TASTE News Service October 24, 2014 - Located at the western end of San Diego’s “Hops Highway,” Oceanside’s craft beer industry is booming. In the last year, nearly a dozen new venues, from microbreweries and tasting rooms to gastro pubs with a craft beer focus, have opened in the city providing visitors and locals with numerous options for sampling the best brew of the region.
So fast and furious has been the growth in craft beer venues, that Visit Oceanside recently added a dedicated section to its website (www.visitoceanside.org/oside-beer-tours) where visitors can view an interactive map of the venues and also be inspired by recommended “pub crawl” itineraries. These itineraries include the Coast Highway Crawl, which features hot spots that offer both sensational beers and delicious local eats; Brews on Shoes where visitors can explore the diverse beer scene in downtown Oceanside’s walking district; South O Swing that takes visitors to the charming neighborhood of South Oceanside, which sports a fun and eclectic vibe and is frequented predominately by locals; and Back Alley Brews featuring popular brew spots off the beaten path, but worth checking out.
“People have always traveled for great food and drink and, when it comes to craft beer, Oceanside is serving it up in spades,” says Leslee Gaul, CEO of Visit Oceanside. “Our map is like an insider’s guide to the area and makes it easy for visitors to decide which places they want to check out during their stay.”
Among the most ambitious of the newly opened beer venues, and destined to become a flagship destination for Oceanside, is Bagby Beer Company. Two years in the making, the 1,500 square foot facility is prominently located on Coast Highway and features two stories, outdoor gardens, a restaurant, private dining room and on-site brewing with special tasting areas where guests can watch legendary brew master Jeff Bagby in action. Formerly a brew master for the Pizza Port chain, Bagby is one of the most highly decorated brew masters in the country and recently took home a bronze medal at the prestigious 2014 Great American Beer Festival in Colorado for his Dry Stout Asphault Jungle, only the fourth batch of beer to be made at his new facility.
“Craft beer is the perfect fit for Oceanside’s laid-back surf culture and creative spirit,” says Gaul. “The quickly expanding Oceanside beer scene is being spearheaded by local entrepreneurs looking to create fun, one-of-a-kind experiences and a destination where locals and visitors want to hangout.”
Oceanside’s other homegrown beer labels with tasting rooms include the popular Oceanside Ale Works—Oceanside's first microbrewery, Legacy Brewing Company—which pays homage to the founding fathers of the United States, and Breakwater Brewing Company—a downtown gathering place since 2008. Although not technically a beer, Golden Coast Mead is another specialty drink made in Oceanside and also recently opened a tasting room to showcase its popular version of mead, a drink that dates back to ancient times.
Complementing Oceanside’s local beer labels are an eclectic mix of new restaurants, tasting rooms and tasting gardens that feature a wide selection of regional craft beer. Like Bagby, many of these venues have made their homes along Coast Highway near Oceanside’s downtown beach community. Some, like Surfside Tap Room, Stone Company Store Oceanside and Beer Brewing Company, are primarily places for beer tasting. Others, such as Local Tap House, Master’s Kitchen & Cocktails and Mission Avenue Bar & Grill combine a rotating selection of regional beer with delicious local pub cuisine based on fresh, seasonal ingredients.
“Craft brew is taking off throughout San Diego and Oceanside is defining its niche in the industry,” says Gaul. “Each of our local venues has a unique personality, but all are reflective of our city’s popular beach culture and welcoming spirit.”
For more than 125 years, Oceanside has been known as an ideal place to stay and experience Southern California's casual spirit. Located along the beautiful Southern California coastline between metropolitan San Diego and Los Angeles, Oceanside boasts a number of important historical and cultural attractions such as Mission San Luis Rey (The King of Missions), California's longest wooden pier, vintage 101 Café, 1920's era Robert's Cottages, Top Gun House, California Surf Museum and the Oceanside Museum of Art. The city has served as a film location for dozens of Hollywood productions and was once the preferred getaway of many of Hollywood's elite. Bordering Camp Pendleton, Oceanside has long enjoyed a strong relationship with the U.S. military and a deep commitment to the men and women serving the nation. Today, with 3.5 miles of sandy beach, a quaint New England-style harbor and a stellar year-round climate, Oceanside is a highly sought after location for enjoying active pursuits including surfing, stand up paddling, kayaking, boating, fishing, bike-riding, skydiving and more.
Editor's note: If you're thinking of visiting Oceanside, or any of San Diego County, check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as sections linking to the sites of area wineries and craft beer specialists.