This is the last post in a four-part series examining work-in-progress brewery projects throughout San Diego County. Our last stop finds us in the western expanses, a region with strong and varied interests in the works. Check them out and, if you missed any of our other tours, take a look at upcoming projects in the south, north and east regions.
Gravity Heights | 9920 Pacific Heights Boulevard, Sorrento Mesa: It will take the better part of a year to get this brewpub project built, but it has some star power behind it. The project belongs to Arturo Kassel, the restaurateur behind Whisknladle and the Prepkitchen eateries, and figures to be smart, stylish and sustainable. When searching for someone to mastermind brewing operations he went straight to Skip Virgilio, the original owner of AleSmith Brewing who devised many of that company’s award-winning recipes. This should prove a solid opportunity for a return to the local beer scene.
Latchkey Brewing Company | 1795 Hancock Street, Five Points: Headed by a brother-in-law duo bit by the brewing bug, this will be the sixth business to give brewing at Mission Brewery Plaza post-Prohibition a go after taking over the existing production facility and tasting room from Carlsbad-bound Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment. The factor of this interest that inspires the most hope is the fact a brewer with experience garnered at Ballast Point Brewing will be heading the ale-and-lager making. Look for this biz to debut in spring of next year.
Attitude Brewing Company | 1985 National Avenue, Barrio Logan: Many are the beer businesses aiding in Barrio Logan’s renaissance. To date, they’ve been existing companies, but this will be the first to debut there. Its headquarters will be a combination brewery and eatery offering gourmet wraps, burgers and more. The ultimate goal is for house beers to eventually be distributed throughout San Diego as well as across the border in Mexico. It’s a lofty aspiration, but one that’s time has come with cross-border beer-appreciation at an all-time high.
Kurt Bach began homebrewing with his friends in 1983 in Portland, Oregon. They may or may not have been of legal drinking age at the time, but they kept at the hobby until they were…and far beyond. Fifteen years ago, Bach really wanted to open a brewery in The Beaver State, but he felt it was too saturated. There were 50 breweries in Oregon at the time, with roughly 10 opening each year. Fast-forward and there are now more than 230 breweries there. He kicks himself regularly. But instead of wondering what could have been, Bach, now a San Diego resident, is finally in the process of building his passion project, Attitude Brewing Company, at the Mercado Del Barrio development at 1985 National Avenue in Barrio Logan. He says it was “now or never.”
Specifics such as system size, cellar capacity and exact styles are still being worked out, but Bach has a lot in store for his 4,500-square-foot space. In addition to the brewing component, Bach is installing a quick-service food venue called Attitude Gourmet Wraps, Burgers and Beers. It will be the first of several planned locations for that eventual chain, all of which will serve beers produced at the Barrio Logan progenitor. Those beers will combine American and Mexican suds sensibilities with the goal to someday distribute them in Mexico. Bach sees Barrio Logan as the perfect neighborhood to base this sort of cross-cultural operation, but there are many other positives that drew Bach to Mercado Del Barrio. Chief among them were its accessibility to freeways and an abundance of parking. A five-story parking garage will be available to patrons directly across the street.
Bach has participated in many brew days at professional breweries over the years, doing it for both joy and education, but he is particularly excited to mash in on his own system. He remembers the “cool guy at the party” effect beer had for him back in those maybe-legal days, and hopes to build a warm, down-to-earth place where employees make customers feel like the cool ones. That feeling will also be available to go care of crowlers. Attitude is currently on-track for a December soft opening.
It’s been a work in progress for more than a year, and they already celebrate their future digs care of a Mexican-style brew called Barrio Lager, but now Thorn Street Brewery’s brewing and cellaring equipment has arrived at its satellite facility in Barrio Logan. While the brewhouse is a month or so from being put to use, this is a significant milestone and the current estimate for public-debut of the venue’s tasting room is June.
Located at 1735 National Avenue, the 10,500-square-foot brewery is equipped with a 30-barrel brew system with a mix of 30-, 60- and 120-barrel fermenters. This will significantly increase Thorn Street’s production capacity to the tune of 30,000 barrels annually, allowing the formerly small operation ensconced in the quaint, two-story shell of a former North Park homebrew-supply store to grow beyond its humble, well-received beginnings. Thorn Street has signed on with Stone Brewing’s distribution company. The plan is to focus on San Diego County before considering new territories to go after.
But the brewery is only half the story here. Thorn Street also took over an identical warehouse next-door and has big plans for it that include the potential installation of a distillery, restaurant and retail collective. That’s a lot to fit into 10,500 square feet, but installation of a 6,000-square-foot outdoor patio is planned to help make room for the aforementioned concepts that are brought to fruition.
As for the brewery and its 750-square-foot tasting room, exact plans for opening festivities have yet to be finalized, but Thorn Street hopes to do something that really celebrates the community as well as the people and businesses who call it home. Something taking place in or for Chicano Park is something they would welcome. For now, it’s all about getting through the home-stretch; producing beer, finishing interiors and joining Border X Brewing and Iron Fist Brewing (who operate tasting rooms in the neighborhood) as Barrio Logan’s local-beer representatives by bringing the community its first brewery.
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.