Many are the local entrepreneurs who have fallen in love with the idea of brewing at the historic Mission Brewery Plaza. Located in the City of San Diego’s Five Points neighborhood, it is easily accessible from Little Italy, Old Town, Mission Hills, Hillcrest and Point Loma, and a stone’s throw from San Diego International Airport. Numerous interests have called it home: Mission Brewery, Five Points Brewing Company, New English Brewing Company, Coronado Brewing Company and its current resident, Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment. The latter is on its way out, opting to move north to build a larger facility in Carlsbad, making way for a new business to make a home at this historic site, Latchkey Brewing Company.
Founded by brothers in law with a dream, and now a brewery, Latchkey is in a holding pattern while Acoustic completes work on its future North County facility, but is hoping to debut to the public in spring of 2018. They figure taking over the brewery should be relatively simple given the turnkey nature of things. There is a chance the two businesses may actually share the production component depending on how everything shakes out, which is important because Latchkey intends to brew and distribute out of the gate.
As far as the 3,000-square-foot tasting room, ownership wants to overhaul it so the venue is 100% Latchkey from a branding standpoint. This is likely to take a significant amount of time, especially considering the amount of updating the owners have planned. While they appreciate the classic industrial brick-and-timber architecture, they want to add a variety of modern, clean finishes. Aware of the hundreds of workers occupying the 50,000 square feet of office space making up the remainder of Mission Brewery Plaza, plus an attached apartment complex, they will also construct a full-scale kitchen so Latchkey can offer light breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options as added enticements. Private event space will be offered as well.
Latchkey’s brewing team will be headed by a veteran who has worked at numerous established breweries. He and his brother-in-law plan to explore the lighter side of the beer spectrum, while also satiating San Diegans’ thirst for hop-forward beers. Their portfolio of American and international styles will lead with American “banquet beer”, Japanese-, Mexican- and German-style lagers, plus session English-style ales, augmented by hoppy lagers and, of course, India pale ales. Those beers will be produced on a 15-barrel system feeding into 15- and 30-barrel fermenters and a mixed array of bright tanks.
When asked about the inspiration behind the company’s names, the owners say that they were latchkey kids in the ‘70s, but there’s more to it than that. While a typical latchkey kid comes home to an empty residence, these brewery owners to be say they are stepping outside the comfort zone of their careers to enter a new industry, unsupervised and left to their own devices. As they put it, that’s what makes the whole thing fun.
North Park-based Eppig Brewing Company opened strong amid last year’s San Diego Beer Week festivities. In the 12 months that have passed, the company has drummed up a solid following, gaining a stellar reputation as one of the finer lager-brewing operations in the county. That reputation and patronage have emboldened Eppig’s owners to open a second location, a satellite tasting room at 2817 Dickens Street in Point Loma.
One look at the space—a brand-new, contemporary building overlooking a yacht-filled harbor with an unimpeded view of downtown San Diego—is all it takes to understand why it was highly coveted by other local breweries the Eppig’s eventually outbid. The facility comes in at 1,200 square feet. It is outfitted with six roll-up garage doors, an L-shaped bar that will serve from 20 taps, and a small, 600-square-foot area for indoor imbibing.
Considering a lack of optimal tasting-room space at its original location is one of the reasons ownership selected this mode of expansion, one might wonder why the new sampling space doesn’t offer more interior seating, but it is purposeful. Eppig’s new spot includes a wrap-around patio that comes in between 2,400 and 3,000 square feet, and the owners want to encourage patrons to enjoy outdoor seating that will include a shaded front patio, a drink rail overlooking the docks and, eventually, a fire-pit area. The outdoor areas will be equipped with natural-gas space heaters and two of the garage doors will be equipped with order access to the bar. Says co-owner Stephanie Eppig, “We are well known for making styles of beer that are great for enjoying outdoors, and now we have the venue to go with them.”
Beers will be available for consumption on-site as well as to-go in crowlers. Also available will be sandwiches, wraps, chips and salsa, and cheese platters prepared offsite by a local chef. No seafood will be offered as Eppig and company feel local eateries such as Mitch’s Seafood and Point Loma Seafoods have that covered, and they want to be respectful of their new neighbors. Customers will also be permitted to bring their own food.
