Tasting rooms are big business and brewery owners are discovering that great spoils come to victorious sampling space designers who go the extra mile when conceptualizing an on-site fan experience that’s a cut above. It makes sense to pour money and energy into such a space—breweries make the greatest profit margin on beers they sell themselves. But there’s even more profit to be had that goes beyond bar sales, and today’s brewing company execs are growing wise to that. Hence, the installment of private-event space at newer spots such as Iron Fist Brewing Company’s Barrio Logan tasting room and Santee’s Pacific Islander Beer Company. But perhaps the best soiree space of them all resides at Booze Brothers Brewing Company (2545 Progress Street, Vista).
Not long after opening and forming a fast following among North County imbibers, the fraternal duo behind Booze Brothers took over the suite next door to their industrial park brewery and tasting room. Now, with almost an entire building at their disposal, they have revamped nearly 2,000 square feet of it into a stylish, spacious, rentable event space that includes a lobby, private restrooms and an outdoor area that all add to its overall versatility.
The main entrance leads into the lobby, which offers almost literal creature comforts with a mounted mammal head watching over a cushy couch, chairs and an animal-skin rug in a hipster-meets-cabin setting. That area gives way to the main tasting room featuring its own bar offering multiple beer taps, walls diagonally paneled in different shades of reclaimed wood plus a chalk accent wall for custom doodling. Plant life (including hop bines), brick and even an old motorcycle add unique and aesthetically appealing quirk, while a projection screen and full sound system incorporate more utilitarian amenities. The latter extends to the outdoor patio where a wooden structure can serve as a stage or a spot for the utterance or renewal of nuptial vows.
And though it’s a brewery-owned venue, Booze Brothers’ license for the space allows patrons to purchase both beer and wine for consumption during their events. So far, the space has been utilized for wedding receptions, birthday parties, corporate events, art shows and movie premiers. It can be rented any day of the week between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Over the month of September, we’ll single out some of the most promising upcoming brewing industry projects on deck in San Diego County. With roughly 60 such work-in-progress breweries, brewpubs and tasting rooms on deck, splitting the standouts is a necessity, so this series will break them down by geographic region, beginning with those in the North County area. Check back over the next several weeks for summaries on exciting enterprises in the west, east and south portions of the county.
North 40, Carlsbad: It’s a project that’s been in planning for some time, but once realized, will provide a site housing an artisanal collective of sorts near the iconic Carlsbad flower fields. This 43-acre “urban farm experience” will be home to fruit and olive groves, vineyards and hop fields, the cones from which will be provided to a trio of local breweries that will occupy satellite space within the North 40’s 110,000 square feet of commercial space: AleSmith Brewing Co., Iron Fist Brewing Co. and Mother Earth Brew Co. The caliber of those resident brewers lends added worth to a concept that is plenty exciting all on its own.
Mason Ale Works, Oceanside: The team behind Rancho Bernardo’s Urge Gastropub and Brothers Provisions are putting the finishing touches on a second, North County coastal version of the former. Located along the popular Coast Highway the O-side version of Urge will be a brewpub where former Port Brewing Co./The Lost Abbey head brewer Mike Rodriguez will make a long-awaited comeback with mostly West Coast-style ales brewed on a 10-barrel system. Barrel-aged and sour ales are also in the business plan, as is are plenty of guest taps, an innovative cocktail program and an on-site speakeasy.
Belching Beaver Projects, Vista & Oceanside: Never underestimate the power of hoppy ales and peanut butter-flavored stouts. Belching Beaver Brewery has used both to rapidly expand its three-years-young empire, first to include a North Park satellite tasting room and, soon, a 6,600-square-foot brewpub installed in a former Vista bank building and, more importantly, a new brewery in Oceanside that will up annual production to as much as 60,000 barrels. Throw in a soon-to-be-established wild ale program headed by former Toolbox Brewing Co. head brewer Peter Perrecone and there’s lots to look forward to with this company.
NOTE: The items above have been selected from a list of public projects. There are a number of projects that are quite exciting throughout San Diego, but cannot be disclosed as they are confidential in nature and must be kept under wraps by request of the business owners.
From the Beer Writer: Recently, I found myself at Escondido’s Welk Resort, a sprawling property with spacious suites, a golf course, theater and more. Having vacationed there with my family a decade prior, it was a pleasure to return, but I went there expecting little-to-nothing in the way of craft beer. So, you can imagine my surprise to discover the resort had its own private-label, locally-produced craft beers. And you can imagine my delight to discover that one was my favorite beer offering from Vista’s Iron Fist Brewing Company, Velvet Glove. An imperial oatmeal stout, it wowed the powers that be at Welk Resort (as did Iron Fist’s Blond Kölsch-style ale, which is also available under the getaway spot’s name), and is now available in a 750-milliliter bottle that sports unique artwork, while crediting the brewery that made the sultry yet powerfully delicious brew. A luxury property like Welk Resort realize the significance of craft beer—San Diego County craft beer, no less—represents another forward step for the artisanal brewing industry.
