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:
In January, Mark Purciel decided to shut down his 11-year-old passion project, Oceanside Ale Works (1800 Ord Way. Oceanside). At the time, Purciel expected to reopen the business once he got past legal issues with his former business partner, Scott Thomas. A recent social-media post from Oceanside Ale Works announced a grand reopening event at the company’s tasting room on Saturday, March 17, signaling the expected revival of the North County interest. There’s just one thing—Purciel might not be a part of this event or anything else OAW-related moving forward.
As part of the aforementioned legal proceedings, Purciel may be required to sign a non-compete clause. That document could prohibit him from operating a brewery. Because of this, he has opted to sell the Oceanside Ale Works brand—for a whopping $250—to people he believes will do right by the business he’s built. Those new OAW stewards are Richard Bell, his fiancé Leah Dardis and brewer Lance Jergensen. Bell was looking to start a business focusing on small-batch, Mexican-inspired beers called Papi Chulo Brew Works, and was in search of a turnkey facility to take over when he met Jergensen on a related internet forum.
Jergensen is returning to Southern California, where he brewed at Pasadena’s Crown City Brewing from 1988 to 1991, before spending a decade working for New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado, during the formative years of iconic Belgian-style amber ale, Fat Tire. In addition to his work with New Belgium, he was one of the original brewers for the Vista Oggi‘s brewpub. He has also operated his own company, Rebel Malting, which supplied his Adelanto, California-based family business Jergensen Brewing before focusing on a largely Nevadan customer base. The most recent chapters of his career saw him heading Piegon Head Brewing and Tonopah Brewing outside Reno.
Bell and Jergensen are leasing OAW’s tasting-room-equipped facility from Purciel and, while there are plans to expand production, for now, they intend to stick with what’s worked for the business. This includes continuing to brew OAW recipes, while also endeavoring to be active, productive members of the Oceanside community. Bell would very much like to maintain a working relationship with Purciel, who he says is the face of OAW as far as he’s concerned. There is a chance that Purciel’s non-compete may be composed in a manner that allows him to be involved with OAW in some capacity in the future, but for now he has zero involvement with operations, and says he is looking forward to some time off and enjoying beer from the other side of the bar with friends.
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.
From the Beer Writer: Beer festivals happen nearly every weekend in San Diego County. Yes, it is truly a magnificent time to be alive. With such a multitude of beer-drinking extravaganzas, many can come across rather similar and maybe even a bit blah. Granted these are first-world problems, but fests that register a cut above incorporate unique value-addeds, interesting tap lists and, in the best cases, really great humanitarian causes. For me, the annual event that checks all these boxes and is easily one of the best brew-hahas in a county overflowing with them is the Brewbies Festival. Put on by the Keep A Breast Foundation, this festival takes place at Oceanside’s Bagby Beer Co. and includes a robust, thoughtfully curated ensemble of largely Southern California breweries. Each of those businesses is asked to produce a special, pink-colored beer in honor of the non-profit’s mission to fight breast cancer and assist those effected by it. Attendees can spend a day sampling delightful pink one-offs they’re unlikely to encounter anywhere else. One of the beers that’ll be at Brewbies, Bagby Faint of Tart, is already available at the brewpub that birthed it. This blonde-turned-magenta ale is fortified with multiple red fruits, resulting in a complex, well-rounded fruit flavor. Slightly sweet and dry like rosé wine in the finish, it’s a delightful thirst-quencher that’s bound to find plenty of esteemed company at the festival it was brewed for, tickets for which can be purchased online.
