The 5 San Diego Brewing Giants

AleSmith (1995)

AleSmith is not only one of San Diego’s oldest craft breweries, they also have (in my opinion) one of the most classic San Diego beers – the 394 Pale Ale.

Made with help from the man Tony Gwynn himself, 394’s name is an homage to arguably his best statiscal season where he had the best batting average for a player since Ted Williams (another SD native).

I won’t nerd out too much with the baseball, but what AleSmith has going for it is also a Tony Gwynn museum inside their flagship brewery in Miramar.

Any person looking to experience San Diego beer would be crazy not to stop here.

Ballast Point (1996)

Well, there’s been some ups and downs. But Ballast Point’s impact to the San Diego beer scene is undeniable.

Sculpin took the Stone IPA and put it on steroids. It reached nationwide success, and even reached some international success at one point.

Before selling to Constellation Brands and alienating those who put them on the map, Ballast Point’s main location in Miramar was an essential pit stop in any San Diego brew tour.

Now, they’ve been sold back to craft beer, and are making a concerted effort to reattach themselves to not only craft beer, but their San Diego roots too. A return in quality will once again make stopping at a Ballast Point location necessary.

Green Flash (2002)

While maybe not the oldest or best craft beer in town, Green Flash was once the rising star in the San Diego craft beer scene. Overexpansion ultimately limited their upside (they were acquiring by a private equity firm in 2018), but the simply named “West Coast IPA” is all you need to hear to know they’re legit in these parts.

In my opinion, their acquisition of Alpine Brewing Co in 2014 cemented them as a powerhouse. As despite Green Flash’s stumbles, Alpine remains one of the best and most consistent breweries in all of San Diego. Better yet, you no longer have to drive out east to go try it; they have Alpine beers at the main Green Flash brewery in Mira Mesa.

Karl Strauss (1989)

Sometimes forgotten, Karl Strauss is a small-medium brewery that you might mainly know for their brewpub restaurants across Southern California.

What’s not immediately obvious is that Karl Strauss distributing is responsible for a lot of the craft in San Diego. I ask that you put some respect on their name!

Known for their Red Trolley ale, Karl Strauss has a lot of great small batch stuff and a lot of other fantastic beer I bet you’ve never heard of. Their beer garden/facility in the Clairemont area is actually a gem for those looking for a San Diego staple that’s off the beaten path.

Stone (1996)

Stone is #1 in San Diego. Is there even any debate about that?

When people ask, “what’s your favorite brewery?” it’s still hard for me to not say Stone even after almost 25 years in business. That’s pretty impressive not also considering they’re one of San Diego’s first and most prolific beer institutions.

They’ve been doing it the best for the longest. Stone IPA basically invented the San Diego IPA too. Their gargoyle iconography is among one of the most iconic logos in the beer world, with Arrogant Bastard Ale being the best example of that.

It’s hard(er) to get up their main Escondido brewery, but it’s well worth it considering all Stone has done for the San Diego beer world and beyond. If you can’t get there, they have plenty of other ways to enjoy their beer around San Diego, with taprooms downtown and an equally awesome beer garden in Liberty Station. However you choose to enjoy it, there’s no denying that Stone beer is San Diego beer.

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