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Craft Beer Holiday Gift Guide

Olive Tree Marketplace’s Mike Blanchfield.
Courtesy photo

Beer: The perfect holiday treat--and gift. For disciples of San Diego’s sudsy craft beer sub-culture, nothing looks better peeking out of a stocking than a bottle-capped longneck filled to the brim with some rare, special or just plain delicious brew. Shopping for beer enthusiastsis an easy task, if you know where to go.You won’t typically find the quality stuffat grocery stores or lowbrow liquor outlets. But here are top five picks of places to find the ultimate in variety and quality:

  • Escondido’s Holiday Wine Cellar (302 West Mission Avenue). Don’t be fooled by the name. These cellars are home to far more than fine wine; namely, one of the deepest collections of hard-to-find bottles from some of the world’s most renowned craft brewing operations. As one would expect from an establishment with such a wintry handle, there are plenty of holiday brews (beers typically brewed to be heavier and packed with bold spice ad dried fruit character) on-hand this time of year, all of which will look perfect under your tree on Christmas morning.
  • Del Cerro’s KnB Wine Cellars (6380 Del Cerro Boulevard). Again, the name is a bit misleading. Despite an excellent variety of vino, this upstart has quickly earned a stellar reputation for, not only its impressive cache of craft beers, but also its in-store bar area, which plays host to local craft brewers who come by to talk shop and explain the finer points of some of their creations.
  • RateBeer.com named South Bay Drugs (779 Palm Avenue) the 15th best beer retailer in the world last year…and they’re only getting better. “I’ve been drinking and selling craft beer for over 16 years and I’ve been lucky to have developed some great relationships with distributors, breweries and brewers,” says SBD’s Joey Bachoua, who has plans for expansion in the works.
  • Ocean Beach’s Olive Tree Marketplace (4805 Narragansett Avenue). Thanks to the efforts of OTM’s zealous beer champion, Mike Blanchfield, this neighborhood market features an impressive array of everything from sticky sweet stouts to bite-you-back IPAs and pucker-prompting sours. On top of a great selection, OTM features a beer club where, for $25, members receive their own glass and discounts of 5-10 percent off every beer they purchase for a year. They also receive deals on extremely rare beers and invites to special events, including those which will take place in a new tasting room, currently under construction.
  • The Bottle Shop at Pizza Port Carlsbad (571 Carlsbad Village Drive). Located next door to the winner of the 2009 Large Brew Pub of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival, this inauspicious space boasts more incredible beer per square inch than anyplace else in the county. It’s been and remains the standard by which other beer sellers are judged. It's the star at the top of the tree.