A few weeks ago we posted this list from Travelocity and the Brewers Association of the top beer destinations in the country. At the same time, for fun, we encouraged readers to craft arguments for their cities, saying “Feel free to send an essay our way ([email protected] with the subject line “PRINT THIS BEER TOURISM ESSAY) that explains why your area is on the rise as a beer tourist destination. And hey, some people did. Here is one of those now.
This comes our way from Anthony Moore, a beer geek who hosts the MooreAboutBeer podcast. Thanks for taking the time, Anthony.
The Case For San Diego
San Diego is known for many things — the world-famous San Diego Comic Con, our year-round 75-and-sunny temperatures and waiting for the Chargers to blow their 20 point lead. Hey, it’s what they do. But when I read that San Diego didn’t make Craft Brewing Business’ Top Beer Destinations list, I was not only appalled. I was livid. Just kidding. But seriously, I was like what the hell? [Editor’s note: Don’t blame us!]
San Diego is the greatest beer city on earth and an even better vacation destination, making it the greatest beercation spot on the planet.
It seems that the classics like Portland (both Oregon and Maine) and Denver and Seattle get all the love nowadays as the “beer mecca” of America. I get it, and it’s for good reason. But sit back and crack open the West Coast IPA, my friends. Let’s talk about why San Diego is the irrefutable No. 1 beercation spot.
Sheer number of breweries
Portland, Ore., has 84 breweries, including Portland’s metro area. The Other Portland (as I like to call it) has been touted loftily as “The Top Craft Beer City in the World” and hosts about 30 breweries. Seattle can claim around 50 breweries, and Denver’s larger population boasts an impressive 100-ish breweries. Well, how about San Diego?
130. And 30 more in planning.
All of these breweries are within about a 50-mile radius. A lot of the great beer states (Colorado, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, etc.) have world-class breweries, but these locations are sometimes hundreds of miles from each other. San Diego has it all, and right next to each other (and next to the beach).
North Park’s 30th Street is one of San Diego’s hippest beer scenes, and perhaps one of the most well-known beer streets on the West Coast. Imagine having a dozen breweries so close to your Air BnB you won’t even break a sweat getting to any of them.
Drive a few miles north, and you’ll reach what San Diegans are just calling “Beeramar.” The Miramar area is home to more than two dozen breweries and tasting rooms, peppered along a three-mile stretch of winding Miramar Road. Drink Alesmith’s GABF gold medal-winning Old Numbskull Barelywine, or just sip their .394 Pale Ale as you walk through the Tony Gwynn museum (yep, there’s a museum in the brewery) and stare in awe as you drink a beer dedicated to the man who had a .394 batting average.
Larger still is the Hop Highway. Not a dozen miles north of 30th Street lies a hotbed of some of San Diego’s most well-known and most promising up-and-comers. Enjoy Stone Brewing’s world-famous Stone IPA, perhaps even spending the night at the beer-centric Stone Brewing Hotel (yes, Stone is opening a freaking hotel) or sample a few rare BA sours from the tiny Toolbox Brewing (like their quirky Boysenberry Purple Drink). Pizza Port has some of the best pizzas across Hop Highway, with a slew of non-bottled GABF winners on tap at all times.
A staggering level of quality
“Listen man, it’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality.”
I get it. Not every brewery in San Diego is gonna have GABF medal winners. As for our “whales,” San Diego can’t say it has any Dark Lord, Black Tuesday, PTY or Heady Topper-type releases (though you might be able to count Alpine’s Nelson or maybe even Alesmith’s BBA Speedway).
We know San Diego’s craft beer scene is one of the largest in the world, but the quality of the beers we have are enough to elicit top reviews from Master Cicerones and casual craft drinkers alike. San Diego beers and breweries have been winning awards from every competition there is — Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup, US Open Championship, whatever. We even hold our own in international beer festivals.
We have a better food scene than some of the biggest cities in America, with tap lines often numbering in the 30s and more. When the chefs for our Mexican restaurants actually live in Mexico, you know you’ll be bragging about the food when you get back home for years to come. Combine that with the best (and most consistent) weather the world has to offer, having a two page tap list to go with dinner is just icing on the cake.
For your ideal beercation, what do you want? Great scenery, hosting great restaurants, hosting great tap lists. If you stand almost anywhere in San Diego, you’ll be within walking distance of a dozen spots like that.
An eye-popping level of diversity
“I mean, San Diego is good, but all they have is IPAs.”
If you’re implying that IPAs are as common a drink with your meal as water, you’d be right, but San Diego isn’t just about our hop-bombs and DIPAs. We do everything. We have breweries dedicated to every major type of beer.
Like sours? Get a flight of Council Brewing’s 12+ Beatitude series or Toolbox Brewing’s sour-everything (seriously, that’s all they have on tap.) Like barrel-aged? Alesmith has an entire room dedicated to barrel-aged beers (but you’ll need the secret password to get in). Want some trippy Euro-style beers? Mikkeller Brewing is a legend in the beer world for making some of the most satisfying styles from Germany, Belgium and Holland.
Want experimental styles? Try a cherry stout served on carbon from Kilowatt Brewing (it’s like on nitro, only better). We have the first “gay brewery” in the world, a Pacific Islander brewery and a Brazilian Brewery. We have a working science laboratory that is also a brewery. We have a brewery that’s owned and entirely operated by one guy. His name’s Morgan. He’s cool.
You’re right: We don’t have unicorns like Maine Brewing or Trillium or Hill Farmstead. San Diego has world-class quality balanced by a strong backbone of sheer quantity.
Conclusion: San Diego is the ultimate beercation
They call it “American’s Finest City” for a reason: San Diego’s geographic location gives it the immensely unique ability to allow residents to go hiking in the mountains, swimming at the beach, camping in the desert or exploring national forest ranges, all within less than half an hour from each other. There are big beer events that happen every single day. Those events are cheap, fun and everywhere.
Let’s bring it all back for a second here. Close your eyes, and imagine this: You’re sitting on the waterfront in downtown San Diego. You have a plate of locally caught fish tacos that are so heavy, your arm was sore from carrying it. The sun is setting, but it’s 72 degrees and you’re perfect in your shorts and Rainbows. Your waiter just brought over your 20-ounce Sculpin. The glass is sweating, but you’re not. Families ride their bikes casually past you. Cars drive by, but no one’s honking. It’s chill. The entire city is chill.
Sure, San Diego isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely the perfect beercation.