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San Diego is the Capital of Craft

San Diego County is home to 151 breweries and a plethora of tasting rooms, and the market is hot. Widely considered the craft brewing capital of the United States, San Diego saw a resurgence in craft beer interest in the early 90s. The craft beer scene took off in direct response to the mass-produced beers that once dominated the market. Today, beer lovers want their suds to come from small breweries that use clean ingredients, and San Diego is the "capital of craft."

Why the Market Is Hot

The average craft brew consumer has an evolving taste. While many still love bold flavors from craft brews, they're starting to sample lagers with clean, subtle and balanced tastes too. Many brewers in San Diego are putting an emphasis on brewing smooth lagers, including pilsners and Mexican lagers. The latter is the most popular lager, and the proximity of San Diego to Tijuana makes it ideal for local breweries to collaborate with Mexican breweries.

San Diego Craft Brewery Statistics and Growth

The Brewers Association categorizes craft brewers as small, independent, traditional and innovative. Craft brewers typically produce less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year. In 2015, the industry generated over $850 million in San Diego and employed over 4,500 workers. In 2016, craft brewers produced $870,000,000 in total output, and in 2017, San Diego County was home to the most craft breweries in the nation at 150.

Some local analysts fear the market in the county is watered down with too many breweries and not enough demand to substantiate the numbers. Additionally, Forbes reported in late 2017 that craft beer was experiencing slow growth nationwide. At the same time, however, the industry's economic contribution jumped by 20 percent nationally.

Bart Watson of the Brewers Association does believe the local market is maturing. Approximately 165 breweries closed in the United States in 2017, but only seven out of 155 breweries in San Diego County shut their doors, illustrating that the local market is likely to buck some national trends. And since demand for craft beer continues to rise and most of its fans prefer local brews, it's still a great business to buy into.

Buying a Brewery

Experts in the area state to start small and avoid buying a brewery that is too big and produces mediocre beer. With 150 breweries in the county, competition is stiff, which has a big impact on the craft beer landscape. Starting a new brewery or buying a brewery in the county requires a business plan that is both achievable and realistic.

The window for success in the brewing industry in San Diego is small. There is only so much retail shelf space and tap handles to go around, and smaller breweries that do not distribute much must capture patrons in tasting rooms and convert them into loyal customers. With the sheer volume of craft beer currently available, many customers just ask for "whatever is new."

The science of owning a successful brewery in San Diego is more than brewing great craft beer. Success combines a killer social media marketing strategy with sustainable production practices, especially for the smaller breweries in the region.

If you’re interested in seeing what San Diego has to offer go to and contact the LINK San Diego team to explore your options. Contact LINK San Diego by phone at (858) 452-3000 or email at to get in touch with a professional business broker.