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.
Craft beer’s “South Bay Uprising” has slowly been picking up steam over the past few years, but now things are getting real. The uprising is finally hitting the main drag in Chula Vista, the municipality where it’s most important that it make an impact—Third Avenue. That thoroughfare is already home to Third Avenue Alehouse and will soon be joined by the area’s first fully functioning brewery and tasting room, Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company. Much fanfare has surrounded the latter while another interest bearing the city’s name has quietly gone about the business of going into business right across the street: Chula Vista Brewery.
Located at 294 Third Avenue, Chula Vista Brewery is the product of Timothy and Dali Parker, a couple who live in the area. As the company’s name suggests, the Parkers aim to be ultra-local, which will include teaming with other Chula Vista businesses. They feel there is a misconception that Chula Vista lacks craft-beer drinkers, which has led to the community’s underserviced status from a brewing perspective. So, they’re taking it upon themselves to give their community the ales they feel it deserves.
Russell Clements, a veteran brewer who worked at Rock Bottom‘s La Jolla brewpub under (current Second Chance Beer Company brewmaster) Marty Mendiola before moving on to Ballast Point Brewing, will be the one manning the brewhouse. He will be assisted by Timothy, whose brewing background has all been gained on the home-front. Together, the duo will craft enough beers to stock CVB’s dozen taps. They are currently developing a blonde, red ale, American pale ale, IPA and stout on their five-barrel Premier Stainless system. A double IPA, porter, imperial stout and hoppy lager will come later.
While the business may open as soon as this weekend (the Parkers advise that they will post information about any soft-opening on their website), the official grand opening will take place on Friday, May 5. CVB will have Third Avenue to themselves for a little while. Their cross-street colleagues at Thr3e Punk Ales are currently scheduled to open to the public by the end of June.
Last week, while touring the operating breweries in San Diego’s South Bay communities, my party and I took a moment to visit the future home of Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company. Located on Chula Vista’s downtown thoroughfare, Third Avenue, it is the first brewery located smack dab in the heart of the municipality.
Even gutted and devoid of any resemblance to what it will become—except for the pitch-black exterior, which will remain given how perfectly it fits in with the company’s anarchist, punk-rock motif—it looks darn good, as does its future. A lot of the optimism has to do with the City of Chula Vista and the lengths it is going to help out Thr3e Punk Ales’ ownership.
In addition to welcoming the business with open arms and making the early stages of setting up shop as easy as possible, they have advocated on behalf of Thr3e Punk Ales with the property owner. The landlord has also been extremely helpful, putting a good number of tenant improvements in that will ultimately lead to a better finished product.
The total utilizable square-footage of the building is 5,100-square-feet. This includes a 2,700-square-foot main floor—900 of which will be devoted to the tasting room—and 2,400-square-foot basement (additional area is available one flight above ground-level, but not immediately). The underground section will house a 10-barrel brewhouse, five 20-barrel fermenters, a 20-foot-by-25-foot cold-box, quality-control laboratory, pilot brew system, dry storage and administrative offices. There will also be additional dry-storage and cold-box space upstairs.
As far as public areas go, the front of the building (which used to house numerous businesses including a menswear store, and surf-and-skate shop) currently sports a sign reading The Highlander. The City would like to see that sign preserved and utilized in some way. Thr3e Punk Ales will hang it in an inventive spot inside the tasting room. Holes will be cut in the floor of the main floor, allowing the fermentation tanks to protrude into the side of the room opposite the bar. The Highlander sign will go directly above the tanks.
A portion of the front of the building’s façade on the first floor will be cut-away to create a roll-up entrance looking out onto Third Avenue. And out back is a 30-to-40-space parking lot owned by Thr3e Punk Ales’ landlord—quite the bonus. The plan is to provide a dedicated space for a food-truck in the lot to keep food part of the equation for patrons.
Thr3e Punk Ales is estimating a fall target of September or October for its debut. Currently, its beer is on tap around town, including numerous locations in the South Bay, thanks to an alternating-proprietorship relationship with Santee’s Butcher’s Brewing.
