(Beer) Blast from the Past: Escondido Breweries with a Vintage Vibe

Remember life before COVID-19? We’re talking way, way, way back in the day, what feels like decades ago. If you could use a dose of that warm, fuzzy nostalgia, there are several Escondido breweries serving it up — along with some of the nation’s best beer, of course. San Diego County is the ‘Craft Beer Capital of America’ after all, and Escondido is home to the top brewers, in our humble opinion. 

In honor of American Beer Day on Oct. 27, we’re encouraging you to cruise along the famous Hops Highway and throw back a cold one at one of these throwback-inspired breweries in Escondido. Or honestly, enjoy them any day of the year because they’re just that good. And during this pandemic, your patronage has never mattered more. 

And a quick note regarding COVID-19: At the time of publication, all of these breweries are operating outdoors with limited capacities indoors per state health guidelines. We therefore encourage you to check the operation days and hours of each before you visit, as those are subject to change. 

With that, happy reading and cheers! 


Jacked Up Brewery

Back in the 1940s, farmers would finish a hard day’s work with cold cream ale — a beer finished with corn, so it’s extra sweet and smooth. And it’s one of the many throwback-style beers you can find at Jacked Up Brewery. 

“This is a place where you can discover beers that are off the beaten path,” says Carly Poulson, who co-owns the brewery with her husband Mike. 

Mike started homebrewing in 1994, and his buddies would always joke it was “jacked up” how good his beer was. Fast forward a few decades, and it’s now the brewery’s namesake. Though they’ve expanded beyond home brewing, they’ve kept the “homey feel.” 

“We want families to feel comfortable here. So, for example, we have live music, but you can still hear the person next to you talking,” Carly says.  


🍺 WHAT TO ORDER: The Dragon Fruit IPA is available on a limited run this month until it runs out. Made with more than 30 pounds of locally-grown fruit, the brew is wildly popular for its crisp taste and bright pink color. 

The Red Rye Ale, an American amber, is also a top-pick. “Rye malt is what you use to make scotch and bourbon, so this beer has that same smooth, rich taste as those,” Carly explains. The Scottish Ale—which has a softer, caramel-like flavor—is also popular, especially during the cooler fall months. If you’re hungry, you can order a fresh-made pinsa, a Roman-style thin crust pizza. The pesto and barbecue chicken are crowd-pleasers. 

😉 INSIDER TIP: Try to visit Mondays between 4 and 6 p.m., when all beers are discounted $1. If you could use a good laugh, they host a comedy night once a month. The next one is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m.

❗❗ FUN FACT: The logo has a hidden arrow pointing up, for ‘Jacked Up.’ Can you spot it? Look right under the “k”and you’ll see the top of the arrow.  “We hid that because Escondido is a hidden valley,” Carly says. “And we feel our brewery is a hidden gem.” 

🧭 GO THERE:  800 W. Grand Avenue , (760) 300-0633 or jackedupbrewery.com


Plan 9 Alehouse 

The 1950s sci-fi movie Plan 9 from Outer Space is downright campy, and that’s exactly why it’s a cult classic today. Audiences have to come to adore its cheesiness, including Aaron Calles, who named his brewery after “the worst movie ever made.” 

“Plan 9 Records was also the label that produced The Misfits, and I’ve also identified with punk rock since I was a teenager,” Aaron says. 

Aaron’s love for all things retro and wacky is apparent when you visit the brewery. Here you can play on an old-school pinball machine while vintage records play in the background, for example. “I’m also a father of five, so I’ve worked bad dad jokes into everything, including the menu” he adds. “I think that’s part of what gives this brewery its character though.”


🍺 WHAT TO ORDER: If you’re not an avid beer drinker, try the Crispy Business, an American lager that goes with just about everything. Another popular pick is Modern Love, another American lager that has more of a pineapple-mango undertone, so it’s especially refreshing on warm days. Lastly, one of the best-sellers is Astro Zombies, a hazy IPA “that is actually not bitter,” thanks to its watermelon and cantaloupe flavors, Aaron says.  For kids or adults who don’t drink, there’s retro sodas and house-made root beer and lemonades. 

There’s a stacked menu, though burgers tend to be most popular. Try the Enchilada-davita Baby, which is topped with a cheesy tomato crema — or the Fancy Pants, which is topped with Champagne macerated Asian pear, candied house bacon, brie and a honey drizzle. 

😉 INSIDER TIP: Virtually all of the food here is made in-house from scratch, down to the ketchup and buttermilk ranch dressing.

They’ve recently started bottling and selling both at their Rad Market, a little shop where you’ll find everything from coffee beans and nut mixes they roast in-house, to seasoning blends and sauces,  to canned lemonades they make from scratch. There’s even a small record section where you can browse vintage vinyls. 

❗❗ FUN FACT: In a moment of kismet, a man dropped in to Plan 9 to ask Aaron if there was any connection to the movie. It turned out that man was the son of Gregory Walcott, one of the lead actors on the cast.  Through that connection, Aaron got to meet the actor — and in fact, one of his autographed manuscripts from the movie now lines the men’s restroom at the brewery.  

Plan 9 Alehouse also uses Kismet vinegar in a number of their dishes from a local Escondido vinegar refining company – “shopping and supporting local!”

🧭 GO THERE: 155 E. Grand Avenue, (760) 489-8817 or plan9alehouse.com.


Little Miss Brewing

At Little Miss Brewing, it’s hard to miss the 1940s-style military bombs on every glass, which is central to its World World II (WWII) theme. Its Miramar headquarters celebrates American WWII troops, and each satellite tasting room  honors a US ally: Normal Heights is for Great Britain, East Village is for France, La Mesa is for Canada and Escondido is for Russia — known back then as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

“The theme came about because my wife is a big fan of the American pin-up girls who were so popular during that war,” explains co-owner Greg Malkin. The namesake is a nod to her, Jade Mischne, the other brewery owner.  The couple hails from Arizona, but made a beeline for San Diego County when they launched their brewery. “This is where the best beer in the country is made, so we had to be here,” he said. 

🍺 WHAT TO ORDER: Beer-lovers will likely enjoy the Helldiver IPA, aptly named after a WWII dive-bomber.  There’s also Wartime Chocolate Cake, a English porter brewed with sugar and cacao nibs. 

Those who like, but don’t love, beer can try one of the many sours, which taste more like a kombucha. The Purpleheart, made with black currants, is a popular pick.

😉 INSIDER TIP: Come in before 7 p.m. so you can take advantage of the $4 pints. And although there’s no food served here, most local restaurants deliver. Burger Bench, which is right around the corner, regularly brings food to customers here, Greg says. 

❗❗ FUN FACT: When you go, check out the beautiful copper tap handles, which were made by one of Greg’s buddies, who is a craftsman back in Arizona. 

And while most breweries are dog-friendly this raises the bar with its ‘Pups of Escondido,’ a living album on the wall that celebrates all its four-legged patrons. Lastly, while it’s certainly not from WWII, all beer deliveries are made in a 2011 Honda because Greg discovered its build is ideal for transporting six-to-seven half-barrels at a time.  

🧭 GO THERE: 132 North Kalmia Street, (619) 331-7701 or littlemissbrewing.com