Last year, beer fans started noticing vehicle signage and a “golden IPA” from an unknown entity throughout San Diego County. They inquired to me directly and questioned the masses via social media: “Anybody know anything about this Beach Grease Beer Co. I’ve been seeing around?”
This went on for most of 2018 until last November when I was able to get the background on what turned out to be a local operation from owner James Banuelos. A fan of beach culture and classic automobiles, he had a spot on Scott Street in Vista that served as his headquarters. The only problem—it lacks brewing equipment.
Until now, Banuelos has gotten around that by having his beer contract brewed by Mission Brewery. Additionally, Banuelos has assisted that East Village interest by helping out with marketing duties. All the while, he maintained a search for a facility of his own, and he found it in the brewery-equipped space recently shut down by the owners of Vista’s SpecHops Brewing.
Located at 1280 Activity Drive, the 6,500-square-foot industrial-park suite is part of a cluster of Vista ale-and-lager interests that includes Latitude 33 Brewing, Toolbox Brewing, Belching Beaver Brewery’s Pub980, Barrel Harbor Brewing and Booze Brothers Brewing. Its 15-barrel brewing system was lightly used in the 10 or so months SpecHops was open to the public before shutting down at the end of the year.
Banuelos is pleased to now have a base of operations that will allow him to get his beers to market. Those will include various IPAs as well as a hoppy pilsner called Piston Palm. He is currently in search of a brewer and reports a great deal of interest on that front.
In addition to brewing capabilities, Beach Grease’s new home offers a tasting room with an L-shaped bar and a spacious interior area on the building’s south side that was previously furnished with sofas and picnic tables. The manufacturing area is completely visible and separated from public space by a rail bar. There is no immediate timetable for its debut under the Beach Grease flag.
From the Beer Writer: When endeavoring to locate Division 23 Brewing Company for the first time, one relies heavily on a series of A-frame signs leading from Trade Street through a labyrinthian Miramar industrial park. In addition to helpful arrows, those signs tout the amenities of that business’ tasting room, including “air conditioning.” Talk about an understatement. Division 23 is a spin-off business of HVAC company, DMG Corporation, the offices for which are directly above the brewery and tasting room. Both are equipped with numerous sample units mounted on the ceiling directly above plush seating, a trio of TVS, shuffleboard and a ping-pong table. A beer drinker couldn’t ask for a cushier place to imbibe. Equally as comforting is Division 23 Helles Yeah!, a to-style take on a type of lager that, despite its high level of drinkability and compatibility with nearly year-round sunshine, isn’t widely produced in San Diego. With its scone-like touch of sweetness and light earthiness, it’s a less hop-forward lager that goes down easy and will appeal to many, especially those less familiar with craft who may be turned off by the bitterness of, say, a Pilsner. Spend an afternoon drinking this beer in what it is one of the coolest tasting rooms in the county, both literally and figuratively.
From the Brewer: “Here at Division 23, we love when fall comes around in San Diego. Not only is the weather perfect for tipping a pint, but German-style beers start popping up all over town. We have also been in love with lagers lately, so to celebrate the season we decided to brew a traditional German Helles. Light in color, big in body, our Helles Yeah! starts off a little sweet and finishes crisp and dry…with a little lingering floral hoppiness on the tongue. It’s a great beer to soak in the season.”—Jimmy Lewis, Brewer, Division 23 Brewing Company
Those who’ve taken notice of the notice on the old Mueller building at the corner of Park Boulevard and Madison Avenue in University Heights have attempted to learn more about a work-in-progress brewing interest by the name of Long Cloud Brewing. For the most part, such fact-finding missions have been fruitless. There’s a good reason. There is no Long Cloud Brewing. There is, however, Kairoa Brewing Company. Turns out there was a business out there with a moniker similar enough that the team of family and friends behind Kairoa opted to rename their brewpub project while staying entirely true to their original vision.
In addition to all residing in University Heights, every member of Kairoa’s ownership hails from New Zealand. The Long Cloud name referred to the Maori (the country’s indigenous people) word for New Zealand, Aotearoa, which translates to “land of the long white cloud.” The new handle combines the names of two small towns on the country’s South Island: Kaikoura and Akaroa. But that’s not the only way they intend to sprinkle some of their shared heritage into the business. Ingredients native to New Zealand will be used in both the brewing (numerous hops and Manuka wood-smoked malt) and kitchen (lamb, green-lip mussels) operations.
Planned as a brewpub that will cater to families as well as beer enthusiast “without cramping eithers’ style,” the 4,500-square-foot, two-story venue will be outfitted with ground-level and rooftop bars. The latter will include a game area. Both will offer house beers from Kairoa’s 10-barrel brewhouse as well as its one-barrel pilot system. Those setups will be manned by Joe Peach, who has been brewing for 10 years and has local experience at Lightning Brewery and Bitter Brothers Brewing Company.
Beers brewed on the larger system will be mostly to-style, while small-batch creations will be more experimental. “New Zealand-inspired” takes on Pilsners, pale ales, smoked stouts and brown ales are part of the game plan, as are India pale ales, barrel-aged stouts and quality versions of lesser-appreciated styles. The Kairoa team projects it will produce between 400 and 600 barrels of beer in its first year, with most being sold across their own counters plus limited self-distribution.
Oliver Peach, who heads culinary operations at the group’s original business directly next-door, Red House Pizza, will also oversee the kitchen at Kairoa. His aim is to elevate standard bar food, including Kiwi classics such as meat pies, sausage rolls, and fish and chips. Realizing the diverse dietary needs of locals, he plans to make vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available as well.
