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The Golden State

California is the birthplace of the craft brewing movement tracing all the way back to the Gold Rush in 1849 when German brewer Gottlieb Brekle and his family arrived to San Francisco. In 1871 Brekle transformed an old beer saloon into a brewery, which in future years would come to gain its name. Ernst F. Baruth and Otto Schinkel, Jr. went on to buy the first of the six locations and give it the name we all know today, Anchor Brewery.

Unfortunately in 1920 the prohibition led to a shut down of many breweries, leaving many other brewers to patiently wait for the lift of the alcohol ban in 1933. In 1952, America’s new found “taste”—or lack there of—for mass-produced light beers took a toll on many California craft breweries. Soon enough, Fritz Maytag decided that Americans were ready for beer that had flavor, diversity, and history unlike the mass-produced beers that were around. He began looking back and incorporating old lost styles and brewing beer with an art and authenticity.

Next to come was Jack McAuliffe in 1977. His love for British ales and his ambition led him to start the very first modern microbrewery, New Albion Brewery, which was located in Sonoma, California. After McAuliffe came Ken Grossman in 1980. Inspired by the two preceding him, Grossman opened Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, California. Sierra Nevada introduced an entirely new style of beer, the American style pale ale, which he named the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

From here legislation began allowing breweries to sell beer and food onsite called brewpubs, in 1982, making it the second state in America to do so. The first brewpub in the state and second in America was Mendocino Brewing in Hopland, California, in 1983.

By 1989 the California Small Brewers Association was founded and by 1990 there were around 70 breweries in operation in California alone. Ten years later in 2000, that number jumped from 70 to 200 breweries, and as of 2017 there are more than 900 breweries across the state, providing that California has more craft breweries than any other state in America.Today the brewery number seems to increase by roughly 20% each year, meaning there are so many craft breweries and microbreweries still to come!

The California beer laws permit anyone 21 years of age and older, with a valid ID to purchase beer and alcohol between the hours of 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. every day, including Sundays.

There are so many of the best California beer brands and breweries, that it is easiest to divided them up by region. Some of the most notable Northern California breweries are Russian River Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Anchor Brewing, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, Almanac Beer Company, Mad River Brewing Company, Cellmaker Brewing Company, and North Coast Brewing Company. Some of the best Central California breweries are Lodi Brewing Company, Dust Bowl Brewing Company, Central Coast Brewing, Firestone Walker Brewing, Pismo Brewing, Figueroa Mountain Brewing, and Barrelhouse Brewing Company. Last but not least, some of the top Southern California breweries are Modern Times Beer, Bootlegger’s Brewery, Stone Brewing, Alesmith Brewing Company, Lagunitas Brewing Company, and Ballast Point Brewery. Of course there are so many more breweries across the state, but these are just a few of California craft beer lovers top picks.

We are pleased to have featured many excellent California craft breweries in our monthly craft beer club, and plan to feature many more!