Last year, personal differences led to long-time friends and Pacific Brewing Company co-founders Andrew Heino and Chris Chalmers shutting down their business and heading their separate ways. At that time, Heino shared his interest in picking up the pieces and building a new brewery. It wasn’t long before he set out on that mission and, now, his Align Brewing Company is an estimated month or two away from making its debut at Pacific’s former home in Miramar. We summoned him from the construction-site long enough to ask about his phoenix-from-the-ashes interest.
West Coaster: What motivated you to start work on Align so soon after closing Pacific Brewing?
Andrew Heino: I’ve been trying to open a brewery since 2008. All four of my first attempts were with brewer-partners. The fact that Pacific opened was only because I had learned so much from the first three tries and never gave up. Unfortunately, it was short lived, but I still view Pacific as a success and huge learning experience. Partnerships are very difficult especially as time goes by and people change. It’s not uncommon for partnerships to end poorly. But I picked myself up, held my head high, directed all my focus on a fifth brewery attempt and here we are now, close to opening Align. I could not have done it without the support of my wife, family and friends. And if brewery number five doesn’t work out, I’ll probably try to open another one.
WC: Tell me about the team behind Align.
AH: I’ve been working in the brewing industry and homebrewing non-stop for 10 years. I started out as a volunteer at Oceanside Ale Works, then got hired on at Stone Brewing as, I believe, their first assistant brewer. I worked in various positions there, learning every day and becoming more and more knowledgeable. I decided to start my own brewery about eight years ago and I’ve never looked back. I am mainly doing everything myself at Align, and am extremely fortunate and very grateful for having some amazingly talented and generous people in my life who have helped me in many ways throughout the rebuilding process; from making my logo-art, to some plumbing and electrical, and a number of other areas.
WC: How will Align differ from Pacific Brewing?
AH: Since it’s just me now, I can make whatever I want whenever I want. I have total creative freedom and I’m excited to try making some exceptional beers…and maybe a few weird and wacky beers. You’ll be seeing a lot of experimental beers as well as seasonal recipes, and we are planning to do a lot of collaborations with other brewers. More emphasis will be focused on expansion of the company and distributing these amazing beers to more people. On the brewery-side, every piece been changed and upgraded to a seven-barrel system. The brewhouse kettle is a new, innovative system that no one else in San Diego has. The only parts of that location that are the same are the cold-box and the bar-top that I built in 2013. Everything else has been revamped for the better.
WC: What styles of beer will Align offer?
AH: Our year-round core beers will be well-rounded to accommodate all tastes, and will most likely include a cerveza-style Pilsner, stout, pale ale and many IPAs. The seasonal brews will be the higher-ABV styles and weird-addition types. Because we’re not a niche or specialty brewery, we are not going to be focusing mainly on one style. That said, we are true hop-heads and consider IPA to be the pinnacle of beer in many ways. So, we will certainly be offering many new and unique IPAs and hop-forward beers over time.
WC: What will the tasting room be like and when will it open to the public?
AH: The tasting room will feature sacred geometry, interesting lighting, local art, ocean, stars and comfortable chairs. It will be very clean and streamlined, and feel more like a brewery than a restaurant. We’re currently waiting on the final government OK to start brewing, then we’ll brew nonstop for about three weeks until we have our core-beers. Provided all goes well, the soft-opening will be followed by our grand-opening. It’s hard to say a specific date, but I think April is a good possibility.
With three companies building out breweries within its confines, CRAFT by Brewery Igniter (3052 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park) has provided me a great deal of material for my beer-writings. It will eventually be the only place in all of San Diego County where one can visit three breweries in one fell swoop. But before that can happen, those businesses need to open. The first to do so will be Eppig Brewing Company, the soft-opening for which will take place this Wednesday, November 2. Following Wednesday’s debut, Eppig will be open during limited hours seven-days-a-week.
Last week, I had the opportunity to check out Eppig’s recently completed tasting-room and check out its first five beers. Often, pre-open beer tastings turn up multiple beers that could use some work—often by the admission of the brewers themselves—but Eppig’s brewer duo of Nathan Stephens and Clayton LeBlanc (hailing from Ballast Point Brewing’s Little Italy and Scripps Ranch breweries, respectively) are rather happy with their initial offerings. And so was I.
Despite the fact they are brewing in an environment that requires a bit of process-ingenuity and implementation of “Jenga-like” shifting of hoses and other equipment, they have put together a solid line-up of traditional lagers (referred to as “Natural Bridge” beers) and New World creations that I look forward to returning to. The following are my initial impressions of each…
The next beer to hit the menu will be a single IPA called “Factory of Dreams” in reference to a nearby business on El Cajon Boulevard. Similarly, the aforementioned “Glitz & Glam” shares its name with the Friday night show performed at Eppig’s next-door neighbor biz, Lips. The entire Eppig team says their neighbors have been extremely friendly and supportive, and they’re as pleased as can be about being a part of the community developer H.G. Fenton selected for CRAFT.
One thing that makes Eppig different from its fellow CRAFT tenants, Pariah Brewing Company and San Diego Brewing Company, is the addition of a small pilot-system that will be used for experimenting with new recipes before ramping them up to full-batch production. Working on developmental brews in this manner is old-hat for Stephens, who completed roughly 350 brews on Ballast Point’s (much larger) pilot-system over a three-year span. Doing so lent him great experience with a vast array of ingredients from suppliers the world over, knowledge he and LeBlanc put to use at their new stomping grounds.