California's Best Craft Breweries

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Marcelina Morfin

California is dotted with hundreds of craft breweries giving beer lovers a great selection of brews from West Coast-style IPAs to sour beers and more throughout the entire state. From coastal venues to inland establishments, we check out some of the must-try craft breweries in The Golden State.

BarrelHouse Brewing Co.

With a passion for brewing, three friends opened BarrelHouse Brewing Co. in 2013. Located in the heart of San Luis Obispo County’s wine country, this relaxing venue features beautiful open beer gardens nestled in the rolling hills, complete with a waterfall, all which of makes a picturesque setting for sampling the brewery’s award-winning, unique beers. Open daily, guests can visit to try year-round options, such as the award-winning BarrelHouse IPA and the BarrelHouse Stout with notes of chocolate and coffee, or the taproom-only special, Brazz Monkey, a smooth brew with honey and citrus. The brewery also hosts many events, including live music, throughout the year.

Black Market Brewing Co.

Black Market Brewing Co. opened in 2009 as one of the first craft breweries in Temecula. This establishment focuses on procuring high-quality, hand-selected ingredients for its handcrafted, award-winning brews, which include mainstays, rotating and experimental varieties. Within an inviting interior with picnic tables, beer lovers can try a great selection of brews (current tap list can be found on their website), including the popular Aftermath Pale Ale and the unique Deception with notes of coconut and lime.

The Bruery

Inspired by his family’s surname, founder Patrick Rue named his Placentia-based, boutique brewery: The Bruery. Founded in 2008, this craft brewery’s team finds inspiration all over from scents like lavender to flavors of global cuisines for their innovative brews. Specializing in barrel-aged and experimental ales, the team is constantly challenging themselves to create new brews all of which can be sampled in their tasting room daily. Some popular choices include the award-winning Saison Rue, a Belgian/French-style farmhouse ale, and the bold Mash & Grind with a strong coffee aroma and hints of raspberry jam, pineapple and brown sugar. Visit on the weekends if interested in a tour of the brewery.

Cellarmaker Brewing Co.

Opened in 2013 in San Francisco, Cellarmaker Brewing Co. is a great venue featuring a relaxing space custom built by local vendors. Focusing their efforts on producing small batches, the brew team creates one beer at a time ensuring there is always something new to try. Open every day except for Mondays, the tasting room offers guests several selections daily with some current highlights being Something Light, a blond ale, Blammo, which is an imperial stout with notes of chocolate, coffee, coconut and tannins, and Mad Nibs, a rich, double milk stout aged with vanilla beans and TCHO cocoa nibs.

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

Established in 2013 in Thousand Palms, Coachella Valley Brewing Co. is a locally owned and operated venue featuring farm-to-table brews. Inspired by the bounty of the area, the team procures a variety of ingredients, including citrus, herbs, honey and spices from local purveyors to use in their creative craft beers, which can be sampled in their tasting room Tuesday through Sunday. Within a laid back atmosphere, guests can enjoy flavorful brews such as Palms to Pine, which is a West Coast-style triple IPA with a hint of sweetness and pine notes, and Phoenix — a Vienna-style lager brewed with dates. If visiting on Friday or Saturday, be sure to sign up for a brewery tour.

Eel River Brewing Company

Eel River Brewing Company was established in Fortuna in 1995. The first certified organic brewery in the USA, they specialize in making organic brews by pairing the finest ingredients with sustainable methods. A multi-award winning brewery with over 300 awards to date, the tasting room — located in the former Clay Brown Redwood Lumber Mill — is open daily to craft beer lovers who want to sample various brews alongside tasty cuisine. Within a vibrant atmosphere of walls adorned with historic photos of the mill, guests can try popular choices such as the English-style IPA, the strong Raven’s Eye Imperial Stout, and the Porter, a smooth beer with hints of chocolate and coffee.

El Segundo Brewing Co.

Opened by Rob Croxall and Thomas Kelley in 2011 in El Segundo, the eponymous El Segundo Brewing Co. is a popular venue specializing in hoppy brews. Focusing on producing quality craft brews, the brewery is open daily where guests can sample a variety of beers, including pale ales, IPAs (their specialty) and stouts, within a cozy environment. Favorites include the flagship IPA, Blue House, which has pine and passion fruit notes due to the Simcoe hops used, and the Vanilla Hyperion’s Double Stout, a slightly sweet stout with coffee, chocolate and vanilla notes. They often feature experimental recipes in their tasting room as well.

Green Flash Brewing Co.

Founded in Vista in 2002 by Mike and Lisa Hinkley, Green Flash Brewing Co. is a popular establishment offering guests a great line-up of mainstay, seasonal, limited edition and experimental brews. Now located in sunny San Diego, the brewery features a 4,000-square foot tasting room plus a beer garden where beer aficionados can sample award-winning beers alongside edibles provided by food trucks. With 30 taps, everyone is sure to find something to tickle their taste buds with recent highlights being the West Coast IPA and the Black Tiger, a black ale with notes of Serrano peppers, cinnamon and cocoa nibs. Open Tuesday through Sunday, tours are available each day at specific times for a small fee, which includes a sampling of four beers.

Knee Deep Brewing Co.

Brewing since 2006, Jeremy Warren founded Knee Deep Brewing Co. in 2010. Along with Jerry Moore, he opened a brewery in Lincoln in 2011, which eventually moved to Auburn — its present-day location. An award-winning brewery specializing in hoppy brews, Knee Deep is open every day for beer lovers’ enjoyment. Two of the most popular beers — they’re also the flagship brews — are the Hoptologist Double IPA with hints of citrus and pine and the Simtra Triple IPA. Other flavorful highlights include the Tanilla, which is made with Tahitian vanilla beans, and the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout. A lively environment, the brewery hosts food trucks and live music as well.

The Rare Barrel

While some breweries create many styles of beer, The Rare Barrel in Berkeley features just one style: sour beer. Opened at the end of 2013, this craft brewery, which has already garnered several awards, focuses all its efforts on sour beers by exploring flavors and methods, including conventional and experimental. The beers found at The Rare Barrel are aged in oak barrels for a minimum of six months and up to three years. Open Friday through Sunday, guests may visit the open tasting room with views of the barrel house to sample flavorful brews such as the Tigerlily, a golden sour beer with hibiscus and ginger notes, the Kerfuffle, a Berkliner weisse with raspberries and strawberries, and the Entanglement, another Berkliner weisse with orange peels and vanilla beans.

Russian River Brewing Company

Originally located in Guerneville and owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars, Russian River Brewing Company was handed over to Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo who eventually moved the operation to Santa Rosa. The downtown brewpub is a lively space where visitors can sample a selection of award-winning craft brews alongside tasty edibles. Open seven days a week, beer lovers may find popular brews such as Pliny the Elder, a double IPA, O.V.L. Stout, a nitro dry Irish stout, and Consecration, a dark ale with notes of chocolate, spice, currants and tobacco aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. If visiting in early February, be sure to line up early to try the very limited and extremely popular Pliny the Younger, a triple IPA.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is a renowned brewery that has grown significantly since its inception in 1980. Creating craft beers from the best quality ingredients available, this Chico-based brewery has garnered numerous awards over the years for it flavorful brews, which includes the classic Pale Ale made with whole-cone American hops, the Barrel-Aged Bigfoot with notes of raisin, burnt sugar and vanilla, and the Kellerweis Hefeweizen, which has notes of banana bread and clove. A sustainable establishment complete with solar panels, the taproom also features farm-to-table gourmet cuisine sure to satisfy many tastes. Open every day, the brewery also offers various tours and hosts live music.

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