Jeff Smith 11:59 p.m., Feb. 8
My Beer Radar - ¡Uno!
Brewing companies planning to enter brewhouse-less communities
It felt good getting back in the groove this week—reporting on interesting, previously unreported, barely skimmed, or completely unknown San Diego beer scene developments after spending much of the preceding weeks going over more standard San Diego Beer Week and brewery items. With such a rich craft beer subculture and so many businesses operating within it, there’s always a story (or a dozen) to tell. There are a number of leads I’m currently following and, in the spirit of this week’s coverage, I thought it would be fun to share some of the things I’m investigating at the moment. I’ll provide more information later, but for now, here are some cool teasers on what’s to come.
At a recent event where I served as a member of a craft beer panel, I felt very much like Oprah Winfrey, telling attendees from different San Diego communities, “You’re getting a brewery. And you’re getting a brewery. And you’re getting a brewery.” I have to say, it felt pretty good, both for the big O impersonator and those in the audience. Here’s what I let them in on.
News of former Alesmith brewer Matt Akin moving from his long-time post at that vaunted company to head up La Jolla Brew House brought on many a bitter beer face among those in the know. The place he was going has become infamous for chewing up and spitting out talented brewers regardless of their worth. Examples include Travis Smith, the apprentice of one of the country’s most acclaimed brewers, Russian River Brewing Company’s Vinnie Cilurzo, who left LJBH and has gone on to open San Diego’s most universally beloved new brewery of the past year, Societe Brewing Company. Another LJBH refugee, Brian Mitchell, recently took the controls at Helm’s Brewing Company in Kearny Mesa. Akin is also prepped to move on, this time working with his father to construct Grantville’s first craft brewery, Benchmark Brewing Company. Once open, his two-story, 8,500 square foot facility will include a 10-barrel brewhouse and a tasting room where he’ll serve a line of mostly sessionable beers plus a few high-ABVers. The timeframe for Benchmark’s arrival isn’t set in stone, but expect Akin to be in business sometime in 2013.
Ramona was the starting point for Lee Chase, a brewer who was once Steve Wagner’s right-hand man at Stone Brewing Company and has since gone on to open Blind Lady Ale House and Tiger! Tiger! Tavern where he serves beers he brews under his Automatic Brewing Company flag. For the longest time, he’s been about the only thing residents of the outlier community he hails from could point to in craft beer discussions. But no more. CEO Marta Jankowska and brewmaster Grant Fraley are working to open a company named after their grandparents—ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, giving Ramona its first operating brewhouse.
Meanwhile, Modern Timers Beer founder Jacob McKean, who you may remember as the guy conducting 10-person tastings of early versions of his upcoming brewing company’s beers with random subscribers to his e-mail newsletter, has selected a spot for his business. What heretofore had been vaguely communicated as being in an "urban" area, is confirmed to be located in Point Loma. The address is 3725 Greenwood Street, smack dab between the I-5 entrance to Rosecrans and Valley View Casino Center. It is a 12,540 square foot space, large by starting brewery standards, which will allow for installation of a good number of fermenters.
Then there’s the neighborhoods that already have breweries but are about to get more. That’s a bit of a long list; so I’ll tackle it tomorrow. Believe me, fellow craft beer lovers, it’s worth coming back for. See you in the morning!