Collaborations are nothing new in the local beer scene, and they’re not limited to brewery-to-brewery interactions. With the popularity of craft-beer venues at an all-time high, non-brewing interests are partnering with ale-and-lager producers. Local examples include the tasting room-equipped gaming center in Miramar established by At Ease Games in conjunction with Vista-based Barrel Harbor Brewing. Beer pairs well with many forms of entertainment from gaming to sports, movies to music. The latter is the basis of The Echo Room, a new venture in Oceanside from Midnight Jack Brewing and Craft Sounds.
The Echo Room is a live-performance venue constructed within Midnight Jack’s tasting room, mere feet from the brewhouse. It is equipped with a 16-foot-by-16-foot stage, professional lighting and full-time sound management. Those elements were introduced by Craft Sounds owner Tim Sams, a 23-year veteran of the San Francisco and San Diego indie-music scene who, feeling there were too few music venues capable of luring quality talent, conceived The Echo Room as a solution.
Midnight Jack’s owners, John and Katherine Scheri saw it as a solution on their end as well. “With the brewery landscape expanding so rapidly, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve and offer customers a really great experience that includes not only unique, hand-crafted beer, but good food and regular live entertainment,” says Katherine. “Adding a regular schedule of specifically curated, local music is something that we really want to provide our customers, and make Midnight Jack a go-to music venue in North County San Diego.”
The Scheris appreciate that Sams brings more than just audio-visual knowhow to the table. He also has a wealth of connections within the local music scene and is at work scheduling The Echo Room’s initial wave of performers. The March calendar is as follows:
Prime geography in San Diego proper nabs the rapidly expanding hospitality empires of the Consortium Holdings and Cohn Restaurant Groups of the world a lot of attention. Meanwhile, 3 Local Brothers Restaurant Group has rather quietly built itself up from a soft-spoken wine-centric neighborhood eatery in Rancho Bernardo to a half-dozen diverse concepts that includes multiple brewpubs, a coffee roaster and one of the largest restaurants in the county. And, oh yeah, they have a combination resto and tasting room launching in Carmel Valley this spring, another restaurant under construction in Baja and a newly established beer distribution company. With all that going on, we sat down with co-founder Grant Tondro to inquire about the latest and greatest in the 3LB universe.
What will the Carmel Valley project entail?
We’ve always wanted to do a second location of our first place, The Barrel Room, but have been pretty busy growing Urge and launching Mason Ale Works the last couple of years. Our new spots will be at 5550 Carmel Mountain Road. The Barrel Room will be about 5,000 square feet, which is about 50% larger than its predecessor with a nice patio that wraps around the dining room. It will have a full liquor license, unlike the first location, and a banquet room. Chef Trevor Chappell will leave his post at the original Barrel Room to helm kitchen operations at the new spot. Attached to the new space will be a Mason Tap Works and Kitchen, a tasting room for all things Mason Ale Works but with a small, streamlined kitchen for patrons. Chef Trevor will be overseeing an in-house charcuterie program inside the space, so we will have some amazing meats and cheeses as well as flatbreads, sandwiches and a few other small, shareable items that pair well with our beers. We were careful to select a location for Tap Works that was far away from accounts that are currently buying our beers. We don’t want to be competition for our supporters, but want to bring awesome craft beer to a beer desert while familiarizing more people with Mason. It will also give us an outlet for more of our small-batch beers that our head brewer Matt Webster has been working on and aging in barrels for the last year.
What will the Carmel Valley tasting room look like and when is its projected opening time frame?
A lot of the design will be inspired by the San Marcos Urge Common House location—industrial with rolled steel and rivets, Edison bulbs, some white subway tile and some of my favorites like black walnut table tops from North Carolina and these hand-hammered, distressed yellow table bases for a pop of color. There will be 20 taps of core and specialty beers as well as plenty of one-off beers to go. It’s projected to open in late March or early April.
What led 3LB to start a distribution company and open a bar across the border?
