The 7 best breweries in Santa Cruz, California

Nestled between towering redwoods and the sparkling Pacific Ocean, Santa Cruz is known for its beautiful beaches and believe it or not, a thriving craft beer scene.  From hoppy IPAs to smooth stouts, we’ve rounded up the best breweries in Santa Cruz, each with its own unique offerings.

Based on a formula we’ve developed for this site, we’ve got a ranked list of the best breweries below. For you non-beer-drinking readers, we’ve included whether or not they serve other options (i.e. cider, seltzer, wine, spirits, etc.) so feel free to enjoy this as well!

Short on Time? Here are the key takeaways about the best breweries in Santa Cruz, CA:

  • The top 3 breweries in Santa Cruz per our ranking method are: Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, Woodhouse Blending and Humble Sea.
  • In our opinion, Humble Sea Brewery is a must visit.
  • Most breweries offer food or have a food truck rotation AND offer another alcohol besides beer.

This post was originally published in May 2023, and was updated in July 2024.

Map of Santa Cruz Breweries

Click the interactive map below!

HOW TO USE THIS MAP: To view the layers and see the names of the places on this map, click the tab in the top left corner. You can select the check marks to show or hide certain layers. If you select the icons on the map, you will get more information about the point of interest.

HOW TO SAVE THIS MAP: If you select the star icon next to the map name, you can save this map to your Google Maps account. To view it, open Google Maps in desktop or on your phone, select the menu button, go to “Your Places,” scroll to the right to Maps, and you will see this map.

The Best Breweries in Santa Cruz

Rather than trying to explain our pretty strong views on what makes a brewery the best, we’ve designed our own formula to objectively tell you what’s literally the best. 

We’ve devised our own ranking system based on 3 factors: 

  1. Public ratings (sites such as Google and Yelp)
  2. The brewery’s rating on Untappd
  3. Popularity

The middle two rankings showcase how loved they are while our personal opinion also plays into the overall ranking. 

In the end, each brewery receives a score out of 5. We will break ties using the total number of reviews. In general, the higher the score, the better! 

We excluded the below breweries for the following reasons: 

  • Fruition Brewing – More than 10 miles away from Santa Cruz
  • Steel Bonnet Brewing – More than 10 miles away from Santa Cruz
  • Soquel Fermentation Project – they are online only or at brewpubs
  • Seabright Social – purchased in 2020 and converted to a store – beer is contract-brewed
  • Gilman Brewing Santa Cruz Taproom – brewed in Berkeley, CA so not technically a Santa Cruz brewery

Here is our ranked list of which breweries offers the best craft beers in Santa Cruz:

1Sante Adairius Rustic Ales4.9
2Woodhouse Blending & Brewing4.85
3Humble Sea Brewing Company4.73
4Private Press Brewing4.66
5Shanty Shack Brewing4.65
6Discretion Brewing4.62
7Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing4.56

If you want to learn more, read our ranking formula.

Ready to learn about each of these breweries and choose your own favorite brewery in Santa Cruz?

1. Sante Adairius Rustic Ales 

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales FB Santa Cruz CA-  best breweries in Santa Cruz
Courtesy of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Facebook
  • Hours for “Portal” downtown location:
    • Sunday – Thursday 12 PM – 9 PM
    • Friday – Saturday 12 PM – 10 PM
  • Food Available: Yes
  • Other Alcoholic Drinks for sale: wine and cider

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales combines the simplicity of age-old brewing methods with creative twists. They are known for farmhouse-style ales, a category that harks back to the “rustic”, artisanal roots of brewing and are #1 in rankings for the best breweries in Santa Cruz. 

A small yet imaginative brewery, they are crafting a diverse range of beers that are unique and innovative. They focus on crafting unique, barrel-aged beers, like saisons, and they are proud to use local ingredients.

The team behind Sante Adairius includes co-owners Adair Paterno and Tim Clifford, both of whom have a deep passion for beer and the brewing process.

Their Portal location is located in the heart of Santa Cruz, but their original spot in Capitola is only 10 minutes away if you want to visit the OG. Be sure to check their hours as that location is different from the one referenced above. 

