Santa Cruz is an up-and-coming spot on the central California coast for creative breweries. Santa Cruz especially stands out for its microbreweries that focus on creating small batch quality beers that are sold locally.
There’s a good mix of breweries in this eclectic coastal city with different brewing methods and styles that appeal to a variety of taste palettes.
Some breweries strive to brew organic beers, while others source high-quality ingredients from local farms and businesses. Many breweries often host food trucks and fun events like trivia nights and live music that draws the entire neighborhood in!
These 8 breweries in Santa Cruz are not afraid to experiment and stand out to create some of the best beer you can find on the Central Coast!
1. Best For Event Nights – Humble Sea Brewing
The Santa Cruz Humble Sea Brewing taproom is perfect for a fun night out. It’s a bright and colorful place that’s also known for its take-out 4-packs. Serving a mix of traditional ales and more funky modern brews, this brewery is not afraid to experiment!
Regular events at the Santa Cruz taproom include trivia nights, DJs, and garden parties on select days. We recommend you check out their Instagram page for upcoming events. As for the beers, you won’t find much better in California!
I’m a huge fan of Boardwalk Dreamin’, a West Coast IPA packed with fruity flavor and strength at 6.3%. The Pitted Pilsner is one for lager lovers and is an easily drinkable 5.2% with a nice crisp and fresh finish.
Humble Sea Brewing has multiple locations around Santa Cruz, including one in Felton.
2. Best For Organic Ales – Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing
The taproom and beer garden at the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Company is well worth checking out for a great atmosphere and excellent ales & lagers. There’s something for everyone here with a choice of traditional ales, lagers, and stouts, plus many other local beers.
Popular with regulars and tourists, the beers on tap change regularly with the current brews. The Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is committed to making organic ales with traditional brewing methods and no automation.
I strongly recommend you try Hello Pretty, an easy-going 5% made with locally sourced strawberries. Another favorite is Mud Pie, a lovely and easily drinkable dark brown ale. Don’t miss this place if you’re in town, it’s up there with the best breweries in Santa Cruz!
3. Best For Live Music With a Beer – Shanty Shack
The friendly and lively Shanty Shack is a local nano-brewery with a tasting room that you should not miss if you’re in Santa Cruz! Serving a rotating selection of small batch beers and featuring a lively outdoor patio, this is the place to go see local bands and artists play while sampling some of the best beers you can find on the Central Coast.
Shanty Shack guarantees quality by keeping things small, with an impressive selection of ales and lagers. The patio features food trucks regularly, and the vibe in the backyard always feels special. All ales brewed here use local ingredients, and there’s a bit of everything on tap!
During your visit enjoy a cool glass of Unmarked Pilsner, an easy-to-drink traditional German-style pilsner at 4.7%. Ale lovers should try Train Wreck, a double IPA at a mighty 9.2% (you’ve been warned!). Electric Skate Border is a classic English-style 5.5% pale ale with great flavor.
- Location: 138 Fern St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
- Website: shantyshackbrewing.com
- Instagram: @shantyshackbrewing
4. Best Brewery With Food – Discretion Brewing
This traditional pub-style brewery is complete with a long bar and an outdoor patio where you can grab a table and enjoy one of the 16 beers on tap. The lack of TV’s at this brewery will make conversation and engaging with others the highlight of your day!
Visitors enjoy this place for its friendly ambiance, welcoming staff, and simply wonderful beers. It’s the sort of bar you’d want as your local go-to joint. Usually, the brewery is open to the taproom, so you can see and smell what’s going on!
Rock Skip is a delicious and easy-to-drink session ale at 4.2%, while IPA lovers will appreciate Foggy Forest double IPA, which at 8% is one to savor and enjoy slowly.
For those who love a robust ale, choose the Good Faith, a beautifully rich dark ale with a toffee-tinged flavor and a 9% kick. For stout lovers, there is nothing else quite like Wooden Ruler, a barrel-aged Imperial that packs 13.3% strength and more flavor than you can imagine!
Along with a variety of beers, Discretion Brewing offers delicious food by Sugo Italian Kitchen.