Despite being bordered by an ocean, this is the first brewery-owned property to offer a waterfront drinking option of this nature. Events that make use of this unique natural amenity, such as al fresco yoga sessions, are in development. But first, the team will focus on getting open. They are currently awaiting final permitting so that the final phases of construction can be completed. If all goes as planned, the business will debut to the public in November or early December.
Earlier this month a for-lease sign went up beside the signage for Little Miss Brewing’s much-anticipated tasting room on Ocean Beach’s Newport Avenue. The conversion of the site’s interior into a French World War II-themed sampling space is roughly halfway complete and the company’s logo has been mounted outside, making this an unexpected turn of events for everyone, including owners Greg and Jade Malkin. The marrieds behind this Miramar-based company’s satellite project have been paying rent on the space since last December and, in the time it has taken to attempt to obtain approval from the local faction of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), have opened another tasting room in Normal Heights. But the ABC process for their would-be OB interest has been nothing short of a bureaucratic nightmare.
The Malkins submitted their ABC application for the OB tasting room a week after sending the same paperwork for the Normal Heights project. Early on, things went as expected, including receipt of protests during the 30-day period when residents are allowed to formally raise issues. The majority of the protests were rescinded once the Malkins reached out to the individuals who had initiated them. What the Malkins were unaware of, however, is that a private meeting had been held without their notification or knowledge in late-April—outside of the public-protest period—between ABC supervisors, representatives of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), a State Assembly member and additional OB residents not in favor of the tasting room. ABC representatives claimed the meeting was not specifically about Little Miss, but rather all tasting-room licenses pending on Newport Avenue, but Little Miss’ was the only license of that type pending at the time. The negatives that came out of that meeting, where the project was scrutinized without the applicants being able to defend their business, followed the Little Miss project file through its lifespan without the Malkins even knowing. But this constitutes only a portion of the obstacles.
While the Malkins respect the job and authority of the ABC and appreciate the hard-working nature of ABC employees, they echo the opinion of most (including ABC employees) that the department and its local offices are severely understaffed during this time of unprecedented brewery openings. During the many months they spent trying to open the OB tasting room, meetings with ABC agents typically yielded little in the way of concrete answers or reliable advice. Often, one agent would contradict the other. In the cases where they agreed, other governmental factions saw things differently. Additionally, the Malkins were told to call ABC reps at different offices as well as various individuals at the City of San Diego offices and SDPD. Most calls went unanswered, as did requests for information.
The key piece of info they coveted during the process were crime logs. During a meeting with the ABC on July 20, the Malkins were shown a letter from the SDPD dated June 29 stating it would not support the issuance of Little Miss’ OB license. The reason: the neighborhoods the Western Patrol Division serves (Ocean Beach, Hillcrest, La Playa, Linda Vista, Loma Portal, Midtown, Midway District, Mission Hills, Mission Valley West, Morena, Old Town, Point Loma Heights, Roseville-Fleetridge, Sunset Cliffs, University Heights and “Wooded Area”) had experienced an overall increase in crime and could not handle another ABC license issued in the area. The ABC said they would not go against the SDPD’s recommendation because they felt it was impossible to change their opinion. Determined to give that a try on their own, the Malkins asked to see the crime reports for the aforementioned communities. The ABC had those reports, but said they were not allowed to provide them to the Malkins, and directed them to obtain the data from the City. They attempted to do so, but after more unanswered calls, ended up downloading the information they needed from the City of San Diego’s website instead.
Through this fact-finding exercise, they discovered that, although alcohol-related crime had gone up in the Western Patrol Division’s patrol area as a whole, it had gone down in OB by a whopping 40% since the November 2014 introduction of the neighborhood’s first brewery tasting room—Culture Brewing Company on Newport Avenue. Also, the number-one alcohol-related crime in OB is open-container violations, primarily on the beach. They presented this information to multiple City Councilmembers, the Mayor’s office and ABC, even going so far as to waive Little Miss’ ability to sell packaged beer or growlers to go, but never received an answer. The final straw was a call earlier this week when the Malkins say it seemed like someone at the ABC had decided they were going to deny the license long ago—possibly as far back as the meeting that they weren’t given the opportunity to attend—but nobody wanted to be the bearer of bad news. It prompted them to officially pull the plug on the OB project.
