South San Marcos Brewery Guide

Examining the sudsy south side of one of North County’s fastest-growing cities

San Diego’s expansive North County boasts a wealth of high-quality craft breweries. While it’s easy to gravitate to coastal communities or suds-saturated Vista with its whopping 25 brewing interests, beer tourists would do well to chart a course for San Marcos. This fast-growing community is home to some of the county’s most award-winning breweries. Many are situated along State Route 78—AKA: the Hops Highway—but in recent years, new hop spots have planted their flags further out, including in the quaint southerly community of San Elijo. Join us as we split San Marcos down the middle and take you on a tour of the local beer locales that await south of the 78.

South San Marcos Brewery Map


Creative Creature Brewing
1784 La Costa Meadows Dr.

Creative Creature San Marcos

There are breweries that are adventurous and avant-garde…and then there’s Creative Creature Brewing. This beer biz has been marching to the thumping of its own timpani set since 2018 when it took over the brewery-and-tasting-room enclave connected to El Cajon’s URBN restaurant. That individualism has paid off, earning Creative Creature cult status among a devoted legion of craft-beer fans enamored with the operation’s outside-the-box mindset, and experimental approach to ultra-modern styles with flavor profiles going far beyond yeast, malt and hops. In 2020, Creative Creature acquired the facility previously operated by longtime San Marcos suds interest, Stumblefoot Brewing. That colorfully graffitied space is now the company’s headquarters.

Whereas most San Diego breweries bread-and-butter are West Coast IPAs and lagers (and they make those, as well), Creative Creature’s reputation has been earned on the backs of fruited kettle and smoothie sours, pastry stouts and IPAs ranging from hazy to milkshake in composition. All manner of adjuncts are infused in those beers to convey flavor profiles of candies, confections, baked goods, snack foods, sodas and more, the familiarity of which are driven home by nostalgia-driven can art lampooning 80’s- and 90’s-era products, toys, video games and movies. Case in point, an aquamarine-hued creation with berries, marshmallow, oats and blue raspberry syrup called Bantha Milk.

Regular can-releases keep the beer lineup at Creative Creature’s indoor-outdoor tasting room in a perpetual state of rotation. Going the taster route is the best plan of attack for those wanting to experience the full breadth of what this truly unique operation has to offer.

Dos Desperados Brewery
1241 Linda Vista Dr

Dos Desperados Brewery

In 2013, retirees Steve and Dora Munson hammered down stakes between a pair of San Marcos hot-spots, Restaurant Row and the Grand Plaza Mall. Inspired by a place and time where Spanish garrisons guarded the Camino Real connecting Mexico and New Mexico, their tasting room has an Old West saloon-style motif complete with wanted posters, vintage photos and cowboy miscellany. But this is no place for a dust-up; bartenders and regulars (whose personalized mugs hang from nails beside the taps) are friendly around these parts.

Head Brewer and CSU San Marcos grad Hayden Weir has come into his own over the years, winning high-profile awards, including a Great American Beer Festival (GABF) bronze for Hell Camino, a Belgian-style quad that tastes like raisin- and date-studded banana bread. Of the lighter-drinking fare, a super-clean pair of pale and dark Mexican lagers are tops. Pronounced orange notes and a pithy backend make 100% Citra-hopped Most Wanted IPA a standout, as does tropical-fruit essence from Mosaic and El Dorado hops in its New England counterpart, Hazy Daisy. Meanwhile, fans of both lupulin and capsaicin will adore Habaneeros, a habanero-laced West Coast IPA that’s food-friendly and a great base for the brewery’s house micheladas.

With a wide variety of styles available ranging from brisk and refreshing to dark and malty, first-timers would do well to order a sampler flight served on a circular conveyance crafted to resemble the chamber of a six-shooter.

Double Peak Brewing
1801 Diamond St

Double Peak Brewing

Located in the shadow of the mountain with which it shares its name, Double Peak Brewing combines owner Frank Harton’s passions for brewing and adventure. Beers are named for famous mountains and hiking trails, the cold box resembles a wood-slatted hilltop outpost, and the tasting room’s green, beige and brown color palate combines with wood and stone to convey a sense of the outdoors. It’s no wonder this tucked-away spot has become such a popular way station for hikers and mountain bikers.

Named for a climbing route at California’s Tahquitz Peak, Whodunit is a Citra- and Mosaic-hopped double IPA that’s impressively dry with tropical-fruit flavors and a resinous finish. Swallow (orange zest and pith), Whiptail (peachy, woody) and 100% Nelson hazy Walkabout (gooseberry, apricot) are solid single-strength IPAs as is the peppery Riley’s Wild Rye’d, which is named for the dog pictured on its can. Clean and crisp, Day Hike pilsner is perfect for the activity it references, as are lightly acidic rotating fruited goses, including Let’s Gose, which is infused with juniper berries but doesn’t come off like gin. Double Peak’s darker side is presided over by the chocolaty Paranormal Porter, which took gold at the 2020 San Diego International Beer Competition.

