Last week, we examined some of the most promising work-in-progress beer projects in the eastern portions of San Diego County. Today, as part of this bi-annual four-part series, I am offering up information on the most intriguing brewery-owned venues coming to the western communities.
Thorn St. Brewery, Barrio Logan: In building a facility to up production and meet demand, one of North Park’s most popular breweries is taking over two identical former factory spaces on National Avenue, stocking one with tons of stainless and an intimate tasting room, and the other with a distillery, restaurant, retail space and a large patio area. It’s the type of grand project that figures to keep Barrio Logan’s artisanal renaissance chugging right along.
Click here to read more about this project
Protector Brewery, Miramar: Beeramar’s most brewery-saturated area (and that’s saying a lot), the Miralani Drive industrial park just west of Camino Ruiz, is getting its fourth fermentation operation (joining 2kids Brewing, Align Brewing and Setting Sun Sake Brewing) care of former Navy SEALs who are installing San Diego’s first all-organic brewery in an effort to produce quality beer while helping American farm workers and preserving the environment.
Viewpoint Brewing Co., Del Mar: While San Diego has breweries owned by chefs, this brewpub will be the county’s first purely chef-driven interest. Years in the making, it will give purpose and life to a rundown building along the banks of the San Dieguito Lagoon while providing Del Mar its first ever brewery. Culinary innovations and beers built to pair with cuisine is what this place is all about. At last check, owner Charles Koll was planning to soft-open this Friday.
Click here to read more about this project
It’s been a work in progress for more than a year, and they already celebrate their future digs care of a Mexican-style brew called Barrio Lager, but now Thorn Street Brewery’s brewing and cellaring equipment has arrived at its satellite facility in Barrio Logan. While the brewhouse is a month or so from being put to use, this is a significant milestone and the current estimate for public-debut of the venue’s tasting room is June.
Located at 1735 National Avenue, the 10,500-square-foot brewery is equipped with a 30-barrel brew system with a mix of 30-, 60- and 120-barrel fermenters. This will significantly increase Thorn Street’s production capacity to the tune of 30,000 barrels annually, allowing the formerly small operation ensconced in the quaint, two-story shell of a former North Park homebrew-supply store to grow beyond its humble, well-received beginnings. Thorn Street has signed on with Stone Brewing’s distribution company. The plan is to focus on San Diego County before considering new territories to go after.
But the brewery is only half the story here. Thorn Street also took over an identical warehouse next-door and has big plans for it that include the potential installation of a distillery, restaurant and retail collective. That’s a lot to fit into 10,500 square feet, but installation of a 6,000-square-foot outdoor patio is planned to help make room for the aforementioned concepts that are brought to fruition.
As for the brewery and its 750-square-foot tasting room, exact plans for opening festivities have yet to be finalized, but Thorn Street hopes to do something that really celebrates the community as well as the people and businesses who call it home. Something taking place in or for Chicano Park is something they would welcome. For now, it’s all about getting through the home-stretch; producing beer, finishing interiors and joining Border X Brewing and Iron Fist Brewing (who operate tasting rooms in the neighborhood) as Barrio Logan’s local-beer representatives by bringing the community its first brewery.
Over the past seven years, Iron Fist Brewing Company has grown into one of the most steady-running breweries in Vista, second only to Mother Earth Brew Co. in size and visibility. The brewery-rich municipality’s second-oldest brewing interest (to Backstreet Brewery), it now includes a satellite tasting-room in San Diego’s Logan Heights community, but according to founding co-owner Eve Siemenski, there’s more on the horizon for the family-run, combination Belgian-inspired and West Coast hopped op.
Recently, the Siemenskis invited on new investors, Wayne and Cindy Seltzer. The Seltzers bring diverse backgrounds in the food-and-beverage distribution and manufacturing industries. The couple sold its 30-year-old nutritional solutions interest business, Seltzer Companies, to Glanbia PLC in 2006 for $105 million. The Seltzers are involved in other business interests in the county, most notably the San Diego Padres ownership group.
Siemenski says welcoming the Seltzers aboard will position Iron Fist for future growth financially, and also enhance its business operations, sales, marketing and manufacturing capabilities. “We feel we are better positioned to implement our long-range strategies for growth in the highly competitive craft beverage industry,” she says.
In the near-term, Iron Fist’s upcoming projects include the release of six-packs of three of its beers in bottles—Renegade Blonde Ale, Nelson the ImPALEr and Counter Strike IPA. Further down the road, the company hopes to construct additional tasting rooms. Siemenski cites reaching greatly differing demographics at its Vista and Logan Heights locations as a great advantage to operating multiple venues. There is also the possibility of opening a brewpub and moving into a larger production headquarters.
A quartet that seems well-fitted for erecting and operating a successful brewery is looking to do just that in Barrio Logan. Currently in planning, that business will go by the name Alta Brewing Company and be located in the Bread and Salt building on Julian Avenue just east of the Interstate 5 freeway. That venue is being converted into an art-centric hub for the fast-gentrifying neighborhood. Three of the aforementioned founders will be putting their skills to use on this project—John Bull, owner of general contractor Blueprint Contracting, Josh Gliko of structural engineering firm Shop Engineering, and Branded Woodworks co-owner and operator Mike Franck. But who will do the brewing? Answer: Brett Stampf.
