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San Diego beer facing local competition in Bay Area

Excited about drinking everything in San Francisco

Cellarmaker Brewing is one of the Bay Area's rising craft beer companies.
Cellarmaker Brewing is one of the Bay Area's rising craft beer companies.

As popular as San Diego breweries are, few distribute nationally. Green Flash says it’s in 50 states, which means Alpine now is, too. Stone's at 41, while AleSmith's at 19 and rising. Of course, Ballast Point has recently taken extreme measures to get above its current 30-state reach.

For most local breweries, distributing to Orange County and Los Angeles is a victory in itself. But some have hit the benchmark of in-state success: the 500-mile mark. That gets you to the San Francisco Bay Area.

I visited some of San Francisco's thriving beer destinations to get an idea which San Diego beers have made it to the city and which are currently popular there. I found all of the aforementioned, a few of the other well-distributed brands, and even a few smaller, newer companies establishing a presence in California's cultural capital.

At Toronado, the Lower Haight's mothership to our North Park taproom, I spotted Port Brewing and the Lost Abbey's Hop Concept on tap, alongside beers from Coronado Brewing and Vista's Mother Earth. In the Mission, I visited Zeitgeist, a popular craft-beer dive bar that always offers a Stone IPA on tap; they also featured Coronado, Mother Earth, and Lost Abbey.

Elsewhere in the Mission, I stopped by the Monk's Kettle, a tap room and restaurant with a penchant for Belgians, barrel-aged beers, and wild ales, including a vintage bottle selection that dates back years. Featured on that list were a couple of Stone selections, some Port Brewing, and plenty of Lost Abbey. As the bartender told me, the latter is a particular favorite: "We get as much Lost Abbey as we can and hide it as long as we can," he said, adding that Modern Times had become really popular among his regular clientele.

City Beer Store is one of San Francisco's top beer destinations.

A bartender at City Beer Store, San Francisco's preeminent bottle shop, has also noticed an increase in demand for the two-year-old Point Loma brewery. "Since Modern Times came into the market earlier this year," he said, "we see a fair amount of them." He went on to say, "Alpine is kind of a staple at this point…. Pizza Port now as well." He also mentioned occasional shipments from Monkey Paw, Rip Current and Societe — usually delivered personally by brewery staff enjoying a visit to the city.

However, when I asked him whether the shop was actively seeking beer from any of our smaller or newer breweries, he struggled to name any others. "I'm not following the San Diego scene as closely as I used to," he said, crediting a recent boom in Bay Area craft beer. "The past two, maybe three, years the Bay Area has seen a huge growth," he added. "I'm really excited about drinking everything that's happening here now."

That boom includes breweries Cellarmaker, Alpha Acid, Hop Dogma, Fieldwork, and Berkeley sour specialist The Rare Barrel. I tried beers from each of these breweries — all good to great. Now I'm forced to wonder how long before they make the 500-mile trip to distribute regularly to our local beer haunts.

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Cellarmaker Brewing is one of the Bay Area's rising craft beer companies.
Cellarmaker Brewing is one of the Bay Area's rising craft beer companies.

As popular as San Diego breweries are, few distribute nationally. Green Flash says it’s in 50 states, which means Alpine now is, too. Stone's at 41, while AleSmith's at 19 and rising. Of course, Ballast Point has recently taken extreme measures to get above its current 30-state reach.

For most local breweries, distributing to Orange County and Los Angeles is a victory in itself. But some have hit the benchmark of in-state success: the 500-mile mark. That gets you to the San Francisco Bay Area.

I visited some of San Francisco's thriving beer destinations to get an idea which San Diego beers have made it to the city and which are currently popular there. I found all of the aforementioned, a few of the other well-distributed brands, and even a few smaller, newer companies establishing a presence in California's cultural capital.

At Toronado, the Lower Haight's mothership to our North Park taproom, I spotted Port Brewing and the Lost Abbey's Hop Concept on tap, alongside beers from Coronado Brewing and Vista's Mother Earth. In the Mission, I visited Zeitgeist, a popular craft-beer dive bar that always offers a Stone IPA on tap; they also featured Coronado, Mother Earth, and Lost Abbey.

Elsewhere in the Mission, I stopped by the Monk's Kettle, a tap room and restaurant with a penchant for Belgians, barrel-aged beers, and wild ales, including a vintage bottle selection that dates back years. Featured on that list were a couple of Stone selections, some Port Brewing, and plenty of Lost Abbey. As the bartender told me, the latter is a particular favorite: "We get as much Lost Abbey as we can and hide it as long as we can," he said, adding that Modern Times had become really popular among his regular clientele.

City Beer Store is one of San Francisco's top beer destinations.

A bartender at City Beer Store, San Francisco's preeminent bottle shop, has also noticed an increase in demand for the two-year-old Point Loma brewery. "Since Modern Times came into the market earlier this year," he said, "we see a fair amount of them." He went on to say, "Alpine is kind of a staple at this point…. Pizza Port now as well." He also mentioned occasional shipments from Monkey Paw, Rip Current and Societe — usually delivered personally by brewery staff enjoying a visit to the city.

However, when I asked him whether the shop was actively seeking beer from any of our smaller or newer breweries, he struggled to name any others. "I'm not following the San Diego scene as closely as I used to," he said, crediting a recent boom in Bay Area craft beer. "The past two, maybe three, years the Bay Area has seen a huge growth," he added. "I'm really excited about drinking everything that's happening here now."

That boom includes breweries Cellarmaker, Alpha Acid, Hop Dogma, Fieldwork, and Berkeley sour specialist The Rare Barrel. I tried beers from each of these breweries — all good to great. Now I'm forced to wonder how long before they make the 500-mile trip to distribute regularly to our local beer haunts.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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