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Posts Tagged grantville

Q&A: Zack Knipe

Apr 26

Owner, Kensington Brewing Company

After several years in operation, Kensington Brewing Company gained a name for itself last January when it opened its brewery and tasting room to the public. There was just one oddity—that tasting room is in Grantville versus the business’ namesake community. Owner Zack Knipe lives in Kensington and has wanted to set up shop there from the beginning, but was forced to compromise to bring his vision to fruition. But over the past year, he’s kept his eyes open for a space. One day, a sign went up in the iconic Kensington Video storefront and he pounced on it—along with a number of other suitors for that space. In the end, he won out and soon his brewery’s name will make sense. He knows he has big shoes to fill, supplanting a hometown business of nearly four decades, but thinks his goods have the goods to do right by Kensington and hopes his new venue becomes a hub for the community he harbors so much affinity for.

West Coaster: What factors made it difficult to setup shop in Kensington?
Zack Knipe: “Downtown” Kensington is an amazing place, but it just isn’t that big. Most of the businesses on the block have been operating for a very long time, so it limits the amount of real estate available for newcomers. Only a couple of opportunities to establish a tasting room on the block have come up over the past four years, and there was heavy competition for those locations. It was difficult! There were a lot of really good businesses competing for our new location, and we pushed very hard to make sure we got the opportunity this time.

WC: What’s so special about the Kensington community?
ZK: As part of my proposal to lease the Ken Video space, I wrote the owners a letter that talked about how I first found Kensington. I am from a small town in Northern California and came to San Diego to attend USD. Go Toreros! San Diego was such a big city to me that I always envisioned returning to NorCal. Part of my college coursework had me taking some cinema classes. One of the only places in the city to find foreign films or less mainstream films was Kensington Video. During my many trips out to the video store to pick up class materials, I explored the neighborhood and saw that it really has that small-town vibe in a big city. Long story short, being a part of a community like that means a lot to me. It has been where I wanted to raise my family and brow my business for a very long time. Sixteen years later, not only do we have the opportunity to be a local business, but also to setup in a space that first brought me here.

WC: How do you plan to convert this iconic space to fit your needs?
ZK: Our brewing operations will continue in our current facility in Grantville. We wanted to make sure we are able to have as much room as possible for the community to not only come in and enjoy a great beer, but host an event or community gathering. We will have a large amount of both bar and table seating, and we intend to be as kid-friendly as possible. The space also has a great audiovisual system we hope to use to show some of Ken Video’s classic collection. I don’t want to give everything away, but, aesthetically, we are aiming to have some historic Kensington elements blended with the Spanish and Craftsman-style architecture seen throughout the neighborhood.

WC: What’s the plan for the Grantville brewery?
ZK: We originally ended up in Grantville to stay as close to Kensington as possible. Being right down the hill from the neighborhood, we felt we would still serve it. In the process, we learned what great people we have in Allied Gardens, Del Cerro, Talmadge, Normal Heights and a lot of other nearby communities. Many of our regulars love he vibe that we have going in our current tasting room. In the short term, with our current staff, we will solely produce beer in Grantville while retaining the current setup for special events, using our Kensington location as our main tasting room. In the long-term, we hope to reopen the Grantville tasting room with some permanent hours.

WC: When do you expect to open the new location?
ZK: All of our paperwork is currently being reviewed with the ABC and we are awaiting our posting, which we hope to receive in the next couple of weeks. It is ambitious, but if everything goes as planned, we would like to be open in July. We want to thank everyone who has supported us over the four years it’s taken to get to this point. We look forward to more fun times to come!

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San Diego’s satellite tasting room projects

Apr 19

The future home of Little Miss Brewing’s tasting room in OB (three doors down from Culture Brewing’s satellite)

Breweries make the best margin by far when selling their beer in their taprooms. With a county expansive as San Diego, getting customers to a single location can be a challenge, but the satellite tasting room model—one where a brewery opens a non-brewing sampling space in a geographically removed community—has proven quite successful in helping brewing companies reach new customers, move inventory and generate additional revenue. Many satellites have been sent into orbit throughout the county in recent years, and quite a few are in different states of planning at present. Here is a breakdown of such projects by the neighborhoods they may someday call home.

