Holiday Cheers

Tasting the season at San Diego County breweries

For craft beer enthusiasts, there's never a bad time to make a pilgrimage to suds-soaked San Diego. However, with the fine flock of holiday brews available, December is definitely the most wonderful time of the year...for a pint.

Here's where to go:

It's not just AleSmith's small size and industrial atmosphere that make it feel like your home-brewing friend's apartment: It's the abundance of amateur-turned-pro brewers ready to share a pint and a conversation with regulars and first-timers alike. The biting YuleSmith imperial red ale is a malty, hoppy brew that's perfect for the season.

The joint tasting room for Port Brewing and Lost Abbey (pictured) has expanded to include a larger bar, 29 taps and extended hours. Winners of numerous awards, these quality operations brew polar-opposite holiday beers: Port's robust Santa's Little Helper imperial stout and Abbey's frankincense- and myrrh-laced Gift of the Magi.

Visiting hours are limited to Fridays and Saturdays at Poway's small Lightning Brewery–and only six people can taste at a time–but it's worth the wait for these classically made Old World ales. One of the finest is Old Tempest Ale, a classic winter warmer made from a recipe originating from the UK's Burton-on-Trent region.