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National Beer Day in San Diego: The History Behind the Craft Beer Capital of America

Did you know that San Diego is known for its robust craft beer scene? To celebrate this National Beer Day join us in counting down the years during which rich history, educational practices and connectivity between brewers have led to infinite awards for San Diego craft breweries today.


5-1800 B.C.- The story of beer actually started in Mesopotamia in 5 B.C. with the Sumerians. Passed down through generations by a poem, they participated in the brewing and drinking of beer. Oxford scholars found this poem from 1800 B.C. that involves Ninkasi, the goddess of brewing, and the production of beer from barley.



The Poem


1868-1950’s- Beer making in San Diego can be traced back to 1868 when Conrad Doblier began brewing European-style beer as an emigrant from Austria as a brewer. In 1868, two breweries were created, the San Diego Brewing Company and Mission Brewery.



1920-1933- During Prohibition, many San Diegans moved south to Tijuana, Mexico in order to produce and drink beer legally. While there, they opened Aztec Brewing Company and Mexicali Brewery, which soared in popularity due to the low supply and high demand of alcohol in the U.S. In 1933, the two breweries were responsible for 25 percent of California’s total beer production. Sadly, once beer powerhouses like Anheuser-Busch, Coors Brewing and Miller Brewing started their production of beer in the 50’s, commercial beer production in San Diego breweries came to halt until 1987.



1980’s- San Diego’s craft brewery scene started again in the 80’s when California legislation was passed, which legalized the brewpub throughout California and made commercial production and sale of beer in restaurants and home-brewing legal. During the 80’s, one brewery stood out as the founder of this new era of beer: the Karl Strauss Brewing Company. Two best friends, Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner, opened The Karl Strauss Brewing Company in Downtown San Diego and kick-started the craft brew revolution in February 1989. It was the first brewery in operation since the 50’s and the first-ever brewpub in San Diego. The 1980’s marked a period of brewing pioneers innovators and craft brewers, and the U.S. had gone from 8 brewers in 1980 to 537 brewers by 1994. 






1990’s- Karl Strauss started the careers of many brewers in San Diego. Many employees who had their start at Karl Strauss opened their own breweries, adding to the ever-growing family of craft brewers in San Diego. Karl Strauss’ original bartender, Scott Stamp, opened the San Diego Brewing Company, and their first-ever waitress, Gina Marsaglia, opened the ever-popular Pizza Port in 1992. In addition, Karl Strauss’ original tour guide, Jack White, opened the renowned brewery Ballast Point in 1996, which is now the 11th brewery in America for its wide distribution, innovative flavors and unique offerings.




Ballast Point



Present Day- Today, there are 518 craft breweries in California, with over 120 located in San Diego. The small craft brew circle that started at Karl Strauss has promoted the art of beer making, and  is one of the reasons why San Diego craft brewing is successful today.  Just this past October, the San Diego Brewer’s Guild took home 18 medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, cementing San Diego as a destination as a craft beer landmark. So this National Beer Day, go to your favorite brewery and grab a glass of a beer, you do have over 120 breweries and their award-winning brews choose from. 




Great American Beer Festival



Do you have any spots/brews in San Diego you frequent? Comment below to tell us!


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