San Diego – A model of a beer scene

I have been stating that the U.S. is kicking Canada`s butt in terms of it`s beer scene for about 2 years (by many accounts I was very late to the table with that assessment).

It`s not that we don`t have good beer.  Our craft beer scene is picking up momentum and some world-class pint glasses are appearing in Canada.  Progress is slow and consumers are supporting the scene slower.  With the LCBO (Ontario`s Government Liquor monopoly) now devoting shelves to Ontario Craft Beer, a strengthening of the Ontario Craft Brewers Association and brewers who are starting to get International recognition (Mill Street, Beau`s and others) there is great potential for where beer may go in Ontario, and Canada.

The US now supports more than 2,000 craft beers who support each other and educate the public on the beer scene as a whole.  People are excited about breweries and brew masters and the industry is becoming closer to rock and roll than mass food production.  Brewers are combining efforts, producing unique and rare beers and making them accessible to the general public.

The less restrictive import laws also allow the US to indulge in beer from around the world.  I have been to more than 10 stores which offer 500+ brands of beer (Premiere Gourmet being the closes in Buffalo – they stock up to 1,600 different flavors).

You may recall that I visited Stone Brewery in the Spring.  They are nestled in the outskirts of San Diego, California.  They were also named (once again) as the number one brewery in America.  They set an aspirational example of what a brewery can be (if you have not seen the 3-minute video they produced called I am a Craft Brewer, you simply must).

I recently revisited San Diego.  I didn`t have the chance to get back to Stone (it was about $100 cab ride from where I was staying) but I did get out on the town.

Of 10 or 15 bars and restaurants I visited, 100% of their draft beer was craft beer – more than 90% of that was local.  When a tap wasn`t local it made sense (i.e. a Japanese craft beer available on draft in a sushi restaurant).

The support of local beer was everywhere.  The convention center which housed our conference even offered local bottle beer (an amazing and pretty Red Trolley Ale).  This may have been the first time I have seen craft beer at a mass convention in my life.

If I had a sudden bout of memory loss and found myself trying to figure out where in the world I was, it would have been easy to diagnose which city I was in by merely reading the taps of beer.

The day after I returned from my trip I ended up in a large hotel in Toronto.  The lobby bar supported mostly large US mass-produced beer.  This is not an indictment of the hotel – they are not an exception in our city.  It is however, a pint worth thinking over…


  1. When next you find yourself in San Diego, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Hamilton’s for both beer and food – it’s exactly what you’ve described here in terms of knowing where you are by looking at the taps.

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