Three-year-old Vista brewery Barrel Harbor has been getting active of late. It began releasing cans of Fenris IPA earlier this year and aims to begin canning South Island pilsner by the end of the month. It's also finally putting the barrel in Barrel Harbor, beginning an aged sour program with eight barrels of its Blunderbuss Belgian Blonde.
Its biggest move has been the opening of At Ease at Barrel Harbor, a tasting room on Miramar Road, just across the street from the Marine Corps base. The large space offers a unique tasting room amenity — gaming tables and miniatures. It's also connected by a swinging door to At Ease Games, the gaming shop that brought Barrel Harbor to this storefront.
At Ease Games doubles as a tournament center. It specializes in hobby games, including card-based games, role-playing games, and miniatures. The latter hobby features model armies that enact battles on model terrains, with outcomes determined by cards or dice.
"It's much more of a thing in Europe and on the East Coast," explains Kent. However, it must be gaining popularity in San Diego, because At Ease Games was getting pretty packed. "These types of games take up a lot of space," he continues, "You need a four-by-six-foot table to play." The vacant suite next door offered 6000 square feet he wanted to put to use. Not just with gaming, but with beer.
"That's the model that's all over Europe," says Kent. "They've got places like this, tournament centers where you can go and play miniatures, and they have a bar built in. I wanted to copy that concept." He adds, "When I'm playing a miniatures game, when we're sitting around the table, I like to have a beer."
So Kent reached out to Barrel Harbor owner and childhood friend Tim St. Martin, who, it happened, was actively looking to open a satellite location in the vicinity. "I actually had an application in with the ABC for a second tasting room in Sorrento Valley," recalls St. Martin. "I was tens of thousands of dollars already in to that tasting room. That deal went sideways a little bit."
When the offer to sublet within a planned Fightertown Brewing Company fell through, St. Martin, an army vet, embraced the opportunity to partner with At Ease and move into a military neighborhood. "It was a natural fit," he says, noting that Barrel Harbor had an existing policy to give a 20 percent discount on beer to military and first responders. "I think I'm going to be in a better position than what would have been."
So At Ease at Barrel Harbor opened in November, with bar and board games in the tasting room and bar up front, and a large tournament space in the back. That's where visitors will also find the model armies of At Ease regulars on display. Miniatures gamers typically build and paint their own plastic or die-cast models, which may range from historically accurate Napoleonic soldiers to futuristic robots or characters out of fantasy realms. The delicate models tend to feature elaborate, minute, and imaginative details.
At Ease at Barrel Harbor will end its soft-open phase with a grand opening slated for mid-January.