Craft beer tours are among my most popular tours.  What I like about them are fourfold:

1) it's really fun to enjoy great beers with lots of friends and NOT worry about driving;
2) craft breweries are putting out a mind-numbing array of brews, so there are lots of new tastes;
3) breweries offer cheap tasters which give you variety without getting you tipsy!;
4) visiting four breweries gives you a great overview of the craft brew renaissance; and
5) going on a bus offers you a chance to learn, laugh and take a break between breweries.

By bus or van, craft beer tours make tasting fun and easy.

Here's how I organize my tours.  I pick four really good breweries that aren't too far apart, prepare a fun beer information packet for the bus, write some beer trivia contests, get some great music, pack good food, and rent a comfortable bus.  And away we go!

I particularly like northern San Diego County because of its nationally famous breweries and accessibility.  It's now a $185 billion dollar "industry cluster along Highway 78 - the "Hops Highway".  Check out the map link to 39 breweries along The Hops Highway.  Here are my favorites:

1) Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey (San Marcos):  Our first stop is located in a business park with the classic roll-up metal door.  But don't let the industrial ambience fool you - this brewery puts out some wonderful Belgian ales and has a wonderful tour.  Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey recently merged, so there's even a greater variety of beers to choose from.

Bellying up to the bar at The Lost Abbey/Port Brewing
2)  Ballast Point (northern San Diego):  These brew masters are really pros and they even have a spirits distillery.  The founders of this craft house love fishing so they named their recipes after fish - Big Eye, Scuplin, Calico, Long Fin.  Their pale ales are crisp and beautifully brewed.

Don't let the fish theme fool ya.  Ballast
Point brews some serious ales and lagers.
3)  The Green Flash (northern San Diego): This is a sparkling facility with some really fun beers like West Coast IPA, Hop Head Red, Le Freak, and Green Bullet.
Tasters are a great way to enjoy lots of variety without
overdoing it!

4)  Stone Brewing (Escondido) - A wonderful last stop is this flagship brewery.  It's good to go there in the late afternoon when it's less crowded - after the lunch rush and before dinner.  The gorgeous garden, water features and restaurants in the back are spacious and offer lots of variety.  And, of course, Stone's array of brews is second-to-none.  I highly recommend visiting their new facility in Liberty Station, San Diego.  It's part of an adaptive-use project that converted a beautiful Spanish Colonial naval training center into a series of shops, museums, offices and open space.  I love that Stone Brew Company does not allow any television screens in their facilities.

Great food and a stunning facility set Stone Brew
Company apart.

Check out the new Stone Brew Company Bistro in Liberty Station -
a converted 1920s naval training center.  What a gorgeous place
to enjoy an ice cold Arrogant Bastard!
 So, there you have it - the recipe for a great day of beer tasting.  Please join me on a Hoffy Craft Beer Tour.  You'll have fun on the bus and learn a lot about the history of beer and how it's made.  For example, do you know the difference between an ale and a lager?  Or what makes a beer dark in color?  As the craft beer movement expands, I'll soon have an Orange County Beer Tour as well!

A nice first stop is Port Brewing/the Lost Abbey
in San Marcos.