From the Brewery: “We don’t make a lot of beer that has ingredients that stray too far from the core four. We jumped really out of our normal set last year with our first ever fruit beer. It was pretty well-liked and we have received some requests for its return. Instead of shooting for the same thing, we went for something a little different this time around. We took a really simple, mild blonde ale and added cranberries, pomegranates, raspberries and cherries into it. The result is a beer that has a great fruit aroma, a light blonde-ale character and a ‘faint’ tartness that comes through the fruit flavors. This beer is a bright, reddish-pink and will be our ‘pink beer’ offering at the Brewbies Festival. What is Brewbies? Well, years ago while working with me at Pizza Port, Melanie Pierce wanted to start a festival that would benefit Keep-A-Breast. She asked me what she needed to do and went to work creating this event, which is now in its ninth year and a very successful fundraiser for the non-profit. Each year, Melanie hand picks the breweries that are invited to pour and has always asked those breweries to bring at least one pink beer to help represent the breast cancer awareness at the core of the festival. It is pretty cool that breweries make special beers just for this event, even more so when they make full batches of pink beer without using any dyes or food coloring. This year we were able to get Faint of Tart ready in time, and a nice bonus is that we made a full batch so the beer is available now and will remain so for a while. There are several beers like this that will be poured at the festival. Some of these beers you may only see at this event so be sure to come check out Brewbies!”—Jeff Bagby, Owner & Brewmaster, Bagby Beer Company
North County’s Belching Beaver Brewery boasts five locations throughout San Diego County—a large production facility in Oceanside, an indoor-outdoor brewpub in Old Town Vista, tasting rooms in North Park and Ocean Beach, and its original Vista brewery. With so many properties and ownership’s eyes on potential future facilities north of San Diego, there were plans to let go of the latter, but an idea from creative employees of the five-year-old company to add an in-house food component to the spot where it all began for the Beav’ saved it from being sold. After eight months of design and construction, that concept, Pub980 (980 Park Center Drive, Vista) is set to debut to the public on Monday, January 15.
Much like when the company took over a former bank and converted it into Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern and Grill, one can’t help but speculate at how well an interest most known for fermentation will do with a restaurant concept. And much as with its first foray into food service, Belching Beaver has come through with flying colors with Pub980. What was once a single-suite combination brewery and tasting room now utilizes double the indoor square-footage to deliver a split concept that relies on a shared bar to deliver a choose-your-own-adventure experience.
Visitors to Pub980 who merely want to sample through Belching Beaver’s beers can do so in the original tasting room on the right side of the space, while those who wish to dine can head left where high-top wooden tables of varying sizes await, dressed with red, lumberjack flannel runners conveying a camping theme that’s driven home by numerous clever elements. Those include a beautiful living wall with a pair of tents pitched above it that hovers over a stone-enclosed fish pond, tree branches bundled into a wall in front of the restrooms and the pièce de résistance, a fully operational kitchen made to look like a towed-in trailer complete with white-wall tires. These elements mesh nicely with oak-occupied barrel racks, strands of hanging bulbs and a large Chuck E. Cheese-like beaver statue (the non-creepy audio-animatronic type).
Additionally, the Belching Beaver team has done a great job incorporating a pre-existing outdoor patio complete with fire-pits and Adirondack chairs (a design staple that can also be found at its original brewpub). To really bring home the camping motif, the kitchen offers hot-dog and s’mores kits complete with lengthy skewers so patrons can prepare their own vittles over open flames should the mood strike them. Those are offered on top of a robust menu of pub grub ranging from hot wings, cheese curds, fish tacos and sandwiches to a surprisingly wide array of salads. The menu isn’t a huge departure from the original pub (it was developed by the same chef), but it is intentionally different. Owner Tom Vogel and company aren’t naïve to the fact Belching Beaver’s pair of eateries are a mere six miles apart, and want to offer unique experiences at each.
On the food side, particularly impressive are the cheesesteaks, which are authentic in their use of shaved quality ribeye, but upgrade the fromage element, going with real cheese and “Beaver beer cheese” versus Philly-preferred Whiz. A Classic, SoCal (avocado, Swiss and jalapeño-avocado sauce) Hawaiian (Kalua pork, pineapple and teriyaki sauce) and chicken-bacon versions are available. Burgers, a Chicago dog, assorted wraps and Troy’s corn dog (named after brewmaster Troy Smith) round out the hand-held mains. The latter isn’t the only item named for someone. Vogel dug in his heels to get Tom’s fried clams on the menu. They can be had with a beer for a discounted price the Friday during week-long grand-opening festivities, January 15-20, when a different $9.80 food-and-drink deal will be offered each day.
Pub980 is very well done, especially given the relatively modest size of the project. Vogel says the new venue is all about family, and that creating a place where parents can bring their kids to do more than sit around while their parents drank beer was a big focus during the design phase. Having visited during a rehearsal dinner service where children were present (and having made s’mores with several of them outside) I can say with confidence they’ve come through in spades on this objective. Pub980 should serve those who venture to it, as well as the clientele lured from the many nearby business and industrial parks, quite well.
Pub980’s hours of operation will be 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 am. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.