Bay Park: As announced earlier this week, Grantville-based Benchmark Brewing Company has signed a lease on a space. The family-run business had been exploring the prospect of opening a satellite in Oceanside, but ultimately decided to stay within the City of San Diego.

Carlsbad: A collective of artisans will someday share space with crops of produce, wine grapes and hops at the North 40 development. Numerous tenants have been reeled in over the past two years (and many have walked away), but Miramar’s AleSmith Brewing Company and Carmel Mountain’s Second Chance Beer Company are signed up, with the former hoping to sell house-made cheese with its beer.

Chula Vista: Fresh off the high of moving into Twisted Manzanita Ales’ former production brewery (and distillery) in Santee, Groundswell Brewing Company is working to open a sampling space on downtown Chula Vista’s main drag, Third Avenue…right across the street from soon-to-debut Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company.

Encinitas: Though a community that’s openly resisted brewery-owned venues, this beachy berg has two breweries slogging against the tide for space on Coast Highway 101: Point Loma’s Modern Times Beer Company (across from La Paloma Theatre) and Solana Beach’s Culture Brewing Company (next to Bier Garden of Encinitas).

Marina District: Developers have spent the better part of the past year curating a list of breweries to share space at The Headquarters at Seaport Village. Planned as a central courtyard surrounded by six identical yet uniquely appointed brewery tasting rooms, it has proven challenging for a variety of reasons, but would create a concept unique to San Diego.

Normal Heights: Longtime craft-beer champion Blind Lady Ale House will soon have some sudsy company in their ‘hood care of Miramar-based Little Miss Brewing, which is hard at work on two fun-and-games equipped tasting rooms within San Diego proper.

North Park: Another interest with two satellites in the works is Second Chance, who recently revealed plans to open a tasting room on 30th Street in North Park, across the street from popular beer-bar Toronado and doors down from the site of Ritual Kitchen, which announced last week that it will soon shut its doors after 10 years in business.

Ocean Beach: Little Miss Brewing’s other upcoming satellite will join the county’s most tasting room-dense community, on the same block as Belching Beaver Brewery, Culture, Helm’s Brewing Company and Kilowatt Brewing Company; and a short walk from OB Brewery and Pizza Port OB; and a quick drive from Mike Hess Brewing Company’s sampler.

Pacific Beach: Downtown’s Mission Brewery is geared to cash in on partygoers’ thirst for beer, installing a tasting room on Garnet Avenue where it intersects with Gresham Street. PB is currently without a brewery satellite after Twisted Manzanita’s closed down when the company folded last year.

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Benchmark Brewing opening Bay Park tasting room

Apr 17

The site of Benchmark Brewing’s upcoming Bay Park tasting room

Last year, while conversing with the owners of Benchmark Brewing Company, they mentioned their interest in building a satellite tasting facility. Being tucked within Central San Diego’s Grantville community, doing so would allow the business to reach a broader audience. At the time, they were interested in coastal North County, Oceanside to be exact. It seemed challenging geographically, but there was no denying the increased exposure that would come with that expanding. This weekend, while inquiring about the progress of that project, I learned it had been abandoned…because Benchmark owners Matt and Rachael Akin just signed the lease on a space in Bay Park.

Located at 4112 Napier Street, the future sampling space will provide indoor and outdoor options for patrons. There will be roughly 1,000 square feet of interior space, outfitted with roll-up windows giving way to the street. An additional 1,500 square feet of space will be provided via an outdoor backyard patio of sorts. That area will be equipped with a fire-pit and half of it will be covered. The aesthetic will closely mirror Benchmark’s Grantville tasting room and, like that venue, the Bay Park facility will be family- and dog-friendly. The building currently sports a mural that will be painted over with a “vintage-looking, hand-painted sign”.

