Suds Surfing in San Diego: Craft Beer Mecca Hosts Homebrew Con

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For the first time in eight years, San Diego will host the largest annual gathering of recreational brewers in the country, Homebrew Con, from June 22 to 24. With roughly 150 operating brewhouses and 200-plus brewery-owned venues, America’s Finest City is a fine locale for this beer-centric event, but those same stats render it challenging for out-of-towners to wrap their heads around the region when planning their imbibing itineraries.

To help attendees plan and ensure they visit breweries of exceptional repute and historical significance with beers matching their personal tastes, here’s an overview of the communities surrounding the convention site with vital information on breweries and tasting rooms in each. There’s truly something for every type of craft beer enthusiast in San Diego, so go forth and drink your fill (responsibly, of course)!

Near the Conference Venue 

Homebrew Con host site, Town and Country Resort, is in Mission Valley West just off Interstate 8. That east-west freeway facilitates a quick two-mile trip east to Puesto Mission Valley, a Michelin-recognized brewpub helmed by the most revered lager expert in San Diego County, Doug Hasker. A Gordon Biersch expat with over two decades of experience, he has shifted his bottom-fermenting skill set to production of a kaleidoscope of Mexican-style lagers that pair exceptionally well with a menu of SoCal- and Mexico City-influenced tacos, enchiladas, and more. You won’t find a much more San Diego pairing than that! Or head a couple miles west to visit landmark Home Brew Mart, the 25-year-old homebrewing emporium that birthed Ballast Point Brewing. The store and its inventory of ingredients and apparatuses now give way to a bar serving a wide array of BP cores and seasonals, plus scads of small-batch creations covering a wealth of ale and lager styles, some of which are produced on-site.

From there, take a short walk to the off-the-beaten-path forger of English, Irish, German, and Belgian beers, Deft Brewing, a brewery that’s teamed with a meadery and winery to build a lovely outdoor space called The Gärten, offering entertainment several nights a week. Farther north is venerable Coronado Brewing’s main production facility with a kitchen-equipped indoor-outdoor taproom serving up largely West Coast-style ales, as well as a tasting room from “it” brewery Harland Brewing, the appeal of which is amped up by a comfy back patio. The latter offers an assortment of IPAs and lagers along with occasional pastry beers.

Coronado Brewing, 1205 Knoxville St; Deft Brewing, 5328 Banks St; Harland Brewing Bay Park, 4112 Napier St; Home Brew Mart, 5401 Linda Vista Rd; Puesto Mission Valley, 5010 Mission Center Rd.

A Slightly Longer Uber Ride 

Clusters of breweries and tasting rooms are located throughout San Diego County, making it easy to get more bang for your rideshare buck. Here are three five-star communities worth the trip.

North Park

Regarded by many as the craft beer capital of the city dubbed the craft beer capital of America, North Park is packed with brewery venues, bars, and restaurants. It’s the place to be and perhaps the only neighborhood where you can taste multiple National Homebrew Competition medal-winning IPAs that have gone on to be produced on a commercial scale.

The first is the most awarded amateur IPA of all time, Hop-Fu! Conceived of by San Diegan Kelsey McNair, it is the flagship West Coast IPA at his stylish, two-story North Park Beer Co., and struck gold at the 2022 World Beer Cup (WBC) after nabbing bronze at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) that same year. Prefer something opaque? Hop-Fu!’s hazy sibling, Art Is Hard, took silver at GABF in 2021. And just half a mile north is El Cid Brewing. A Navy-themed nano installed in the shell of former American Homebrewers Association (AHA) Homebrew Shop of the Year, The Homebrewer, it’s the pro-brewing passion project of Eric Bridges, a retired Senior Chief who placed third at last year’s NHC with his Knifehand IPA.

Another local business with NHC roots is a tasting room belonging to Rip Current Brewing. Brewmaster Paul Sangster was the Ninkasi Award winner at the 2011 competition and has kept the homebrewing spirit alive at his brewery, crafting lesser-seen styles in addition to hop-forward crowd-pleasers like Lupulin Lust double IPA. Several more obscure offerings have won GABF awards, including two-time gold-medalist Breakline Bock and the silver-clad Black Lagoon Scotch ale, both of which combined to earn Rip Current Very Small Brewery of the Year honors in 2016.

Other North Park standouts include Fall Brewing, a popular hangout among local brewers featuring balanced, largely SoCal-style beers and a rock-show motif; tasting rooms from the sustainability-minded makers of murky IPAs and creatively flavored saisons, sours, and stouts, Pure Project Brewing; and bike-friendly beer bastion Rouleur Brewing. Also, El Cajon Boulevard’s lease-to-brew Brewer Igniter facility currently houses one-year-old upstart Seek Beer Co. and its family of crispy-boi lagers, IPAs, and modern-day sours from a transplant who opened and ran Urban South Brewery’s Houston brewpub before going west.

