Mapping the Santa Cruz Brewery Trail

Santa Cruz is mostly famous for three things: The birthplace of continental United States surfing culture, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and 80s cult classic Lost Boys. Now we can add to the list “a destination for fans of craft brewers.” Over the last decade, the stretch of Route 1 cutting through Santa Cruz County has become an unofficial brewery trail with nearly a dozen craft beer makers setting up shop. You’ll find nine of those brewers along an easily (designated) drivable 14-mile stretch. We recommend making a weekend out of it and staying at a central location (check out our non-tourist guide to Santa Cruz for other opportunities). We’ve plotted the course and made recommendations for what to sample.

Humble Sea Brewing Company

820 Swift Street
Santa Cruz, CA

If someone asked you to create “Surf City Beer Company” you’d probably come up with something like Humble Sea. The Santa Cruz brewery specializes in beers that should be enjoyed on a hot summer day after spending the morning catching waves. If you enjoy a good IPA the Mankini is probably your go-to drink. If you want fresh and easy the Le Jetski is a delightful saison. If you want to take something home you can be one of the first to grab a canned Juice Bag Double IPA. However, if available, try the ridiculous Tiki Decor milkshake IPAs. As of this writing (November 29, 2017), they’re tapping a guava version but previous incarnations have included pineapple and strawberry.

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

402 Ingalls St.
Santa Cruz, CA

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Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is a certified organic brewery. The beers are unfiltered, unpasteurized, and free of genetically modified ingredients. There’s plenty to enjoy on the menu but everyone needs to try the delightful O’Berry. This beer is fermented with hibiscus and olallieberries (basically a big juicy blackberry, we had to google it, too). If you’re looking for something to sip by the fire on a cool winter’s night we can highly recommend the Chocolate Pumpkin Porter. As for year-round options, the best bets are The People’s Porter (thank you for letting the coffee speak) and Dread Brown Ale.

West End Tap & Kitchen

334D Ingalls Street
Santa Cruz, CA

It’s always a good idea to work food into any serious brewery tour and West End Tap & Kitchen is the perfect stop. Grab a flatbread or a burger while exploring West End’s tap list. The list is split between West End’s craft beers and a healthy selection of San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company. The West End Passion is a delightfully pleasant fruit beer while the West End Gold is smooth and well-balanced.

Santa Cruz Ale Works

150 Dubois St.
Santa Cruz, CA


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Another great place to grab a bite and beer while traveling the Santa Cruz brew trail. Ale Works serves up some of the best sandwiches in the beach town and they all go well with the IPA.

Shanty Shack Brewing

138 Fern Street
Santa Cruz, CA

Shanty Shack is constantly changing up the menu with unusual and creative brews. Whatever is on the menu is usually worth checking out, but as of this writing, we can highly recommend the Moon Pillow Stout, The Spice of Life Holiday Gruit, and the Shnazzy Razzie Raspberry Blonde Ale.

Seabright Brewery

519 Seabright Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA

Seabright perfectly encapsulates the personality of Santa Cruz. The beers are bright (the oatmeal stout is the delicious exception) and surfside friendly. We love the Blur IPA and and the Sandman Wheat. Both beers are perfect for warm days on the beach.

New Bohemia Brewing Company

1030 41st Ave
Santa Cruz, CA

New Bohemia (or NuBo for short) specializes in European-style beer. At the top of the list is the Pineapple Express Hefeweizen followed closely by the Monkey Business Dunkelweizen. Both beers invoke fruitiness with the Hefeweizen accentuated by the pineapple in it’s name and the Dunkelweizen showcasing a delicious chocolate banana bread flavor.

Discretion Brewing

2703 41st Ave., Ste A
Soquel, CA

Discretion is probably one of the better known breweries on this list. Discretion is not only organic, but the brewery has invested heavily in solar power and they send all of the spent grain to feed pigs at nearby farms. Bonus, they have a lovely dog-friendly patio where you can sip from the beers they have on tap. We recommend 5th Conversation Belgian-style Dubbel and the award-winning Scenic Stout.

Santa Adairius Rustic Ales

103 Kennedy Dr
Capitola, CA

The brewery proper is in Capitola, but they have also have a portal in Santa Cruz (1315 Water Street). Rustic has a heavy focus on barrel-aging beers. The go-to ales for a first visit are the light and crisp West Ashely Farmhouse Ale and the tart Deaf Stewart.


It doesn’t need to end in Santa Cruz. If you’re up for a short drive make sure you check out these two nearby breweries.

Corralitos Brewing Company

2536 Freedom Blvd
Watsonville, CA

Steel Bonnet Brewing Company

20 Victor Square
Scottsdale, CA

Honorable Distiller Mentions: Venus Spirits (427 Swift Street) and Osocalis Distillery (5579 Soquel San Jose Rd, Soquel).



  • December 29, 2017