This is the last post in a four-part series examining work-in-progress brewery projects throughout San Diego County. Our last stop finds us in the western expanses, a region with strong and varied interests in the works. Check them out and, if you missed any of our other tours, take a look at upcoming projects in the south, north and east regions.
Gravity Heights | 9920 Pacific Heights Boulevard, Sorrento Mesa: It will take the better part of a year to get this brewpub project built, but it has some star power behind it. The project belongs to Arturo Kassel, the restaurateur behind Whisknladle and the Prepkitchen eateries, and figures to be smart, stylish and sustainable. When searching for someone to mastermind brewing operations he went straight to Skip Virgilio, the original owner of AleSmith Brewing who devised many of that company’s award-winning recipes. This should prove a solid opportunity for a return to the local beer scene.
Latchkey Brewing Company | 1795 Hancock Street, Five Points: Headed by a brother-in-law duo bit by the brewing bug, this will be the sixth business to give brewing at Mission Brewery Plaza post-Prohibition a go after taking over the existing production facility and tasting room from Carlsbad-bound Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment. The factor of this interest that inspires the most hope is the fact a brewer with experience garnered at Ballast Point Brewing will be heading the ale-and-lager making. Look for this biz to debut in spring of next year.
Attitude Brewing Company | 1985 National Avenue, Barrio Logan: Many are the beer businesses aiding in Barrio Logan’s renaissance. To date, they’ve been existing companies, but this will be the first to debut there. Its headquarters will be a combination brewery and eatery offering gourmet wraps, burgers and more. The ultimate goal is for house beers to eventually be distributed throughout San Diego as well as across the border in Mexico. It’s a lofty aspiration, but one that’s time has come with cross-border beer-appreciation at an all-time high.
Yesterday, Mission Brewery owners Dan and Sarah Selis announced the launch of a stock-purchase campaign. Sale of stock will take place over a two-month window via online applications on the WeFunder site. With the exception of an ill-fated and illegal attempt by Kearny Mesa’s defunct Magnetic Brewing, this is the first time a San Diego-based brewery has explored a venture of this kind.
In the past, Mission Brewery was limited in the types of investors it could bring aboard by Securities and Exchange Commission regulations. Previously, investors needed to be accredited and possess a certain income and net worth, but Title III of the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act, which went into effect May of last year, allows the Selises to entertain applications from the general public. The Selis’ investment goal is $1 million, and the minimum investment individuals may make is $200. Beyond the minimum, WeFunder calculates the amount each investor may invest based on their income and net worth.
“Investing in Mission Brewery doesn’t just help the brewery, but it gives San Diegans the chance to become a part of the local San Diego beer scene as more than just a consumer or homebrewer,” says Dan Selis. “Most beer lovers dream of opening a brewery. I was homebrewing for about 25 years before I started Mission Brewery. Now, people can have the chance to make becoming part of a brewery a reality and own a piece of Mission Brewery.”
Mission Brewery opened in 2007 as a resuscitation of a San Diego beer-making brand originally established in 1913. That operation closed in 1920 at the onset of the Prohibition Era. For a time, its beers were produced in the historic Mission Brewery Plaza in the Five Points area of San Diego. Manufacturing now takes place in another historically significant location, the old Wonder Bread factory just east of Petco Park in downtown’s East Village area. Mission’s production for 2017 is projected to reach roughly 18,000 barrels, and its beers are currently distributed in six states: California, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
With 28 years under their belt, the folks at Karl Strauss Brewing Company have done a great deal: opening San Diego proper’s first post-Prohibition Era brewery, building the county’s largest network of brewpubs, contract brewing out-of-state and later bringing fermentation operations back to America’s Finest City, building venues in Orange County and Los Angeles. They could have rested on their laurels or become stagnant at any point, but founders Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner continue to look for ways to innovate and identify new revenue streams. The latest example of that is Karl Strauss’ recent establishment of its own distribution arm.
The company has been laying the framework for a distributorship for several years, but recently launched delivery of beers from its first two distributed brands, new Oceanside-based business Black Plague Brewing Company and Grantville’s four-year-old Benchmark Brewing Company. The latter’s Orange County launch took place last week, though Karl Strauss had been in talks with Benchmark for well over a year.
“We’re expanding on our on-premise, self-distribution network in San Diego and Orange County to now include a select group of local, independent breweries,” says Mark Weslar, Karl Strauss’ vice president of marketing. “Delivering our own beers on-premise has helped us develop an expertise selling to and servicing local bars and restaurants. We look forward to helping some brewery friends build their business.”
The first San Diego County brewery to go from brewing to manufacturing and distributing not only its own beers but those of fellow local brands was Stone Brewing. Founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner often cite that as a key moment in the company’s history, and a business move that kept Stone from going out of business. After having many doors slammed in their face by distributors unwilling to take a chance on their new, small operation, they decided to do it themselves. In opening Stone Distributing Co. in the late-nineties, they brought aboard brands such as AleSmith Brewing and Coronado Brewing, later adding brands from across the country as well as numerous international brewing companies. Today, that entity is responsible for distribution of 44 brands—that like Karl Strauss’ portfolio are all independent—throughout Southern California.
Karl Strauss has no immediate plans to bring on additional brands, but plans to be selective when they do, focusing on local and independent interests representing a partnership that would make sense for all parties involved. Says Weslar, “It’s an exciting new venture, but it’s also business as usual here at Karl Strauss with all of us maintaining our focus on making, selling and distributing great beer.”