Jay Allen Sanford 9:45 p.m., May 19
Aside from the obvious lure of fine, hand-crafted beer, one of the most alluring facets of reporting on upcoming brewing companies is being able to tell the stories behind them. Recently, I heard one that was more touching than most. This moment came courtesy of a man named Tom Garcia. He and his wife Sarah told me about a conversation they’d had one night with a friend of theirs named Cory Denton. It was a lofty back-and-forth about grand aspirations and long-term goals. Cory shared his dream of traveling to Europe to set up a non-profit charity organization, while Sarah and Tom, a freelance brewery consultant and former cellar supervisor for Escondido’s Stone Brewing Company, talked about their goal of opening their own brewery someday. It was the last conversation the trio would have.
A short time later, Cory passed away from a severe heart condition he didn’t even know he had. For Garcia, total shock and heart-breaking loss gave way to the realization that one’s next breath is never guaranteed, and served as an accelerator for he and his wife to start planning and constructing what is now Offbeat Brewing Company (1223 Pacific Oaks Place, Suite 101). Located in an Escondido business park a mile southeast of Tom’s old Stone digs, the tasting room-affixed brewery held their grand opening last Saturday. Before they officially kicked things off, they invited me in to check out some beers and hear more about the business.
Upon entry, the first thing I took notice of was a large mural sporting a mix of cartoonish characters both 3D and colorful, and 2D black-and-white, situated against a textured forest backdrop featuring a tree with leafy vines plugged into electrical outlets and an icy, craggy faraway mountain. One of the artists who produced the 16-by-30-foot interior piece, Chris Cleary (who teamed with Marc Allen and Mike McGaugh on the project) was putting the finishing touches on a one-shoed figure in the bottom left-hand corner (when you visit, be sure to search around for his other shoes).
All of the characters on the mural represent different beers the company will roll out. Other suds mascots include a strongman with bears for arms who, aptly, stands for the mild and flavorful Bear Arms Brown Ale. Meanwhile, a kitty with a horn spouting from its forehead has been sketched up for Caticorn IPA, a clean-tasting India pale ale with nice guava and passionfruit notes. It’s an interesting artistic approach that is in keeping with the company’s ambitions to fuse art and the art of beer under one roof.
With the mural and rotating works from local artists, complete with custom-made bios and the opportunity to purchase their pieces, the facility is as much a brewery as it is a studio. A flair for the avant garde is also driven home with the interior design of the tasting space (salvaged woods from palettes as well as an extended family member’s waterbed grace the bar and partitions separating the brewery from the taproom). The same can be said for the brewing space where Garcia has fashioned a “punk rock” brewhouse complete with a lauter tun made from an old open-top fermenter tank as well as a brew kettle he says is, essentially, a 10-barrel deep-fryer.
That system will be used brew up roughly 1,000 barrels in Offbeat’s first year in operation, though the company’s maximum output capacity is 5,000 barrels annually. The beers Garcia will produce will be varied, but expect a mix of hoppy ales, sessionable brews, and experimental items—some utilizing local fauna. For the next few months, Offbeat’s beers will be available exclusively at their tasting room, but eventually, they will start shipping out kegs, staying in North County initially. It's the start of something big and, after sampling the company's beers...something promising. Cory would, indeed, be proud!