 2008.

This San Diego brewing company continues to excel, and it’s often named as one of the top 10 breweries in the nation by industry experts.

Tasting Room

The Tasting Room of the Port Brewing Company features two spacious bars and knowledgeable staff members.

When you visit the Tasting Room of this leader among the best breweries in San Diego, you’ll have access to the regular and seasonal releases the brewery is known for. Options include tasters, half-pours, pints, and growlers.

There are also bottle options that include limited releases that can be purchased in the tasting room.


While this brewery in San Diego offers a lot of seasonal options, they focus their year-round beer on a few exclusive, well-rated offerings.

Some of these include:

  • Shark Attack: Shark Attack is what this San Diego brewing company calls a classic west coast style Imperial Red Ale. They describe it as hoppy with hints of caramel and spiciness.
  • Old Viscosity Ale: One of the most popular year-round beers available at this San Diego brewery is the Old Viscosity, which is malty with caramel and chocolate. It’s a very rich beer with some bitterness.
  • Board Meeting: Board Meeting was added to the year-round offerings of this San Diego brewery in 2013. It’s a brown ale with coffee and cocoa additions.

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Pure Project Review

Pure Project is a San Diego brewing company that focuses on concepts such as globally-sourced ingredients and sustainability, with a tasting room in Miramar.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Best Breweries in San Diego

Unique elements of Pure Project that led to its inclusion on this list of the best breweries San Diego offers are below.

The Team

The leadership team of this San Diego brewing company is strong, and they are experts at bringing elements of San Diego beer style and west coast influences together with global ingredients and inspiration.

For example, partners Jesse and Agi are native Californians who returned after living in the jungle of Costa Rica for several years.

Also at the helm of this San Diego brewery and location for San Diego craft beer is Winslow, the brewmaster. He is an Award-Winning Brewmaster from the Santa Cruz Mountains.


Pure Project is unique from other San Diego breweries in many ways, including the fact that their beer is vegan. This San Diego brewing company doesn’t use any additives or fining agents, and they don’t filter their beers.

They also strive to use sustainable, organic ingredients whenever that’s an option with their San Diego beer, but it should be noted the beers themselves aren’t certified organic.

This San Diego brewing company sources a lot of their grains from Europe, to ensure they’re produced with the highest standards in agriculture.


Pure Project is included on Zagat and is mentioned by the site as one of the “Hottest Bars in San Diego.”

This brewery in San Diego is also well-reviewed by patrons. For example, people say things such as it’s their favorite San Diego brewery, they love the smell, the beer is (of course) great, and the atmosphere of the tasting room is one they enjoy.

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Stone Brewing Company Review

Stone Brewing Company is a best brewery in San Diego that was founded by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner in 1996, and it has often been recognized for its size, its growth, and its quality of brewing. Stone has a widespread presence among San Diego microbreweries, with many locations throughout the city, as well as many places selling their beers.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Best Breweries in San Diego

In terms of being one of the best breweries San Diego is home to, the following are some specifics of why Stone Brewing is included on this list.


Thrillist describes Stone as a “game changer” among craft beer breweries, not just in terms of top breweries in San Diego, but nationwide.

Stone has a huge 55,000 square-foot main brewery, plus the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens located in Escondido, as well as Liberty Station.

They operate Stone Farms, many Stone Company Stores, a downtown taproom, an airport location, and they’re working on a hotel and an expansion to Europe.


Stone Brewing is a San Diego beer destination among San Diego microbreweries for many reasons, including the numerous events they hold at their facilities around the area. For example, upcoming events include the Stone Sour Fest at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido, and the Wurst Bier Party held weekly throughout the summer.

They also regularly host other beer festivals and themed events, such as Hop-Con 5.0. It’s a very active San Diego brewing company with a lot going on nearly all the time.


Along with seasonal and special releases, this pick for one of the best breweries in San Diego features a line-up of seven year-round beers. These beers are bold in flavor and outside the traditional framework of conventional beer.

Some of these beers include the Stone IPA, Stone Delicious IPA, Stone Tangerine Express IPA, and the Stone Ripper.

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Conclusion—Top 6 Best Breweries San Diego Is Home to

In a city known for its breweries, a San Diego brewing company has to be pretty unique to stand apart. With more than 100 San Diego microbreweries in the area, the competition is stiff, but the names on this ranking of the top breweries in San Diego are all distinctive in their own way.

Best San Diego Breweries

Image Source: Pexels

From the unique global and sustainable concept of Pure Project to the long history of the Karl Strauss Brewing Company, each of these San Diego breweries has a unique story, character, and one-of-a-kind beer offerings that set them apart.

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