Monday June 8th, AleSmith social media announced the opening of the Observation Room, a modest tasting room located at the front entrance of its new, even-bigger-than-it-sounds 105,000-square-foot headquarters. The low-key announcement belies the vastness of the new brewery and packaging plant, which is grand enough to warrant its eponymous address: 9990 AleSmith Court, Miramar.
9990 Alesmith Court, Miramar
The Observation Room itself is relatively small, not much larger than the tasting room at AleSmith's original Cabot Drive address. That location — only a few blocks east — will remain open and continue to pour for several months. "Until Mikkel moves in," says a rep for AleSmith, referring to the planned partnership at that location between AleSmith owner Peter Zien and Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of the Mikeller beer label. No timetable for that has yet been released.
Ironically, the Observation Room may wind up closing before it happens. Though by outward appearance a finished room, the structure's not permanent. It's "just a temporary tasting room to get people acquainted with the new location," says the rep, and will be dismantled when construction finishes on a more ambitious tasting room being built behind the impermanent walls. Plans for that include far more seating and an outdoor drinking space, plus a wraparound bar fed by glycol chilled lines that flow into "beer towers" — specially built columns meant to expedite service by giving servers unrestricted 360-degree access to 12 tap handles each — 60 taps total.
Also behind the short-term walls sits AleSmith's new Steinecker German brew system and 240 barrel tanks so massive they wouldn't fit through the warehouse bays. Instead, part of the roof was removed so the tanks could be lowered in. A keg-lined path leading from the Observation Room will soon give visitors a glimpse of the system, as well as the brewer’s growing accumulation of barrels. "We'll be adding more cooperage," says the rep, "and hopefully hit 50,000 in the next couple years."
This tour will also be an interim offering. "The tours are going to get way more interactive." Says the rep, "People are going to get closer to the beer and how it's made. We want to show off, of course, that Steinecker German brew system, it's one of the best systems out there you can find." It's been running throughout the spring and will boost AleSmith's production to 25 thousand barrels this year, up from 15 thousand in 2014.
Much of this increase will flow through the new bottling plant house in a second enormous warehouse space deeper in the building. The rep says the new system is faster and much more advanced than their old ad-hoc system, which required lengthy man-hours to finish the decades-old brewery's 750ml bottle offerings: "For all those years, every Speedway, Horny Devil, Old Numbskull — every foil was hand-wrapped."
The bottling system has also allowed AleSmith to release its first six-packs, featuring 12-ounce bottles of the .394 Pale Ale brewed in collaboration with Padres great Tony Gwynn. The rep says more six-pack offerings are "hopefully" on the horizon, and teased the idea of upcoming special releases commemorating 20 years since the brewery's 1995 founding.