Stampf started his brewing career 20 years ago and has the likes of Stone Brewing, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Green Flash Brewing Company on his résumé, as well as a stint as the opening head-brewer for La Jolla Brewing Company. Since departing the latter, Stampf has focused his attention on the Alta project. As such, the game-plan for that brewery, which aims to be open by spring of 2017, is more developed than most in-progress brewing interests.
Stampf expects to brew five core-beers capable of satisfying a wide-ranging array of palates—a golden ale brewed with English yeast, a dry-hopped brown ale, San Diego-style pale ale with “old-school” hops, an India pale ale and a dry Irish-style stout. Armed with a five-barrel system, the goal will not be to flood the market with these beers via distribution, but rather supply the on-site tasting room while ramping up to service future satellite, sampling-only venues. Stampf estimates he can keep up to two such spots in beer with his system, and his team has identified North Park and Chula Vista as particularly attractive communities.
Originally, the founders considered pursuing the traditional craft-brewery model—a 15-barrel brewhouse with 30- and 60-barrel fermenters and distribution as a primary revenue-source. In the end, following the footsteps of Stampf’s previous employers (including La Jolla Brewing, which is attempting to graduate to greater distribution) wasn’t what they wanted. So they are opting to stay ultra-local. The financial risk is lower, as is the stress-level for Stampf.
For years, I’ve named the most promising work-in-progress brewing companies on a bi-annual basis. The scene is always changing and new projects are always coming onboard, requiring a twice-per-year check-in. Earlier this month, I examined the most intriguing new breweries being chiseled into reality in the north and south regions of San Diego County. In this third of a three-part series, I’m taking a look at new venues being opened by existing local brewing operations.
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Santee: Karl Strauss is San Diego’s longest-running post-Prohibition brewing interest and the reigning Champion Medium-Sized Brewing Company after big wins at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Those wins came courtesy this 27-year-old stalwart exhibiting greater innovation than at any time in its history, extending to the magnificent design of its recently opened Anaheim brewpub. It figures this train of high-quality will keep chugging along when Karl’s crew comes to Santee to build its biggest project to-date, an expansive facility at Town Center Parkway and Cuyamaca Street that will serve as its new headquarters. Like many East County brewery-owned projects, it’s faced more than its fair share of governmental and public scrutiny, but is still high on Karl Strauss’ project list if not a bit far off, time-wise.
Mason Ale Works, San Marcos: The Urge Gastropub chain will add another link next year when Urge Common House opens as one of the anchor businesses of San Marcos’ upcoming North City development. Designed to appeal to nearly every demographic with a full-scale restaurant, multiple bars, bowling lanes and bocce ball courts, it will also include a second brewery for the business’ brewing arm, Mason Ale Works. That brand has done well since debuting its beers early this year, creating the need for increased brewing capacity to support distribution demand.
San Diego Brewing Company, North Park: It only took this business 23 years to grow out of its Grantville brewpub. The vehicle for them to do so is H.G. Fenton‘s Brewery Igniter model, wherein business owners takeover ready-to-brew combo breweries and tasting rooms, installing their own concept. It will be interesting to see what the SDBC team does with increased production from an independent 10-barrel system and extra cellar capacity and how their beers fare on the open market, now that they will be distributed versus exclusively available at the original location.
Groundswell Brewing Company, Santee: Due to the small size of the brewing system and cellar at its Grantville brewery, Groundswell explored contract-brewing options, having some of its beers brewed for them by Twisted Manzanita Ales. The latter business folded in March, putting its combo brewery, distillery and tasting room up for sale. Bolstered by increased beer-quality from a new brewmaster, Groundswell’s going all-in, snatching up that East County real-estate for its own use…and even making plans to begin distilling in the not-too-distant future.
Thorn St. Brewery, Barrio Logan: Many have touted the rebirth of Barrio Logan for years, and it has far more to offer than it did when it was less hospitable and, in many peoples’ eyes, a dangerous place to found one’s self after dark. With each new business that takes a chance on the neighborhood, the better it gets. Two breweries (Border X Brewing and Iron Fist Brewing) have done that, but Thorn St. will be the first to bring in brewing equipment with a small system that will service its tasting room and retail operation.
Other Exciting Projects
Barrel Harbor Brewing Company, Miramar: The owner of this Vista-based brewery is teaming with a Miramar gaming spot to open the first-ever brewery tasting room with table-top/role-playing amenities.
Bear Roots Brewing Company, TBA: It remains to be seen how this breakaway hit nano-brewery will expand, but with quality beers and two viable plans, it will be a storyline worth following.
Kilowatt Beer Co., Ocean Beach: OB has two brewpubs and four tasting-rooms, but there’s room for this Kearny Mesa’s western satellite, which will be black-lit, artistic and wholly original.