In keeping with its thematic, Double Peak serves as the starting line and endpoint for a group of runners in training each Tuesday night. If you prefer sitting to sprinting, the brewery hosts trivia nights on Thursdays.

Ten-75 Brewing

Ten-75 Brewing
1075 Linda Vista Dr, Ste J

After an unexpected shift, a set of industrial-park suites initially intended to house a kombucha company were eventually converted into a beermaking operation. Proudly bearing Saint Mark’s lion (San Marcos in Spanish) as the centerpiece of its logo and taking its name from its address, Ten-75 Brewing is overseen by brothers Ryan and Jeff Talbert. The pair cut their teeth in the beer industry working at Saugatuck Brewing in Douglas, Michigan, and are now applying what they learned to their family business, which opened in fall of 2022.

Sessionable beers and hops are central to Ten-75’s brewing equation. As such, their offerings come in between 4.5 and 7% alcohol-by-volume and there are numerous IPAs. IPA-Z, a rotator hopped with different varietals each time, provides a fluffy easel on which to showcase the character of a multitude of hops, while papaya tropicality is the hallmark of an IPA called Feazible. An American amber ale named Tiberius packs an assertive, piney, herbal punch, Sink or Swim American stout tastes of cola with an almost smoky finish, and Dove Castle brown ale offers nuances of dried fruit that go beyond the typical profile of this English style.  

Ten-75’s building is being remodeled. Once that work is complete, the brewery will debut a large forever tasting room, but with butcher-block bar tops and plenty of high-top seating, its temporary space is both utile and inviting enough to pass for a permanent fixture.


Craft Coast San Marcos

Craft Coast Beer & Tacos
1325 Grand Ave, Ste 100

In 2024, following years of runaway success with their combo brewery and taco shop in Oceanside and in search of increased production capacity, the team behind Craft Coast Beer & Tacos took over the former home of defunct Rip Current Brewing. In doing so, they imparted their beachy Baja motif to the tasting room, adding roll-up garage doors leading to an outdoor patio boasting a massive food truck serving up the company’s carne asada, birria and carnitas-stuffed tacos, nachos and mulitas. Those auténtico eats pair well with Craft Coast’s award-winning lineup of IPAs (West Coast, hazy, cold), pales, a standout brown ale and multiple Mexican-style lagers.

Piston Pete’s Brewery & Distillery
1265 Stone Dr

In 2023, after a handful of years under the radar from its original location in a Vista industrial park, this mysterious operation relocated to San Marcos, arriving with its enigmatic identity fully intact. Essentially unknown even by the most nth-level San Diego craft-beer enthusiasts, Piston Pete’s produces a small assortment of automotive-themed beers as well as a line of coffee that appears to be the company’s main focus. Despite the distillery in its moniker, there are no signs of spirit production.

Prey Brewing
Not Open to the Public

While working as the head brewer for Rip Current Brewing, Justin Stambaugh and his brother opened a small operation specializing in barrel-aged saisons and fruited sours. Dubbed Stave & Nail Brewing, it was enough of a hit to inspire the fraternal owners to shut down their business in order to increase its size and switch its focus to crafting clean beers more in step with current consumer trends. Opened in 2024 as Prey Brewing, it operates out of the same spot, but rather than serve customers from that facility they have opened a full-scale bar and restaurant in downtown Vista.

Lost Abbey San Elijo

The Lost Abbey – The Sanctuary
1215 San Elijo Rd

Sidling the town square in the heart of mountainous San Elijo is this outpost of award-winning operation, The Lost Abbey. Decked out in a stone-and-wood motif matching the warm residential community and outfitted with an open-air back patio, it’s the coziest of the stalwart operation’s four tasting rooms. Stocked with The Lost Abbey’s world-renowned American takes on Belgian-style ales, including barrel-aged varieties such as gueuze, framboise and Flemish red, as well as the hoppy hard sparkling teas and Brett beers of its sister brands, Khárisma and Tiny Bubbles, there’s a little something for everyone’s taste.

Tarantula Hill at Draft Republic

Tarantula Hill Brewing
Inside Draft Republic San Marcos, 255 Redel Rd

In 2021, San Diego’s famed Cohn Restaurant Group took over the 28,000-square-foot North City brewpub that was formerly home to Urge Gastropub and its brewing arm, Mason Ale Works. Since that acquisition, CRG has partnered with Tarantula Hill Brewing to have that Thousand Oaks-based interest run the on-site brewery. This teaming affords the tenant operation (which was founded by a pair of alums from Escondido’s Stone Brewing) to gain a foothold in San Diego from which to produce specialty ales and lagers along with house beers for Draft Republic and its sister concepts. All of the above, plus cocktails and a full menu of SoCal- and Medi-tinged American comfort cuisine, await at this sprawling, family-friendly eatery featuring games galore, including a six-lane bowling alley with its own dedicated bar.

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