The History of Karl Strauss

Learn about a little history of Karl Strauss Brewery, a stop along the Bite San Diego tour!

It all started back in the mid 1980s, when Karl Strauss’s fearless founders, Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner, graduated from college and moved to San Diego. They set up shop in an apartment on Mission Beach, armed with newly minted degrees, an entrepreneurial spirit, and an appreciation for beer. Inspired by a brewpub Chris came upon while traveling through Australia, they wanted to open a microbrewery and reintroduce locally brewed handcrafted beer to San Diego, a concept banned by Prohibition in the 1930s.

Karl M. Strauss, Chris’ cousin and world renowned master brewer of over 50 years entered the picture. He not only endorsed their idea, but he also lent his expertise to the venture. With “Uncle Karl” on board, they went about crunching numbers, working out logistics, and tasting different beers (strictly for research purposes, of course).

On opening day, locals lined up around the block on Columbia Street downtown to try the three original beers: Karl Strauss Amber Lager, Gaslamp Gold, and Downtown after Dark. For most people, it was the first time they had ever tasted fresh beer. Not only did Chris and Matt run out of beer within weeks, but soon requests were flowing in from local bars and restaurants who wanted to serve Karl Strauss beer.

A lot has changed since those early days. Karl Strauss now brews over 30 beers a year, including 6 core beers and a host of specialty beers, and seasonals. Their distribution has expanded to include over 2,500 bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and grocery stores throughout Southern California. And we’ve opened five more Brewery Restaurants in San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the commitment to brew fresh, quality beer that our first Brew Master instilled in us. Karl’s love of life, respect for others, and passion for handcrafted beer serves as the foundation of the company to this day.


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