Mexico is a fascinating market and I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical. It was really my business partner, Zak Higson, who was banging the drum in the beginning of 2017 to get things going. There is a very underrepresented segment of the market down there that is thirsty for craft beer, and some great up-and-coming breweries that are responding to that demand. That being said, there are some challenges with starting a craft brewery in Mexico and quality assurance can be a challenge. We’d already had a few bars bring our beer south the old-fashioned way, so we felt like starting a distributorship was the next logical step. Once we were working on that, the conversation led to the types of things we would have liked to have seen from a distributor in the US, and a spinoff conversation started around doing a tap room to show off the brands in our portfolio. That, in true 3LB fashion, grew to what is currently under construction, which is a full restaurant with 20 taps.
Including your own distribution company’s territory, where all is Mason available now?
We are currently distributed throughout Southern California, Arizona and Mexico—predominantly Baja for now. We just launched Colorado and Northern California, and are planning on adding Idaho and Nevada distribution by the third quarter of this year. We’ve had conversations about additional states, but we are probably in a wait-and-see mode after this additional pickup.
It sounds odd to ask, but is there anything else exciting going on?
This year will be about growing our selections, both in-house and for distribution. Each month in 2018, Mason Ale Works will release one new beer into the general market and one new beer each week into our restaurants. The barrel-aged beers and sours will start to come out in April. We are working on getting our retail license in San Marcos as well so that we can do brewery releases, too.
From the Beer Writer: My preference for clear beers sometimes makes me come off like I have no use for hazy IPAs, but I actually see them as just another style of beer. Some of them are good, some not so much. But there’s no denying (and no reason to deny) the pleasureful, bright, and yes, juicy hop flavors and aromas well-done pea-soup IPAs offer those who give them a chance. Burgeon Beer Company has gained a fast following behind such beers (though it should be noted they make some fine traditional IPAs as well), the most recent of which debuted at the Carlsbad interest’s one-year-anniversary celebration last weekend. Going by the name Burgeon Can’t Stop Juicin’, it’s an amped-up double version of their Northeast-style IPA “Everybody’s Juicin’.” Fed a hefty diet of Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops (with sides of wheat and other girth-fortifying ingredients) it pours so solid you could mistake it for a novelty pint-glass candle. Fortunately, the beer’s flavor matches its density, coming on strong with tangerine, pineapple and passion fruit tones that coat the tongue thanks to that trademark NEIPA viscosity.
From the Brewer: “For our Northeast-style IPAs, our main goals are to achieve massive aroma and flavor while coming through with big restraint on bitterness. This leads to beers that are very soft on the palate with a much chewier mouthfeel than the West Coast IPAs we produce. We attribute the haziness of these beers to our house yeast strain and heavy percentages of malted wheat, unmalted wheat and flaked malts. We also utilize a softer water profile. Can’t Stop Juicin’ gets a massive charge of Nelson and Citra in the whirlpool and dry hop. We were at about a one-pound-per-barrel in the whirlpool and three-pounds-per-barrel in the dry-hop stage. We get huge tropical, mango and papaya notes from the Citra, and the quintessential white wine, passion fruit and otherwise fruity notes from the Nelson. This double IPA clocks in at 8.2% and 66 IBUs (international bittering units). We always make a huge argument over calculated bitterness versus perceived bitterness…but you be the judge!”—Anthony Tallman, Brewmaster, Burgeon Beer Company
Those not living in or frequenting inland North County might not be as familiar with the Booze Brothers Brewing brand, but beer enthusiasts in and around Vista are keyed in on this five-year-old company’s tremendous growth and popularity. Founded in 2013 by brothers Donny and Dave Firth, it started in a single business-park suite. Each year, the Firths took over a next-door suite until they had the entire building, which is now divided into a large, patio-equipped tasting room, with two spaces dedicated to production and the last converted into a stylish private-event space dubbed the Wood Shed. On top of that, Booze Brothers has secured a building across the street with high ceilings where it eventually hopes to move large-scale production. That may include products from an offshoot brand called Owl Farm Unique Fermentations.