2. Woodhouse Blending & Brewing

woodhouse blending and brewing FB -  best breweries in Santa Cruz
Courtesy of Woodhouse Blending & Brewing Facebook
  • Hours:
    • Tuesday – Thursday 1 PM – 9 PM
    • Friday 1 PM – 10 PM
    • Saturday 12 PM – 10 PM
    • Sunday 8 AM – 7 PM
    • Closed: Monday
  • Food Available: Yes
  • Other Alcoholic Drinks for sale: Wine and cider

Are you a fan of mixed fermentation and barrel-aging? With a focus on blending various brews and allowing them to mature in barrels, Woodhouse Blending & Brewing creates complex, layered beers that are a testament to the patience of the craft. 

The brewery’s mixed fermentation method brings forth complex, layered beers, each with its own unique character. The beers evolve over time, slowly maturing in barrels, allowing for a depth and nuance of flavor that is truly exceptional.

Woodhouse’s sours are particularly celebrated and are known for their balance of tartness and sweetness. They tease the palate and engage your taste buds in a lively tango. These are not just beverages; they’re experiences, transforming each sip into a memorable moment.

3. Humble Sea Brewing Company

Humble Sea Brewing - best breweries in Santa Cruz
Courtesy of Humble Sea Brewing Facebook
  • Hours:
    • Sunday – Saturday 11 AM – 9 PM
  • Food Available: Yes
  • Other Alcoholic Drinks for sale: Cider

Humble Sea Brewing Company will wash over you like a wave of refreshing, hop-forward brews. 

Known for their hazy IPAs, Humble Sea’s brews are as easygoing and chill as the ocean breeze. Founded by three friends – Nick Pavlina, Taylor West, and Frank Scott Krueger – their love for the ocean, adventure, and good beer drove them to start Humble Sea in 2016. The brewery is inspired by the ocean and Santa Cruz’s unique coastal lifestyle, and they aim to reflect this in their beer and branding.

Humble Sea is renowned for its wide range of beers, including hazy IPAs, lagers, and sour beers. 

Their beer names are clever, as they’re known for their nautical puns. Let’s be honest – who wouldn’t enjoy a ‘Socks & Sandals’ IPA?

While they have a main location in Santa Cruz, they also have a pop-up location on The Wharf for this Summer 2023. When we visited, we drank at their main location off Swift Street. Also, don’t sleep on their food. The empanadas are incredible!

4. Private Press Brewing

Private Press Brewing FB
Courtesy of Private Press Brewing Facebook
  • Hours: Members only
  • Food Available: No
  • Other Alcoholic Drinks for sale: No

We debated putting Private Press on the list because it’s a members-only brewery meaning you have to be a member to join. As of April 2024, there are no more memberships available and you’ll have to join the waitlist.

If you are a local though, we wanted to make sure we listed it in case they reopen their memberships

Private Press Brewing is a small but mighty brewery that impresses with its barrel-aged stouts and barleywines. Private Press’s membership model means members receive allotments of each beer release and have priority access to special releases and events. 

Their stouts are rich, complex, and satisfying, while their barleywines are a delightful blend of strength and subtlety. They constantly push the boundaries of what barrel-aged beer can be, introducing unique ingredients and experimenting with different brewing techniques. It’s this balance of tradition and innovation that sets them apart.

The brewery was founded by Brad Clark, a passionate brewer who left his previous position as Director of Brewing Operations at Jackie O’s in Athens, Ohio, to start his own brewery. His vision was to create a brewery that focused on crafting exquisite barrel-aged stouts and barleywines, an ambition that has now been realized in Private Press Brewing.

5. Shanty Shack Brewing

Shanty Shack Brewing FB
Courtesy of Shanty Shack Brewing Facebook
  • Hours:
    • Monday – Thursday: 12 PM – 8 PM
    • Friday: 12 PM – 9 PM
    • Saturday – Sunday: 11 AM – 9 PM
  • Food Available: Yes, food trucks
  • Other Alcoholic Drinks for sale: No

Shanty Shack Brewing is a nano-brewery known for its creative and flavor-packed craft beers, proving that good things come in small packages. 

