Cellar 3 by Green Flash Brewing Co. - Poway
Owner Mike Hinkley recommends letting the bartenders "be the beer sherpas for the unknown" at Cellar 3. This tasting room is Green Flash's newest project, a cool location offering 15 barrel-aged specialty beers on tap at a time. Of course, you should check out the tasting room at the main Green Flash brewery, too, for a great tour and wider selection of beer.
Societe Brewing Company – Kearny Mesa
Visitors can really see the brewing experience in this open-space area. You can even take a public tour on Saturdays! Just a couple years old, Societe is one of the newer stars of the Craft Beer Capital of America, and it offers a great experience...plus industry-leading beer.
Alesmith Brewing Company - Miramar
Check out its beautiful, expansive tasting room and try beers from its latest partnership with Mikkeller, a renowned Danish gypsy brewing operation. Don't miss the shrine (and Pale Ale .394) dedicated to San Diego legend Tony Gwynn.
Modern Times Flavordome – North Park
Modern Times has a fun and funky tasting room on 30th Street (awesome bars and restaurants everywhere!). The decor is super unique, including a mural of Yoda made entirely out of 3 1/2" floppy disks. Sit by the window for some great people-watching.
Ballast Point – Little Italy
On top of its delicious standard beers, you'll have the opportunity to try a lot of R&D trial beers, too. This brewery is always testing out new flavor combinations in its brews, and it has great food, too. So grab a bite and a beer and enjoy the large patio on a sunny San Diego afternoon. Ballast Point's other locations are also worth checking out, including its massive brewery and restaurant in Miramar.
The Lost Abbey Confessional - Cardiff
This Lost Abbey-born tasting room sits in charming Cardiff-by-the-Sea and offers beers from not only The Lost Abbey, but its sister breweries-Port Brewing and The Hop Concept-as well. While you're there, grab a slice from East Coast Pizza next door. What's better than pizza with your beer?
Mike Hess Brewing Company – North Park
Upon entering, you walk on a sky bridge that goes through the brewery and over the giant steel equipment...and it gets better from there. Sit at a long table and make some new friends as you play a board game and sip a great beer.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station
All Stone locations are enchanting; the attention to detail is second to none. However, the Liberty Station venue raises the bar. It's in a historic former Navy mess hall, spanning more than 23,500 square feet, and includes a bocce ball court and outdoor movies in the summer. Oh, and did we mention all the awesome beer?
White Labs Tasting Room – Mira Mesa
White Labs specializes in the yeast and fermentation parts of the craft brewing process. When you visit, you get to learn about the role yeast plays in brewing while you drink, tasting the way different yeasts affect beer. Plus, where else can you watch a scientist work while you drink?
Thorn St. Brewery – North Park
Thorn St. is the epitome of the neighborhood brewery. Filled nightly with locals who biked or walked to grab a pint after work, this beautifully designed rustic brewery features two levels, nightly food trucks and a Trivia Night competition every Wednesday.
Benchmark Brewing Company - Grantville
Benchmark is best known for making low-alcohol beers that are still high in flavor. This means you'll be able to try a few without falling asleep at the bar. Its walls are covered in topographical maps, adding some awesomely unique flair. Benchmark is also a popular place to meet and watch a soccer match on their giant projection screen, so don't be surprised if Benchmark is full of screaming fans.
Second Chance Beer Co. – Rancho Bernardo
During his previous gig at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, Marty Mendiola took home awards from both the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup. Now he's gone his own way with Second Chance, a fun atmosphere with great beer. Spend an afternoon playing darts along the wall or cornhole in the middle of the brewery.
Bolt Brewery – Little Italy
The Bolt satellite tasting room is located in the heart of trendy Little Italy and features a big outdoor tasting area for getting some sun while you drink. If you happen to be there on a rare rainy day, you'll be consoled with $1 off pints. Its sandwiches are making taste buds as happy as its beers are, so come hungry. If you're in East County, check out the brewery in La Mesa, the revival of San Diego's first post-Prohibition brewery.
Editor’s note: Links to the websites of many San Diego County brewpubs and beer-centric establishments can be found in Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory.