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.
From the Beer Writer: The Mexican lager is in the midst of a renaissance. As craft-beer drinkers meld an enthusiast’s hunger for artisanal brews with a frat bro’s desire to pound suds in great quantity, this adjunct-fortified style has risen to prominence. These days, it seems like just about every San Diego brewery is making a Mexican lager…and that’s exactly why Eppig Brewing isn’t. It’s not a high-and-mighty stance against adjunct lagers. They just figure if everyone’s going one direction in this arena, why not go another. Enter Special Lager, a dry Japanese-style lager that, rather than utilizing corn like Mexican lagers, introduces rice into the grain bill. The result is a crisp, clean beer that goes down easy as one would expect. But what’s not status quo is the advanced flavor-level of this beer with its tantalizing lemon and mineral notes, and the alcohol-by-volume, which comes in at a respectable 5.8% as opposed to the sub-five session strength of most adjunct lagers. That low ABV and minimal production costs are primary reasons adjunct lagers are suddenly popular again. They are highly profitable…just like the Big Beer products they’re based off of. Though most are truly craft and taste better than their AB InBev and MillerCoors progenitors, this trend smacks too much of macro-beer sensibility for yours truly. But not in the case of Special Lager. I applaud Eppig’s decision to go a more craftsman-minded route to turn out an adjunct lager that dares to have significant flavor and an ABV that inspires slower intake and intelligent contemplation versus tailgate-party over-indulgence and not much else.
From the Brewer: “Eppig Special Lager has been my after-shift beer every day since we put it back on tap last week. This beer fills the void for the devout craft-beer lover who quietly shames themselves for occasionally wanting a cold, crisp (probably) macro lager on a hot day. I, too, can be guilty of this from time to time. Special Lager is a Japanese-style dry lager brewed with rice as a featured ingredient. Rice is traditionally an adjunct used in the brewing process to lighten body, which it does, but we also use it as a flavor component in this beer. The combination of pilsner malt and rice with a dose of citrusy, late-addition hops creates an aroma faintly reminiscent of sweet, starchy sushi rice and lemon blossoms. Special Lager finishes exceptional dry and clean, the perfect beer to drink outside in a beer garden. On the water, perhaps. (Brewer’s Note: We just opened our Waterfront Biergarten in Point Loma!)”—Nathan Stephens, Principal Brewer, Eppig Brewing Company
Many are the local entrepreneurs who have fallen in love with the idea of brewing at the historic Mission Brewery Plaza. Located in the City of San Diego’s Five Points neighborhood, it is easily accessible from Little Italy, Old Town, Mission Hills, Hillcrest and Point Loma, and a stone’s throw from San Diego International Airport. Numerous interests have called it home: Mission Brewery, Five Points Brewing Company, New English Brewing Company, Coronado Brewing Company and its current resident, Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment. The latter is on its way out, opting to move north to build a larger facility in Carlsbad, making way for a new business to make a home at this historic site, Latchkey Brewing Company.
Founded by brothers in law with a dream, and now a brewery, Latchkey is in a holding pattern while Acoustic completes work on its future North County facility, but is hoping to debut to the public in spring of 2018. They figure taking over the brewery should be relatively simple given the turnkey nature of things. There is a chance the two businesses may actually share the production component depending on how everything shakes out, which is important because Latchkey intends to brew and distribute out of the gate.
As far as the 3,000-square-foot tasting room, ownership wants to overhaul it so the venue is 100% Latchkey from a branding standpoint. This is likely to take a significant amount of time, especially considering the amount of updating the owners have planned. While they appreciate the classic industrial brick-and-timber architecture, they want to add a variety of modern, clean finishes. Aware of the hundreds of workers occupying the 50,000 square feet of office space making up the remainder of Mission Brewery Plaza, plus an attached apartment complex, they will also construct a full-scale kitchen so Latchkey can offer light breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options as added enticements. Private event space will be offered as well.
Latchkey’s brewing team will be headed by a veteran who has worked at numerous established breweries. He and his brother-in-law plan to explore the lighter side of the beer spectrum, while also satiating San Diegans’ thirst for hop-forward beers. Their portfolio of American and international styles will lead with American “banquet beer”, Japanese-, Mexican- and German-style lagers, plus session English-style ales, augmented by hoppy lagers and, of course, India pale ales. Those beers will be produced on a 15-barrel system feeding into 15- and 30-barrel fermenters and a mixed array of bright tanks.
When asked about the inspiration behind the company’s names, the owners say that they were latchkey kids in the ‘70s, but there’s more to it than that. While a typical latchkey kid comes home to an empty residence, these brewery owners to be say they are stepping outside the comfort zone of their careers to enter a new industry, unsupervised and left to their own devices. As they put it, that’s what makes the whole thing fun.
From the Beer Writer: If there’s any gringo brewer that’s going to do right by both San Diego and Baja, it’s Ryan Brooks. He has lived a cross-cultural life, residing in Tijuana and working with brewers spanning as far east as Mexicali, soaking up the cross-border brewing culture along the way. Brooks is so enamored with the exciting things happening in his adopted region’s brewing scene that his new business, SouthNorte Beer Company (a spin-off brand of parent-operation Coronado Brewing Company), aims to celebrate the flavors and ingredients of Mexico along with the personal brewing heritage he amassed in Southern California. A key component to doing so is forging a flagship Mexican-style lager, and Brooks has done so with SouthNorte Sea Señor. Rather than rely on bells, whistles and adjuncts to add extra character, this inaugural 4.5% alcohol-by-volume offering is as true-to-form as it gets, relying on traditional ingredients to produce a crystal-clear, clean and incredibly refreshing beer. Tinged with the slightest bit of sweetness and complimentary herbal notes (think thyme and marjoram), it has what it takes to serve as an ambassador to the glories of craft beer for Latinos, who until recently, haven’t been marketed to all that well nor given much reason to give locally produced ales and lagers a shot. That changes here and now. Viva la revolución de la cerveza artesanal!
From the Brewers: “Sea Señor is the flagship beer that really kickstarted the idea of SouthNorte Beer Co. I was experimenting with the flavors and ingredients of Mexico, and brewing my take on a Mexican lager. I wanted something refreshing and easy to drink—like the beers I was enjoying in Baja—but brewed locally with quality ingredients. I use crisp pilsner malt and a classic yeast strain to get the smoothness typical of the style, but with a fuller flavor. We use European Noble hops at low hopping rates so the beer is balanced but not overly bitter. We then lager for three weeks so the beer is incredibly smooth and goes down easy, whether it’s by the pool or over a meal with friends. I’m excited for people to experience what SouthNorte is all about. Sea Señor is just the first of what’s to come—I am so inspired by our border culture and I can’t wait to brew recipes that showcase our ‘crossroads of cultures’ style.”—Ryan Brooks, Founder/Head Brewer, SouthNorte Beer Company