Craft Beer Trends in San Diego

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Craft beer being poured.

San Diego is the place to be when it comes to craft beer. More than 150 breweries currently call San Diego home, and many others are thinking about joining in on the fun. Every brewery in San Diego is unique, offering up interesting takes on beer and beer culture.

What’s hot in San Diego craft beer right now? San Diego Breweries looked at what’s going on around San Diego and came up with a few answers.

1. Vegan-Friendly Breweries

Veganism is believed to be the biggest food trend of 2018. Food and beer go hand-in-hand, so it makes sense that an increasing number of breweries are striving to make their places vegan-friendly. Some San Diego breweries, like the Belching Beaver, are doing this by partnering with vegan food trucks. Rather than starting from scratch, these breweries can attract vegans by simply bringing in a truck that serves up tasty vegan fare. Others, like Modern Times, are fully committing the vegan movement and opening up full-blown vegan bars and restaurants.

2. Brewer Collaborations

Craft brewers in San Diego have some tough competition. Brewers are constantly battling for customers, restaurant taps, and retail shelf space. It seems odd, then, that so many brewers are joining forces to collaborate and make beer. This is exactly what is happening, though. Collaborations are popular because the end result yields the experience and knowledge of not one, but two beer masterminds. Collaborations tend to push the boundaries of beer making and introduce new possibilities. Unfortunately, many collaborations, no matter how delicious, may only be a one-time deal.

3. IPAs

Surprise! IPAs continue to all the rage in San Diego this year. It seems as though brewers are striving to make an IPA that no reasonable person would turn down. Thanks to collaborations and the popularity of barrel aging, San Diego breweries continue to create unique and edgy IPA recipes that appeal to the masses. As summer rolls around, expect to see multiple IPAs on each and every brewery’s menu in San Diego.

4. Cans Over Bottles

When given the choice between a can and a bottle, which would you choose? Most of us tend to gravitate toward the bottle. While bottles are currently the primary choice of craft brewers, many are making the shift to cans. Why?

    1. Cans allow for better quality control. Bottles allow light to get in and affect the beer; cans simply don’t. Air can get into a bottle, but cans are completely sealed. The result: beer out of a can will be fresher and more reminiscent of the original product.
    2. Cans are cheaper. If craft breweries can save a few pennies on each container, they will. Third, cans are easier to transport.


  • Cans cool faster and are easier to transport. Craft breweries are thinking about their product’s end user and what will be easiest for them. Cans can easily slip into a compact cooler and get cold within a matter of minutes. Bottles are more cumbersome, louder, and take longer to chill.


Which breweries have traded in (some of) their bottles for cans? So far, Mikkeller Brewing, Mason Ale Works, Pure Project, 32 North Brewing, Rip Current Brewing, Port Brewing Co, and Council Brewing Co. have opted in.

5. Barrel Aging Beers

Brewers in San Diego are really embracing the whole barrel-aged movement. Aging beers in barrels that once contained another liquid is a great way to complement an ale’s flavor while also expanding its flavor profile. San Diego brewers have really pushed the boundaries when it comes to barrel aging beers, opting to use a variety of different barrels.

  • Bourbon Barrel Aged: Refuge Brewery, Acoustic Ales
  • Wine Barrel Aged: Saint Archer Brewery, Council Brewing, Co., Karl Strauss Brewing Company
  • Tequila Barrel Aged: AleSmith
  • Rum Barrel Aged: Mikkeller Brewing

As the bourbon industry continues to strengthen, you can expect that barrel aged beers will continue to be a popular choice of both beer makers and beer drinkers in San Diego.

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