SD TapRoom celebrated its tenth anniversary in February. The bar and restaurant was one of the first businesses to champion the charge of craft beer in its home community of Pacific Beach. That area has a big reputation as a party-town fueled by happy hours and discount brews, so trying to adapt mostly young, non-affluent locals and college-age visitors to the glories of a higher-priced but abundantly superior artisan ales was challenging, but fraternal owners Kevin and Kyle Conover stuck with it and gained the respect of the brewing community and the drinkers it caters to in the process. Now, that duo is ready to take things a step further via a new project: TapRoom Beer Company.
Equipped with a seven-barrel brewhouse and 50 taps, this brewpub will be located at 2000 El Cajon Boulevard, on the corner of El Cajon and Florida Street in University Heights. The Conovers have wanted to get into brewing for some time. It took a year to select and secure the spot they have. It was important that they find a location that was right for a brewpub as they were not interested in running a production brewery. The Conovers aim to keep this business true to the spirit of their flagship, citing a focus on community as an attribute that will carry over from PB.
But what about the beer? That will be the charge of local brewing-industry veteran Bill Batten. Batten resigned from his post as head brewer at Miramar’s Mikkeller Brewing San Diego in March. He opened that operation after transitioning over from AleSmith Brewing Company, the interest he worked for from 2002 to 2016. AleSmith owners Peter and Vicky Zien hold a minority ownership stake in Mikkeller SD, so entrusting that business’ brewing operations to Batten was a logical step, making it all the more surprising that he would voluntarily walk away after 15 years of loyalty.
Batten cited creative differences with majority owner Mikkel Borg Bjergsø when announcing his departure, but the likelihood of encountering those at TapRoom Beer seems slim. The Conovers say they are looking forward to Batten unleashing his skill and creativity, and are excited to see the direction he takes their brewpub. According to the team, the venue’s beers will run the gamut from a style standpoint. Classic English-style extra special bitters to San Diego-style hop-bombs and a variety of experimental beers will all be explored, but creating a mix of traditional and innovative ales and lagers is the goal.
Key features of the two-story project include a beer-cellar that will be located on a top-level mezzanine that is visible to customers. Half of the total space’s 5,000 total square feet is outdoors, providing opportunities to enjoy San Diego beer in tandem with its amicable trademark weather. Beers will primarily be available on draft, with occasional releases of bottles and/or cans. TapRoom Brewing is slated for a December 2017 or January 2018 opening.
Two years ago, Beau Schmitt burst on the scene with an obvious and equal love of San Diego and the beers produced within it. Not surprisingly for a county awash in sudsy civic pride, this proved a winning formula. From his original station behind the 31-tap bar at Mission Hills’ The Brew Project (formerly located inside the 57 Degrees wine retail and storage facility), he has gone on to consult on Quad AleHouse (868 Fifth Avenue, Downtown), a third-story bar and restaurant offering a tap list as sterling as its overhead views of the Quarter. It’s a win for Gaslamp-going beer fans in search of craft…and it’s far from his last endeavor.
West Coaster: What was the goal in bringing Quad AleHouse to Downtown?
Beau Schmitt: Honestly, we wanted to provide a safe haven for craft beer drinkers in the Gaslamp; something unique and in line with San Diego’s brewing culture. Most neighborhoods in San Diego have a dedicated craft beer staple—Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park, SD TapRoom in Pacific Beach, O’Brien’s Pub in Kearny Mesa, Neighborhood in East Village—but the Gaslamp was lacking. We took the qualities we liked most about our county’s best breweries and beer, and consolidated them Downtown in a low-tech, low-maintenance, community-emphasized, fast-casual, 100% craft beer bar. Yes, there’s one giant projector for the big games and private events, but there aren’t TVs around the bar because we want to foster interaction among our patrons.
WC: As the man in charge of the ales and lagers, what was your approach to the beer program?
BS: To offer 100% small-batch craft beers from independently owned breweries. The geographic delegation will be about 75-80% San Diego beers and 20-25% everywhere craft beers. Naturally, I favor IPAs because, well, it’s San Diego and we have some of the best IPAs in the world. So, about 30% of the draft list will always be IPAs or a derivation of an IPA. The draft list is 100% rotational with a maximum purchase of two kegs per beer. That means when you come in one week, the draft list will be completely different from two weeks prior. There is also an emphasis on balancing styles, so there will be something for every palate. San Diego breweries are continuously turning out new, crazy styles and flavor profiles. It’s my obsession to find them and put them on tap for the public.
WC: Quad just opened and you’re already going after a new project in Hillcrest. Tell us about it.
BS: We just took possession of the old R Gang Eatery space (3683 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest) on May 12 and will be changing it into The Brew Project [House]. “The House” will be under the Brew Project brand concept, which is wholly dedicated to San Diego beer. The space itself is an awesome 1902 craftsman-style house that will have 28 taps of a rotating, all-San Diego draft selection. We’ll also have a fast-casual food concept, well balanced cocktail menu, plus beer and wine to go.
WC: Who are you working with to make The House a reality?
BS: I have some incredible partners. Mike Sill, the ex-general manager of Quality Social, will be my managing partner and general manager. James Langley, who is involved with The Local brands (The Local Eatery and Drinking Hole, The Local PB, Wonderland Ocean Pub) is also a managing partner. And Kevin and Kyle Conover, the brain brothers and owners of SD TapRoom, are also managing partners who will help with back-of-the-house operations.
WC: What is the timeframe for The House?
BS: Because we are just doing the basic cosmetic remodeling, we expect to be open early- to mid-July…but you know how projects and timelines go.
WC: Do you have any other ideas for future projects?
BS: Of course we do. An example of one expansion is building “infrastructures” under the Brew Project brand, so maybe the next place is The Brew Project Bungalow? Now we just need to find a quaint place by the beach.
For more information on Quad AleHouse as well as recipes from executive chef Brandon Brooks, check out the June issue of West Coaster.