Three Local, Independent Craft Breweries Are Among Nation’s Top Selling.

By Korina Borash


The time hit 3:30 on Friday afternoon, time to ditch the office, beat rush-hour traffic, and crack open your favorite, juicy IPA with the ear-perking… ssssttttt. Ahhh!


Your tastebuds’ choice to enjoy local craft beer are gaining some San Diego watering holes a national spotlight. So what are these fan-favorites? Three well-known breweries with this status- all from local roots- are Stone Brewing Co., Karl Strauss Brewing Co., and Modern Times Beer.


In recent years beer lovers have been drawn to India Pale Ales (IPA). IPA is a boosted version of pale ale, made using more hops and with a higher alcohol content. Created in England, the name is a result of its popularity with British troops stationed in India in the 19th century, when the subcontinent was still a British colony. Extra hops were added so the beer could withstand long voyages and tropical weather, as theorized by Chowhound information. It’s still unclear why or how IPAs were first brewed.


What makes a craft beer crafty compared to other beer? If you’ve ever been shocked at the liquor store by the price difference of a 4-pack of craft beer and a case of domestics, you’re not alone. Domestic beer is typically mass produced with cheaper ingredients, as explained by DrinkTanks manufacturers. This helps keep the final product prices down. Craft beer focuses on the experimentation of master brewers (yes, real people with jobs).


San Diego is a now a spotlight for some of America’s top selling craft breweries. Stone, Karl Strauss, and Modern Times have all been listed in the Brewers Association report of Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies. This report ranked independent breweries around the United States according to how well they do in national sales.


In 9th place, Stone stole the show for San Diego representation. Karl Strauss took spot 40 and rapidly-growing Modern Times came in at number 45. That’s a lot of beer produced in San Diego and sold all across America. Not only did Stone make the chart for independently owned craft brew sales, but they were also ranked as a top overall brewery in a report including mass-producing, domestic companies. In this ranking they scored against industry giants like 1st place Anheuser-Busch Inc. and 2nd spot MillerCoors. Stone took 18th place out of 50.


The sale of San Diego craft beer around the nation has helped boost the local economy. California averages 2.9 breweries per capita, or per 100,000 adults above legal drinking age. In recent Brewers Association facts, last year there was 841 breweries in California- the most per capita than any other state- that produced more than 3.4 million barrels of craft beer. California is likely to add more even breweries and barrels faster in the future. In other words, keep drinking San Diego.


More new breweries means more beer for folks to taste and competition in the market. To keep their local presence strong, Stone, Karl Strauss, and Modern Times get involved in the community on top of constantly introducing new taps. Stone Brewing Co. alone donated millions of dollars to causes such as the Alzheimer’s Association, ballet, and humane societies among others. They continue to give locally to nonprofit organizations. In partnership with Pink Boots Society, Karl Strauss Brewing Co. empowered women beer professionals to advance their careers through education. Since 2014 the team has given scholarships to San Diego State University’s College of Extended Studies, specifically a course in business of distribution. Modern Times tends to attract activity enthusiasts who double as beer enthusiasts, and frequently support charities with the same values, for instance BikeSD. After all, it is more rewarding to enjoy your favorite brews knowing you are sipping to support your community.


Bettering the community through local giving and supplying top-notch beer still wasn’t the end for these high-ranking breweries. For one best seller, rapid expansion, experimentation, and utopian design stirred a national audience at Modern Times. Tourists, and staycationers too, slip on over to the Modern Times original Lomaland Fermentorium along Greenwood St. in Point Loma. Two of their classic pours include the dank hops of the Orderville IPA and favored Black House Stout made with house roasted coffee beans. This hangout is known for its eclectic interior decor. Something new will always grab your attention from the bar made of old books, 32 rotating taps, or a post-it-note mural of Michael Jackson. Modern Times Beer was quickly developed into 5 locations on the West Coast, and most recently opened the trendy Far West Lounge along The Coast Highway in Encinitas. They’ve even expanded as far north as The Belmont Fermentorium Brewery & Restaurant in Portland, Oregon, as stated by Modern Times.


A favorite go to spot in North County San Diego is the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens Escondido location, whose indoor-outdoor feel alone attracts national business. Beer aficionados of all ages flock to the gardens to sip their beer surrounded by nature’s beauty (and outdoor shade in the summer). A top-selling brew at this top-selling company is the Stone IPA, and is available for purchase in all 50 states, rated an outstanding 94 of 100 on BeerAdvocate online ratings, and is brewed with notable hops to define an IPA. In terms of barrels sold (bbls), Stone Brewing Co. has produced and reported upwards of 388,000 bbls annually to date. Since selling their first keg in 1996, Stone has experienced an average growth rate of 40% each year.


A San Diego craft beer article would not be complete without a nod to Master Brewer Karl Strauss, founder of Karl Strauss Brewing Co. Strauss brought the handcrafted style back to San Diego after Prohibition in the 1980s. With a belief people wanted to be a part of, Strauss grew his business from Pacific Beach to national (and international) recognition. Strauss himself believed people should relish life with friends and a good beer to drink, and wanted to produce enough for all of the world to have one of his craft brews. Karl Strauss Brewing Co. was a reason for the now-thriving San Diego craft beer scene and continues to influence the industry with varieties of new beers, collaboration with other breweries, and consistent top sales ranks. This includes the award-winning 2014 Aurora Hoppyalis IPA, which is thought to be a mild IPA to a San Diegan taste bud. To the rest of the nation, the four featured hops and crisp, tangerine finish embody a classic IPA ideal. The legacy of Strauss is still recognized today and popularity of his craft is strong. Learn more about the Karl Strauss story here.


With so many new tasting rooms, experimentals and ever-increasing sales, it’s a wonder how anyone keeps up with the San Diego craft beer industry. It’s easier if you are active on social media of course! I thought you’d be interested in The 10 Best Breweries in San Diego according to Yelp, which also includes one previously mentioned. Here they are:

Ballast Point Little Italy, Societe Brewing Co., Half Door Brewing, Modern Times Beer, Pure Project, Kilowatt Brewing, Belching Beaver Brewery North Park, AleSmith Brewing Co., Ketch Brewing, Ballast Point Miramar.


Next time you sit down to enjoy a cool, refreshing IPA in San Diego, remember you are drinking some of the best IPA’s in America. Cheers, San Diego.




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