Those looking for beer and a bite would do well to hit up The Original 40 Brewing (especially for Sunday brunch the day after the conference) or TapRoom Beer Co., where the beer board is broad, diverse, and typically filled with fun and interesting collaborations involving other San Diego brewers. 

El Cid Brewing, 2911 El Cajon Blvd; Fall Brewing, 4542 30th St; GOAL. Brewing, 3052 El Cajon Blvd, Ste A; North Park Beer Co., 3038 University Ave; The Original 40 Brewing, 3117 University Ave; Pure Project Brewing North Park, 2867 El Cajon Blvd; Rip Current Brewing North Park, 4101 30th St; Rouleur Brewing North Park, 2899 University Ave; Seek Beer Co., 3052 El Cajon Blvd, Ste C; TapRoom Beer Co., 2000 El Cajon Blvd

Kearny Mesa 

Away from the brightness of urban lights and sunshiny beaches is Kearny Mesa, an industrial-zoned area that’s home to a half-dozen breweries. The most well-known of the sextet is Societe Brewing, a 10-year-old award-winning business with a menu heavy in hoppy fare such as The Pupil IPA and two-time GABF gold-medal-winning session IPA, The Coachman. Those unfiltered, definitively West Coast beers are augmented by several Belgian-style ales and stouts.

A few blocks west is cult favorite Hopnonymous Brewing with its regularly rotating menu of hoppy ales juxtaposed with pastry stouts, adjunct-laced sours, and solid under-the-radar Belgian-style ales. On the same block, Kilowatt Brewing wins points—and GABF medals—for experimental numbers like its Maple Smoked Maibock and Chocolate Macadamia Stout. But wait…there’s more. A secret entrance spirits visitors from the blacklights and psychedelic art of Kilowatt’s tasting room to an island-inspired tiki-cocktail speakeasy dubbed Forbidden Cove.

Those headed to Kearny Mesa needn’t pack a lunch. The community is home to Convoy Street, which is filled with restaurants serving authentic Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean cuisine, not to mention San Diego’s longest-tenured craft beer bar, O’Brien’s Pub, owned by former WBC Brewer of the Year Tom Nickel and featuring beers from his namesake Nickel Beer Co.

Hopnonymous Brewing, 7705 Convoy Ct; Kilowatt Brewing / Forbidden Cove, 7576 Clairemont Mesa Blvd; O’Brien’s Pub, 4646 Convoy St; Societe Brewing, 8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd


Nicknamed “Beeramar” for its sheer volume of breweries, Miramar is another industrial area where good beer abounds. A unique experience for any homebrewer can be had at yeast company White Labs, with an in-house brewery producing batches of wort that are split fermented using different house strains. The resultant beers are then served side by side at White Labs’ tasting room to illustrate the dramatic role yeast plays in brewing. White Labs also  serves delicious pizzas using dough made with its yeast.

Farther west is legendary local interest AleSmith Brewing, serving fan faves Speedway Stout and .394 San Diego Pale Ale out of the largest tasting room in the county. That two-story venue is home to the Tony Gwynn Museum, a dugout area that’s perfect for catching a game with beer in hand, along with a mezzanine area, outdoor patio, and company store selling beer, apparel, and house-made fromage from on-site side hustle, CheeseSmith. Visitors to Miramar can also visit Ballast Point’s bar-and-restaurant-equipped mother ship, which also serves the English-influenced beers of lesser-known parent company Kings & Convicts Brewing.

The area is also home to San Diego’s only USDA-certified all-organic beer company, Protector Brewery, run by an ex-Navy SEAL who supports active-duty and retired servicepeople via multiple charity beers and fundraising initiatives. Solid IPAs, Belgian-style ales, and beers made with local honey, purple corn, spruce tips, and more can be found at Duck Foot Brewing, while the liquid wares of Embolden Beer Co. share tap space with hard tea, kombucha, and barrel-aged seltzers from sister company New Motion Beverages.

AleSmith Brewing, 9990 AleSmith Ct; Ballast Point Brewing, 9045 Carroll Way; Duck Foot Brewing, 8920 Kenamar Dr; Embolden Beer Co. / New Motion Beverages, 8655 Production Ave; Kings & Convicts Brewing, 9550 Distribution Ave; Protector Brewery, 8680 Miralani Dr; White Labs, 9495 Candida St

Near the Airport

Whether you’ve just landed and are chomping at the bit for some local suds or are camped out and killing time before flying out, the following are your best options for brewery spots close to San Diego International Airport.

