Being a native San Diegan, I have a soft spot for the Filippi’s Pizza Grotto chain. Just before writing this piece, I actually chowed down on a marinara-soaked meatball sub from that institution’s Scripps Ranch location. It seemed appropriate fuel for an article about entrepreneurs converting a former Filippi’s to a brewpub. Gary Gorton, CEO of Reno’s Pub & Grub, is negotiating a lease on the site of the former "grotto" at Jamul Village Center with plans for it to house their Jamul Town Brewery & Tap concept.
Scheduled to debut in June, it’s an operation that’s been a long time coming for Gary and his wife, Julie, who trademarked the name Jamul Brewery in 1996 and incorporated in 1999. Since then, the couple has operated two start-up companies in completely different industries, but the call of craft beer is strong and has them focused on bringing Jamul its first place to taste beers produced on-site (Cold Bore Brewing Company has been in operation for several years, but does not have a public tasting space).
Playing a key role in this endeavor will be John DeGrazia, an experienced homebrewer and certified beer judge with beer industry experience amassed at AleSmith and as a member of the organizing committee for the San Diego Festival of Beers. DeGrazia will be in charge of a five-barrel brewhouse manufactured in Brazil. Jamul Town Brewery & Tap will be that company’s first US client. Originally, the Gortons had planned on purchasing the eight-barrel system from Rock Bottom’s downtown San Diego brewpub, but it wasn’t a good fit for the former Filippi’s space.
Since things are far from concrete at this point, the team isn’t ready to share the beers they intend to make, though they have disclosed that they hope to make everything from a refreshing kölsch-style beer to a malty red and double IPA. They also hope to play off the fact that Jamul is such a major agricultural community and make beers utilizing locally grown ingredients including hops and grain they intend to help get seeded in local soil.
Jamul Town Brewery & Tap is actually planned as the first link in an eventual chain that will see other communities’ names plugged in before “Town Brewery & Tap.”