With more than 900 breweries statewide according to the California Craft Brewers Association (and probably more by the time you read this), it’s safe to say that the craft beer movement isn’t just booming in California, it’s BOOMING—capital letters intended. From the state’s northernmost stands of coast redwoods, south to the sun-scorched Mojave Desert, the craft beer movement has reached every corner of the Golden State. Even serious wine-producing regions like Napa Valley now tout their latest microbreweries. And, because this is California, the state boasts more than its share of innovators.
According to Jeff Smith, the writer/director of the film Craft: The California Beer Documentary, “The ingredients list is ever-changing and never-ending, from chocolate to cinnamon, to habanero peppers, vanilla, one with curry… everything is possible.”
This phenomenon didn’t happen overnight. Anchor Brewing (San Francisco), New Albion Brewing Co. (Sonoma), and Sierra Nevada (Chico) are credited with having kickstarted the craft beer boom in the 70s and 80s. The 90s saw the number of California breweries grow from less than 70 to around 200, with present-day stalwarts such as Lagunitas (Petaluma) and Ballast Point (San Diego) gaining footholds.
But it’s during the past 10 years that things have really taken off—success stories like Escondido’s Stone Brewing, recently named as the 8th largest craft brewing company in the nation by the Brewers Association, San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Company, famous for their limited edition and experimental brews, and Auburn’s Knee Deep Brewing Co., which specializes in ultra-hoppy selections, have helped fuel California’s ascent as it has become the country’s top beer-producing state.
Read on to see where you can get a taste of the state’s many craft brew scenes by region.