With more than 120 breweries and growing, wherever you find yourself in San Diego is likely not far from freshly brewed craft beer at its source. From Oceanside to Imperial Beach, breweries and brewpubs dot the coast. In North San Diego County, Highway 78 adjacent breweries now number over 20. There are more than 13 craft breweries within the Sorrento Valley, Miramar, Mira Mesa area, 7.5 square miles encompassing Mira Mesa Boulevard and Miramar Road on the north and south and bordered to the east and west by the 15 and the 805 freeways. San Diego proper also has numerous breweries and brewpubs downtown, downtown adjacent or close to the 805 and 8 freeways.
A helpful reference for planning your craft beer outing is the San Diego Brewers Guild website sandiegobrewersguild.org. Its Map page contains an interactive map listing the breweries, pubs and restaurants catering to craft beer. A PDF version of the map can also be downloaded. Be sure to utilize the site’s Events page in planning for upcoming events, including November’s San Diego Beer Week. Complete beer week info is also available at SDBW.org.
In this month’s column, let’s focus on some of the breweries in the Sorrento Valley/Miramar/Mira Mesa area.
If looking to stay in the area, a base camp could be the commercial area just north of Mira Mesa Blvd. nearest to the 805 Freeway. Choices include Hyatt House, Country Inn & Suites, Residence Inn and Extended Stay America. Nearby, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Sorrento Mesa is a good start or end point to a day of brewery touring, providing nourishment in addition to well-appointed craft beer.
Heading east on Mira Mesa, Green Flash Brewing Company’s 45,000-square-foot facility offers tours, tastings and the complete line of Green Flash and Alpine Beer Company’s beers, at perhaps some of the best beer prices in San Diego. Longship Brewery, which held its grand opening in early July, is nearby, just south of Mira Mesa on Camino Santa Fe. This reporter has not yet been to Longship, but looking forward to a visit soon.
Continuing east on Mira Mesa, another option for food along your journey is Callahan’s Pub & Brewery. Before heading south on the 15 to the next exit at Miramar Road, you could consider a stop at O’Sullivan Bros Brewing Co., a small family-run brewery. It is located just east of the 15, south of Mira Mesa.
After heading south to Miramar Road, an educationally-tasty stop awaits you at White Labs. White Labs propagates, stores and provides many craft breweries with yeast, a major ingredient in beer production. The White Labs San Diego tasting room highlights beers brewed onsite with varied yeasts and ingredients. As many as 35 offerings may be available, grouped by base beer recipe. Multiple beers of a singular style or recipe, but with different unique yeasts. This allows for side-by-side comparison of taste, smell and experience. Both subtle and marked differences in these finished beers can result. Four pale ales utilizing varied yeast strains can result in a wide spectrum of flavors and aromas. The same can be said for many other beers offered, such as porters, saisons, etc. Tours of the White Labs facilities are also available and offer a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the formulation, propagation and banking of proprietary yeast strains.
Leaving White Labs and continuing west on Miramar, AleSmith Brewing Company’s 105,000-square-foot brewery complex is located at the end of AleSmith Court. This tasting room opened in October of 2015 as part of a planned six phase development of the new facility. This year we have witnessed the June and July openings of Anvil & Stave and the Tony Gwynn Museum as part of phase 3. The intimate Anvil & Stave room is set up in speakeasy-fashion for specialized tasting of AleSmith’s barrel-aged beers. It is hidden behind a rustic looking wall of repurposed wood, dark and inviting upon entry. Here, a variety of AleSmith’s barrel-aged beers are served. Visitors are also welcome to create their own barrel-aged beer blends employing the available beers. Forthcoming developments include a new onsite cheese-making facility. Cheese making is a more-recent artisanal interest of owner Peter Zien. “It’s going to be fun to have tastings of cheese that is made on-premises with the milk from the animals that eat our spent grain,” Zien shared in speaking about the new venture. Spent grain from AleSmith’s brewing process goes to a local dairy about 12 miles away. Milk from that same dairy will soon be used for cheese-making.
As announced in this column early this year, AleSmith’s former brewery location a couple of blocks NE on Cabot Dr., is now occupied by Mikkeller Brewing San Diego. World-renowned gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergso partnered with AleSmith’s Peter Zien to take over the vacated property along with AleSmith’s 30 barrel brewhouse and some of the former brewing team. Zien maintains a minority interest in Mikkeller SD.
Other breweries in the area include Mike Hess Brewing Co.’s original nano-brewery location and tasting room on Silverton and Little Miss Brewing on Stromesa Ct. A visit to Little Miss is also on the agenda.
Continuing SE, Amplified Ale Works and Duckfoot Brewing Co. are both on Kenamar. Two other choices further west are 32 North Brewing Co and Rough Draft Brewing Co.
There are a couple of other notable breweries in the area: Saint Archer Brewing Company on Distribution Avenue and Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits on Carroll Way. Both have been producing remarkable beers for some time, but are no longer recognized by the Brewers Guild as craft breweries due to current ownership status. Ballast Point was sold to Constellation Brands owners of various entities including Corona and Modello and Saint Archer sold controlling interest to MillerCoors in late 2015.
Regarding the aforementioned San Diego Beer Week, November 4th through the 13th are the dates for this year’s run. In past years the Capital of Craft has drawn over 20,000 attendees to over 500 events taking place during the 10-day week. Given San Diego’s increase in breweries and venues serving craft beer, this eighth year beer week is expected to be even bigger. Anchoring San Diego Brewers Guild events include the two-day San Diego Brewers Guild Festival on Friday and Saturday, November 4th & 5th. Friday night’s VIP Brewer Takeover will highlight rare specialty beers from San Diego brewers. The Beer Garden at the Lodge at Torrey Pines closing event on November 13 continues to be a key pivotal occasion. This year, the number of chefs increases to 14. Each chef will team with two select breweries to pair some amazing dishes that complement beers from the breweries selected. The beautiful outdoor setting overlooking the greens and the sea beyond makes for a delicious and memorable experience. The above events have sold out the past two years, so purchase tickets soon if you haven’t already.