Like many San Diego beer fans, I’m looking forward to AleSmith Brewing Company opening the doors of its new, much larger facility to the public this summer. Until last week, I could only imagine what that place looked like, but thanks to owner and brewmaster Peter Zien, I was able to tour the facility and get some photos to share with San Diego Beer News readers. Coming in at a whopping 105,500 square feet (over 85,000 square feet larger than AleSmith’s current facility), it provides so much space that it’ll take years for Zien and company to utilize all of it. Currently, the southern third of the structure is where all the action is.
An ultra-modern Steinecker brewhouse described by Zien as “the Rolls Royce of brewhouses” stands ready and waiting in an area that will eventually be visible through floor-to-ceiling windows separating it from the two-story tasting room. Yes…it’s two stories and will offer a view of brewing action that is unparalleled in San Diego. The interior portion of the tasting room will span 25,000 square feet and give way to a beer garden complete with greenery and fire features, plus some yet-to-be-disclosed “surprises.” Back inside, three columns outfitted with 20 taps each will dispense an array of AleSmith beers from behind a staircase-configured bar.
The main entrance and a store selling merchandise and other branded items will be located on the facility’s southeast corner, while a club room (think special release beers and VIP areas during events) and a Tony Gwynn museum will await visitors on the north end. The latter is an homage to the Padres great, who shortly before passing away last year, completed a collaboration beer, AleSmith San Diego Pale Ale .394, with Zien and his brew crew. Gwynn’s wife, Alicia, is donating memorabilia that includes little league and college mementos all the way up to the baseball star’s Silver Slugger bats. Items will rotate periodically. Additionally, a walk through the tasting room will afford visitors a progressive timeline covering both the history of brewing and the history of baseball, something Zien and his wife, Vicky, are passionate about.
Back in the brewery, head brewer Ryan Crisp will be able to brew 85-barrel batches up to eight times per day. The mash kettle, lauter tun, boil kettle, whirlpool, and hopback are fully automated, allowing for nth-level control of every phase of the brewing process. AleSmith is renowned worldwide for high-quality beer and consistency. That consistency has been attained and maintained without the use of modern technological marvels, so the thought of Zien and Crisp having a new bag of cutting-edge tricks conjures well-founded optimism among beer enthusiasts.
The cellar will eventually be able to house 200,000 barrels’ worth of fermentation vessels. Phase One includes eight 255-barrel fermenters plus two 85-barrel fermenters. In 2013, AleSmith brewed a total of 15,000 barrels, illustrating the immense growth this facility upgrade will allow for. If all goes as planned, AleSmith’s new home will open in June at 9990 Empire Street in Miramar (which is now known by ale and lager enthusiasts as “Beeramar”). At that point, the old facility will be transformed into a yet-to-be-named collaborative venture between Zien and Mikkeller owner and brewmaster Mikkel Borg Bjergsø.