A Culver Beer growler awaits build-out of the new beer company's tasting room
Last July, the Union-Tribune reported that the City of Carlsbad had approved the application of Palomar Brewing Company to open in the vicinity of McClellan-Palomar Airport. In late December, while researching an article previewing new breweries scheduled to open in the first half of 2016, I didn't find any new info on a Palomar Brewing and surmised the project had been tabled or scrapped altogether.
2719 West Loker Avenue, Carlsbad
The truth makes for brighter beer news: Palomar Brewing has changed its name to Culver Beer Company, has received all necessary licensing and permits, and plans to officially open its tasting room to the public in April or May.
Culver president and cofounder Ben Fairweather says the Palomar name raised trademarking issues that would have eventually limited distribution. "We found out that you can't really trademark an area," he says. "It's not protected if we go across state lines…which is the plan."
Since Palomar is the Spanish word for "pigeon roost," Fairweather and cofounder/head brewer Mike Stevenson had already settled on a twin bird logo. So, when the trademark issue arose, they switched to Culver, itself an archaic term for a pigeon or dove.
The North County natives and Cal State San Marcos grads met through mutual friends and bonded over a shared interest in homebrewing. They also shared an ambition to start a brewery, and when they bumped into each other at the Coachella Music Festival a couple years back, decided to join forces.
While Fairweather started clearing the necessary business hurdles, Stevenson became the rare San Diego brewer with hands-on European brewing experience, serving apprenticeships at brewpubs in northwest Germany and the Italian island of Sardinia. He also enrolled at the UCSD Brewing Certificate Program, went to work for Twisted Manzanita, and interned at White Labs, where he learned a lot about yeast, as well as quality assurance.
That last point may give the small brewery a headstart over other startups, which seldom have resources to lab-test their beers. Culver's no different in that regard, but Stevenson hopes to apply his understanding of the QA process with a little outside help. As Fairweather points out, "Luckily, beer's a great currency for trading, and one of our neighbors here is a big biotech facility. They have all this crazy lab equipment we can't spend 60-grand on."
That's especially valuable for a mostly self-funded venture. "We've basically been able to bootstrap it from the get-go," Fairweather explains. "The majority has been the two of us, lots of saving up the last couple years."
The young owners have hand-built most of their brewhouse and tasting room, fashioning a custom brewing system using old dairy equipment. "It's been such a luxury to do it this way," Stevenson says. "You can design your system exactly how you want it, and it's very cost-effective to do."
"It helped us save money," Fairweather concurs. "There's an appreciation to know you've had a hand in every little thing in here."