Rip Current Brewing in Vista and North Park
    Photo by Beth Demmon

    The cream filling in the Oreo that is San Diego doesn't have official boundaries, but when it comes to beer, the vast majority of San Diego's 128 (and counting) craft breweries are situated in that sweet spot between state routes 56 and 94. Look north or south, however, and you'll notice that the county's extremities have been quietly racing each other for fringe beer dominance.

    While much has been made of the #southbayuprising movement (as well it should), North County undoubtedly has the upper hand when it comes to history and local brewing roots. Beer powerhouses such as Lost Abbey/Port Brewing/The Hop Concept in San Marcos and Stone Brewing Company in Escondido have a decade (or two) under their belts, while most other breweries can only claim a fraction of those years. Even relative "newcomers" such as Rip Current Brewing Company in San Marcos, Toolbox Brewing Company in Vista and Oceanside's Bagby Beer Company boast brewing pedigrees that trounce the majority of other craft breweries.

    And the north shows no signs of stopping. Oceanside Brewing Company recently became Oceanside's eighth brewery and multiple others are in the works, making it one of the fastest-growing craft beer cities in San Diego County. With sky-high real estate prices, antiquated urban zoning laws and sheer saturation starting to stifle the growth rate of breweries in mid-city, the northern outskirts of San Diego remain a beacon for aspiring beerpreneurs.

    Still, South County has plenty of ammunition to fire back with. Between mid-city's craft renaissance and Baja California's burgeoning beer scene—on top of a swelling population—South Bay's rise was fairly inevitable. Plus, as the long-held craft beer demographic of white guys dominating the scene has evolved, so have historically Latino neighborhoods like Barrio Logan. This diversification of beer enthusiasts has paved the way for craft beer to stake its claim, for better or worse, in gentrifying neighborhoods.

    Coupled with a much closer proximity to beer meccas like Miramar and North Park, South Bay increasingly looks like an attractive location for breweries. Newer residents such as Thr3e Punk Ales(Chula Vista), and Machete Beer House (National City) have put down roots here, and satellite tasting rooms such as Coronado Brewing Company's outpost in Imperial Beach and Vista-based Iron Fist Brewing Company in Barrio Logan prove migration southward is more than just a Game of Thrones survival strategy.

    Craft beer festivals like Avenue Amps & Ales, tap rooms like Third Avenue Alehouse and the South Bay Craft Beer Business Guild have also given a boost and much-needed recognition to beer businesses from the border to National City. Overall craft beer quality has a way to go before being comparable to other regions, but with East County in a veritable holding pattern of beer development, South County's potential to match North County's brewing scene is seemingly limitless.

    So who is poised for victory in San Diego's craft civil war: the old guard or the rising star? Luckily for everyone, it's not really a competition. But if it was, craft devotees from Fallbrook to Imperial Beach are all winners.


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