Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
5 Cents' Worth
Something new en route for Julian...craft beer company coexistence
Of all the blips on my local beer radar, there’s one that’s been blinking red longer than any other. It’s odd a business sequestered in the small getaway-ville of Julian would garner so much attention, but due to a number of factors, it has. Julian is home to a single brewhouse that’s been open just over a year, but over the course of that year, as documented in numerous posts from yours truly, a lot has transpired.
First, the owners of Pizza Port, Vince and Gina Marsaglia, teamed up with Tom and Lindsey Nickel, the owners of San Diego businesses O’Brien’s Pub and West Coast Barbecue and Craft Beer, to take over The Bailey Wood-Pit Barbecue (2307 Main Street, Julian). In doing so, they revamped the elderly business, installing a high-powered smoker based beneath the building, an outdoor bar, and a small brewery installed inside the garage of the old Bailey house putting out beer under the name Julian Brewing Company.
The restaurant was mainly the domain of Vince, an accomplished cook known throughout San Diego beer circles for the tasty food he’s put out during festivals and special events at Pizza Port and the businesses’ production brewing facility Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey in San Marcos for over a decade. Vince handled the ‘cue aspect of the menu, doing a stellar job in my humble opinion putting out beef ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and bunt ends far more worthy of a trek to apple country than a slice of pie or the promise of snow.
Vince was joined in the kitchen by Lindsey, who handled the sides. Like Vince, she did a hell of a job. Her potato salad remains my favorite of all time. As the business grew, so too did Lindsey’s responsibilities. Soon, she was handling all of the baked goods as well; no small feat in a town where dessert is the main course. She also put out a number of specials that garnered nice reviews from patrons.
Pit goers also enjoyed the beers Tom put out, which wasn’t surprising considering he used to brew at Pizza Port Solana Beach before going on to head up Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing where his beers earned that business the title Best Small Brewing Company at the World Beer Cup in 2004.
The town got behind the business, as did locals and a flood of musical acts that signed up to perform at The Bailey’s back room, a barn with a stage and a long bar serving Julian Brewing Company beer and ales from other San Diego County breweries. Life was good. The Bailey was a destination. And then it all came to a screeching halt.
The Marsaglias and the Nickels decided to part ways less than a year in, with Vince and Gina buying out Tom and Lindsey. It’s something I’ve gone into detail about in the past and choose not to delve into again. The two families, friends for a long time, don’t get along any more. Considering all that they accomplished, first as colleagues advancing Pizza Port, then as conspirers behind Pizza Port’s popular Real Ale Festival, Strong Ale Festival, and Belgian Beer Party events, and finally as the co-owners of The Bailey, this is one of saddest chapters in San Diego beer.
Since the Nickels’ departure, the Marsaglias have continued on, doing just fine at The Bailey. The brewing reins have been handed over to long-time Pizza Port operations manager Mike Gabbard, who has done a good job. But how hard is it to win people over in a town without any competition?
Don’t waste time pondering that query. Julian’s second brewing company is set to arrive in the not-too-distant future. A building located a half-mile east of the town’s main drag was recently purchased by an experienced brewer with plans of converting the space into a combination brewhouse and tasting room. There will be no food component. The beers produced here will be available via the taste space and in kegs around town and throughout San Diego via self distribution.
The logo for this new business will be an old Indian-head nickel. The name of the business—Nickel Beer Company. That’s right folks, much like the old-timey showdowns the Julian Chamber of Commerce likes to reenact on Sundays with their Doves & Desperados skits, the Nickels and the Marsaglias are about to go toe-to-toe in the battle for beer supremacy in apple country. There are no white or black hats in this scenario, but make no mistake—this one’s going to be a doozey.