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Lucky for beer aficionados who happen to be attending the AAO 2017 Annual Session, San Diego ranks among one of the leading U.S. destinations for craft beer. While youâ€™re in town for the conference, youâ€™ll want to make time to explore this craft brewing mecca. Popular breweries, tap houses and brew pubs include Blind Lady Ale House, Ballast Point and Hamiltonâ€™s Tavern, among others.
A panoramic image of the interior of Ballast Point's Little Italy tap room. The location ranks among San Diego's top craft beer destinations. Image Source: Fuzheado via Wikimedia Commons
With more than 140 breweries and brewpubs, San Diego County claims bragging rights as the craft beer capital of America. Beer aficionados praise the region’s diversity of flavors, styles and techniques. Some credit the innovation to San Diego’s lack of a beer tradition while others point to beer as another avenue for California creativity.
Whatever. Make the most of your beer-tasting time by hanging out at a popular brewpub with craft brews on tap or opt for a guided pub crawl, complete with driver and local brewing lore.
RELATED: More AAO 2017 Annual Session Coverage
BREWPUBS AND BEER BARS
Blind Lady Ale House: San Diego City Beat crowned Blind Lady as the city’s 2016 Best Brew Pub. Their custom-designed direct draw system shortens the journey from barrel to glass so that the beer tastes its best. The family-friendly place earns high marks for its craft brews and pizza.
Hamilton’s Tavern: A traditional alehouse, Hamilton’s Tavern has an impressive list of awards. Rated among the top 16 best beer bars for 2017 by West Coaster and listed in Draft Magazine’s top 100 U.S. beer bars, Hamilton’s constantly changes its wide selection of craft beers. Try the grilled cheese, another award-winner.
North Park Beer Co: This brewery teams up with popular Mastiff Sausage to feature their links in the brewery’s tasting room. The eatery also serves burgers, quinoa, and lamb stout stew. Down Hop-Fu and Ride the Tiger, popular picks.
Ballast Point Brewing Company: The recently opened Kettle Room within the brewery’s Little Italy location aims to deliver upmarket fare. The starter chips come with caviar and entrees include seared tuna and wagyu chuck roll. Ballast Point Brewing Company has six locations with tours available in Little Italy. Among the popular beers are Mocha Martin, Sea Rose, and Calm Before the Storm.
Brew Project: Committed to showcasing San Diego beer, the Brew Project keeps many local beers on tap, making it among the best places to stay put and savor the range of local brews.
BREW TOURS AND TASTINGS
Brew Hop: The company builds your private tour around your choices. Don’t know what you want? Talk with them to come up with a beer crawl customized for you. The 2.5 hour Tasters Tour visits one to two breweries, and the marathon 5-hour Connoisseur Tour covers three to four breweries. Brew Hop works with more than 60 of San Diego’s breweries.
Brewery Tours of San Diego: Taste samples at breweries on afternoon or evening tours. Breweries may include Ballast Point, Mission Brewery and Pizza Point. Tours depart weekdays and Saturday afternoons as well as Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Follow Candyce H. Stapen on Twitter: @FamilyiTrips