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.
Breweries make the best margin by far when selling their beer in their taprooms. With a county expansive as San Diego, getting customers to a single location can be a challenge, but the satellite tasting room model—one where a brewery opens a non-brewing sampling space in a geographically removed community—has proven quite successful in helping brewing companies reach new customers, move inventory and generate additional revenue. Many satellites have been sent into orbit throughout the county in recent years, and quite a few are in different states of planning at present. Here is a breakdown of such projects by the neighborhoods they may someday call home.
Bay Park: As announced earlier this week, Grantville-based Benchmark Brewing Company has signed a lease on a space. The family-run business had been exploring the prospect of opening a satellite in Oceanside, but ultimately decided to stay within the City of San Diego.
Carlsbad: A collective of artisans will someday share space with crops of produce, wine grapes and hops at the North 40 development. Numerous tenants have been reeled in over the past two years (and many have walked away), but Miramar’s AleSmith Brewing Company and Carmel Mountain’s Second Chance Beer Company are signed up, with the former hoping to sell house-made cheese with its beer.
Chula Vista: Fresh off the high of moving into Twisted Manzanita Ales’ former production brewery (and distillery) in Santee, Groundswell Brewing Company is working to open a sampling space on downtown Chula Vista’s main drag, Third Avenue…right across the street from soon-to-debut Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company.
Encinitas: Though a community that’s openly resisted brewery-owned venues, this beachy berg has two breweries slogging against the tide for space on Coast Highway 101: Point Loma’s Modern Times Beer Company (across from La Paloma Theatre) and Solana Beach’s Culture Brewing Company (next to Bier Garden of Encinitas).
Marina District: Developers have spent the better part of the past year curating a list of breweries to share space at The Headquarters at Seaport Village. Planned as a central courtyard surrounded by six identical yet uniquely appointed brewery tasting rooms, it has proven challenging for a variety of reasons, but would create a concept unique to San Diego.
Normal Heights: Longtime craft-beer champion Blind Lady Ale House will soon have some sudsy company in their ‘hood care of Miramar-based Little Miss Brewing, which is hard at work on two fun-and-games equipped tasting rooms within San Diego proper.
North Park: Another interest with two satellites in the works is Second Chance, who recently revealed plans to open a tasting room on 30th Street in North Park, across the street from popular beer-bar Toronado and doors down from the site of Ritual Kitchen, which announced last week that it will soon shut its doors after 10 years in business.
Ocean Beach: Little Miss Brewing’s other upcoming satellite will join the county’s most tasting room-dense community, on the same block as Belching Beaver Brewery, Culture, Helm’s Brewing Company and Kilowatt Brewing Company; and a short walk from OB Brewery and Pizza Port OB; and a quick drive from Mike Hess Brewing Company’s sampler.
Pacific Beach: Downtown’s Mission Brewery is geared to cash in on partygoers’ thirst for beer, installing a tasting room on Garnet Avenue where it intersects with Gresham Street. PB is currently without a brewery satellite after Twisted Manzanita’s closed down when the company folded last year.
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.
I’m a native San Diegan, but if you really drill down, you’ll find I was born a Chula Vistan. Back then I was far too young to drink and the word “microbrew” hadn’t been coined (much less “craft beer” or “indie beer” or whatever you want to call everything that’s not macro-owned “Big Beer”), so I didn’t notice the lack of a local brewery. But as the number of breweries in San Diego County grows like Jack’s famous beanstalk, many have taken notice of southern municipalities’ slowness to embrace craft beer compared to central and northern communities. Neither Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove nor National City have any breweries or brewpubs. And, though my city of origin recently welcomed the reincarnation of The Brew House at Eastlake in the form of Bay Bridge Brewing Company, it’s named after the Coronado Bay Bridge and is in Otay, away from Chula Vista’s downtown area, which lacks a brewing business. But not for long.
Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company has signed a 10-year lease at 259 Third Avenue in Chula Vista’s historic downtown. If the name of this operation sounds familiar, it’s because they’re not new to the San Diego brew scene. Since December of last year, they’ve rented time on the brewing system at Butcher’s Brewing Company in Santee, trickling beer out to select bars and restaurants in small quantities. Now, brewers John Marshall and Kevin Lewis, and partner Steve Garcia are poised to make a go of it in their own digs. Garcia is a native Chula Vistan and proud to give the city ultra-local beer in the shell of The Highlander, a historic landmark that was once an upscale store selling men’s apparel. The building is 5,400 square feet and Thr3e Punk Ales’ 10-barrel brewhouse (which will be used to produce between 600 and 800 barrels of beer in 2016) will be installed in the cellar to allow more room for patrons on the ground level. A hole will be cut in the floor to expose five 20-barrel fermentation tanks.
The tasting room will seat nearly 50, with additional seating available on an outdoor patio. In addition to on-premise offerings, beer will be sold to-go in growlers and crowlers. That’s pretty standard, but what’s not is a series of quarterly live concerts they are looking into offering. Seems pretty natural for a business that’s forged off the love for beer, rock and roll to go this route. Throw in the fact they have some connections with acts such as Sprung Monkey, the local band they recently collaborated with to create Sprung 4 Life IPA, and those events could make for a big draw. (Sprung 4 Life officially debuts at a Sprung Monkey show at Brick By Brick on February 26.) Through beer, a welcoming environment and quality added amenities, the Thr3e Punk Ales crew hopes to help the South Bay become a craft-beer destination.