Many are the local entrepreneurs who have fallen in love with the idea of brewing at the historic Mission Brewery Plaza. Located in the City of San Diego’s Five Points neighborhood, it is easily accessible from Little Italy, Old Town, Mission Hills, Hillcrest and Point Loma, and a stone’s throw from San Diego International Airport. Numerous interests have called it home: Mission Brewery, Five Points Brewing Company, New English Brewing Company, Coronado Brewing Company and its current resident, Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment. The latter is on its way out, opting to move north to build a larger facility in Carlsbad, making way for a new business to make a home at this historic site, Latchkey Brewing Company.
Founded by brothers in law with a dream, and now a brewery, Latchkey is in a holding pattern while Acoustic completes work on its future North County facility, but is hoping to debut to the public in spring of 2018. They figure taking over the brewery should be relatively simple given the turnkey nature of things. There is a chance the two businesses may actually share the production component depending on how everything shakes out, which is important because Latchkey intends to brew and distribute out of the gate.
As far as the 3,000-square-foot tasting room, ownership wants to overhaul it so the venue is 100% Latchkey from a branding standpoint. This is likely to take a significant amount of time, especially considering the amount of updating the owners have planned. While they appreciate the classic industrial brick-and-timber architecture, they want to add a variety of modern, clean finishes. Aware of the hundreds of workers occupying the 50,000 square feet of office space making up the remainder of Mission Brewery Plaza, plus an attached apartment complex, they will also construct a full-scale kitchen so Latchkey can offer light breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options as added enticements. Private event space will be offered as well.
Latchkey’s brewing team will be headed by a veteran who has worked at numerous established breweries. He and his brother-in-law plan to explore the lighter side of the beer spectrum, while also satiating San Diegans’ thirst for hop-forward beers. Their portfolio of American and international styles will lead with American “banquet beer”, Japanese-, Mexican- and German-style lagers, plus session English-style ales, augmented by hoppy lagers and, of course, India pale ales. Those beers will be produced on a 15-barrel system feeding into 15- and 30-barrel fermenters and a mixed array of bright tanks.
When asked about the inspiration behind the company’s names, the owners say that they were latchkey kids in the ‘70s, but there’s more to it than that. While a typical latchkey kid comes home to an empty residence, these brewery owners to be say they are stepping outside the comfort zone of their careers to enter a new industry, unsupervised and left to their own devices. As they put it, that’s what makes the whole thing fun.
Yesterday, Mission Brewery owners Dan and Sarah Selis announced the launch of a stock-purchase campaign. Sale of stock will take place over a two-month window via online applications on the WeFunder site. With the exception of an ill-fated and illegal attempt by Kearny Mesa’s defunct Magnetic Brewing, this is the first time a San Diego-based brewery has explored a venture of this kind.
In the past, Mission Brewery was limited in the types of investors it could bring aboard by Securities and Exchange Commission regulations. Previously, investors needed to be accredited and possess a certain income and net worth, but Title III of the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act, which went into effect May of last year, allows the Selises to entertain applications from the general public. The Selis’ investment goal is $1 million, and the minimum investment individuals may make is $200. Beyond the minimum, WeFunder calculates the amount each investor may invest based on their income and net worth.
“Investing in Mission Brewery doesn’t just help the brewery, but it gives San Diegans the chance to become a part of the local San Diego beer scene as more than just a consumer or homebrewer,” says Dan Selis. “Most beer lovers dream of opening a brewery. I was homebrewing for about 25 years before I started Mission Brewery. Now, people can have the chance to make becoming part of a brewery a reality and own a piece of Mission Brewery.”
Mission Brewery opened in 2007 as a resuscitation of a San Diego beer-making brand originally established in 1913. That operation closed in 1920 at the onset of the Prohibition Era. For a time, its beers were produced in the historic Mission Brewery Plaza in the Five Points area of San Diego. Manufacturing now takes place in another historically significant location, the old Wonder Bread factory just east of Petco Park in downtown’s East Village area. Mission’s production for 2017 is projected to reach roughly 18,000 barrels, and its beers are currently distributed in six states: California, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
In a county where the bar and restaurant culture has grown to support local craft brewing companies, one entrepreneur goes to greater lengths than any other specifically in the name of San Diego beer. That individual is Beau Schmitt, best known as the founder of SD Brew Project—a 31-tap Mission Hills bar exclusively serving San Diego beers from almost every one of the region’s breweries—and the consultant responsible for the beer selection at downtown’s recently unveiled Quad Alehouse. The former business has been closed for months, but it will be reborn, new and improved, tomorrow with the opening of The Brew Project.
Installed in the abode-like, indoor-outdoor Hillcrest restaurant space that formerly housed R Gang Eatery, The Brew Project is a full-service restaurant and bar that, like its predecessor, aims to shine a glaring spotlight on San Diego beer. Schmitt describes it as “a San Diego brewery tour under one roof,” courtesy of a 30-tap, glycol-chilled, cold-blocked draft system. And it won’t simply be a trip to the popular breweries in town. Schmitt is one of the few beer buyers who gives just about any brewery a shot, culling every business’ portfolio for the best they have to offer in an effort to provide each operation a chance to convey what they’re all about.
In addition to beer, six taps will dispense red, white, rose and sparkling wines plus guava mango kombucha and Caribbean coffee served on nitro. (Two of the remaining two-dozen beer taps are also of the nitrogen variety.) Local distilleries such as Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits, Kill Devil Spirit Co., Malahat Spirits, Old Harbor Distilling and more will also be highlighted via a craft cocktail program. And a sense of locality will be presented in a menu that will appeal to San Diegans thanks to breakfast burritos, tortas, entrée salads and a variety of gluten-free options, all of which can be enjoyed inside or on an extensive, two-level patio that, like the restaurant’s interior, features a TV-viewing option courtesy of a 70-inch, corner-mounted flat-screen.
But there’s more to the representation of local beer than what’s in the glass. Growlers have been fashioned into decorations, mosaiced brewery stickers serve as a wallpaper of sorts in the bar area, and servers’ attire consists of their choice of local brewery t-shirt (except when the NFL is on, at which point they can choose to don powder-blue burial shrouds instead…damn, that was an awful exhibition against the Raiders earlier today). Additionally, a bottle shop has been installed so customers can take rare and everyday beer home in bottles.
The Brew Project will be open daily, from 11 a.m to midnight, Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., Friday through Sunday. Three specialty brews Schmitt plans to offer for the opening day crowd include Coronado Brewing Company’s new Stingray Imperial India Pale Ale, a specialty version of Second Chance Beer Co.’s Tabula Rasa porter brewed with cocoa nibs and coconut, and ChuckAlek Independent Brewers’ sour blonde ale made with watermelon. Having that last one in HIlcrest will save gas or Uber fare to the outskirt community of Ramona, instantly proving the value of the “under one roof” model.