Brewery owners come up with names for their businesses in a variety of ways. For Darrel Brown it was happening upon an old photo of his dad dressed in “’80’s cool guy attire”—a tight t-shirt, trucker cap and corduroy short shorts with Aviator sunglasses and a cop mustache (to be fair, pops was a rookie cop when that pic was snapped). Finding the humor in that image, Brown’s dad said he should go undercover as “Lance Savagewood.” As soon as he heard it, Brown, a homebrewer since 2014, knew his someday fermentation operation would go by that fictitious surname. So far, that’s the most concrete part of Savagewood Brewing, but if all goes as planned, many other aspects of the business will be chiseled into certainties in the next few months.
Brown has set his sights on the north-inland San Diego community of Rancho Bernardo. He sees it as an underserved area with demographics that align with his company’s goals. Currently, the neighborhood is home to a single brewery, Abnormal Beer Company, which is located inside The Cork and Craft restaurant (which also houses a winery), and Second Chance Beer Company resides in bordering Carmel Mountain Ranch to the south, but there is certainly room for more homegrown beer in RB. Brown hopes to sign on a spot and begin construction of a brewery and family-friendly tasting room by fall. His current project team consists of CLTVT, Hauck Architecture and The Craft Beer Attorney (which last week joined forces with San Diego-based law firm Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP).
Early on, Brown will be responsible for brewing and business operations. He has a good deal of experience with the latter. He is currently a vice president of operations for a large data and technology company and has run his own businesses in the past. Once open, he plans on hiring an assistant brewer to help produce a line of beers that, like the company’s name, is already carved in…wood? They include WhIPA it Good white India pale ale (IPA), $500 Millionaire session IPA, Poppa’s Amber Ale, Sugar Daddy’s Brown Ale, Sunshine Tax West Coast pale ale, Orphic black IPA, Big Fat Dad wee heavy and Exquisite Blonde, a blonde ale that has won awards on the homebrew competition circuit and will be offered with various fruit additions.
Brown intends to start out with a 10-barrel brewhouse and aim for production of 2,000 barrels of beer annually, with its best-selling beers being packaged in cans and bottle releases of specialty or seasonal offerings. But the main focus will be at Savagewood’s taproom, which he hopes becomes an enjoyable neighborhood hangout. Distribution of packaged beer will be limited to accounts located in or near Savagewood’s home base.
Having lived in the area for more than a decade, Morris and Robin Nuspl always wanted to bring a brewery to their community, but finding good, industrial-zoned real estate was problematic. So they considered Kearny Mesa, Mission Valley and areas near Lindberg Field before coming upon the eventual home for Deft Brewing (5328 Banks Street, Suite A, Bay Park), a 1950s gable-roofed former fishing-boat factory in a cul-de-sac a block off Morena Boulevard, Linda Vista and Friars Roads. Plenty of windows, a roll-up door and a patio were deal-sealers for them.
Morris will serve as head of brewing and operations. A former electronics-industry executive and engineer, he is an avid homebrewer who believes in small-batch creation. He and assistant Mike Finn will employ a two-barrel pilot system to develop and fine-tune beers before installing an eventual 10-barrel brewhouse to ramp up production. That move is currently slated for next year and will only happen after Deft brings on a professional brewer with experience running larger breweries. At that point, 10- and 20-barrel fermenters will be brought in to replace the current stock of two-, five- and eight-barrel tanks.
The company’s product portfolio will be made up mostly of ales of British, Belgian and German origin, each infused with twists—described as “deftness”. While there will be hop-forward offerings (English-style IPA), Morris intends to make approachability (Kölsch) his primary focus and isn’t scared to bring malt-heavy beers (Irish-style red ale) to a county that generally eschews grain-centric brews. He’s also eager to present Western European styles seldom produced on a commercial level. Year One production is estimated to meet or exceed 500 barrels.
Despite being a rather centralized neighborhood accessible from Interstates 5 and 8, the Nuspls concede Bay Park is still tucked away and unfamiliar territory for many San Diegans. They hope to do their part to change that by adding good beer with existing Bay Park interest Coronado Brewing Company and the incoming tasting room from Grantville’s Benchmark Brewing Company. They believe in the camaraderie of the industry and cite Home Brewing, Duck Foot Brewing, Eppig Brewing, Bitter Brothers Brewing (in nearby Bay Ho) and Hauck Architecture as businesses that have helped them a great deal over the past year-and-a-half. Deft is on track to open around Labor Day.
This year, H.G. Fenton presented a new option for aspiring brewing company owners geared toward eliminating capital-intensive barriers to entry into San Diego’s thriving craft beer industry. Dubbed Brewery Igniter, it consisted of ready-to-brew combination brewery and tasting room spaces for entrepreneurs to lease in San Diego’s Miramar community. Opting for this model saves start-up operations the money needed to purchase equipment, install cellar space and a cold box, and endure the often daunting licensing process, all of which are shouldered by H.G. Fenton. The initial Brewery Igniter campus consists of two 1,625-square-foot spaces occupied by Amplified Ale Works and Pure Project Brewing (scheduled to open in early 2016) respectively. It’s proven so successful out-of-the-gate that H.G. Fenton is in the process of opening a second, multi-space facility, this time in arguably the beeriest community in San Diego, North Park.
