Back when I worked Stone Brewing’s Escondido headquarters, many were the nights when me and my marketing colleagues would walk over to the much smaller brewery down the street and knock off with a pint or two. That operation, Offbeat Brewing Company, was the family-run project of an ex-Stone cellar man following his own muse, crafting mostly sessionable beers, many of which had English roots. So it’s sad to hear that today will be Offbeat’s swan song.
Yesterday, owner and brewmaster Tom Garcia announced he has made the difficult decision to close the doors to his brewery, but not before one last St. Patrick’s Day hurrah. So if you’re looking for a farewell-taste of Bear Arms Brown Ale or Girafficopter Pale Ale, this is it. Garcia says with his lease up, it made sense to close the book on Offbeat. That said, the 15-year industry veteran says he’s not against the idea of trying his hand at the brewing business again.
Offbeat opened in 2012 with a bar built from wood from old pallets and discarded furniture, plus a makeshift brewery Garcia described as “the Millennium Falcon of brewhouses.” From the get-go, the space was punched-up from an artistic aspect. The upper portion of the west wall featured a colorful mural with outlandish characters, while the bottom half and many of the other walls regularly featured art from an array of local artists. That art was for sale with 100% of proceeds going to the artist, so that outlet will surely be missed by the creative sect. And painted portraits of outlandish characters like Deer Grandpa and the aforementioned Bear Arms looked good behind the bar.
In the end, what made Offbeat’s location so great for Team Stone, likely hurt the business in the long run. Surviving in an obscure business park on a side-road a half-mile from a major destination like Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido must have been challenging. Choosing between the two equates to a no-brainer of sorts for beer-tourists who’ve come any nominal distance to visit Escondido. But plenty of locals enjoyed Offbeat during its time, mostly for its polar-opposite, laidback vibe and beers.
Offbeat joins other San Diego County breweries that have closed their doors since last summer, including On-The-Tracks Brewery, Lightning Brewery, Valley Center Brewery and Pacific Brewing.
Though they’re not related by blood, Ketchen Smith and Evan Smith are bound by their love of craft-beer and their shared project for getting into the business of producing it, Escondido Brewing Company (649 Rock Springs Road, Suite B, Escondido). Longtime Escondido residents, Evan owns and operates his 38-year-old family-business, Escondido Feed and Pet Supply. That is where the new business will be sited, with the 1.5-barrel brewing system installed in a small space in front of the store. Escondido Brewing will epitomize the term nano-brewery…and that’s just the way the non-fraternal Smiths like it.
“We will be one of, if not the smallest brewery in San Diego. This will be both in physical size as well as production quantity,” says Ketchen, who will serve as president and head brewer. (Evan will manage business operations). “The interior space will be almost completely occupied by the brewery and seating will be on an outside patio.”
Ketchen is an engineering manager for a company specializing in spinal-implants. He has been homebrewering for a dozen years, racking up awards at the San Diego County Fair, Southern California Fair and National Homebrewers Conference. His most notable achievement, and one that bled into the realm of professional brewing, was having an American ale he brewed 40 barrels of with Coachella Valley Brewing Company entered into the pro-am competition at Denver’s Great American Beer Festival.
The majority of Ketchen’s awards were garnered by hop-driven beers, but he hopes to have variety that goes beyond lupulin-rich ales. In addition to multiple IPAs, he will brew blondes, ambers and stouts, with a wheat or Belgian-style beer mixed in every now and then. Each offering’s name will bear some form of tie to the community (e.g., Hopcondido IPA, 1888 Stout). Escondido’s tagline illustrates the company’s intended approach—small batch beers from the heart of the Hidden City. The “Hidden City” (which is already home to Stone Brewing, Offbeat Brewing Company and Plan 9 Alehouse) can expect its newest resident to open to the public in early-2017.