Two of San Diego’s most well-known homegrown restaurant chains are working to add craft-brewing capabilities. The Brigantine family of seafood restaurants and the burger all-stars at Hodad’s are both building production breweries to supply their locations throughout the county.
The Brigantine has long offered a house beer called Brig Brew. That mild golden ale has been produced by Karl Strauss Brewing, which crafts private-label offerings for other hospitality clients. Brigantine president Mike Morton, Jr. and his team want a lager for the group’s Mexican-themed Miguel’s Cocina eateries, but with Strauss’ growth (it is currently the 41st largest craft brewery in the country), the veteran beer company would be unable to accommodate that request. So, The Brigantine is installing Ketch Brewing in a vacant warehouse space at its corporate headquarters at 7889 Ostrow Street in Kearny Mesa.
The 10-barrel, direct-fire brewhouse and cellar (four 20-barrel fermenters and a pair of 20-barrel brite tanks) will share that 2,000-square-foot space, while cold storage and grain-processing will occupy other parts of the building. Morton and company are looking forward to making better use of that underutilized space, and plan to bring brewing of Brig Brew, the aforementioned Mexican-style lager and an India pale ale in-house. Those are the only set styles at present. Everything beyond that will follow the vision and imagination of Ketch’s eventual head brewer. The Brigantine is currently accepting résumés from interested applicants.
The name Ketch Brewing matches that of Ketch Grill and Taps, a new casual-seafood concept slated to go live at the La Mesa space formerly known as the Red Sails Inn. It will also be one of four concepts installed as part of a $13 million renovation of the high-profile former home of Anthony’s Fish Grotto on the San Diego Bayfront. The Brigantine currently operates 14 locations and intends to have two house taps at each. While Ketch Brewing will start out draft-only, the company may entertain canning in the future. The Brigantine will utilize a third-party distributor, and Morton says there is potential for selling Ketch beers outside of his chain’s venues.
Meanwhile, Hodad’s is installing the first-ever beer-making spot in the Serra Mesa community just north of Mission Valley. The operation, Hodad’s Brewing Company will be located at 9726 Aero Drive, Suite B, near Interstate 15. That building formerly housed a printing company. Hodad’s manager Marlow Myrmo will be in charge of brewing.
Morton projects Ketch to be operational as soon as April with beers arriving at Brigantine restaurants in May. Hodad’s Brewing’s debut is less defined, but estimated to take place before the end of the year.
It’s been more than three years since Aaron Dean set out to build one of the most ambitious singularly-owned hospitality projects in La Mesa’s history. The concept included eateries, a distillery, a public-event space for musical performances and a brewery branded as Depot Springs Beer Co. Despite his family having owned the project-site section of the Fletcher Parkway shopping center where construction was taking place and support from the City of La Mesa, development of the brewery component has been sporadic as Dean faced numerous hurdles, including development of the necessary capital to realize his multi-pronged vision. Now it would appear Depot Springs may never make it from dream status to reality, at least not under Dean.
Commercial real estate brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield is currently shopping the 70%-complete facility as a “permitted brewery opportunity.” An informational brochure includes conceptual drawings and photos of equipment within the unutilized brewery. Sources with knowledge of the project had conveyed that Dean had shut down work on Depot Springs after running out of money to put toward it and was seeking additional funding.
Initial inquiries to Dean were met with optimism and his belief that a “good ending” was still in the cards. He still believes that and, though he wishes he could be the one to bring a brewery to the space, he says at this point he will be just as content to sit across the bar and patronize the eventual beer business that goes in, even if it isn’t his own. He cites multiple added and costly change orders as the main reason for his decision to put the project up for sale. As noted in the aforementioned brochure, the Depot Springs facility is approximately 3,600 square feet with $700,000 of brewery equipment available for separate purchase.
Over the past two years, Dean was able to open Sheldon’s Service Station eatery and Blvd Noodles (which is now City Tacos Village Tequileria). Along the way, Dean brought aboard numerous high-profile employees, many of which have departed, including head brewer Stuart Long, who now heads Voyageur Brewing in Grand Marais, Minnesota; executive chef Matt Richman who moved on to The Lot; and distiller Phillip Soto Mares who is now heading Oceanside tequila operation The Bad Stuff.
Don’t look now, but an area as old and sleepy as the antique shops that line it is getting really cool really quick. La Mesa’s old town Village Area—mostly known for fun only when Oktoberfest rolls around—has benefited from a big influx of modern and, dare we say, trendy eateries. And soon it will welcome its first-ever brewpub, Fourpenny House. Headed by a passionate owner who recently secured the services of a former brewer from San Bernardino’s Brew Rebellion, it will not only bring hyper-local beer to the area, but a Scottish theme, making it unlike any other fermentation operation in the county. We sat down with owner Peter Soutowood to get a better idea of what to expect.
What led you to establish a Scottish thematic for the brewpub?
