California is acclaimed for its longstanding thriving craft beer industry, and, as such, sometimes the most challenging part of drinking craft beer in the Golden State (a perfect moniker to be sure) is figuring out where to go – and how to choose which spots to visit within each destination.
Here’s a closer look at how these regions across the state are making visitors and locals alike feel exceptionally “hoppy.”
San Francisco and Oakland
Located in a historic building at Ocean Beach, Chalet Brewery is a San Francisco City Historic Landmark constructed way back in 1925. It’s the only brewery in San Francisco that features views of Golden Gate Park and the Pacific Ocean, with both indoor and outdoor seating. Across the Bay, the Oakland Ale Trail developed by Visit Oakland in collaboration with a variety of partners from Oakland’s craft beer industry celebrates the strength of Oakland’s craft beer community. The trail features 13 breweries, 13 craft beer destinations and two cider stops.
In Nevada County, Grass Valley Brewing Co. and Three Forks Bakery & Brewery created the Independence Trail Ale to raise funds for this local trail’s restoration after it was damaged in a fire. For every pint or can purchased, $1 is donated to Bear Yuba Land Trust to support its rebuild. And nearby, Sacramento has seen an explosion of craft brewers in recent years, anchored by prominent names like Track 7, Ruhstaller, Urban Roots and Device Brewing Co. And hard cider fans have a new hot spot in Nitty’s Cider recently opened tasting room.
Visalia and Tulare County
Visalia’s craft brew scene quickly becomes a must-stop destination for beer lovers, pub crawl aficionados and microbrewery experience seekers. As the area is a natural farming region, brewers have access to the freshest hops in the state and a vibrant downtown full of beer entrepreneurs and connoisseurs. BarrelHouse Brewing, Brewbakers Brewing Company (located at the site of Visalia’s first beer garden), Visalia Brewing Company (VCB), Sequoia Brewing Company, The Cellar Door, Pita Kabob Gastropub and Kaweah Brewing Company offer travelers more than 100 different tap options.
Laguna Beach Beer Company’s mission is to brew a broad range of beers from their core styles to their Artisan Series and never compromise quality or creativity. In Huntington Beach, The Surf City USA Barrel Trail is the ultimate opportunity to explore the city through a carefully curated selection of 12 craft breweries — including Beachwood Brewing, Flashpoint Brewing Company, Four Sons Brewing and more. Inland, in Anaheim, discover more than 20 craft breweries, including Modern Times Leisuretown, which is the first brewery of its kind to offer a swimming pool for guests to lounge.
San Luis Obispo County
With more than 10 local beer and cider breweries within its city limits, San Luis Obispo has no shortage of craft beer. Bang the Drum is a family-run brewery and the perfect spot to escape a hot day or spend the evening with friends. Oak & Otter Brewing is a welcoming space that often features live music. There’s also the “Be Hoppy Hop On Tour,” which takes care of all the hassle of organizing an experience. This beer-themed bus tour will make reservations at three award-winning local breweries for 20 people and deliver tour-goers to each spot in style.
Mendocino offers seven breweries spaced throughout the County. Ukiah Brewing Company in Ukiah was the first certified organic brewpub in the nation. There’s also Anderson Valley Brewing Company, which is located in the heart of Mendocino County’s wine country but boasts a bevy of beers carrying the name of the lost language of the area–Boontling. And in Fort Bragg, the award-winning North Coast Brewing Company has long been considered a pioneer in the craft beer movement since its opening in 1988.
Benicia and Solano County
In July 2021 Mare Island Brewing Co. opened its third location, First Street Tap House, in downtown Benicia. Visitors can enjoy a selection of 20 craft beers in a historic building that was originally built in 1890. Nearby, Bruehol Benicia Brewing serves German-style pilsners, lagers, West Coast-style ales, and a variety of IPAs. Be sure to check out the name of each German beer, which represents something historic about the city of Benicia (one of the oldest cities in California).
San Diego County
It’s no secret that San Diego is a craft beer lovers’ paradise. With four locations in just San Diego county, Ballast Point Brewing Company is one of California’s best-known craft breweries. Considered a “nano-brewery” due to its small size when it first opened in 2010 in Miramar, Mike Hess Brewing Co. offers the public a unique tour perspective, allowing guests to access and view the brewhouse from raised catwalks above the tanks. And since opening its first location in Kearny Mesa 10 years ago, Societe has grown its legion of loyal fans, one beer at a time, led by their rally cry, “Beer Folk Unite.”
Los Angeles County
Benny Boy Brewing is located just minutes from Downtown Los Angeles in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood as the first combined brewery and cidery in Los Angeles. Here, visitors can explore a spacious outdoor beer and cider garden serving Old World European-inspired beers straight from the tanks in the taproom tank bar and clean dry ciders made with 100% raw apple juice in the cider house. Closer to the coast, Santa Monica Brew Works is the first and only craft brewery located in Santa Monica. Their California-inspired beers are brewed for those who live the “Beach Brewed” lifestyle.
Napa and Sonoma Counties
Most people think of wine when they hear Napa, but there’s a great craft beer scene too. With half a dozen different breweries to check out, like Fieldwork and the Napa Barrel Project, visitors may find themselves coming back to Downtown Napa for the beer and not the wine. And nearby, Sonoma County offers more than 30 different craft breweries. Local spots include Russian River Brewing Co. – known for its internationally renowned Pliny the Younger, as well as Third Street Aleworks and Belly Left Coast Kitchen & Tap Room.
Del Norte County
Del Norte County’s secret to brewing award-winning craft beers in a region with less than 30,000 people is most likely a combination of the water and the local brewers’ talent. Both SeaQuake Brewing and Port O’Pints Brewing Co. batch their beer with water from one of the cleanest rivers in the world, the Smith River, which has garnered them each plenty of ribbons and medals for their beer. Port O’Pints, a small batch brewery making only 700 barrels of beer annually, has received over 67 awards to date.
Portola Hotel & Spa is home to Monterey’s original craft brewery, Peter B’s Brewpub, where newly appointed Head Brewer Natalie Mika and her team can be found brewing award-winning craft beer. Nearby, downtown Salinas is experiencing a surge of new local craft breweries, with five taprooms all within a 600-foot walking distance. There’s La Cantina, one of the newest additions to Salinas’ brewery scene – and established favourites like XL Public House and Farmers Union Pour House, whose rotating list of beer and wine keep visitors coming back.
Ventura is a seaside city offering a small-town craft beer experience courtesy of humble, creative, and award-winning local brewers. There are more than a dozen craft breweries in Ventura. Sample a prize-winning ale and enjoy a Pacific Ocean view at MadeWest Brewery on the Ventura Pier or head downtown to Ventura Coast Brewing Company before relaxing at a picnic table outdoors at legendary Topa Topa Brewing Company.
With glass purposefully in hand, we at Travel Industry Today continue our series on some of the planet’s best bars, patios and rooftop venues. For more articles in the series, click here:
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First published at Travel Industry Today
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