From the Brewer: “Velvet Glove was originally one of our homebrews that we made before opening Iron Fist, so it has a particularly sentimental place in our hearts. It’s an imperial oatmeal stout brewed with nine different grains, four of which are roasted, leading to a very well rounded, complex, dark chocolate and coffee flavor. The addition of oatmeal to the mash gives the beer a velvety, smooth mouthfeel. You can also get hints of vanilla, dark fruit and just the slightest touch of anise. As it ages, more and more chocolate begins to emerge. Finding the patience to cellar it is about as tough as brewing the beer in the first place. One of the challenges of brewing this beer is trying to keep the mash from getting stuck. The huge dose of roasted malts, the oatmeal and the fact we overload our mash tun to brew it make it a constant concern. One fateful day, we lost the battle. After collecting about one-fifteenth of the wort we usually do, the lauter came to a screeching halt. After several hours of trying everything I could, I finally gave up and opened the mash tun door. The entire mash evacuated onto the brewhouse flour, covering it in its entirety with one-to-three inches of what can only be described as “malt mud.” I spent the next six hours disposing of it. That was a late night!” —Brandon Sieminski, Brewmaster, Iron Fist Brewing Company
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. (Judging by how much photographers get paid compared to writers that would seem a pretty accurate statement..ha!) Earlier this month, I foretold of the upcoming debut of Iron Fist Brewing Company’s new Barrio Logan tasting room. It was long on verbiage and short on photos. This time around, I’m switching that around after touring the new space hours before its friends-and-family pre-open party this evening.
Located in the new Mercado del Barrio mixed-use development, the space offers indoor and outdoor seating. The latter is covered and rather spacious. Inside, co-founder Greg Sieminski has done a lovely job with authentic, acid-rusted patina tile-work behind the bar. Cut-metal skylines frame an abundant number of taps, the contents of which are explained on large screen flat-screen televisions.
A wide variety of specialties have been hooked up to those dispensers for the venue’s grand opening, which will take place on Friday, July 24. All of Iron Fist’s anniversary ales will be on, including the popular Death of a Blonde and Death of a Brunette. Three food trucks have been secured for the weekend, but beyond that guests will be welcomed to bring in their own food. Once open, the tasting room’s hours of operation will be Monday through Thursday from 3 to 10 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 12 to 10 p.m.
The satellite tasting room model continues to thrive in San Diego County, providing brewing companies greater geographical reach than ever before. The next business to go this route will be Iron Fist Brewing Company. The Vista-based, hop and Belgian ale enthusiasts are close to opening the doors to a tasting room in Barrio Logan that will be a sudsy cornerstone of the neighborhood’s new Mercado del Barrio mixed-use development.
Located at 1985 National Avenue, with apartment units directly above it and retail spaces below, the tasting room will offer 3,000 square feet of interior space as well as an additional 800 square feet on an outdoor patio. More than 30 taps will dispense Iron Fist’s core beers plus as many specialties and one-offs as the Vista brewery can brew. Those offerings figure to rotate regularly to keep the tasting experience interesting for patrons.
Outfitted with an industrial thematic punched up by textured treatments applied by Iron Fist co-owner Greg Sieminski (a painter by trade), the tasting room will be equipped with a large bar, plentiful seating and a room that can be rented out for special events. That unit has a ceiling built from reclaimed barrel wood and will remain accessible to the public whenever it is not being rented out. The kid- and dog-friendly space will also be used to host art shows and fundraisers and, though Iron Fist can’t book live entertainment during its first year of operation, The Mercado’s nearby outdoor stage can and will offer music.
The opportunity to snag this space came when Shea Properties approached Iron Fist. Knowing little about Barrio Logan, the brewery’s owners had initial reservations, but as they studied the area, they say they recognized the opportunity this venture presents, both for their company and the community. Key among the space’s plusses are the fact there is ample public parking and transportation, and it is only a few blocks from Petco Park, the San Diego Convention Center and the Gaslamp Quarter. Also close by is Mishmash Gourmet, a mobile culinary operation that will be installing a brick-and-mortar restaurant next door to Iron Fist.
The Barrio Logan tasting room’s grand opening is scheduled for July 24. Also in the works for Iron Fist is a venue at the all-artisanal, farm-to-table North 40 development in Carlsbad. A long-contemplated tasting room in Santaluz is still in the company’s plans but admittedly on the back-burner. On the beer side, 2016 will see the launch of Iron Fist’s Velvet Glove Series, which will see brewmaster Brandon Sieminski infusing the company’s oatmeal imperial stout with different ingredients to produce vanilla-and-ghost-chile and coffee crème brûlée versions. Also on deck are more releases from the Ken Schmidt Aloha Brews Series based on beers from the local homebrewer of the same name. Up next will be his very popular coconut, macadamia nut and coffee imperial porter, which was first professionally brewed by Stone Brewing Co. in 2009.