Finding one's self on the threshold of America's Finest (Beer) City can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. With the city expecting record July tourism there are certain to be mobs of flustered explorers downtown staring at Google maps, obstructing sidewalks and stepping unaware into traffic. Like many in the beer community, I avoid the area. Downtown establishments notoriously strive to appeal to the lowest common denominator of drinking and offer little more than faux-craft and macro crap. It can be a challenge to find the beer that makes San Diego such a fabulous beer destination in the area. But here are ones worth finding:
Mission Brewery (1441 L St.) is located just east of Petco Park in the refurbished Wonder Bread facility. A large kid-and-dog-friendly tasting room and long list of house-brewed beer make this perhaps the most crowd-friendly option. Mission brews a San Diego-standard variety of hoppy IPAs and robust flavored stouts along with a rotating list of seasonal beers. Mission now offers free rides to the brewery from anywhere downtown, so no one is ever more than five minutes away from a fresh cold brew.
Half Door Brewing (903 Island Ave.) is an East Village brew house. Located in a converted historic house, the rustic two-story exterior looks out of place among the glass and concrete high-rises one block north of Petco. Half Door offers a full menu and two floors of indoor and outdoor seating. The beer is a decent sampling of San Diego style, especially the Citra-hoped Half Door session and the #Buzzwords pale ale.
New to downtown, Resident Brewing Co. can be found at the back of The Local restaurant. Helmed by champion home brewer Robert Masterson, Resident offers another family-friendly destination downtown for anyone searching for an authentic San Diego beer experience. What better beer for a vacation than the Vacation coconut IPA?
No downtown beer guide would be complete without mention of Monkey Paw Brewing (805 16th St.). Head brewer Cosimo Sorrentino curates a tap list that boasts both house-brewed and guest beer. Sorrentino is a prolific collaborator and it is not unusual to also find two or three collab beers on tap. Monkey Paw has a kitchen, but, being also a full-service bar, is not family friendly. It is, however, a must-stop brewery for anyone with even a passing interest in craft beer.
Downtown is not a complete wash for local beer, it's just harder to find. There is good, local stuff outside the tourist and convention-goer traps that line the main thoroughfares.