Scot and Karen Blair (front and center) with Monkey Paw brewers Cosimo Sorrentino (right), Chris West and Nickel Beer Co./O'Brien's Pub owner Tom Nickel (center back).
1521 30th Street, San Diego
805 16th Street, San Diego
4628 Park Boulevard, San Diego
When Scot Blair says he’s going to focus more on a new brewing project than anything beer-related that he’s applied his laser-keen attention to in the past, I believe it. One of the most passionate and honest business owners I’ve ever met, he wouldn’t dole out such a statement if he didn’t mean it. Add in the fact that his wife, Karen, who somehow matches his truth and enthusiasm, is all-in on the new venture and it’s impossible not to feel a tinge of excitement.
Roughly a year ago, the Blairs let me in on plans to take over the bicycle shop bordering Hamilton’s Café, the small take-out kitchen servicing the couples’ iconic beer bar, Hamilton’s Tavern (1521 30th Street, South Park). Doing so will give the Blairs control of 70% of parcel on the east side of 30th between Cedar and Beech, and they’ll put the new 4,000 to 4,500 square feet to good use by establishing a brewpub called South Park Brewing Company.
Already the owner of an award-winning brewpub in East Village’s Monkey Paw Pub & Brewing, Scot believes that every community should have its own brewpub owned and operated by knowledgeable, caring people, and is proud to bring one to the neighborhood where he and his wife kicked off a nationally recognized bar and restaurant empire that also includes Small Bar in University Heights. He feels he has the belief in South Park and affection for its residents to do it right, and wants to establish this business before some Johnny-come-lately who isn’t invested in beer or the community attempts to cash-in with some trendy, posh, inauthentic venue.
Hamilton’s Café will be built out so that it can house a pair of kitchens. The original will continue to serve the Hamilton’s Tavern menu and handle take-out orders (the service entrance will remain), while the second will be configured to execute a “casual fish” menu that has yet to be disclosed in detail. There will be plated dishes and prepared sandwiches incorporating cross-cultural influences, all of which will utilize seafood from Catalina Offshore Products, a highly regarded local vendor that the Blairs sought out for its reputation and quality. Fish will also be available to go in a vintage butcher’s case that used to grace The Linkery in North Park before it was converted to Waypoint Public last year.
Scot says the design of South Park Brewing Company’s dining room will be cleaner (read: less pleasantly dive-y than his other spots) as well as family-friendly, but in no way cookie-cutter or “Disneyland.” On the brewery side, Monkey Paw’s current five-barrel system will be transported to South Park. Scot is currently working with Escondido’s Premier Stainless Systems on a custom 10-barrel brewhouse that will be installed at Monkey Paw to double that venue’s brewing capacity.
Who will brew has yet to be determined, but Blair, who has been deeply involved in conceptualization and recipe development for many of the Monkey Paw beers, will be even more hands-on at the new brewery. Formulation of recipes is already occurring. Styles will be varied, but at this point, Scot is only certain about three of the five beers that will come forth from a quintet of serving tanks. He wants a good IPA, a good malty beer, and a good dark beer to be on all the time. That leaves two tanks for him to have fun with. Expect a great deal of experimentation and, if he has his way, many collaborations with brewers from San Diego and beyond.
It’s a large-scale project for a quaint, little (yet big-time funky) neighborhood, and given its scope and the logic behind it, it’s likely South Parks residents will agree with the Blairs that they really are the best-suited pair to bring them a brewpub.