The “South Bay Uprising”—an influx of banded-together breweries and beer-centric venues spanning Chula Vista to Barrio Logan—has been picking up steam for years. Last weekend, the most formidable beer-making member of that growing movement opened its doors after two years of construction on downtown Chula Vista’s main drag, Third Avenue. Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company (259 Third Avenue, Chula Vista) has brought its ambitious vision for a multi-story brewery and tasting room simultaneously celebrating anarchic rock and the city its founders call home. In doing so, it’s given the community the type of business it can rally behind and build upon.
When we first met the Chula Vistans behind this business, they were renting space at Santee’s Butcher’s Brewing (since renamed to Finest Made Ales) to create their first batches of mostly-hoppy beers, but their dream was to secure space to make an artisanal impact on their home turf. They were able to do so in 2015 when they secured the building that formerly housed The Highlander. A rare basement-equipped structure it was first coveted by Fall Brewing Company, but elevated enthusiasm and hometown espirit de corps inspired the landlord to opt for Thr3e Punk Ales. At last weekend’s friends-and-family pre-open party, the landlord felt vindicated in that decision and bullish on the future of Third Avenue’s business district with the debut of Thr3e Punk Ales as well as the impending arrival of a tasting room for Santee-based Groundswell Brewing Company in another of his properties across the street, and the recent opening of Chula Vista Brewery on the same block.
While Bay Bridge Brewing Company and Novo Brazil Brewing Company have been making beer in Chula Vista for years, quality has been an issue and neither are centrally located enough to make the number of impressions and aid in revitalization the way Thr3e Punk Ales can. In addition to being smack dab in the middle of downtown, Thr3e Punk Ales is an attractive space with a fully conveyed thematic. The north wall is covered from basement to ceiling in a punk rock collage intermingled with iconic imagery. Tour poster artwork from the likes of Suicidal Tendencies, Bad Religion, the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys share space with the logos of Thr3e Punk Ales and the City of Chula Vista and the original Highlander sign augmented by the anarchy “A” utilized in the brewery’s wordmark. The brewhouse and fermenter tanks jut up from the basement into the tasting room opposite an L-shaped bar flanked by a roll-down screen illuminated by a ceiling-mounted projector. Rail bars line the north and roll-up garage door-equipped west side of the tasting room while a large wooden table provides a second, more communal seating option.
The opening beer list consisted of five offerings. Of them, the hoppy stock—what the company made its name on in its fledgling period—was the best. Needle in the Hey double IPA has the nose of a dispensary with flavors of clementine, melon, orange zest and pine resin. While it isn’t heavy, it is purposely sweet in a nod to old-school imperial IPAs. Conversely, their 6.5% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) IPA Hole has intense mango-and-papaya-like hop-bite up front and a sharp yet tacky finish. Morning After Pilz has such vibrant hop character it almost blots out its Pilsner foundation, but as its first-pour chill wears off, a bit of honey-ish earhiness and yeast character enter into the equation. A Mexican-style lager and 9.5% ABV imperial stout with flavors evocative of bittersweet chocolate, coffee and cinnamon bark round out the menu. Both would benefit from added carbonation, but taste nice and provide increased variety.
Overall, this much-anticipated project has made good on its intentions to bring a vibrant business in line with current trends and San Diego’s craft-beer scene to downtown Chula Vista. It will be interesting to see how a community less indoctrinated and inundated on the independent beer front will react, but if any brewery in the area has a chance to change the tastes of the city’s denizens, it’s this one.
Craft beer’s “South Bay Uprising” has slowly been picking up steam over the past few years, but now things are getting real. The uprising is finally hitting the main drag in Chula Vista, the municipality where it’s most important that it make an impact—Third Avenue. That thoroughfare is already home to Third Avenue Alehouse and will soon be joined by the area’s first fully functioning brewery and tasting room, Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company. Much fanfare has surrounded the latter while another interest bearing the city’s name has quietly gone about the business of going into business right across the street: Chula Vista Brewery.
Located at 294 Third Avenue, Chula Vista Brewery is the product of Timothy and Dali Parker, a couple who live in the area. As the company’s name suggests, the Parkers aim to be ultra-local, which will include teaming with other Chula Vista businesses. They feel there is a misconception that Chula Vista lacks craft-beer drinkers, which has led to the community’s underserviced status from a brewing perspective. So, they’re taking it upon themselves to give their community the ales they feel it deserves.
Russell Clements, a veteran brewer who worked at Rock Bottom‘s La Jolla brewpub under (current Second Chance Beer Company brewmaster) Marty Mendiola before moving on to Ballast Point Brewing, will be the one manning the brewhouse. He will be assisted by Timothy, whose brewing background has all been gained on the home-front. Together, the duo will craft enough beers to stock CVB’s dozen taps. They are currently developing a blonde, red ale, American pale ale, IPA and stout on their five-barrel Premier Stainless system. A double IPA, porter, imperial stout and hoppy lager will come later.
While the business may open as soon as this weekend (the Parkers advise that they will post information about any soft-opening on their website), the official grand opening will take place on Friday, May 5. CVB will have Third Avenue to themselves for a little while. Their cross-street colleagues at Thr3e Punk Ales are currently scheduled to open to the public by the end of June.
I’m a native San Diegan, but if you really drill down, you’ll find I was born a Chula Vistan. Back then I was far too young to drink and the word “microbrew” hadn’t been coined (much less “craft beer” or “indie beer” or whatever you want to call everything that’s not macro-owned “Big Beer”), so I didn’t notice the lack of a local brewery. But as the number of breweries in San Diego County grows like Jack’s famous beanstalk, many have taken notice of southern municipalities’ slowness to embrace craft beer compared to central and northern communities. Neither Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove nor National City have any breweries or brewpubs. And, though my city of origin recently welcomed the reincarnation of The Brew House at Eastlake in the form of Bay Bridge Brewing Company, it’s named after the Coronado Bay Bridge and is in Otay, away from Chula Vista’s downtown area, which lacks a brewing business. But not for long.
Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company has signed a 10-year lease at 259 Third Avenue in Chula Vista’s historic downtown. If the name of this operation sounds familiar, it’s because they’re not new to the San Diego brew scene. Since December of last year, they’ve rented time on the brewing system at Butcher’s Brewing Company in Santee, trickling beer out to select bars and restaurants in small quantities. Now, brewers John Marshall and Kevin Lewis, and partner Steve Garcia are poised to make a go of it in their own digs. Garcia is a native Chula Vistan and proud to give the city ultra-local beer in the shell of The Highlander, a historic landmark that was once an upscale store selling men’s apparel. The building is 5,400 square feet and Thr3e Punk Ales’ 10-barrel brewhouse (which will be used to produce between 600 and 800 barrels of beer in 2016) will be installed in the cellar to allow more room for patrons on the ground level. A hole will be cut in the floor to expose five 20-barrel fermentation tanks.
The tasting room will seat nearly 50, with additional seating available on an outdoor patio. In addition to on-premise offerings, beer will be sold to-go in growlers and crowlers. That’s pretty standard, but what’s not is a series of quarterly live concerts they are looking into offering. Seems pretty natural for a business that’s forged off the love for beer, rock and roll to go this route. Throw in the fact they have some connections with acts such as Sprung Monkey, the local band they recently collaborated with to create Sprung 4 Life IPA, and those events could make for a big draw. (Sprung 4 Life officially debuts at a Sprung Monkey show at Brick By Brick on February 26.) Through beer, a welcoming environment and quality added amenities, the Thr3e Punk Ales crew hopes to help the South Bay become a craft-beer destination.