- Location: 2703 41st Ave Ste. A, Soquel, CA 95073
- Website: discretionbrewing.com
- Instagram: @discretionbrewing
5. Best For Traditional Ales – Sante Adairius Santa Cruz Portal
The Santa Cruz Portal by Santa Adairius Rustic Ales is a welcome addition to the city’s many wonderful breweries. This brewery is focused on authentic methods that follow the age-old Belgian traditions but they’re not averse to experimenting!
The Santa Cruz Portal now serves a wide variety of ales and pizza, so you can grab a bite to eat while you sample some of the beers. The cozy atmosphere makes this a comfortable place to sit back and relax.
West Ashley is a barrel-aged 7.3% apricot Saison, a beer traditionally brewed on farms. With a superb fruity tang, this delicious beer is available in bottles to go. My favorite is Bright Sea Blonde, a traditional Belgian ale with wonderful citrus touches.
Cask 200 is a fabulous American ale offering all the yeast and malt flavors you would expect at a drinkable 6.5%. If you love good beer, Sante Adairius Santa Cruz Portal is a great choice for a brewery to visit in Santa Cruz!
6. Best For Community Spirit – Woodhouse Blending And Brewing
Woodhouse Blending and Brewing is a cozy and inviting brewery that is making a difference in the community. They often host projects that encourage artists, musicians, and chefs to join in and display their talent. The unique and welcoming space offers Brazilian-inspired food alongside a selection of craft ales.
Brews on tap rotate regularly and include beers such as the Woodhouse Summer Ale, a 4.9% light ale with a refreshing citrus finish. Double Exposure is a hazy DIPA with a taste of fruit and 8% strength.
One of the local favorites is Magnetic North, an easily drinkable 7% West Coast IPA bursting with orange and grapefruit flavors. The community approach and welcoming atmosphere makes the Woodhouse Blending And Brewing a popular destination for locals and visitors alike!
7. Best For Czech-Style Craft Lagers – New Bohemia Brewing
What better way to spend an afternoon than enjoying a sausage sandwich with a craft Czech-style beer? With a comfortable and welcoming setting, this is what New Bohemia Brewing is all about!
Inspired by life in Europe in their 20s, the two New Bohemia Brewing founders saw a niche in the Santa Cruz market for European-type beers.
The backbone of NuBo (as it’s known to locals and regulars) is the perfectly crafted Pilsner Soquel, which features yeast obtained from Budvar in Bohemia for added authenticity. This classic Old-World beer is one you must try if you are in the Santa Cruz area. Velvet Revolution is another must, a dark Vienna lager with amazing malt and hops – but it’s not all lagers here!
Ale fans will enjoy the wonderful taste of The Hook, a traditional West Coast IPA, along with Double Vision, a hazy New England style double IPA. After visiting NuBo – it will draw you back again and again!
8. Best For Irish Inspired Ales – Greater Purpose Brewing Company
The Greater Purpose Brewing Company is a great choice if traditional Irish-style beers are your thing! This brewery is a favorite with locals for its frequent events including comedy nights, Pride events, and Pawdicure Pawrties with pups from the local animal shelter.
This traditional pub has its own microbrewery, creating some of the finest ales you’ll find anywhere in Santa Cruz. The ingredients are locally sourced, and the range of beers is small but made of high quality and taste.
The beers sold on tap depend on the latest brews. If a traditional Irish Stout is what you’re looking for, you can’t do better than Shepherds We Shall Be, a 4.5% brewed the Irish way. Make Like A Tree is an Irish Red ale with the requisite earthy taste that this beer type is known for.
I recommend The Prancing Pony, a notable example of an ESB – Extra Special Bitter, a popular English ale – at a balanced 6%. Beer aware this is a true ale bar, and lagers are in short supply. Give the Greater Purpose Brewing Company a go and sample some excellent ales in a warm and inviting environment!
- Location: 21517 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95062
- Website: greaterpurposebrewing.com
- Instagram: @greaterpurposebrewing
/ Feature photo by @humblesea /
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