No sign to speak of yet, but rest assured, there's beer in there.
August 21st marked the opening of Little Italy's latest beer-tasting room, as La Mesa–based Bolt Brewery began serving beer at the corner of India and Grape streets, in what used to be the North End Lounge. Since Bolt's production maxes out at 30 barrels per week and its distribution is limited, this will be the first opportunity for locals to try its roster of beers without traveling to East County.
8179 Center Street, La Mesa
1971 India, San Diego
Though less than a year old, Bolt has a long history. Back in 1987, a 19-year-old Clint Stromberg became the youngest professional brewer in the U.S. when he and a friend started the original Bolt Brewery in Fallbrook, the first in San Diego County since the Prohibition era. But the craft-beer landscape 28 years ago proved tougher from a business standpoint.
“They went to expand and they just lost financing in the middle of the way through," says Molly Rust, who cofounded the new Bolt Brewery with Stromberg and Tony Calafato. "Since they were both so young they just threw their hands up.”
This time around, crowd-funding, a greater sense of business acumen, and additional decades of experience have helped the group open two retail locations in less than a year.
"We’ve had this lease since the day before we opened in La Mesa,” Rust says. That venue opened in late autumn 2014, following more than a year navigating city ordinances to set up a production brewery and beer garden. In Little Italy, Rust says the only real holdup was building a kitchen that will serve pizza and salads.
"This is a different Bolt experience than the La Mesa location," Rust says. Rather than live music, food trucks, and open air, the new shop features clean, simple decor, including a wall-sized photo of Bolt's quonset hut brewhouse. Though large roll-up windows and several small patio tables overlook the bustling urban neighborhood around the tasting room and restaurant, Rust says, “Our goal is always a relaxing environment. Come in, grab a beer, grab a pizza…. We’re not a party place. We’re a come-and-have-a-beer place.… That’s the kind of people we are, we’re just more mellow than that.”
Of course, given the collection of mounted HDTVs and the Bolt name association with a certain local football team, this could also prove a good spot to watch Chargers games — at least during the upcoming season. Rust says that even if the Chargers leave town, the brewery will keep the name, promising, “We’ll be the Bolt that’ll never bolt on you.”