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.
This May is packed with beery events covering everything from local brews and grooves to sours and Belgian beers to the age-old question, “Mother may I…drink beer!” Check out some of these highlighted happenings, then consult our full list of local beer events here.
May 9 | O’Brien’s Loves Craft Beer Mamas: No offense, ma, but Mother’s Day has been known to drive me to drink. Turn the tables and drive mom to drink by driving her to O’Brien’s Pub to toast motherhood with roughly a dozen female parental powerhouses from San Diego’s brewing industry, all of which will tap and toast some of their favorite beers. | O’Brien’s Pub, 4646 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa, 5 p.m.
May 14 | Rhythm & Brews Festival: This one might sound familiar. The San Diego Brewers Guild‘s beer-and-music festival was originally scheduled for last month, but (the threat of) rain washed it clean into may. Let’s hope April showers yield May flowers in the form of a bouquet of awesome local beers paired with a variety of high-powered musical acts. | Vista Village District, Vista, VIP: 12 p.m., General Admission: 1 p.m.
May 14 | Amps & Ales: The #SouthBayUprising is real and a great chance to experience it will be during this festival from Chula Vista’s Third Avenue Village Association, which has assembled dozens of San Diego breweries, including the South Bay’s own Border X Brewing, Bay Bridge Brewing, Novo Brazil Brewing and Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing for one enchanted afternoon. | 353 Third Avenue, Chula Vista, 12 p.m.
May 15 | Stone Belgian Fest: Being San Diego County’s largest brewing company and running the city’s largest restaurant makes for a lot of pull, and on this day, Stone Brewing will pull Trappist beers, strong ales, wits, sours and more all the way from Belgium to Liberty Station for a festival of epic, international proportions. | Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Road, #116, Point Loma, 12 p.m.
May 26 | Toolbox Beer Dinner: Surprisingly many are the chefs who claim sour beers aren’t good for pairing with food. This is nonsense, but it can be challenging to compose a multi-course feast using only sours. Churchill’s Pub exec chef A.G. Warfield has the gastro goods to go with Toolbox Brewing Company’s variety of Brett-borne and fruited-sour delights. | Churchill’s Pub & Grlle, 887 West San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos, 7 p.m.