Travel · United States · West Coast

Beer Lover’s Vacation: California Craft Brews

Our dad is a huge fan of craft beer and a lot of his favorite breweries are located in California. It’s no surprise that a craft beer tour of California is on his vacation bucket list. So today we’re sharing with you a potential do-it-yourself itinerary for visiting some of the great California breweries.


Our trip starts in Sacramento and ends up in San Diego. In addition to visiting our dad’s favorite California breweries, it also gives you a chance to explore some of California’s biggest cities and coast! Below you’ll find our 7 day, 6 night itinerary:


Arrive in Sacramento in the afternoon or early evening. After you pick up your rental car, drive north to about 1.5 hours to Chico, California home of Sierra Nevada. Spend a relaxing night in a B&B such as Goodman House (Rooms from $129/night).


Enjoy a relaxing morning before taking a cab (or Uber) to Sierra Nevada (about 3 miles) for their 1:30pm Beer Geek Tour. After the 3 hour tour, grab dinner in their Tap Room before heading back to your B&B for the night.


Wake up bright and early and head to Russian River Brewery’s Brew Pub (about a 3 hour drive) for lunch. After a relaxing lunch, drive about 20 minutes to the Quality Inn Petaluma.  Check into your room and then walk over to Lagunitas (about 1/2 mile) for one of their afternoon tours (1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, & 5pm). For dinner either grab a bite at Lagunitas or head into downtown Petaluma and try one of their many restaurants.


After two full days of touring breweries, spend Sunday doing some sightseeing. Some great options in the area are Napa or Sonoma Wine Regions, Muir Woods to see giant Redwoods, or head into San Francisco. After a day of sight-seeing, continue south to Carmel-by-the-Sea for the night.


Start off your Monday by taking a scenic coastal drive down Highway 1 to Firestone Walker Brewing Company (about 3 hours). Enjoy lunch & your scheduled tour at Firestone before continuing on your journey on Highway 1 south. Stop in Santa Barbara for dinner & to spend the night.


If you have an extra day, you may want to spend today in LA and the surrounding area. If not, next up on our itinerary is Stone Brewing which is about a 3 hour drive from Santa Barbara (in no traffic, so I’m sure there is some extra time added on). Plan to be at the brewery by 12pm if at all possible as tours are first come first serve and you want to make sure you can get onto one (12pm, 2pm, 4pm, &  6pm). Either while you wait for your tour or after it’s over be sure to grab lunch or dinner at their World Bistro & Gardens. Stay nearby in Escondido or continue on to San Diego (45 minutes).


Spend the day enjoying San Diego by visiting the zoo, kayaking, hiking, or just relaxing on the beach before heading to the San Diego Airport. If you’re flight isn’t until tomorrow and you aren’t sick of beer yet, you may want to check out the 5pm or 6pm tour at Green Flash Brewery.

The great thing about this trip is you can easily break it into two separate vacations if you don’t have a full week to spend or want to spend some more time sightseeing in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Plus if you break it up you can see a few more smaller breweries in each city.
If the thought of renting a car and navigating the trip yourself seems a bit daunting, you may want to consider a guided tour, such as The Great California Beer Rush Tour by Bon Beer Voyage. While guided tours come with a bigger price tag, they give you a chance to travel with other beer lovers and get exclusive access into breweries, plus you don’t have to worry about having a designated driver.
We can’t wait to take this trip one day with our dad! Have you done a craft beer tour of California? What was on your itinerary that we missed?