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.
There are no official holidays in the month of August. Given that, one might expect it to be a pretty humdrum month from an events standpoint, but local breweries are taking charge of their—and your—destiny, offering a plentitude of good times for all to enjoy. Check out some of these higher-profile affairs, then refer to our events page for even more craft-beer happenings.
August 5 | The Full Pint 10th Anniversary: Sure, you get your local beer news from the pages (both paper and web) of West Coaster, but online beer-news site The Full Pint has been doing this even longer than us, and will celebrate a decade of slinging suds stories with an epic tap-list of rarities from esteemed breweries that includes more than 20 beers brewed just for this party. | Toronado San Diego, 4026 30th Street, North Park, 9 p.m. (general admission session)
August 6 | Hop-Picking Picnic: Join the Womens Craft Beer Collective and the folks from Pure Project Brewing at a Fallbrook farm to help pick hops that the latter entity will use to brew a beer. It’s a free-form event where you can come and go as you please (a brewery visit will follow for those who last to the end). All you have to do is bring a picnic item (and perhaps some beer) to share. | San Diego Golden Hop Farm, 467 Solana Real, Fallbrook, 9 a.m.
August 12 | Anniversary IPA Fest: To celebrate their first year of business, the staff at North Park Beer Company are taking advantage of their ability to pour guest beers, and stocking their taps with more than 30 IPAs of varying strengths, styles and hop bills, including their own impressive stock of hoppy delights. It doesn’t get much more San Diego than that. | North Park Beer Company, 3038 University Avenue, North Park, 11 a.m.
August 18 & 19 | Stone 21st Anniversary Celebration: Stone Brewing continues to show beer fans how to take a festival to the next level, inviting breweries from all over the country to help take over a college campus over a two-day span that includes a Friday night VIP session replete with brewer meet-and-greet possibilities. Join them at this charity event as they celebrate finally being of legal age to drink. | California State University, 333 South Twin Oaks Valley Road, San Marcos, Times Vary
August 27 | Treasure Chest Beer & Food Fest: Green Flash Brewing Company is holding the seventh edition of its charity festival benefiting Susan G. Komen, and everyone will get lucky at this luau featuring 20-plus rare and exotic beers (including brews from Alpine Beer Company) plus food from beer-centric eateries including Urge Gastropub, Carnitas’ Snack Shack and Nomad Donuts. | Green Flash Cellar 3, 12260 Crosthwaite Circle, Poway, 12 p.m.
When I first met Alex Van Horne he was looking to install a sci-fi-themed brewery in Poway. The plot reminded me of that of Jim Crute, who installed his science-themed Lightning Brewery in Poway a half-decade or so before. Crute sold his manufacturing assets to Orange County-based Cismontane Brewing Company earlier this month after failing to find a buyer for his struggling operation. Though Van Horne eventually opened his Intergalactic Brewing Company in the Miramar community, his plot-line remains similar to Crute’s. Today, the business-owner and brewmaster announced that he is beginning the process of “exploring all options” for the future of his brewery, “including, but not limited to, putting the business assets up for sale.”
Van Horne says he opened his business with insufficient capital; a mere $25,000. In spite of this, Intergalactic earned a strong cult following, enough that the award-winning brewery was able to take over a larger suite in Intergalactic’s business-park home and convert it to a tasting room, in turn expanding brewing operations at the original location. Still, Van Horne says that over the past year “it has become increasingly obvious that the brewery in its current formulation is not able to provide a stable economic foundation [for him and his wife] to begin the next chapters of [their] lives.”
Van Horne has sought out investors, but did not secure enough money to sufficiently modernize his brewery. So the boot-strapping continued, and it went rather well, but this may be the end for Intergalactic in its current form. He will be fielding inquiries from interested parties and, with any luck, the brand will survive, but Intergalactic may go the way of Lightning, and Van Horne may bow out of the brewing industry altogether. But for now, the business remains open. Van Horne hopes to see long-time fans in the coming months, so they—and he—can enjoy the brewery in its current form. Van Horne says he is “infinitely grateful” for the help and support he has received from his contemporaries in the craft-beer industry. He is keen to stay aboard for his brewery’s next chapter, but will be alright even if that’s not in the cards. “At the end of the day, it’s a business,” he says. “I’ll still have my friends, colleagues and many customers supporting me wherever I go or whatever I do. That’s the most rewarding part.”
Yesterday, news broke that all manufacturing assets of Poway’s Lightning Brewery had been purchased by Santa Ana interest Cismontane Brewing. Lightning owner Jim Crute put his 10-year-old business up for sale last December and had hoped to hand it over to someone who would carry it forward, turnkey style, under its existing identity. After months of meeting with interested parties, he came to the realization that he’d need to go another route. Under the deal, Cismontane gains ownership of brewing and cellaring equipment (the tasting room and brand remain with Crute). A portion of those mechanisms will be installed as part of its new 10,000-square-foot production facility, which is currently under construction in Santa Ana. Cismontane will sell the remaining equipment, and will be holding open-house-style sessions for interested buyers to inspect that equipment on June 9 and 10 at Lightning. On June 17, Crute will host a cellar beer release and tasting featuring taster-sized pours of legacy beers, including Old Tempest Ale, Black Lightning Porter, Ionizer Lager and Electrostatic Ale. We consulted Crute directly for his thoughts on this major development.
What led you to sell Lightning to Cismontane?
I have searched for a partner or outright purchaser of the brewery since December of last year. After seeing many looky-loos and folks that were still “just looking,” I had yet to identify any purchasers. Cismontane is building a new brewery in Santa Ana and needs some equipment to make that happen. Their plan is to resell the [equipment they do not need to earn enough money to] make the overall deal work.
Why was a sale to Cismontane attractive to you and what other types of suitors were interested in Lightning?
We had done some contract brewing for Cismontane last year, so when they came to us about an asset sale [I had already had positive dealings with them]. We have had folks stop by Lightning that run the gambit from brothers looking to get into the beer trade (that did not think through their business needs), to experienced brewers that simply did not have the cash nor the creativity necessary to make something work. In the end, it all came down to cash, and in the beer trade cash is essential.
Is this the end of your brewing career?
During this transition, I am thinking strongly about nano-brewing and selling 100% direct to retail from our location. Of course, I may still be employable in the biotech field or within the broader brewing trade in San Diego.
How satisfied are you with this outcome?
There are pluses and minuses associated with this outcome. We erase our debt, but it’s a shame we have been unable to identify a partner to make the business work as a business.
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs looking to enter the industry in the midst of its current climate?
I would not open a brewery in San Diego if you are planning on packaging in six-packs or other formats and expect to sell enough beer to make it work. The [retail] space is very crowded, which means it will cost much, much more to have enough volume to be revenue-positive. By much, much more, I would say $5-10 million over a period of several years will be the cost of becoming a new regional brewery.