4628 Park Boulevard, University Heights
So, this guy walks into a bar (University Heights’ Small Bar to be exact), orders a beer, and promptly has it snatched up by a young woman who takes a sip and correctly identifies its contents as Lindemans Framboise. That young woman was Victoria Yakovleva, a member of the quality control team at San Diego's Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits. The male component of the story was Jeff Rambo, who at the time was a relative craft beer newbie, but has since grown into the type of beerophile so passionate, he’s building his own brewery, Social Jack’s Craft Brewing Company (961 Laurel Street, Little Italy).
Named for Small Bar’s communal seating and the connections that come from such forced socialization, the business was dreamt up by Jeff, Victoria, and their mutual friend and business partner Davin Richmond. Originally, the trio planned to get the brewery going within a five-year time period. But then, their projected “brains” for the project, Victoria, passed away suddenly. The experience opened her friends’ eyes to how short life is, prompting them to pound their vague idea into a 23-page business plans and begin amassing funding for the operation. Five months later, they have their space and are working hard to get it up and running by summer.
Working off a five-barrel system, Jeff and Davin will initially do all the brewing. Obsessed by a creative bent to craft beers similar to the self-proclaimed “off-centered ales” of Delaware’s popular Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, they aim to take stylistic risks and experiment often. Already, they have tap space reserved with a number of bars and restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter. Part of the early appeal of Social Jack’s is its owners’ ambition to brew beers specifically to match the feel and offerings at the business’ accounts.
As for the company’s year-round house beers, Jeff and Davin are working on refining a coffee-infused sweet stout described as, “Noble Ale Works’ Naughty Sauce (a blonde stout) and AleSmith’s Speedway Stout (a coffee-infused imperial stout) hooking up and having a love child that gets raised by a bourbon barrel-aged porter that bottle-feeds it maple syrup.” The duo hopes to make this a permanent collaboration with North Park’s Coffee & Tea Collective. Off-centered, indeed. On the tamer end of the spectrum is an American pale ale brewed with grapefruit, agave, honey, coriander and sea salt going by the working title of “Circus Freak.”
In addition to the brewing component, the duo will run a second business out of their space called Brewed Local, offering tours beginning and ending at Social Jack’s, with trips to breweries Jeff and Davin form strong relationships with. The goal is to really educate tour participants on the San Diego brewing community versus simply the beer that binds its members. Tours will run on weekends and space will be allotted at Social Jack’s for serving partner brewing companies’ beers on tap and in bottles, as well as collaborative events with those businesses. It’s another social facet of the business, which is fitting considering the fact that, if Small Bar hadn’t been packed to the gills that fateful night when Jeff and Victoria met, this business may never have materialized.