The brewery is the brainchild of friends and co-founders, Brandon Padilla and Nathan Van Zandt, who started their brewing journey in a backyard shanty. The “shanty” is a central theme in their brand, symbolizing their humble beginnings and the creativity and innovation that come from working with limited resources.

The duo shares a deep passion for crafting unique beers that excite the palate and bring people together. Their beer list is as varied as it is flavorful, encompassing everything from vibrant IPAs to silky stouts. This diversity is a testament to their love for experimentation and innovation in the realm of brewing.

Shanty Shack Brewing offers a diverse range of beers, from juicy IPAs to smooth and rich stouts to fruited kettle sours. With rotating food trucks, live music and backyard vibes, this is a great spot to sip some suds. 

Of note, parking can be a hassle. Their lot is tiny and there are only a few spots in front of the building. There is “permit parking” on Fern Street which the brewery can provide you with a pass to put on your dashboard so you can park there too. 

6. Discretion Brewing

Discretion Brewing FB - best breweries in Santa Cruz, CA
Courtesy of Discretion Brewing Facebook
  • Hours: 7 days a week 12 PM – 9 PM
  • Food Available: Yes
  • Other Alcoholic Drinks for sale: Cider, Kombucha and Wine

Discretion Brewing comes in at #7 in the rankings, and despite its name, you won’t need to be discreet about your love for their beer. 

A family-operated craft brewery, Discretion Brewing’s philosophy revolves around three key elements: love, beauty, and truth. This philosophy is manifested in their dedication to crafting unique, balanced beers, their commitment to organic ingredients and sustainable practices, and their focus on honest and transparent business operations.

Discretion combines eco-conscious practices with a knack for making delicious, balanced beers. With 16 beers on tap, they offer a range of beer styles, including IPAs, lagers, stouts, and more. 

Their Uncle Dave’s Rye IPA is a local favorite that harmonizes the spiciness of rye with the citrusy punch of hops, and trust me, Uncle Dave knows his beer!

7. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing FB - best breweries in Santa Cruz, CA
Courtesy of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Facebook
  • Hours: 7 days a week 12 PM – 10 PM
  • Food Available: Yes
  • Other Alcoholic Drinks for sale: Cider, Kombucha and Wine

As we descend down to #8 on our list, we head to Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing (couldn’t help myself with a good dad joke!).

Often referred to as SCMB, this woman-owned, certified organic brewery is committed to creating high-quality, organic craft beers with a focus on environmental sustainability and community engagement.

SCMB offers a diverse range of beers, from traditional styles such as stouts and IPAs to unique offerings like barrel-aged and seasonal brews. Their Dread Brown Ale, however, is a consistent crowd-pleaser, with its rich malty flavors and smooth finish. It’s the perfect brew for those seeking a departure from the hop-heavy world of IPAs.

Their beers are crafted using certified organic ingredients, reflecting their commitment to both quality and environmental responsibility.

If you’re looking for a “peak” beer experience, this is the place (ok, we’ll stop now…maybe).

In conclusion, Santa Cruz, with its diverse array of craft breweries, truly is a beer lover’s paradise and there is no shortage of suds to sample.

From the rustic ales of Sante Adairius to the unique blends of Woodhouse, the hazy IPAs of Humble Sea, and the traditional European lagers of New Bohemia, there’s a brew for almost every taste bud. 

Each brewery has a unique story to tell, and each pint is a testament to the passion, creativity, and craftsmanship that define Santa Cruz’s vibrant craft beer scene. If your favorite brewery was lower on the ranking, be sure to leave them a good review so their standing could rise on this best breweries in Santa Cruz guide!

Looking for more California info? Browse all our California Travel Guides here or check out these top post:

Ready to visit to Scottsdale? Read hotel reviews, check current price then book your room here!

Don’t forget to pick up a California guidebook for your other adventures.

Love this guide? Have questions? Get in touch with us on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Similar Posts


  1. Nubo and Greater Purpose have closed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.