The Akins have yet to determine an exact opening time-frame, but figure to have the tasting room operational and accepting visitors this summer. At that point, beer will be available for on-site consumption, as well as to-go in growlers and four-packs of cans.

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Groundswell Brewing sets opening date for Santee facility

Jan 31

Last year, Groundswell Brewing Company took large, highly visible steps toward increasing the size and scope of its operations by purchasing the 12,000-square-foot brewing and distilling facility vacated by defunct Santee business, Twisted Manzanita Ales and Spirits. This move came shortly after Groundswell brought on veteran brewer Callaway Ryan (Surly Brewing, Stone Brewing, URBN St. Brewing) to shore up its fermentation operations. With him on-board, ownership felt comfortable taking this step forward. After months of work transforming its new environs, Groundswell is ready to debut its Santee tasting room to the public at a grand-opening event taking place Sunday, February 12.

A few pieces of décor remain to be placed in the facility’s public-area, but on the brewing-side, company president Kevin Rhodes says his team is hitting their stride, brewing roughly every other day after cleaning out and modernizing the space to fit their needs. Ryan has overseen the transition from the company’s original, much smaller location in Grantville. Groundswell has also brought on additional talent in the form of ex-Toolbox Brewing Company brewer Brent Donovan, who will be charged with implementing programs for sour and barrel-aged beers.

Groundswell Brewing’s new Santee tasting room

Groundswell plans to hold on to its Grantville venue, converting the brewery into storage space while reconfiguring the tasting room so that it includes additional seating. Tickets to the opening event for the Santee tasting room will go on sale online, tomorrow at 6 a.m.. That venue is located at 10151 Prospect Avenue and the event will take place from 12 to 8:30 p.m. That tasting room’s regular hours are 1 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.

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2016 Recap: San Diego’s Most Improved Breweries

Dec 14

Yesterday, I laid out what I believe are the best new breweries to have opened in 2016. Today, in part two of my three-part retrospective series on breweries in San Diego County, I’m listing the half-dozen operations I think most significantly upped their games over the past 12 months. It’s important to note up-front that being on this list in no way implies that these brewing companies were doing a bad job or making subpar beer until this year. It just means that, even if they were already good, they are doing even better now.

The Karl Strauss team celebrates at this year’s Great American Beer Festival

Karl Strauss Brewing Co., Pacific Beach: Uncle Karl’s crew has been churning out quality beer for decades, but in recent years they have put the pieces in place to reach all-time highs. Hoppy offerings like Mosaic Session IPA and Aurora Hoppyalis IPA are legitimately among the best of San Diego’s hoppy stock, and the brewery-restaurant chain’s portfolio is so stout with good beer, Karl Strauss was named Best Mid-Size Brewery at this year’s Great American Beer Festival.

Council Brewing Co., Kearny Mesa: I named this husband-and-wife aspiration one of the best new breweries to open in 2014. Back then, the business’ line-up was pretty solid, but nowadays the hoppy beers are dialed in, and its eclectic barrel-aged, bottled offerings are interesting and reliably delicious. They strive to do lots of things and are finding ways to successfully juggle all of it while providing an inviting atmosphere.

Toolbox Brewing Co., Vista: Many thought this business was done for after it parted with its original head brewer, but since picking up a hippy fermentationist with a scientific bent, this operation is not only making its 100% wild operation work, but rocking things out with intriguing, outstanding beers that are more cohesive than what came before. It’s an unlikely, but very welcomed outcome.

32 North Brewing Co., Miramar: In three years, this operation has had just as many head brewers. After having brought on the majority of Fall Brewing Co.’s brewing and sales personnel this year, the beer-quality is at an all-time high. That’s good timing, as 2017 finds 32 North making a big push to become better known and more successful via increased distribution of cans and kegs.

Groundswell Brewing Co., Grantville: A small system and lack of experience kept this business from realizing its potential, but after landing now-closed URBN St. Brewing Co.’s former head brewer, the beer has improved to the point where Groundswell’s ownership felt confident purchasing the large Santee brewery and distillery abandoned by defunct Twisted Manzanita Ales & Spirits.

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