My background is Scottish and I fell in love with the country, people and music the first time I went with my grandparents. Over the years I have made multiple trips, learned to play the bagpipes and visited the small towns of my ancestors. As a life-long baker and, more recently, a brewer, I was spending every spare moment in the past few years in the kitchen. Combined with my architecture career and a passion for creating spaces, I began to cast a critical eye at the restaurants and brewery tastings rooms in the area and knew I could make a truly unique space combining my love of flavor, my heritage and my design sense.
Other than beer and food, how will the Scottish concept be conveyed?
The walls will be lined with photos of my ancestors along with their stories of triumph and tragedy. Beside a hand-laid stone wall in the front of our space is a place for musicians, which will include Scottish and Irish sessions. On any random night you might find me playing my Scottish smallpipes or whistles there, as well! Our tartan pillows were hand-sewn by my mother, and our space will be filled with antiques and items of mine that represent the honest craftsmanship of a Scottish farmhouse. Our cocktail list includes Scottish-inspired drinks created by our Irish general manager, and even our beer utilizes a Scottish yeast strain. While we won’t have televisions, we will bring in a projector to show Scottish soccer and rugby. The team’s also looking for other ways to convey the brand, from Scottish afternoon tea to a whiskey trolley. We are all in for Scotland!
Where did you meet your head brewer?
I met Davey Landers at a Cicerone event in North Park in 2016. Over subsequent brewing sessions I began to see his incredible sense for flavors and creativity with beer. He has truly taken to heart the concept and key flavors of three of our flagship beers, and added a fourth unique creation which dovetails in neatly with our commitment to harvest.
What do you feel are the biggest opportunities and challenges to opening in La Mesa?
I see nothing but opportunities. La Mesa has quickly become the most desirable hip new scene in San Diego because of its quaint, walkable downtown, proximity to just about everything in the metro area within 15 minutes, and sunny mornings during June gloom! The other breweries in town have been able to keep locals who want good beer close, and the exploding food and drink scene in the La Mesa Village is good for everyone–customers and businesses alike.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—well, as wintry and holiday-like as we get in sunny San Diego, but that warm weather is perfect for enjoying beer, so it’s OK if Saint Nick keeps ignoring our dreams of a white yuletide. There’ll be plenty of fun events happening, holiday-themed and otherwise. We’ve hand-selected a few, but be sure to check out our events page for even more.
December 1 & 2 | Strong Ale Fest: Few experiences are as nostalgic for local beer-scene veterans as huddling together in the crowded back-lot of the Pizza Port bottle shop and repetitiously making one’s way to an outside bar many taps strong. The term “strong” is apt, because everything on tap at this annual fest is high in ABV yet innovative and diverse. Merry Christmas, Uber! | Pizza Port, 571 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad, Times Vary
December 2 | Three-Year Anniversary: Celebrate the three-year anniversary of La Mesans getting beers brewed in their hometown. If it’s anything like the past two years, live music and a plethora of beers will make a very fun party pad out Bolt Brewery’s sprawling, tiered outdoor tasting area. If you’ve never been to this East County spot, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. | Bolt Brewery, 8179 Center Street, La Mesa, 1 p.m.
December 10 | Belated One-Year Anniversary: December 10 is National Lager Day, and an apt day for one of the best lager producers in the county, Eppig Brewing, to celebrate its first year in business. This interest is looking to reward the beer connoisseurs who’ve made it one of the most revered new operations in town with a fun and easy event stocked with beers worth coming out for. | Eppig Brewing, 3052 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite C, North Park, 1 p.m.
December 17 | Santa at the SouthNorte Pole: It can be challenging to find beer-related holiday happenings that are family friendly, but thanks to Santa’s decision to visit Small Bar—with gifts for believers of all ages in his sleigh, no less—along with the team from newly established SouthNorte Brewing and their beers, a rare all-ages beer-brunch experience can be yours! | Small Bar, 4628 Park Boulevard, University Heights, 10 a.m.
December 31 | Craft Beer New Year: Whether you in North County or San Diego proper, Stone Brewing has a NYE bash of epic proportions for you. Join them at either of their restaurants and enjoy a smorgasbord of farm-to-table food along with various musical offerings, games, a photo booth, midnight toast and, of course, lots and lots of craft beer and commemorative glassware. | Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, 1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido; Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, 2816 Historic Decatur Road, #116, Point Loma; 8:30 p.m.
On Memorial Day weekend of 2016, downtown Julian’s The Bailey Wood-Fired BBQ closed its doors. That move shut down its on-site fermentation component, Julian Brewing Company. The business was taken over and converted into a brewpub in 2012 by San Diego brewing veterans Vince Marsaglia and Tom Nickel. The latter is the owner of O’Brien’s Pub and West Coast BBQ & Brew, and sold off his stake later that year, going on to open his own brewery, Nickel Beer Co., just down the street. Marsaglia, co-founder of Pizza Port, Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey, soldiered on but struggled to make a success of the operation. After exploring the option of selling The Bailey, he made the decision to close it and revamp it almost in its entirely. Soon, it will reopen with a new identity that will make it unique from a beermaking perspective, not only within Julian, but throughout San Diego entire county. Read more »