By Teresa Bitler
Roughly two-dozen breweries can be found along or near the Hops Highway, a stretch of state Route 78 extending from Oceanside to Julian in San Diego County, California, including these popular producers.
STONE BREWING CO.
India Pale Ales (IPAs) put Stone Brewing Co. on the map when it opened 20 years ago. Today, it’s one of the largest craft breweries in the United States and a local favorite. Although Stone has several tasting rooms (including one opening soon in Berlin), you can tour the primary brewery and sip the beers that made it famous at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Order the Stone IPA, the brewery’s best selling beer, or the Stone Ruination Double IPA, bursting with tropical and citrus flavors. For a change of pace, you can’t go wrong with the Stone Pale Ale, a light, peach and orange-flavored brew. stonebrewing.com
THE LOST ABBEY
One of three labels offered by Port Brewing Company, The Lost Abbey features Belgian-inspired ales with a Southern California twist, like the dry-hopped blonde Devotion Ale and the caramelized raisin-infused 10 Commandments. It’s also known to push the brewing envelope with beers like Duck Duck Gooze, a blend of 1, 2 and 3-year-old blonde sours. All but six of The Lost Abbey offerings are seasonal, but you can sample current selections at the San Marcos tasting room as well as beers from sister labels, Port Brewing and The Hop Concept. (Port Brewing is known for its Hop-15 Ale, a two-time Great American Beer Festival silver medal winner.) lostabbey.com
IRON FIST BREWING CO.
When the Sieminski family began home brewing more than they could consume, they opened Iron Fist Brewing Co., a brewery specializing in the European-style beers they fell in love with on an overseas vacation. Try the flagship Renegade Blonde, a crisp, fruity Kölsch made with imported German malts and hops, on a visit to the Vista tasting room. Or, sample the Velvet Glove, an Imperial Oatmeal Stout that, at 9 percent alcohol, can pack a serious punch. Nelson the ImPALEr, an extra pale ale with intense grapefruit flavor and hints of pineapple and mango, is also popular. ironfistbrewing.com