San Diego Distillers Guild (California)

San Diego Distillers Guild (California)

California is home to the most craft distilleries in the US, and you’ll find a whopping 18 of these distilleries within the county lines of San Diego.

Make no mistake, the spirit-crafting scene in “America’s Finest City” is positively booming, but it didn’t happen by accident.

Nope, it took years of dedication and organization to get the local community to this point, and at the forefront of it all, we have the San Diego Distillers Guild.

Uniting the San Diego distillation industry for universal betterment, the SDDG transformed what began as a grassroots movement into a high-revenue economic powerhouse!

Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at this operation, its objectives, and how it aims to achieve them. But first, some key info on San Diego and California distillery legislation.

San Diego & California Distillery Legislation

State & Local Fees

There’s a reason the craft distillery scene of California is the largest in the nation — Excise fees per gallon are a minuscule $3.30!

And considering the county of San Diego doesn’t impose any significant local Excise fees, it’s incredibly cheap to produce spirits here from a tax perspective.

Licensing Requirements

Licensing fees aren’t that steep in The Golden State either, as craft distillers can pick up a permit to produce spirits for only $912 per annum.

The licensee will then have the freedom to produce and sell their spirits to retailers, and privately on a drastically reduced scale.

But before any craft distiller gets their paws on one of these licenses and can take advantage of the new legislation regarding the three-tier system, they’ll have to submit to an investigation to establish if they and the suggested premises are suitable for approval.


The craft distiller’s license caps production at 150,000 gallons of spirit per year.

Thankfully though, the antiquated three-tier system – a residual artifact of post-prohibition era legislation that prevented the makers of alcohol from selling their products privately – has been amended.

It’s now perfectly legal for distilleries to sell 2.25 liters of spirit directly to each customer, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it has already had a hugely beneficial impact on San Diego distilleries.

On the other hand, if local authorities, such as the Sheriff’s department or the district attorney have reason to believe that a licensed location in their area would:

  • Encourage public nuisance
  • Increase crime
  • Contradict zoning laws
  • Over-saturate the spot with license holders

… They may appeal to local government to implement tailored restrictions to the license or the establishment referenced in the license.

Who Are The San Diego Distillers Guild?

While the San Diego Distillers Guild includes almost every craft distillery in the county, the actual organization itself is very small, run primarily by President Geoff Longenecker, owner of Seven Caves Spirits.

Side Note — Seven Caves Spirits is a rum-centric distillery that prides itself on delivering spirits from grain to glass — No middlemen, no neutral spirits!

They source local ingredients as much as possible, as community support is one of the key pillars of their business structure.

San Diego Distillers Guild (California)

Where Is The San Diego Distillers Guild Headquartered?

The San Diego Distillers Guild base of operations is 900 Bayfront Ct Ste 200 A, San Diego, California, 92101.

What Does The San Diego Distillers Guild Do?

Initially founded to promote the artisanal distilled spirits produced within the borders of the county, the San Diego Distillers Guild now does everything within its members’ power to support the local craft distillery scene and fortify local communities as a whole.

Unlike entire-state guilds, there’s little that this county guild can do regarding legislation, but that’s not to say it’s an ineffectual or redundant entity.

By unifying the craft distilleries of San Diego, they created a community of members all willing to contribute to getting the word out about the magnificent craft explosion in the county, thereby encouraging tourism from within and beyond the US. Consequently, local distilleries have thrived.

Each individual member doesn’t have much of a voice, but together, they have a booming bellow that travels across county, state, and even national lines, ensuring the world knows that San Diego is a unique microcosm of spirit-crafting excellence.

The guild allows San Diego to stand out in a state that has more craft distilleries than any other in the nation, but, as mentioned earlier, it’s not the just distillers that the guild holds dear, but all of their neighbors.

For instance, in the wake of the pandemic, under the stewardship of President Geoff Longenecker, 14 member distilleries ceased consumable alcohol production in order to use their facilities to produce gallons upon gallons of hand sanitizer.

During a time when PPE and sanitizing products were desperately needed but nowhere to be found, the guild stepped up to protect the citizens of San Diego and California at large, exhibiting the caring and community-centric attitude adopted by the SDDG at all times.

Is The San Diego Distillers Guild A Non-Profit?

The San Diego Distillers Guild doesn’t take a dime for their efforts. Every dollar they earn through membership fees, event sponsorship deals, and government grants is funneled straight back into the distillery community in one way or another.

Some funds might go towards the organizing of the infamous San Diego Distillery Trail, while another fraction may be allocated to general advertising of the San Diego scene, and more still might be used to hire legal representation in order to contest unfair state legislation.

The guild even hosts two separate distiller festivals to grow the craft culture and maximize the exposure of their member distilleries.

Final Thoughts

In short, the San Diego Distillers Guild wants to encourage the production of exquisite, unique spirits within the county, all while strengthening communities, not just when the going’s good, but when the county, state, or even world is facing adversity too.

It may be a rather modest organization compared to the state guilds of our great nation, but it’s having a BIG impact, and if the SDDG keeps up the good work, San Diego won’t just be recognized as the craft beer capital, but the craft spirit capital as well!

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