Girls may run the world, but men run the beer industry. Yet in San Diego—the Southern Californian city that has blossomed into one of the world’s premier craft beer hubs—the scene is rapidly diversifying. For Here Magazine issue 09, we scouted the tasting rooms designed to be inclusive of all types of folks, from the hop junkies to the lager lovers—flannel and neckbeard optional.
It’s difficult to find a beer that I don’t like. I like them dark and malty, face-twistingly sour, astronomically hoppy; I like the unexpected creaminess of a heavy stout and the sharp tang of a punchy gose. I like bold beers and I like session beers; I like pitchers and I like flights. I navigate menus the length of novels with dexterity and speed, confident in my ability to isolate satisfying brews.
And yet, stepping up to the bar, I’m plagued by a lingering sense of dread—a response to macho energy so palpable you can practically reach out over the bar and pour yourself a pint of it on tap. Laura Ulrich, a small-batch brewer at Stone and president of Pink Boots Society (a global membership-based group that supports women brewers), confirms that I’m not alone in this feeling.
“I think the question of worrying about being judged for what you order as a woman is very real,” Ulrich tells me. She has been in the brewing business for 15 years. “It’s happened to me where I ask to taste a beer and they look at me and say, ‘Do you even like sours?’ And I just want to jump over the bar. Like, you don’t even know who I am. I make sour beer! I love sour beer! It happens whether you’re a novice or you’re advanced.”
San Diego—what many consider to be the craft beer capital of the world, with over 200 breweries and tasting rooms in the county’s 325-mile radius—is known for its West Coast–style IPA, a notoriously hoppy concoction that’s bitter enough to polarize even the experts. “I didn’t like IPAs when I started at Stone,” Ulrich says. And it’s a style that can be especially intimidating to beginner beer drinkers—many of whom are women. “You’ll hear a lot of women say, ‘Oh I don’t like beer.’ But maybe they just don’t want that bitterness right up in their face. Maybe they’re interested in porters, or maybe they’re interested in browns. I think the cool thing about San Diego is that we do have a big, diverse group of breweries that are making different stuff.”
As the beer market continues to grow, tasting rooms have to deliver a memorable experience that will keep thirsty customers coming back—and that starts with creating a welcoming environment for all beer drinkers. To discover the best tasting rooms for beer lovers at any stage in their journey, we tapped three prominent women who, like the city they call home, continue to push the boundaries of the industry.
Cofounder of Eppig Brewing
Amplified Ale Works
East Village is an up-and-coming area for breweries and satellite tasting rooms, and Amplified Ale Works’s new location, with an amazing outdoor space, is a standout. It’s large, open, and has grassy space and a laid-back beer garden in the San Diego sunshine. In addition to their beer menu and hosting live music on the patio, they offer a solid pub and cocktail menu!
Stairway to Lemon Saison with lemondrop hops and lemon zest. It’s a great patio beer that they have on tap right now. You also can’t go wrong with Electrocution IPA, their flagship.
We are one of the only breweries in San Diego with a dedicated lager program. At any given time … you’ll find three to seven different lagers on tap, including our Great American Beer Festival gold medal–winning lager from last year, which is our Vienna Lager. We recently opened our second location, which is our satellite tasting room on the waterfront in Point Loma, and it’s actually San Diego’s only waterfront tasting room. You can’t beat the view, and it’s an atmosphere you don’t normally get at tasting rooms.
Civility, which was brewed with San Diego weather in mind. It’s light and refreshing with citrus notes—perfect for a beginner beer-drinker. The next step up would be the Vienna Lager—if it’s on tap, it’s a must try! And for the expert beer-drinkers, go for the Moment of Weakness Dark American Sour; it’s one of our most complex beers, and we only brew it once a year.
Beer Ambassador at Karl Strauss Brewing Co.
Deft Brewing is incredible. It’s bright and sunny inside, and they make a lot of old-world-style beers. They do a really good job of labeling everything, and they tell you which are the malty or the really hoppy options without being pretentious, like, “Oh you don’t know what a malted porter is?” I really love that model. Deft has the best customer service and [they] acknowledge anyone right away, and really spend the time to find out your story as well as explain theirs. It’s a bit of a hidden gem.
Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Karl Strauss is the most inclusive brewery I’ve ever known to exist. Our brewer Melissa is incredible, she does a lot of amazing beers as well. The whole team recognizes her for what she’s doing; it’s like a lady tribe of support. And as for the tasting room, Karl has the indoor-outdoor backyard feel that I find very inviting and reflects back on the San Diego vibe.
Columbia Street Amber, Aurora Hoppyalis, and any of our small-batch beers.
Small-batch Brewer at Stone Brewing
After work we grab a beer and then head outside at Stone World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido. Not only is the outdoor space huge, it’s got all these spots that you can chill out with a beer. Our tasting rooms are all unique in their own rights, though—the Tap Room in Downtown by the ballpark to the Oceanside Store. One thing all our tasting rooms have in common is the outside seating options.
Second Chance Beer Co.
I love what cofounder Marty Mendiola did when he was at Rock Bottom and I love what he and cofounder Virginia Morrison have done with Second Chance now. The North Park space is big, it’s open, there’s different parts; you can hang out and play cornhole and just socialize, but the brewery’s right there. You don’t feel disconnected, you feel close to what’s happening.
Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter
Bagby Beer Co.
Jeff Bagby’s location up in Oceanside is great. You can go to the rooftop, you can be in the restaurant, you can be in the bar. Plus you can get food and cocktails—you don’t have to just get his beer. But his beer is excellent, of course.
Bohemian-style Pilsner. (But I always end up grabbing a margarita while I’m there, too.)