Jim Crute was almost giddy — well, about as animatedly giddy as an analytical science guy like him can get — as he opened the door to the business suite next to his Lightning Brewery (13200 Kirkham Way, Suite 105, Poway) and showed me around. The place was nondescript and had yet to begin its transformation into a brewing-friendly facility, but with plenty of space for Crute to have his way with it, it showed great promise. I recently revisited the space and barely recognized it. It’s not because I have a bad memory. The initial tour I just described happened roughly three years ago. But, last Friday, Crute was finally able to celebrate the soft opening of something his business has needed for a long time — a proper tasting room.
There’s still some work to be done, but simply having a room devoted to sampling beers like Crute’s Elemental Pilsner, Thunderweizen Ale, and Electrostatic Belgian-style strong is a big upgrade. Before that, beers were served in a small space in the brewery abutting the cold box. It was kind of cool to be in the thick of things, but with most local breweries devoting energy and funds to providing tasting spaces that are a cut above and help differentiate them from their ever-growing competition, this was almost an essential step for Lightning.
The entrance to the tasting room is around the corner from the brewery itself. Directly to the left is a space that will eventually feature an outdoor patio (more permitting is necessary for that). The front door gives way to a nice-sized room with high tables and rail bars on either side. Further in is the actual tasting bar, which is equipped with 10 taps. In a week or so, 10 more taps will be installed, but it will take some time for the company to brew enough new and experimental beers to hook up for dispensing. That could happen as soon as November or around the first of the New Year.