From the Beer Writer: All of my local beer-scene coverage this week centered around the #southbayuprising, the banding-together of breweries and beery hospitality venues to promote the rise of local and craft ales and lagers in San Diego’s South Bay communities. I believe the bars are ahead of the curve, while the breweries have quite a way to go. It would seem the best of South Bay’s beer bars agrees. When looking for a brewer to craft a specialty beer with which to celebrate the first anniversary of his National City business, Machete Beer House owner Eddie Trejo reached out to a brewery away from the South Bay—Ramona’s ChuckAlek Independent Brewers. Even though the beer was brewed outside the geographic area Machete celebrates, the specialty ingredient that gives it much of its flavor, color and consistency—fresh tamarind—is fitting for the region from a cultural standpoint. It’s also delicious in this tart, fruity, 6% alcohol-by-volume brew, which is extremely easy-drinking and original. Want a taste? ChuckAlek will release this beer as part of its Bottle Club online and at its tasting room, tomorrow (March 19).
From the Brewer: “Eddie Trejo of Machete Beer House reached out to me wondering if we had any specialty beers they might feature for their first anniversary. That led to our idea to collaborate on a beer not already in our cellar. Eddie jumped to our sour-side and suggested tamarind as a specialty ingredient, which immediately intrigued me given its savory and tart qualities. After some trial ‘teas’, we came upon 90 pounds of fresh tamarind for our three-barrel batch. After eight hours of bonding and tamarind-shucking, we added the sticky pods in our brew kettle and whirlpool. The resulting beer, Paper Mache’Te has a pear aroma and orange hue coming from the tamarind, on an otherwise blonde base-beer. Rustic honey at the front of the palate leads to an almost malty tamarind flavor that then dries out with a crisp tang from lactobacillus-souring, giving it a refreshing finish.”—Grant Fraley, Head Brewer, ChuckAlek Independent Brewers
As I’ve disclosed in the past, I spent most of my formative years growing up in the South Bay. All of them, in fact, if you count Encanto. Before getting my first job in Kearny Mesa and having reason to branch out, I knew nothing of San Diego north of Interstate 8, but I knew Chula Vista, National City, Imperial Beach and Lemon Grove like the back of my hand. Thankfully, there’s now a small but growing influx of breweries and beer bars popping up in the old neighborhoods, billed as a movement with its own spiffy hashtag—#southbayuprising.
Recently, a small group of knowledgeable beer enthusiasts and I spent a day visiting the three breweries currently contributing to that uprising—Bay Bridge Brewing Company, Novo Brazil Brewing Company and Border X Brewing Company. I’ll admit to being really excited and even hopeful. Nothing would make me happier than to see this part of San Diego awash in fine, local suds, and I already know that South Bay’s Machete Beer House (National City), Third Avenue Alehouse (Chula Vista) and taqueria ¡Salud! (Barrio Logan) are bringing quality, local ales and lagers to areas below the 8. So off we headed to Chula Vista.
Our first stop was Bay Bridge Brewing Company. Brought to the mostly residential southwest area of Chula Vista by the mind behind The Brew House at Eastlake (which operated from 2007 to 2012 before folding), it’s a second go-round. The Brew House was a brewpub while Bay Bridge is a more standard industrial park setup. The motif is Jimmy Buffet with a side of tiki hut hula. It’s none too fancy, but a step above most venues of its type. High tables and chairs are an upgrade and the bar area is well done. Service is friendly and it would seem Bay Bridge has its fair share of regulars, which helps the place feel more complete.
We started a sampling of nine beers with an unfiltered wheat called Wolf Canyon, which could certainly win over American adjunct lager drinkers, something that absolutely must be considered in a city so highly saturated with the demographic. Next up was a Horchata wheat beer that screams Chula Vista and, with a light sweetness and potpourri-like nose, was pretty good. Our next beer, a blonde ale, smelled and tasted like butter, which is an undeniable sign of diacetyl, a flavor compound excreted by yeast that some beer drinkers can pick better than others. Diacetyl becomes unpalatable in high concentrations, and it’s a sign of poor fermentation conditions or yeast health.
Everyone in my party picked up diacetyl in the Palomar Pale and America’s Finest Amber as well. I had actually tasted this amber ale several months back while dining at a Bonita restaurant called Romesco that offered the beer on-tap. At the time, the beer was more amber in color and tasted fine.
The best beers of the day included an Irish red ale that had some nice, subdued hoppiness to it, but in my opinion just needed a bit more maltiness to help balance things out. Ditto a “red India pale ale” that wasn’t red. My favorite beer of the day was the oatmeal stout. Creamy with big milk-chocolate presence on the palate, this should be one of their year-round beers. Star of India IPA was low on aroma and demonstrated a blunt bitterness in the finish, yet it had good flavors of orange and grapefruit.
And with that, we were off to our second brewery of the day. Check in tomorrow for that report.
Disclosure: In his day job, Brandon works as the marketing manager for Miramar’s AleSmith.