Installed at 3052 El Cajon Boulevard, not far from Tiger! Tiger! Tavern, Brewery Igniter’s North Park location offers three spaces, all of which are larger than their Miramar cousins. All three come in at 2,000 square feet and are equipped with 10-barrel Premier Stainless brewhouses. (Amplified and Pure Project will utilize seven-barrel breweries at Brewery Igniter 1.0.), four 20-barrel fermenters and two 20-barrel bright tanks. Opening a business in the trendy North Park area presents many advantages, but doing so would be challenging from a financial standpoint. Though exact terms haven’t been laid out, having the head-start presented by skipping the design, equipment procurement, installation and licensing steps presents helpful cost-cutting advantages. It’s likely that a substantial number of beer entrepreneurs will show interest in the Brewery Igniter North Park spaces. H.G. Fenton is banking on that.
Unlike when the Brewery Igniter concept debuted in Miramar, and H.G. Fenton accepted prospective tenants on a first-come, first-served basis, they have decided to be more selective this time around. From now through January 4, the company is accepting applications from companies interested in leasing the North Park spaces. Says Brewery Igniter team leader Bill Hooper, “We’re giving entrepreneur brewers the opportunity to tell us how they want to do business. It’s important that the North Park spaces are filled by brewers who are passionate about opening a brewery and have the drive to create something special. This process will help us identify those brewers.”
To throw one’s hat in the ring, interested parties are invited to email H.G. Fenton FLO business manager Jacqueline Olivier via email.
Dustin Hauck has had a hand in a great many local brewery projects, more than possibly any single consultant in San Diego County. That level of experience has many coming his way for advice, both here at home and outside the region. Though it wasn’t easy to find much time on his busy schedule, we managed to corral him from the day-to-day long enough to ask him about the services he provides for brewery clients, how he got started and where the local brewing industry is headed.
What services does Hauck Architecture provide to brewery owners?
We provide complete architectural, structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical engineering services for our clients. This is everything they need to get their building in shape for their brewing equipment. We also handle all the plans necessary for building permits along with most other construction-related permits that apply to brewery projects. Many brewers understand their brewing equipment but may not understand the building codes, fire codes and ADA issues they will face when building out their brewery. We close that gap, working with the client and any consultants they may have such as brewery equipment suppliers, contractors and installers. We can even provide steam, glycol, grain conveyance and other process piping design on an as-needed basis. What separates us from other architects is that we specialize in brewery projects. We understand the unique requirements of a brewery and the complications of adding a tasting room or restaurant to a manufacturing facility. We also understand the brewery equipment. There is no learning curve to explain what a mash tun is or why a room is needed for a future whirlpool tank as production grows over time.
What are some of the first projects you worked on?
Two of our first brewery projects were Plan 9 Alehouse in Escondido and Benchmark Brewing Company in the Grantville area of San Diego. Since then, we have worked on over 35 brewery projects and multiple craft beer-related bars, tasting rooms and restaurants.
What are some exciting work-in-progress projects that you’re currently involved with?
Right now, I have to say one of our most exciting projects is North Park Beer Co. There is a lot of deserved anticipation for Kelsey McNair and this project. We are very excited to be collaborating with acclaimed designer Paul Basile and are looking forward to this project coming to fruition.
What regions do you serve?
Most of our brewery work is in the San Diego region, with several projects in other parts of California such as Los Angeles, Ventura and San Leandro. We are expanding our service area outside of California with a brewery in Woodinville, Washington and Carlisle, Pennsylvania. So we can work anywhere. We are even talking to a potential client about a brewery in Italy.
How have you helped brewery owners?
We have been called in on a few projects where owners hired someone not familiar with brewery projects. They ran into issues such as waste water, air pollution, hazardous materials and zoning regulations they were not familiar with or how to deal with them. We are our client’s advocate, even names as their consigliere by one past client, acting in their best interest when dealing with authorities having jurisdiction over their brewery.
What are some potential obstacles you foresee for people looking to get into the craft brewing industry?
A lack of awareness of what it takes to open a brewery. There are myriad building code issues that have to be dealt with. The barrier to entry can be quite high when you consider all that is necessary. We see too many clients getting locked into leases before they have done their due diligence by talking with us early to assess the feasibility of a site and potential issues.
What are some candidates to be the next “it thing” within the brewing industry?
The high cost barrier to entry is something I see as being mitigated, to some extent, by an incubator model. We are currently working on a project called Brewery Igniter that intends to lower this barrier by providing turnkey production breweries that are ready to brew. The rent is higher but the start-up cost is much less. This allows for someone to come in and test their business to find out if they have what it takes to make it. I think this is an exciting model. We are also seeing growth in similar fermented beverage industries such as mead, cider and distilled spirits. Expect this trend to continue as we rise from the suppression that was caused by Prohibition. It took the U.S. a long time but American palates are evolving and there is an entire world of flavors out there to be explored.