(Almost) Every San Diego Craft Brewery, Reviewed

One of San Diego’s 14 GABF2017 medal winners.

It has been a year since I launched my blog, CraftBeerInSanDiego.com, where I chronicle my quest to visit every craft brewery and tasting room in San Diego County. I had originally hoped to get them all done in a year, but the ongoing craft beer boom in San Diego has meant that I have missed that goal. Oh, darn, I have to keep drinking great beer.

When I started out in October of 2016, there were 130+ locations on my list. Now, there are 180+. That’s quite a lot of new places in just a year! That net increase is despite several brewery sales and closures. Don’t let anyone tell you that the craft beer boom is over, at least not in San Diego.

Karl Strauss helped launch the San Diego craft beer scene.

According to information I can find, there are 27 breweries and taprooms in development in San Diego right now, 19 of which are projected to open before the end of 2018. (Check out my monthly updates on the state of beer in San Diego.)
All of which is to say, I haven’t been everywhere yet. But I have been to 153 places already, and that feels like quite an achievement. At least I can say I surpassed my original plan to go to 130+ places in a year. It is just that the goalposts have moved since I started.

A big part of San Diego craft beer success has been the awesome White Labs.

It is probably going to take me an extra 10-15 weeks to finish the rest. (Though in that time additional places are likely to open up!). I made the strategic error of hitting all the places close to my house first. So now just about everything I have left to visit is in North County, quite a drive from my house. I’ve been relying on my girlfriend’s goodwill to drive me out there and be my DD on the way home, but there are limits even to her generosity and patience, so we’ve “only” been doing two or three places per week lately. (Thanks, Sarah! You are awesome!)

There’s a sense in which this quest will never end. No doubt there will be a constant flux in the San Diego beer scene, so new openings are likely to continue at a steady pace (though people keep saying the pace is bound to slow down). I’m good with that: I enjoy going to new breweries.

But I am looking forward to drinking pints instead of tasters all the time, and being able to establish a “local,” somewhere I go regularly. I’ve tried a lot of beer this year, but I’ve missed out on building community at a regular spot, which is an important part of the craft beer scene. I’m also planning to eventually transition to reviewing craft beer bars in addition to breweries. There are a lot of those in San Diego, too, but I’m not going to turn it into another completion quest.

Beer art.

Would I recommend that someone else try this quest? Maybe not. It takes a lot of time, not to mention money. Without accounting for gas, just buying flights at 150 places has cost me in the neighborhood of $1,800 this year. I spend at least three hours per review on average, including driving, drinking, writing, and editing.  750 hours in a year is close to a third of a full time job, even if it is one that requires beer drinking. Then there is all the time I spend on social media trying to draw traffic.

For the average craft beer lover, it might be a better plan to explore the offerings in a single neighborhood near home. There is plenty of beer variety in just about any area of San Diego, so you can get almost all of the experience of a beer quest in a smaller geographical area. Not to mention the fact that most breweries seem to offer 10-20 different beers at any one time. (And they usually rotate their offerings frequently, too.) For folks who just want to say they went to all the breweries, well, go for it. Just take your time–your wallet and your waistline will thank you.

Bill Vanderbugh
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Bill Vanderbugh

Wanna-Be-er Writer at CraftBeerInSanDiego.com
Exploring San Diego's amazing craft beer scene and telling you all about it. Originally from Montreal, I can't imagine living through a snowy winter now. I love sailing and photography almost as much as beer. Oh, ya, and I'm a philosophy professor for a living.
Bill Vanderbugh
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One thought on “(Almost) Every San Diego Craft Brewery, Reviewed”

  1. My wife is a travel nurse, and we are planning on coming to the San Diego area in March and staying for 3ish months. With my brewery traveling, I’d love to meet up when we are out there if you’re willing to give me more info about the huge brewery scene there!

     

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