The Kairoa team is excited to bring a family- and community-friendly concept to a historic site that has seen better days. They are currently awaiting approval of their plans from the City of San Diego, but if all goes as planned, they expect to open sometime in mid-2018.
The “South Bay Uprising”—an influx of banded-together breweries and beer-centric venues spanning Chula Vista to Barrio Logan—has been picking up steam for years. Last weekend, the most formidable beer-making member of that growing movement opened its doors after two years of construction on downtown Chula Vista’s main drag, Third Avenue. Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company (259 Third Avenue, Chula Vista) has brought its ambitious vision for a multi-story brewery and tasting room simultaneously celebrating anarchic rock and the city its founders call home. In doing so, it’s given the community the type of business it can rally behind and build upon.
When we first met the Chula Vistans behind this business, they were renting space at Santee’s Butcher’s Brewing (since renamed to Finest Made Ales) to create their first batches of mostly-hoppy beers, but their dream was to secure space to make an artisanal impact on their home turf. They were able to do so in 2015 when they secured the building that formerly housed The Highlander. A rare basement-equipped structure it was first coveted by Fall Brewing Company, but elevated enthusiasm and hometown espirit de corps inspired the landlord to opt for Thr3e Punk Ales. At last weekend’s friends-and-family pre-open party, the landlord felt vindicated in that decision and bullish on the future of Third Avenue’s business district with the debut of Thr3e Punk Ales as well as the impending arrival of a tasting room for Santee-based Groundswell Brewing Company in another of his properties across the street, and the recent opening of Chula Vista Brewery on the same block.
While Bay Bridge Brewing Company and Novo Brazil Brewing Company have been making beer in Chula Vista for years, quality has been an issue and neither are centrally located enough to make the number of impressions and aid in revitalization the way Thr3e Punk Ales can. In addition to being smack dab in the middle of downtown, Thr3e Punk Ales is an attractive space with a fully conveyed thematic. The north wall is covered from basement to ceiling in a punk rock collage intermingled with iconic imagery. Tour poster artwork from the likes of Suicidal Tendencies, Bad Religion, the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys share space with the logos of Thr3e Punk Ales and the City of Chula Vista and the original Highlander sign augmented by the anarchy “A” utilized in the brewery’s wordmark. The brewhouse and fermenter tanks jut up from the basement into the tasting room opposite an L-shaped bar flanked by a roll-down screen illuminated by a ceiling-mounted projector. Rail bars line the north and roll-up garage door-equipped west side of the tasting room while a large wooden table provides a second, more communal seating option.
The opening beer list consisted of five offerings. Of them, the hoppy stock—what the company made its name on in its fledgling period—was the best. Needle in the Hey double IPA has the nose of a dispensary with flavors of clementine, melon, orange zest and pine resin. While it isn’t heavy, it is purposely sweet in a nod to old-school imperial IPAs. Conversely, their 6.5% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) IPA Hole has intense mango-and-papaya-like hop-bite up front and a sharp yet tacky finish. Morning After Pilz has such vibrant hop character it almost blots out its Pilsner foundation, but as its first-pour chill wears off, a bit of honey-ish earhiness and yeast character enter into the equation. A Mexican-style lager and 9.5% ABV imperial stout with flavors evocative of bittersweet chocolate, coffee and cinnamon bark round out the menu. Both would benefit from added carbonation, but taste nice and provide increased variety.
Overall, this much-anticipated project has made good on its intentions to bring a vibrant business in line with current trends and San Diego’s craft-beer scene to downtown Chula Vista. It will be interesting to see how a community less indoctrinated and inundated on the independent beer front will react, but if any brewery in the area has a chance to change the tastes of the city’s denizens, it’s this one.
From the Beer Writer: One goal of the West Coaster Beer of the Week is to help people discover special, high-quality beers they might not otherwise come across (and in some cases sadly find out about after they tap out). In the case of this week’s featured beer, there were plenty of people in the know and willing to point me in its direction. The day I was headed to the East Village’s Half Door Brewing Company, I shared my eventual destination with a pair of beer drinkers. Their eyes lit up as they blurted out the same thing: “Buzzwords!” It was the beer I was en route to sample. Nothing like finding out you’re on the right track. If you haven’t yet heard of this beer (or been keyed in by the aforementioned boisterous brew fans), allow me to introduce you to Half Door #Buzzwords. This highly-hopped pale ale revels in its en vogue nature (i.e., it’s hazy, bro). Pop-culture adjectives like “juicy” and “dank” fully apply, as the beer comes across more like grapefruit juice or a mimosa on the front-end, before a pleasant punch of pine finishes things out, reminding you that you are, in fact, enjoying a beer, and a delicious one at that. #Buzzwords revels in appealing to craft fans’ current tastes while staying true to traditional flavors from household-name hops.
From the Brewers: “#Buzzwords is our super-dank, 8.7% (alcohol-by-volume) India pale ale. It was the first hazy double IPA that we made, using a simple grain bill of Pilsner malt and flaked wheat. We use hops throughout the hot and cold side starting with mash-hopping, first wort hops and a generous dose in the whirlpool. On the cold side, depending on scheduling with yeast, we will either do one or two dry hops and the beer finishes around two-and-a-half to three pounds per barrel total. We ferment #Buzzwords with London Ale 3 yeast and adjust the water profile to a 2.5 to 1 ratio of chloride to sulfate. We mix as many hops as we have on hand but make sure to go heavy with Chinook or Simcoe, then balance using numerous hops of New Zealand origin, mostly Southern Cross and Motueka. The result is a beer with notes of tropical fruit…mostly pineapple and mango…plus some lingering pine and grapefruit citrus in the finish.”—Daniel Drayne, Head Brewer, Half Door Brewing Company