Location, location, location. Known for stunning views, gorgeous weather, and lavish lifestyles, South Orange County is also home to some notable and exceptional breweries. Although the concentration is not as dense as it is in North County, they all have stellar qualities to make them stand out from the rest.

Docent in San Juan Capistrano is a must-visit. Pizza Port in San Clemente never disappoints, nor does Left Coast, also in San Clemente.

However, let’s not forget about the little, lesser-known breweries.

Last week, we took a look at some North Orange County breweries to visit. Here are 3 small breweries you should visit in South Orange County.

Gunwhale Ales in Costa Mesa. Photo credit: Charlie Perez


With their focus on rustic farmhouse and wild ales, Costa Mesa’s Gunwhale has an impressive array of the Saison style. Showing just how diverse a single style could be, one could explore the archaic nature of this style and how unique each example could be all while still exhibiting classic Saison-style indicators. For the hop-heads, Gunwhale also makes some wonderful IPAs. I also highly recommend their refreshing Grisette with watermelon, Summer On.

2960 Randolph Ave., Unit A, Costa Mesa

Game Craft in Laguna Hills. Photo credit: Charlie Perez

Game Craft

Head brewer Andrew Moy, formerly from RIIP in Huntington Beach, took some time away to learn the art of brewing by arguably some of the best in the world … the Germans! Andrew spent about a year studying brewing sciences and is now eager to apply his newly acquired knowledge at Game Craft in Laguna Hills. The facility is impressive, complete with six huge lagering tanks ready to patiently age some of Andrew’s (and my) favorite styles. His session Early Access Amarillo Blond is impressive and refreshing. Expect great things to come from this brewery in the near future.

23301 Avenida De La Carlota, Suite C, Laguna Hills

Artifex in San Clemente. Photo credit: Charlie Perez


Don’t be alarmed to see Johnny Johur, co-owner and head brewer for Artifex, brewing up some award-winning beers when you visit. Artifex is continuing to grow with some new distribution options to get its product out there more. Artifexican, a Mexican lager, is one of my favorites. For the hop-heads, No Name IPA has been there from the beginning and keeps improving. However, Trigger Finger IPA is one of the most impressive beers released to date. Crisp and clean and loaded with fruity aromas.

919 Calle Amanecer, Unit A, San Clemente

Lost Winds in San Clemente. Photo credit: Charlie Perez

Honorable Mention: Lost Winds

Located a mere hop, skip, and jump from neighboring Artifex, Lost Winds brings the coast indoors. Boardwalk-like decor, pleasant beer, and friendly beertenders. The Belgian-inspired beers are worth a look, as is the fruity salad of an IPA, TropiClemente. Massive aromas of tropical fruit and a firm malt backbone.

924 Calle Negocio, Unit C, San Clemente

Editor’s note: Charlie Perez is an Advanced Cicerone® who covers the Orange County beer scene for the Booze Blog.

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