Owl Farm is a project that has been in the works for the past two years. The goal of the new brand is to offer a constantly rotating line of fermented beverages that are less traditional than the beers sold under the Booze Brothers handle; concoctions that blur the lines between ales, lagers, cider, mead, wine and cocktails. Thorough explanation of just what that means is provided by Owl Farm’s initial offerings, the most straightforward of which is Peachy Monkey, a 6.4% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) peach ale fermented using Brettanomyces. It will hit shelves along with Gin Gose, a 4.5% ABV kettle sour brewed with juniper berries, coriander, lemon peel and dill that’s loosely based on a spiced German Gose ale, and built to be a refreshing, beery take on its namesake spirit. Last up is Blackberry Cruiser, a 5.6% ABV, mildly tart ale brewed with blackberries, lemon, oolong tea and honey.
Owl Farm beers will be available on-tap and in four-packs of 16-ounce cans at Booze Brothers’ tasting room and retail accounts. When asked about the decision to hit the market with niche, more outlandish beer styles when the India pale ale (IPA) is king, Booze Brothers manager Kris Anacleto speaks of a desire to reach demographics ranging from craft connoisseurs to newcomers who appreciate non-hoppy styles of beer. He also describes the challenges of calling on a new account and leading with an IPA in a county stocked with more than 130 brewing companies, the majority of which offer quality IPAs. There is only so much tap and shelf space to go around and bringing something unique to customers is attractive to the Booze Brothers crew. So, too, is the ability to continually come out with new beverages, a benefit given beer-drinkers’ growing obsession with shiny new things
To give Owl Farm its own identity, management is consulting with artist Clay Halling. Anacleto spied Halling’s work on a skateboard a few years ago and reached out to the Phoenix, Arizona-based artist to see if he would be interested in holding a show at Booze Brothers. Halling accepted the offer and stayed in touch. Though original, Owl Farm’s whimsical artwork isn’t too much of a departure from that of Ben Horton, who handles all of the branding and packaging art for the Booze Brothers brand. His bottle and can adornments have received greater visibility of late, as Booze Brothers expands its self-distributed network into Orange and Los Angeles counties with greater frequency. Owl Farm beers will find their way to market via those same channels, beginning February 9.
More San Diegans became familiar with Orange County’s Cismontane Brewing earlier this year when it purchased the majority of Poway interest Lightning Brewery’s equipment. Those mechanisms will be installed in Cismontane’s eventual Santa Ana brewery, which is currently under construction (the company’s original production facility is now the property of Laguna Beach Beer Co.), but there’s even more on the horizon for this eight-year-old company, including the establishment of a new brand…in Escondido.
Co-founders Evan Weinberg and Ross Stewart, who both grew up in North San Diego County and recently moved back, have secured a space at 239 East Valley Parkway, where are working to install a beer-and-coffee hybrid concept that will go by the name of Knø Beverage House.
Weinberg says the duo was drawn to Escondido by its charm and “old-school vibe,” the municipality’s business-friendly attitude and the venue’s amenities. Among the latter is a 1,200-square-foot back patio. Weinberg envisions Knø as a creative hub where artists, radicals, visionaries and aficionados can hang out, get a beverage—including specialty drinks from a full-service espresso bar—and a snack.
The term Knø, which is sure to confound those unfamiliar with Norse terms (or the Danish guitarist going by that stage name), is pronounced “new,” and refers to the concept. Although Cismontane beers will be produced at the Escondido facility, this will be a place for Weinberg and Stewart, as well as their friends and brewing-industry contemporaries, to go outside the box. They expect to produce a number of collaboration beers and more out-there recipes. It’s an homage to their current “drifter-slash-gypsy” brewer status while they wait for the Santa Ana facility to be completed.
If construction stays on its current track, Knø Beverage House will open in or around February. When asked if this is the first of several such venues for Cismontane Brewing, Weinberg says they will wait to see how well Knø does. If they are happy with its performance and the experience, he is sure they will do it again.