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North County’s Economy Gets Refreshing Boost From Craft Brewing

A flight of six sampler beers, July 3, 2010.

Credit: QuinnDombrowski via Compfight

Above: A flight of six sampler beers, July 3, 2010.

Craft brewing has created quite the economic buzz in North County and Vista played host Wednesday to the spirited first Craft Brew Symposium.


2014 North County Craft Brew Report

2014 North County Craft Brew Report

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North County’s inaugural Craft Beer Symposium was held in what has become the craft beer capital of North County: Vista.

The number of breweries and brewpubs is multiplying along the Highway 78 corridor between Oceanside and Escondido. There are now 39 breweries and tap rooms, which has prompted the San Diego North Economic Development Council to dub Highway 78 the “Hops Highway.” They’ve produced a handy little map showing craft beer lovers exactly where to find them all.

The biggest concentration is in Vista, which has about 10 tap rooms and breweries, but San Marcos, Oceanside, Carlsbad and Escondido also have craft brewpubs.

"The craft beer industry is a major economic driver in the San Diego region, creating needed jobs, capital investment and tax revenue," San Diego North Economic Development Council CEO Carl Morgan said. "North County has a unique portfolio of industry resources and opportunities we believe will draw more breweries, brew pubs and ancillary enterprises to our community."

Erik Bruvold of the National University System Institute for Policy Research produced the first North County update on craft brewing.

Bruvold said the biggest beer drinkers are in their late 20s, 30s and early 40s, and that generation has discovered a palate for “hoppier” beers. Once developed, that taste for craft beers likely will last a lifetime, he said, so it’s a trend that should carry the industry for years.

Craft beer is becoming a refreshingly strong element of North County’s economy, generating more than $270 million a year and creating 1,700 jobs, Bruvold said.

Compared to the thriving craft beer industry in the San Diego region as a whole, North County has more large craft breweries that export their products outside the region, Bruvold said. Escondido's Stone Brewing, for example, is the 10th largest craft brewery in the United States and plans to open operations in Germany next year.

In other beer news, five San Diego County craft breweries, including two in North County, were recently ranked as some of the "50 Best Craft Breweries In America" by the food and drink website The Daily Meal.

Stone came in second place, and San Marcos' The Lost Abbey (See Port Brewing #31 on the map) was ranked No. 35.

About the The Lost Abbey, The Daily Meal wrote:

"The Lost Abbey was founded in 2006 out of an obsession with Belgian-style abbey beers. Since its inception, Lost Abbey has gained a cultish following of devotees, and big-time accolades as well."

Don Ayres, who reports on San Diego craft beer for, explained Stone's popularity to The Daily Meal: "No brewery casts a bigger shadow over the San Diego beer scene than Stone. With their constant collaborations and experimentations, it seems like they put out a new beer every week. Here's the rub: they're all great."

The site created its list by first accepting nominations from craft beer experts, and then letting site visitors vote on a pared down list of 118 craft breweries. More than 13,000 people voted.

Also included on the list were Ballast Point Brewing, Green Flash Brewing and AleSmith Brewing, all in San Diego.

KPBS Morning Edition news anchor Deb Welsh and KPBS assistant producer Emily Burns contributed to this report.

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