The collection of artisanal producers in the pair of business parks near the corner of Miralani Drive and Camino Ruiz in Miramar already interact like partners. Home to four breweries, two wineries and a sake brewery, this is the most craft-saturated ultra-micro locale in all of San Diego County. And soon it will welcome its first actual partnership—a trio of businesses sharing a 3,500-square-foot space with a collective mindset and completely unique, hand-forged consumables. Lost Cause Meadery, Serpentine Cider and The Good Seed Food Company comprise this hand-in-hand threesome, all of which are on pace to open at different points within the month of October at 8665 Miralani Drive, Suite 100.
While they were searching for a site for their meadery, Lost Cause founders Billy and Suzanna Beltz met and hit it off with Serpentine headman Sean Harris at a brewery event. The entrepreneurs stayed in touch and, two months later, Harris asked if the Beltzes would like to join him and chef Chuy De La Torre as a third tenant in the space they intended to share. The marrieds followed in the footsteps of De La Torre, formerly the chef at Rancho Bernardo’s Urge Gastropub, and signed on. To a person, the quartet believe they are in the perfect geographical situation. This pertains to their individual facility, where all of their wares will appeal to artisanal-minded locavores, as well as their immediate surroundings.
The closest similar business to the shared space is Thunderhawk Alements, and the Beltzes say its owners have been extremely helpful. It’s the “Miralani Makers District”’s tangible colleagues-versus-competitors vibe that continues to lure so many small businesses to the area. A distillery is also en route for the area. It is reminiscent of San Diego’s roots from a brewery perspective and, in some ways, evokes memories of simpler times for that industry.
The Beltzes like the prospect of leveraging cider and, to some extent, beer, wine, sake and spirits from neighbors to attract cross-drinkers who might not specifically seek out mead, but will be more than happy to try it during an expansive tasting expedition. They realize mead is not as popular or understood as other beverages and aim to do a great deal of educating rom their tasting room (Serpentine will have its own sampling bar within the space, as well).
Lost Cause’s meads will be produced in 20- and 15-barrel batches located near the entrance to their tasting room. Billy has earned more than 35 medals for his meads in the past three years alone, and the Beltz’s research and techniques have been published in the American Homebrewer’s Association‘s Zymurgy Magazine and American Mead Maker, the official journal of the American Mead Maker Association. An integral part of their production process is a technique which allows them to control a slow, steady, healthy fermentation that retains extremely delicate honey flavors and aromas as alcohol builds.
Lost Cause’s initial line-up will all come in at 11% alcohol-by-volume and include:
The aesthetic of the shared facility will pay homage to Southern California and the Southwest region as a whole care of shared plants and furniture. For more information on each of the businesses’ debuts, follow each on social media.
The status of Intergalactic Brewing Company remains uncertain at present, but one fact about its future is clear: its tasting room will soon pour beers of a new brand, Oeuvre Artisan Ales. Intergalactic owner Alex Van Horne has entered into a licensing agreement with local tech professional, musician and amateur producer of beers, ciders and meads, Ted Apollo, which will allow the latter to realize his vision for a line of beers fermented with Brettanomyces at the Miramar brewery.
Apollo has been mulling the notion of brewing professionally for years, but felt it was important not to rush into anything. He has spent that contemplative period getting to know members of the brewing community, chief among them Van Horne, and owner of The Homebrewer and Home Brewing Company, George Thornton, both of whom have been generous with their time and advisement. Apollo signed on to contract-brew at Van Horne’s brewery before he announced he was putting his business up for sale.
Eventually, Apollo would like to become a full-time brewer, but has no interest in becoming the next big thing from a production standpoint. Through conversations with Thornton (who also teaches the Beer Styles I and Basics of Brewing courses as part of San Diego State University’s Business of Craft Beer program), he believes breweries producing 1,000-barrels-per-year or less are in an ideal position for stability and success. His annual production goals contract brewing at Intergalactic sit at 100-to-200 barrels, but that barrelage will increase if he opens his own spot.
Should Apollo and his wife-and-partner Franchesca take that next step, they are not interested in sufficiently serviced communities such as North Park. They would rather explore options on Chula Vista’s suddenly sudsy Third Avenue or only-recently brewery-adorned Rancho Bernardo or Carmel Mountain Ranch.
“I just want to keep things manageable and do what I do well; focus on certain beers and build some accounts early instead of making 16-plus beers to sustain my tasting room,” says Apollo. He feels it’s important not to overreach, and prefers to specialize in one area that he can build customers around and cater to on an intimate level. “I want to get a loyal fan base and then never do anything to disenfranchise them.”
If Intergalactic sells, all steps will be taken to ensure Apollo is still able to brew his beers at the Miramar facility, but in the immediate future, Oeuvre’s first 100% Brett beer, Batch One, is set to debut in the next few weeks. It will be on-sale in four-packs and on-tap at Intergalactic’s tasting room with limited distribution at off-site accounts.
Why is San Diego such a hotbed of quality brewing? It’s a popular question with many answers. Most brewing professionals agree that a major key to the permeation of the suds subculture into the board-short fabric of San Diego is the prominence of homebrewing throughout the county. Many of San Diego’s commercial brewers and brewery owners spent years honing their craft on a recreational level before going into business. As hobbyists, homebrewers collaborate, learning from each other as well as the numerous pro-brewers who revel in maintaining their connection to the amateur-fermentation ranks. For many in San Diego, homebrewing is as big a deal as what goes on at Stone, Ballast Point or Green Flash. And once a year, the county’s homebrewers pit their best beers against those of homebrew clubs throughout the world at the American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrew Competition (NHC), winners of which were announced over the weekend from Homebrew Con in Baltimore, Maryland.
San Diego’s largest homebrew-club, QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity), was named the NHC Homebrew Club of the Year—the most prestigious honor of the entire competition. The 2016 NHC featured 7,692 entries from 3,396 homebrewers hailing from every U.S. state as well as 13 other countries. Numbers like that equate to big-time bragging rights for the hundreds of members of Carlsbad-based QUAFF. But the QUAFF member who gets to do the most bragging is San Marcos’ own Nick Corona, who earned Homebrewer of the Year honors after beating out 175 other entrants in the German Wheat and Rye Beer category with his homespun weissbier.
Other local winners include West Coaster staffer Ryan Reschan, who took first-place in the heavily contested Pilsner category (215 total entries). The runner-up to Reschan was also a local, Jeremy Castellano, who entered without affiliation to any particular homebrew club. Other successful QUAFFers included Curt Wittenburg (first-place in the Other American Ale category), Mike Habrat (second-place in Traditional Mead) and Tim Wang (third-place in Light Hybrid Beer). This isn’t the first time QUAFF has experienced success at the NHC. Quite the contrary. From 2001 to 2006, the organization won Homebrew Club of the Year a record six consecutive times. In 2011, Paul Sangster—co-owner of San Marcos’ Rip Current Brewing Company earned the Ninkasi Award for most wins at that year’s competition. These are just some of the major accomplishments this standout organization has amassed at the country’s premier homebrewing competition.
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.