San Diego craft beer is not only some of the best beer in the country, our craft beer is driving the economy in Southern California. According to a craft brewery study done by National University, the craft beer industry generated "$299.5 million in wages, capital expenses and contracts in 2011". Comic-Con, San Diego's largest convention, accounted for $180 million, making the craft beer industry 1 1/2 times larger than Comic-Con!
The study found San Diego had 52 small-brewery licenses in 2011, twice that of Los Angeles. However, that number is believed to be much higher now, as there were 15 more licenses issued in 2011 and 18 in 2012.
San Diego breweries reported $680.8 in sales, plus they generated revenues for local hotels and restaurants as many people traveled to San Diego to sample the local brews. Especially big was the increase in tourism around annual beer festivals which included San Diego Beer Week. SDBW's hotel revenue alone was estimated at $780,000. In addition, it was estimated that 2,796 jobs have been created or sustained by the brewery industry.
According to the Brewers Association, San Diego has 2 of the United States top 50 craft breweries based on sales. Stone Brewing Company in Escondido ranked 10th, Karl Strauss in San Diego ranked 39th, and Ballast Point of San Diego ranked 46th.
Shawn DeWitt, president of the San Diego Brewers Guild and the director of brewing operations at Coronado Brewing Company stated, "We feel that San Diego is now the craft beer capital of the United States."
The San Diego Brewers Guild pamphlet for 2013 currently has 61 breweries listed. Many of those are located in Vista, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Poway, Santee, and San Diego. There are many local businesses helping locals and visitors alike enjoy the liquid gold without the fear of picking up an arrest for drunk driving.
There are many shuttles and beer tours that will take you to the breweries in a group or a private party. You can also take one of the free shuttles that run between local brew pubs on certain days/times where you can sample many different breweries at each establishment.