What it is: Before San Diego became the “Capital of Craft,” there was O’Brien’s Pub—an unassuming and somewhat dingy but always cozy drinking hole on the end of a strip mall, completely encircled by restaurants serving Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, and other Asian cuisines. When local beer godfather and award-winning brewmaster Tom Nickel took over in 2003, he transformed O’Brien’s into one of the most influential bars in one of the most respected beer cities in the world.
Why it’s great: From their TION weekend—featuring all the Russian River beers that end in “-tion”—to the annual Wet Hop Fest every harvest season, O’Brien’s hosts some of the most beloved breweries and serves hard-to-find beers with regularity and without pretense. They continuously rotate their 28 taps and 80-ish bottles and cans to span local offerings, seasonal specials, and cult favorites, while their casual pub fare is anything but basic. Try to snag a ticket to one of their intimate beer dinners, or just drop in for a few pints and wings smothered in homemade wine sauce, paired with—what else?—a local IPA.
Hours: 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Monday–Thursday; 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Friday & Saturday; noon–6 p.m., Sunday
Address: 4646 Convoy St., San Diego