Point Loma

There are few experiences more immersive or relaxing than kicking back with a beer on an outdoor patio with a cross-bay view of downtown San Diego. That is what awaits beer fans in Point Loma—along with what are widely considered the finest lagers in the county—at the waterfront biergarten of award-winning Eppig Brewing. Those seeking suds and sustenance can drop in on the largest restaurant in the entire county, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, where a menu of upscale pub fare (ahi poke “nachos,” a wagyu “luxe” burger, duck pot pie) pairs with a wide assortment of beers produced on an in-house 10-barrel system that goes well beyond the company’s familiar core lineup.

Eppig Brewing Waterfront Biergarten, 2817 Dickens St; Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Rd

Ocean Beach

Craving one last stroll on the beach or people-watching in the city’s most proudly weird neighborhood? Chart a course for Ocean Beach. Not only does it have its own Pizza Port brewpub and all the award-winning beers that go with it, it also boasts the three-story eponymous brewpub, OB Brewery, named Small Brewpub of the Year at GABF in 2019. The latter is on Newport Avenue, which packs a whopping four tasting rooms into a single block, including one from off-center, all-sour (except for one lager) concern, California Wild Ales.

California Wild Ales Ocean Beach, 4896 Newport Ave; OB Brewery, 5041 Newport Ave; Pizza Port Ocean Beach, 1956 Bacon St


San Diego’s beer scene was born in 1989 when a German master brewer who’d headed production for Pabst Brewing came out of retirement to help his nephew craft the city’s first local beers post-Prohibition. Named for that familiar headman, Karl Strauss Brewing was an instant success, and its OG red-brick brewpub on Columbia Street remains a popular haunt for those who live and work downtown. In addition to classics like Red Trolley Ale and Aurora Hoppyalis IPA, select beers from Karl Strauss Distributing’s partner breweries (Black Plague, Booze Brothers, Duck Foot, Hodad’s, Mason Ale Works, and Rouleur) are also available. Newer but just as notable is The Arbor, a nearby Little Italy taproom and kitchen concept from Burgeon Beer Co., a six-year-old business with a formidable IPA and lager game.

The East Village includes a religious experience from world-renowned Belgian- and barrel-aged beer op and 2007 GABF Small Brewery of the Year The Lost Abbey. That comes care of a tasting room built into a church dating back to 1906. Elements of the brand’s iconic Catholic-inspired artwork meld with historic fixtures to provide a pseudo-monastic atmosphere made even more enjoyable by an incredibly lengthy tap list filled out by beverages from sub-brands Tiny Bubbles (Brett beers), and Khárisma (hard sparkling teas).

Also brewing at historic East Village sites are Mission Brewing, which continues to breathe new life into a circa-1880s Wonder Bread factory, and Half Door Brewing, a family-run operation from Irish immigrants bringing the warmth of an Emerald Isle pub inside a longstanding two-story house. Both of those businesses are one block from Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres (who will be hosting the Nationals during Homebrew Con), along with a more recent addition, East Village Brewing. Outfitted with a modern aesthetic and a half-dozen serving tanks, East Village is the product of two high-level Ballast Point brewers who exclusively brew with ingredients sourced west of the Mississippi.

Baseball fans may also want to stop by downtown’s Resident Brewing to try No-No Joe, a double IPA brewed in collaboration with the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Friar franchise history, Joe Musgrove. Their vaunted hazies also score points with locals, as does Vacation, a coconut-infused West Coast IPA that was first brewed as the winning recipe from an AHA-sanctioned homebrew competition hosted by Stone Brewing.

The Arbor by Burgeon Beer Co., 1326 Kettner Blvd; The Church by The Lost Abbey, 1313 J St; East Village Brewing, 201 Park Blvd, Ste 101; Half Door Brewing, 903 Island Ave; Karl Strauss Brewing Downtown, 1157 Columbia St.; Mission Brewing, 1441 L St; Resident Brewing, 1065 Fourth Ave.

(Editor’s note: Register for Homebrew Con at

Brandon Hernández is an award-winning San Diego-based beer and travel journalist who has authored a pair of guides to the county’s brewery-owned venues. He has covered the brewing industry for 16 years, contributing thousands of articles to newspapers, magazines, and online outlets, and spent nearly a decade working for craft breweries. He is currently the executive editor for San Diego Beer News, an on-air correspondent for FOX 5 San Diego, beer industry contributor for The San Diego Union-Tribune, and the food-and-beverage editor for luxury publication Ranch & Coast Magazine. is fully dedicated to small and independent U.S. breweries. We are published by the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers. Stories and opinions shared on do not imply endorsement by or positions taken by the Brewers Association or its members.