This drama isn’t the only turbulence for the company, which last week parted ways with the only brewmaster it has known during its first year of existence. This seems a much easier hurdle to get over than ABC issues. Former Green Flash Brewing Company brewer Joe Lisica spearheaded brewery and tasting room construction and beer production for Little Miss. His desire was to create clean, clear beers, including an assortment of single-malt-and-single-hop (SMASH) beers. While quality was never an issue and ownership appreciated Lisica and his beers, their vision for Little Miss’ portfolio was vastly different, leading to an amicable parting of ways. Mike Morbitzer, a fellow Green Flash alum Lisica hired as his assistant, has been promoted to brewmaster and will be responsible for reshaping Little Miss’ offerings to match the Malkin’s desires, which includes more new-school beers such as hazy IPAs and beers brewed with fruits and other adjuncts across varying styles. Meanwhile, Lisica is taking a brief hiatus from the industry to contemplate his next move, while entertaining offers from companies in need of his services.
Little Miss’ business model from the get-go has been to open six satellite tasting rooms under their manufacturing license, focusing on unsaturated neighborhoods — besides the planned OB location. The Malkins are leery of filing through the San Diego office again. A local ABC agent advised them to apply in La Mesa, a municipality that only recently began encouraging brewing companies to lay down stakes, but they will also likely look north once they have some time to gain some distance and lick their wounds.
From the Beer Writer: During my time working for Stone Brewing, I made many great friends. The company is packed with brilliant, fun and kind people, and one of the nicest of them all is the man in charge of brewing operations at Stone’s Liberty Station brewpub, Kris Ketcham. A champion of creativity who has indulged the desires of many novices in his brewhouse, he not only dares to try things others would avoid, but possesses the skill to pull off nearly every challenge thrown his way. In 2015, when I kicked off a charity campaign to raise money for the Lupus Foundation of Southern California through the sale of specialty beers from local breweries, I had the chance to brew with Ketcham, and it was a joyfully educational experience. This year, he let me back in the brewhouse to help conjure another charity beer: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station Trending Travis-ty. Aside from being long as all get out, there’s significance to the name of this hazy, “Northeast-style” session IPA. At the brewery I currently work for, Societe Brewing, clarity is king. Our brewing team strives to avoid haze in our IPAs and our brewmaster, Travis Smith, finds what he calls the “muddy IPA” haze-craze to be ridiculous if not a sacrilege. So we took this raging trend and made our own little “Travis-ty”. To be fair, Ketcham and I prefer clear IPAs, too, but we thought it would be a fun challenge to create a not-overly-hazy IPA with big hop appeal and extremely low alcohol; a crushable beer that would benefit from increased body from a variety of adjuncts and provide that “juiciness” beer fans are looking for these days. It’s on tap now and a portion of proceeds help lupus patients in San Diego and Imperial Counties care of the Beer to the Rescue campaign.
From the Brewer: “There have been a lot of trends in brewing over the years. The most recent one I can remember is session IPAs, and now we have ‘the L replacement’ hazy, juicy IPAs. As someone who’s taken pride in learning and employing multiple techniques for achieving beer clarity, I find it such a travesty that we’ve shifted into this. However, as much as I love to knock them, there is a uniqueness to them that even I find enjoyable from time to time. I also need to remind myself to keep an open mind, as we’ve come a long way in the past twenty-plus years. All of us as ‘craft’ brewers have changed the perception of beer over the years and still continue to do with styles like these. Sometimes we enjoy them so much that we try our own interpretations with our own signature twists. Trending Travis-ty mixes the past and current trends brewers have been chasing. Take all the adjuncts that give you the trending haze and put them to use in a style that’s lacking in body—session IPA—and you get a win-win result. For this beer, we used a blend of two-row, oats, wheat and dextrin malt to increase body and haze levels. No hops where harmed in the boiling of the wort. Instead, all of the hops used in this beer were added at the start of fermentation and post-fermentation to really bring on the haze. The combo of Mosaic, Loral and Vic Secret hops was a fun combination that uses Brandon and I’s favorite new hops with a hop that is in damn near every single IPA on the market today. Clocking in at 4.3% alcohol-by-volume and 40 on the IBU (international bittering unit) scale—all from the dry hop—this beer fulfills those whose hipster mantras include ‘I only drink hazy IPAs’ and ‘I only drink session beers.’”—Kris Ketcham, Liberty Station Brewing Manager, Stone Brewing