With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
For the sake of clarity and with an eye toward avoiding any bias, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. The fifth state we’re sipping from is The Golden State, California. Now, in all fairness, tackling this state isn’t like taking on the rest: California is the most populous of the 50 States, it has a GDP that would rank about 7th or 8th in the world, according to the CCBA the state houses roughly 554 craft breweries – which increases roughly 20% per year, and It’s the foundation upon which craft beer came to be in America today.
The bulk of the state’s breweries are found in the population centers in the Bay Area, the Central Coast and Metropolitan Los Angeles, and San Diego. As of 2013, the state ranked 1st in total production (2.9 Million Barrels), 1st in economic impact ($4.7 Billion), 1st in total breweries and 19th in breweries per capita, according to the Brewers Association.
Given the sheer girth of the state’s presence among the national craft beer community, we’ve broken up California into three regional articles – with some history for each and add in a few more breweries per region… because I mean seriously, over 544 fucking breweries? That’s crazy.
A History of San Diego Craft Brewing
As the second most populous county in the country’s most populous state, San Diego has a lot of mouths to satiate. San Diego alone houses 101 breweries and brewpubs or nearly one-fifth the total in California. It’s also home to the second wave of the state’s craft beer revolution and identifies itself as “the Craft Beer Capital of America.”
In 1989 the area opened its first brewery since the closure of the original Aztec Brewing in 1953, Karl Strauss Brewing. A chain of 8 brewpubs now found throughout the county, as well as 3 other counties in Southern California, Karl Strauss is credited with the rebirth of brewing in San Diego. If Karl Strauss lit the match, Pizza Port stoked the fire. Started in 1992, they now run 5 brewpubs along the coast, were the first San Diego brewer to win a medal at GABF (plus 3 Brewpub of the Year awards), set in motion the area’s IPA madness with their Swami IPA in 1993 and have given birth to two other prized breweries, Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey.
Building the fire into an inferno, Stone Brewing effectively turned the second wave of the craft beer movement into a tsunami. Founded in 1996 and featuring their ubiquitous gargoyle logo, Stone took the path set by Anchor and Sierra Nevada, further popularized the hugely hopped West Coast style and are now the largest brewer in Southern California. Their Pale Ale, ground breaking IPA, Arrogant Bastard series of strong ales and Ruination, “the first full-time brewed and bottled West Coast double IPA,” all changed the game in San Diego and thus, the history of craft brewing.
More San Diego Brewers You Need To Check Out
AleSmith Brewing (Miramar) – Currently celebrating their 20th anniversary, AleSmith is renowned for their vast array of award winning old ales, Barleywines, IPAs and Stouts, and have won 14 GABF medals in the process. While only crafting a modest 15,000 bbls/year, they’re currently expanding to a capacity of 100,000+ bbls this summer. They’re widely considered by many as one of the best brewers in the world.
Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits (Miramar/Scripps Ranch) – The second largest brewer in San Diego (as of 2014), Ballast Point has made a name for themselves since 1996 as a quality purveyor of most every style under the sun. Especially beloved by craft beer nerds for their series of Sculpin IPAs, Ballast Point has won 9 medals at GABF, not to mention countless awards for nearly every beer they’ve brewed.
Belching Beaver Brewery (Vista, CA) – One of the fastest growing brewers in the North County, this 2012 upstart has been putting out some seriously delicious creations. While one of their younger brewers Thomas Peters was recently anointed Alpha King for his Pound Town Triple IPA (10.3% ABV), these guys are known for their Milk Stout, Peanut Butter Milk Stout and Ol’ Dirty Russian Imperial Stout.
Coronado Brewing (Coronado, CA) – In existence since 1996, Coronado has quietly risen from a small brewpub on this resort island to a West Coast staple producing over 30,000 barrels each year. Helmed by brothers Ron and Rick Chapman, they’ve made a name for themselves with their Idiot and Islander IPAs, Mermaid’s Red and their GABF Award Winning Black Sails Black Ale.
Green Flash Brewing (Mira Mesa, CA) – The fourth largest brewery in San Diego County, Green Flash set a standard with their trademarked West Coast IPA, vaulting them into the national spotlight. Open since 2002, Brewmaster Chuck Silva’s huge creations Le Freak, Silva Stout and Hop Head Red have garnered 10 GABF medals over the years. Last fall Green Flash acquired another popular yet smaller brewer, Alpine Beer, who will maintain their autonomy while utilizing GF’s production facilities.
Modern Times Beer (Point Loma, CA) – Only open since the summer of 2013, Modern Times has already made their mark in having crafted over a 100 beer releases. With their luscious IPA’s, various barrel-aged versions of their Monster’s Park Imperial Stout and brews featuring their own house roasted coffee beans, it’s no surprise why they’re one of the brewers most in demand today.
Societe Brewing (Kearny Mesa, CA) – In existence for going on 3 years now, Societe was founded by Travis Smith and Douglas Constantiner who met while working at The Bruery. Just last year they won their first medal at GABF for their Pale Ale, The Pupil and are continuing to push the limits in showcasing four subcultures of styles.
And many more that couldn’t be listed here…